2016 Round by Round Drafting Strategy

The 2016 round by round drafting strategy is based on the principles of our previous article “When to Draft Each Position in Fantasy Football,” but with a practical application for the 2016 drafts.

Before we begin, there are several assumptions that must be made:

  1. The league is based on Yahoo’s public league settings and scoring rules.
  2. As we are following Yahoo public league rules, the draft order for each team is unknown until 30 minutes prior to the draft, therefore, the strategy is a general guideline – not designed for any specific draft order position.
  3. As this article is written in early July, this strategy is based on Yahoo’s default player list as it stands on July 1.
  4. A key feature of this strategy is to wait on drafting a quarterback until at least the sixth round. Although not entirely impossible, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck will be long gone by then. So if you are adamant in wanting any of these three players on your team, this strategy won’t work for you.
  5. The team defense and kicker will be streamed each week based on match-ups; therefore, only a defense for week-1 usage will be drafted in round 14 and a kicker for week-1 usage will be selected in round 15.
  6. For this strategy, your starting quarterback and tight end must have different bye weeks. The basic structure of this strategy is to draft only one each of these positions. This will allow you to fill your six bench slots with two running backs and four wide receivers. One of these six reserve players, or maybe even one of your starting players, could possibly suffer an injury or not perform up to expectations by the time the bye weeks occur in the schedule. So when the bye week for your quarterback or tight end comes around, you can pick up a free agent bye-week filler and drop the least effective or injured player. This will give you the most roster space for building depth at the key positions of running back and wide receiver, where injury is the most likely to occur and quality replacements are difficult to find during the season. As for quarterbacks and tight ends, after the first 10-12 are drafted, I feel there is little difference between the next 10 or so of either position, therefore I find no reason to devote an entire roster position to such players that will not perform any better than any number of players one can find in the free agent pool.
  7. When discussing roster positions, this article will denote starting roster positions in upper case letters, e.g. QB, RB, WR, TE, DEF and K. Bench or reserve positions will be identified by lower case letters, e.g. qb, rb, wr, te, def and k.

Draft Guide 2017

Fantasy Football Impact’s 2017 Draft Guide –
Don’t Draft Without It!

Round 1

As stated above, this strategy assumes the team owner does not know in which draft position their team will be placed. This means the strategy has to be somewhat general and team owners will need to make adjustments as they go, but that’s half the fun, right? However, to be successful, team owners must be familiar with all the players available in order to make a good decision on the fly. I highly recommend having a tiered order of players by position from which to work. Our 2016 Draft Guide includes such a list for the top 36 quarterbacks, 77 running backs, 103 wide receivers, 37 tight ends, 35 kickers and all 32 team defenses.

Usually, Fantasy Football Impact would note that the most important and most talent-scare position in fantasy football in running back. However, with the emergence of truly stud wide receivers and the tendency of NFL teams to employ more running back committees, our first round strategy will allow for either position as a first-round pick this year. Among the top-ten in either position, the drop off of projected production is fairly similar. This gives team owners much more flexibility in filling out their rosters. However, we continue to suggest not reaching for quarterback Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck in the first round, but if you have your own strategy in which you believe, then go for it. We would also refrain from pulling the trigger on tight end Rob Gronkowski in the first round. There is just too much risk involved with the four-game suspension to quarterback Tom Brady and “Gronk’s” injury history. If one follows the Yahoo! default list, “Gronk” will be selected eighth overall, on average. don’t let that be you. (Keep up-to-date of changes in the default list here.)

The first seven teams this year will have an easy first-round decision to make. They will just pick the best player available (a running back or wide receiver in our strategy). So what do you do if you are situated at the end of the first round (#8, #9 or #10) and have to make a decision between a running back and wide receiver? Your decision should be based on what you think will be available to you in the second round. As the drop off in talent among running backs in rounds three and four is more severe than among wide receivers, owners at the end of the first round want to make sure they have a least one quality running back in their first two picks, because the pickings will be slim by the time the draft snakes back around at the end of the third round. If owners want to choose a wide receiver in round one, then it is imperative that a starter-quality running back be assured with the second-round pick.

Round 2

What you drafted in round one, will determine what you might want to do in round two. At this point, at least five of the top-six running backs should be gone, along with at least three of the top wide receivers and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Assuming you have an early second-round pick and you chose a top-tier wide receiver in the first round, of course you will want to snag a top-tier running back, if there is one available. Of course, you could double up on another top wide receiver, but just keep in mind, as mentioned above, that the earliest you will be able to grab your first running back will be at the end of the third round. To see if you are happy with what is available to you in the third round, we suggest participating in a few mock drafts. Choose one of the latter draft positions (8, 9 or 10) and draft two receivers. You will soon discover what running backs will tend to fall at the end of the third round. What you discover will help you decide what to do with your second-round pick.

For those who are picking in the middle and end of the second round, you have two things about which to concern yourself – your second-round pick and what will likely be available to you in the third round. If you already have a running back, then a second back is not a bad option nor is a second-tier wide receiver. At this point it is a matter of preference with consideration to what you will do in the third round.

At the end of round two, your fantasy team should look like one of the following three configurations:

  1. Two running backs
  2. One running back and one wide receiver
  3. Two wide receivers

Round 3

Based on the composition of your team after the second round, Fantasy Football Impact recommends the following pick for the third round:

If your team, at the end of round two, is comprised of two running backs, then it’s obviously time to get a receiver. You could add a third running back, but why add a bench player at the expense of an open starting position?

If your team, at the end of round two, is comprised of one running back and one wide receiver, then choose the higher quality running back or wide receiver available.

If your team, at the end of round two, is comprised of two wide receivers, then you have a big decision to make and it will depend on what players you feel will be available to you during the rest of the draft. Starting with three wide receivers can be risky proposition as running back quality drops quickly in fantasy drafts. Before committing to a three-wide-receiver strategy, we strongly recommend participating in several mock drafts using this strategy before implementing it in your “real” drafts. Make sure the running backs you are targeting later are available on a consistent basis.

At the end of round three, your fantasy team should look like one of the following three configurations:

  1. Two running backs and one wide receiver
  2. One running back and two wide receivers
  3. Three wide receivers

Again, starting with three wide receivers  is a risky strategy and isn’t recommended. Does that mean the strategy wouldn’t be successful? No, of course not, but the odds aren’t in your favor.

It is in the latter half of the third round when quarterbacks Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers will likely be drafted, although some owners may take them earlier. However, we won’t consider a quarterback until at least the sixth round in order to select more of the higher quality running backs and wide receivers.

Rounds 4 and 5

Use these two rounds to complete your starting lineups to include the following configuration:

  1. RB – RB – WR – WR – WR

According to the Yahoo! default list, two other tight ends will likely be drafted during these two rounds – Washington’s Jordan Reed and Carolina’s Greg Olsen. Based on our rankings, we feel that a fourth or fifth round pick is too high of a price to pay. You may disagree, but we would prefer to fill our the starting running back and wide receiver positions with starting-caliber players in these rounds.

Rounds 6 and 7

Use these two rounds to select your quarterback and tight end.  As for quarterbacks, of course, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees will likely be unavailable at this point, but Blake Bortles, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor and Matthew Stafford will all be around. In the tight end department, only three tight ends will have likely been selected by other teams – Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen. That leaves a slew of options, including Delanie Walker, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Gary Barnidge, Julius Thomas, Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates. The flow of the draft will help guide you in deciding whether to draft a tight end or quarterback first. Again, do some mock drafting in many different positions to get a good feel for how each of these rounds play out.

Alternative strategy:

Some team owners may want to bolster their running back depth in round six or seven and push the quarterback selection out one or more rounds. There is nothing wrong with that approach as long as the quality of quarterbacks available are acceptable to the team owner. It’s a judgment call. Remember, nothing is set in stone.

Round 8

Round eight is a very important round in a fantasy football draft for Yahoo leagues. If a team owner is not available for the draft, Yahoo will “autodraft” the team. Yahoo will not select any bench players until all starting positions have been filled. This means that round eight will be devoted to a team defense and round nine will be used to select a kicker.

While other teams are wasting these picks on defenses and kickers, build depth at the running back and wide receiver positions on your roster. Remember, football is a violent sport and injuries occur often. To be successful in fantasy football, team owners need solid replacements to slide into the starting line-up when injuries and bye weeks occur. Fantasy Football Impact is a strong believer in streaming team defenses and kickers on a weekly basis based on match-ups and doesn’t recommend spending a mid-draft pick on these positions.

Rounds 9 – 13

These rounds are used to fill-in the blanks. We suggest getting your team to eventually look like one of the two configurations below at the end of the 13th round:

  1. QB – RB – RB – WR – WR – WR – TE – rb – rb – wr – wr – wr -wr
  2. QB – RB – RB – WR – WR – WR – TE – rb – rb – rb – wr – wr – wr

We also strongly suggest that, due to scarcity of quality, you begin building your bench with running backs. There are plenty of wide receivers from which to choose to complete your bench.

Round 14

This is the round in which you should draft your team defense. Of course, Carolina, Arizona, Los Angeles, Houston, New England, Buffalo, New York Jets and Kansas City will all likely have been selected, but based on the schedule for week 1, there are plenty of fine options.

  • Minnesota at Tennessee – a tasty match-up against either Marcus Mariota behind a questionable offensive line and inconsistent wide receivers
  • Philadelphia against the Browns – a nice match-up against the inconsistent RG3.
  • Cincinnati at the New York Jets – as of this writing Ryan Fitzpatrick still hadn’t re-signed with the team, leaving Geno Smith as the starting quarterback.
  • Green Bay at Jacksonville  -the Jaguars gave up the fourth most fantasy points to opposing defenses last year.

If you are an owner who doesn’t like to stream defenses each week, there are still top-10 defenses to be had in the 14th round of many drafts.

Round 15

This will be the easiest round of the draft because there will be so many good options. Of course, the top-ranked kickers will have been selected in the 9th round by those teams on “autodraft,” but you will find a plethora of kickers who are consistent and play for teams that will provide plenty of scoring opportunities. You should feel good that you used your earlier picks on depth for your team rather than on a kicker. The kicker position is one of great volatility from year to year, but is the one with the least separation between players in terms of fantasy performance. Happy pickings!

Conclusion

Is the above strategy the only one a team owner should use? Of course not. There are many strategies team owners use – some with great success and others less so. (For a discussion of other popular strategies played out in an actual draft, read our article, “Which Drafting Method is Best?” Fantasy football drafts are dynamic and no strategy should be set in stone.  A team owner must have flexibility in his/her strategy in order to react appropriately to the flow of the draft. However, it is imperative to have a logical outline in order to stay on track.

No matter how well you have thought out your draft strategy, there is no way to predict the future with certainty and the draft is just the first step in a 16-game process that hopefully will culminate in a league championship. Team management is an important task that can not be neglected during the season and we have many articles on that topic designed to help you. You will also need a little luck in avoiding player injuries, because even those without the “injury-prone” label players can and do get hurt. The best way to deal with injuries is to build depth on your roster for just those situations.

Before you go to your real drafts, make sure you practice in the mock drafts available for free at Yahoo (You will need a Yahoo ID which is free to obtain. Just follow the prompts after clicking the “Sign In” link in the top right corner). You can try out your strategy (or this one) from any of the 10 draft positions. (They even have 8-team, 12-team and 14-team league options.) After just a few drafts, you will begin to recognize trends and patterns. Use that information to your advantage. The time you spend in preparation will also help you feel at ease when you enter your “real” drafts. Good luck!

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Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.