2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Picking at No. 9 overall in non-PPR leagues offers ultimate flexibility
Picking ninth means having ultimate flexibility in a Draft Day strategy, but it also means missing out on the top-tier talent at running back. Here's how to make up for it.
What sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And what big-name running back could ruin your season? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season.
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Editor's note: Our latest non-PPR pick-by-pick series was done in June and is a three-man draft with Heath Cummings, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard, with each one selecting four teams in this 12-team mock. The goal of this series is to show you positions to draft in these spots as much as the players selected, so take that into account when viewing each team.
If you're picking ninth, you'll have the chance to begin your draft any way you want. Two running backs? Two receivers? One of each? It's your call.
That flexibility just isn't there if you're picking earlier in the first round. Then again, the types of elite running backs and superstar receivers just aren't there if you're picking later in the round. Some trade-off this turned out to be.
Here is my team from No. 9 overall:
- 1.9 Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
- 2.4 Davante Adams, WR, Packers
- 3.9 Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
- 4.4 Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
- 5.9 Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles
- 6.4 Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs
- 7.9 Evan Engram, TE, Giants
- 8.4 Will Fuller, WR, Texans
- 9.9 Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins
- 10.4 Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
- 11.9 George Kittle, TE, 49ers
- 12.4 Kalen Ballage, RB, Dolphins
- 13.9 Broncos DST
- 14.4 Wil Lutz, K, Saints
I buy into Fournette as a Fantasy stud. He's a physical, tough runner on a team focused on playing conservative football. The Jaguars defense should help keep their offense in ball-control mode more often than now and Jacksonville even upgraded its offensive line with the addition of guard Andrew Norwell. Fournette is an injury risk but was among the most consistent rushers in Fantasy last year and should be again this year.
After Melvin Gordon went off the board at 13th overall, I targeted a receiver with my second pick. Davante Adams has become the go-to guy in Green Bay, which is a pretty good position to be in. Making him my second-round choice was easy, plus it kept all my options open in the third round.
As it turned out, the number of receivers I liked when I was up in Round 3 grossly outnumbered the number of running backs I liked. That made the pick easy -- I took Kenyan Drake without much hesitation and hoped to land one of Amari Cooper, Josh Gordon, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas or Adam Thielen in Round 4.
Sure enough, Thielen made it back to me, making for another easy pick.
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That was the end of the easy picks, however. There's kind of a weak spot in drafts between 45th and 55th overall, which doesn't exactly hurt owners picking in the ninth slot but does make for some tough choices.
When I was up in Round 5 I didn't need any specific position but figured I could wait on quarterback. Once again, I felt like the running back depth wasn't as good as the receiver depth, so I took Jay Ajayi to work as my third rusher. I'd be OK with him as a No. 2 running back, so naturally I love him in that third spot on my depth chart.
And once again, I was correct on having a receiver fall back to me in Round 6 that I was happy with. Like Ajayi, Sammy Watkins isn't someone you'd be comfy with as your No. 2, but as a No. 3 or as a flex candidate, he's fine.
So with three running backs and three receivers on my roster, I was able to freely choose other positions without pressure. I liked this because I gave me the chance to focus on upside rather than playing it safe. Frankly, you can't play it safe with picks after Round 6 because the players left that late are there for a reason.
Now you know why I went with young guys like Evan Engram and Will Fuller. In the case of Engram, he not only filled a need at tight end but also carries some nice upside. I don't mind him given his expected role in an improved (albeit crowded) Giants offense.
As for quarterback, finding Matthew Stafford in Round 10 was both a bargain and a necessity. I figure Stafford will continue to chuck it at a pace that leads him to another top-10 Fantasy finish (he's done it three straight years). I felt like he was a steal at this point.
Another favorite breakout candidate of mine is George Kittle. I'm really a fan of taking two tight ends this year if you don't get one of the big three, so Kittle was my second option. However, I think he'll be good enough to work as a starter most weeks. Between him and Engram, my tight end position should be solid.
Favorite pick: Kenyan Drake
This isn't to say he's one of my favorite players or anything, but he's the biggest example I have from this team of drafting wisely. Knowing who my opponents were targeting and realizing where there was a lack of depth really helped me build a nice roster from top to bottom. Plus I guess it doesn't hurt that Drake averaged 11.1 Fantasy points per game in his final nine outings last season and is pegged to be the Dolphins starter.
Pick I might regret: Evan Engram
The Giants are going to have to remember this guy in the red zone if he's going to be a Fantasy factor because his targets figure to shrivel down to about six per game. If I had known I was going to also take Kittle, I could have taken Cam Newton in Round 7 and a sleeper like Corey Clement in Round 10.
Player who could make or break my team: Davante Adams
I'm not expecting Adams to fall off, but if he misses playing time or doesn't further ascend toward his potential, my receiving corps could be in some serious trouble. The addition of Jimmy Graham and the expected improvement in the Packers run game could cost Adams some Fantasy production.
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