Running backs will take up most of the first round in traditional one-QB snake drafts. That doesn't mean you have to take one, but you probably should.
The other options are a safe pass-catcher, be it Davante Adams (finished as the No. 1 receiver in PPR points per game in two of the past three years), Tyreek Hill (top five in PPR points per game among receivers two of the past three years) or Travis Kelce (five straight years as the No. 1 PPR tight end in Fantasy).
No one can argue with any of those picks in Round 1. Just know you might pass over a dominant stat producing running back to do it.
Here's how my team turned out:
1.08: Jonathan Taylor
2.05: Antonio Gibson
3.08: Robert Woods
4.05: Josh Allen
5.08: Adam Thielen
6.05: Brandon Aiyuk
7.08: Leonard Fournette
8.05: Marquise Brown
9.08: A.J. Dillon
10.05: Irv Smith
11.08: Jonnu Smith
12.05: Joe Burrow
13.08: Russell Gage
14.05: Malcolm Brown
15.08: Marlon Mack
The decision to take a running back at eighth overall in our 0.5 PPR draft was made long before I was on the clock. I know taking a running back carries risk, but it's the thinnest position in Fantasy, it's the position where players touch the ball a lot, and I need to start at least two in pretty much every league. Supply and demand suggests taking a running back first.
And I did, taking Jonathan Taylor over Saquon Barkley. Simply put, I took the healthier, younger running back with the better O-line. Taylor's six-game finish to 2020 put him on a 17-game pace for over 2,200 total yards and 22 touchdowns. That's his sky-high upside. Realistically, he's got a shot at 1,700 total yards and 13 total touchdowns. I'm fine with that.
Know who else has some pretty high upside? Antonio Gibson, who fell to me in Round 2. That's right, another running back. In most of my drafts, my intention will be to take at least two runners with my first three picks. The idea behind that is to stock my starting lineup with quality-tier backs and find talent at other positions as the draft rolls on. Again, the running back position is the thinnest you'll find on Draft Day, so getting two swings at guys with 1,500-total-yard, 10-score potential is the name of the game. I believe Gibson has that potential and is a perfect target for the 2.05 pick.
One good reason to take two running backs early is to avoid what's left at the position by late Round 3. When I was up to pick, the best names left were Miles Sanders and Chris Carson. I don't mind those guys, but the need to take them shriveled because I already spent on the position in Rounds 1 and 2. Thus, I was able to take the receiver of my choice -- Robert Woods. A career-year could be in store for him now that he's catching darts from Matthew Stafford.
Being able to adapt to unpredictability on Draft Day is also important. I had to do that when I was up in Round 4 and saw Lamar Jackson go ahead of me in the round. Taking a quarterback this early wasn't something I expected to do, but I had to at least consider it, particularly since the best available running back was Josh Jacobs and the best available wideout was Chris Godwin. I thought to myself that if I passed on a quarterback here, one of the top-five guys would not make it back to me in Round 5, especially since two were already gone. So I bit the bullet and drafted Josh Allen. This wasn't a steal, but it was one of the best available players left on the board, and I figured I could add more receivers and running backs with my next several choices. Note: The half-PPR format did play a role in this decision -- in full PPR I'm pretty positive I would have taken Godwin.
The cost for taking Allen over Godwin? Adam Thielen as my No. 2 receiver and Brandon Aiyuk as my No. 3. That didn't seem like a steep price to pay for taking a quarterback earlier than expected. I was pleased.
With six starters locked up, I focused the remainder of my draft on supplementing my running backs (Leonard Fournette was the best I could do in Round 7), finding two tight ends with late-round choices (Irv Smith and Jonnu Smith) and chasing upside with my late-round choices (Joe Burrow chief among them).
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Some final thoughts
- Pay attention to the managers who pick after you in the odd rounds/before you in the even rounds. Those in slots 9 through 12 have draft needs just like you, and you may opt to make certain draft choices based on those needs. For instance, I really would not have minded taking Marquise Brown in Round 7, but I checked out the rosters of those other managers and figured he had a good chance to make it back to me in Round 8, so I took Fournette (who I thought would not make it back to me) instead. Three of the four teams picking after/before me took a running back, so I figured I played that right, plus I still got Brown in Round 8.
- Picking eighth overall should put your squad in prime position to take Kelce in Round 1 or one of Darren Waller or George Kittle in Round 2 if you are 100% sure you want a stud tight end. You could also come up with one of Mark Andrews or T.J. Hockenson in Round 4. But if you whiff on taking a top tight end in the first 60 or so picks, my general strategy is to grab two with selections in Round 9-plus. I actually felt lucky to land Irv and Jonnu Smith when I did. Both have potential to morph into reliable weekly starters (Jonnu Smith already was for the first half of last season). If one hits, that's good for my squad. If both hit, I have some trade capital. If neither one hits, the investment of Round 10 and 11 picks won't be something I'll cry over.
- Why would I draft Burrow when I already had Allen? Simple -- late-round picks should be dedicated to players with high upside regardless of position. Give me players with great talent or a great opportunity to play a lot and rack up tons of stats. Burrow obviously qualifies, as does Russell Gage and maybe even Malcolm Brown depending on how things shake out in Miami. The point is, any of these three could become decent Fantasy contributors and may even become trade pieces to help my team get stronger. And if they stink, I can cut them pretty easily without crying over a late-round mistake.
IND Indianapolis • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
I know it's weird to list the first pick as the favorite pick, but I see really good things for Taylor in 2021. He's young, strong, versatile, reliable and playing in an offense that will cater to him. I genuinely believe that Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack won't be serious vultures and that Taylor will have every opportunity to pick up right where he left off last season (over 800 yards and eight touchdowns in his final six games).
Adam Thielen WR
MIN Minnesota • #19
Age: 31 • Experience: 8 yrs.
If you recall, this was the receiver I wound up with after passing on Godwin for Allen in Round 4. Last year he was amazing. The year before, not so much. I definitely get the feeling that the Vikings offense won't have to throw as much as they did last year because the defense should be better. Thielen was already a very touchdown-dependent receiver in 2020, what if he doesn't come through nearly as much in 2021?
WAS Washington • #24
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Honestly, it could be Gibson or Taylor. If either one of them bust, my running back depth isn't exactly good enough to withstand the loss. I'm counting on big production from Taylor, obviously, but Gibson is another guy who figures to take a jump in terms of touch volume and efficiency. If he marries that with the type of touchdown frequency he had in 2020, then he's going to be a top-12 monster. If he doesn't, he'll be yet another running back who couldn't hold up to the hype.
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.