NFL: Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
USATSI

Picking third is great because you're promised one of the top four consensus Fantasy running backs. But in the draft we did for this exercise, it was downright amazing because Dalvin Cook fell to three. An absolute no-brainer if there ever was one. 

Running back is the plan in Round 1, but there's no set plan for Round 2. Typically I prefer to take one of the last best running backs at that spot knowing that either a top-three tight end or a top-seven or eight wide receiver comes back in Round 3. With David Montgomery going a spot in front of me and Darren Waller staring me in the face, I opted to take the second-best Fantasy tight end in the world and table the decision on running back to Round 3. 

How'd it turn out? See for yourself: 

1.03: Dalvin Cook
2.10: Darren Waller
3.03: Keenan Allen
4.10: Mike Davis
5.03: Jerry Jeudy
6.10: Kareem Hunt
7.03: Trey Sermon
8.10: Marquez Callaway
9.03: Justin Herbert
10.10: Jarvis Landry
11.03: Alexander Mattison
12.10: Russell Gage
13.03: Robert Tonyan
14.10: Justin Jackson
15.03: Devontae Booker

Take the best available receiver or collect one of the last best running backs in Round 3? It's such a tough choice, but I was willing to take the chance that a solid running back or two would actually make it back to me in Rounds 4 and 5. We start three receivers and the elite tier guys had flown off the board between picks 20 and 26. I felt compelled to gamble and take Allen and cross my fingers at running back. 

The gamble paid off and I was lucky to get Davis in late Round 4. 

Remorse settled in a little bit in Round 5, but it wasn't because of Davis. It was actually because of Waller! At pick 51 overall, both T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts were still out there for the taking, but I couldn't conceivably draft one of them with Waller already on my roster. That's just bad roster building, even in a format with a flex. Had I known one or both would have been there, I might have waited on Waller and taken DK Metcalf in Round 2 and Allen in Round 3. Alas, I had to let those sweet values go and opted to fortify my receivers with my favorite breakout player of the year: Jerry Jeudy. 

I almost felt naked with two running backs through five picks, so I really wanted to focus on that position in Round 6. I rolled with Kareem Hunt, figuring he was the safest weekly running back on the board. He didn't feel as injury-prone as Darrell Henderson or Raheem Mostert, and he not only has a set role as the Browns' 1B running back but also has enormous potential in case Nick Chubb gets hurt. I strongly considered Javonte Williams there because he's a sexier name and he looked good this preseason, but I took the safer pick instead. 

PPR series drafting: 123456789101112

Did anything go to plan here through the first seven rounds? Not exactly. But Round 8 was when the tide turned a little. I knew I needed a quarterback, and Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill were all there. Team 1 already had Josh Allen, so I was 100 percent sure one of those passers would make it back to me in Round 9. Paying attention to that paid off as I swiped Marquez Callaway in Round 8, then had Herbert fall in my lap at 99th overall. That felt good. 

Some final thoughts:  

  • There's no question that late Round 2 is an acceptable time to take Waller, but if you think your league won't chase tight ends, pass him up. Not only might you have a Plan A by finding a top-six tight end in late Round 4 or early Round 5, but you also leave yourself a Plan A-plus in case Waller or George Kittle find their way to your spot in Round 3. That's what I should have done. 
  • Once I had my lineup settled, I took some backup running backs who have low-to-mild appeal in the later rounds. Each of them is one injury away from becoming the primary guy for his team. It was especially important to get Mattison to back up Cook, particularly in Round 11 instead of Round 9 or 10, which is where he went in drafts past. 
  • It is an absolute must to pay attention to the guys drafting Team 1 and Team 2. Had I not paid attention, I may have taken Herbert a round too soon and cost myself a promising sleeper in Callaway. And in full disclosure, I took Waller when I did because I knew the Team 2 manager would grab him with one of his next two picks. I should have let him done that, but the point is keeping tabs on those rosters will help you make smarter picks as the draft unfolds. Don't reach for positions those two managers already have covered, and take players in the odd-numbered rounds from the positions those managers need to fill.

Favorite pick: Justin Herbert

He's got potential to finish as a top-5 Fantasy quarterback thanks to his gutsy and plentiful passing. Not bad for a pick right at 100th overall. He had no shot of making it back to me in Round 10. Besides, I'll get double points for each touchdown he throws to Allen. 

Pick I might regret: Mike Davis

I don't mind a potential workhorse running back in an offense that will be in a bunch of competitive games, but I don't like it when he's been a career backup and is entering his age-28 season. Davis did look good in the joint practice I went to versus Miami, even competing as a pass-catcher and working in the two-minute offense. He fulfills my need at the No. 2 running back spot, but not with a lot of confidence. 

Make or break pick: Darren Waller

Sure, we all expect Waller to play well for the third straight season, but will he play as well as DK Metcalf or Chris Carson? I might have had both of those players had I passed on tight end in Rounds 2 and 3 and settled on one of those beauties in Round 5. I really learned through this exercise that there is a better path to drafting tight ends than by taking one in late Round 2. 

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.