The NFL season is palpably close, but fantasy football drafts are even closer. The draft is an essential part of the fantasy football season; not only is the draft incredibly fun, but it is also the cornerstone for your team. Coming into a draft well-prepared is absolutely critical if you want to assemble a talented, balanced roster capable of putting up consistently high-scoring weeks. Nothing makes you look dumber than drafting Adrian Peterson in the first round because you think he’s still on the Vikings and 26 (hint: he’s not either). An easy way to avoid blunders like this and prepare yourself adequately is to do mock drafts. Mock drafts are a great way to construct strategy and develop and understanding of player values. Even if you are in a time crunch, Fantasy Draft Wizard allows you to mock draft in about 10 minutes with CPU owners who draft very reasonably.
I’m going to give you an insight into my drafting strategy and player evaluation through a mock draft I did on Fantasy Draft Wizard. I had the 7th pick in a 12-team standard (non-PPR) draft, and needed to draft 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST, and 6 bench players. Without further ado, here’s my draft and my strategy:
Top players on the board: LeSean McCoy, AJ Green, Mike Evans, Melvin Gordon
After the top six players go (Johnson, Bell, Zeke, Brown, Odell, Julio), the rest of the first round is much more of a crapshoot. From the seventh pick, you have first selection of “the best of the rest.” My favorite receiver left is AJ Green, who was on pace to be the overall WR1 last year with over 120 catches and 1700 yards. I expect him to be excellent once again, but in standard scoring, I prefer running backs, and LeSean McCoy is a perfect target. With the loss of Mike Gillislee, McCoy is a lock for 300 touches, and should get more cracks at the goal line. I don’t see how McCoy finishes outside the top five RBs if he plays 14 games or more.
My pick: LeSean McCoy, RB
Top players on the board: TY Hilton, Dez Bryant, Todd Gurley
In almost every league, I love to start my first two rounds with balance, grabbing one RB and one WR. Here, my choice comes down to TY Hilton and Dez Bryant. Hilton did lead the NFL in yards last year, but Donte Moncrief’s presence takes away valuable targets and red zone looks for Hilton. Bryant has had his fair share of health concerns, but when he plays, he is elite. Bryant is the best red zone target among all WRs, and should reach double digit TDs again. With another year to build rapport with Dak Prescott, Bryant should return to the ranks of WR1.
My pick: Dez Bryant, WR
Top players on the board: Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins
Round 3 is an excellent time just to target the best player available. Not listed are any tight ends, but Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce are good options if available, too. I like Sammy Watkins for this year, and his raw talent gives him the upside to finish in the top five, but injury is a constant question. Lamar Miller should be a very safe third round target, on the other hand. If he receives last year’s workload, he should finish no worse than 15th; even if he loses touches to D’Onta Foreman, his efficiency should skyrocket like it did in Miami. It seems like a win-win.
My pick: Lamar Miller, RB
Top players on the board: Alshon Jeffrey, Drew Brees, Jordan Reed
The value of Alshon Jeffrey in the fourth round is very hard to pass up. Jeffrey should see a very similar workload to Dez Bryant, and will be the primary red zone target on the Eagles this year. When healthy, Jeffrey is a clear WR1 for fantasy, and the Eagles’ passing attack should give him plenty of opportunity to succeed this year. Jordan Reed is an intriguing option, too, but his current status on the PUP list worries me.
My pick: Alshon Jeffrey, WR
Top players on the board: Emmanuel Sanders, Stefon Diggs, Greg Olsen
I still need to fill out my third wide receiver spot, but I don’t like the options here in the fifth round. I don’t need any more starting running backs either, and I don’t want to stretch to take a worse player if I don’t have to. Greg Olsen is a staple among elite TEs, and this year shouldn’t see a change. Olsen is one of four pass catchers to have more than 70 catches each of the last four seasons, and racks up 1000 yards and 6 TDs with ease. Olsen is good value in the fifth round, and knocks out another starting position for me.
My pick: Greg Olsen, TE
Top players on the board: Willie Snead, Kirk Cousins, Jamison Crowder, Eddie Lacy
The only remaining starting spots I have yet to fill are QB and WR3. Kirk Cousins is a good fantasy option, but there are other QBs like Jameis Winston and Derek Carr still available that I can wait on. With Bryant and Jeffrey on my roster already, I need a safe, high-floor third option that will give me consistent production. Both Snead and Crowder give me that high floor, but Snead is in a higher octane offense and should see more targets than Crowder. Snead is a great mid-round target for just about any team.
My pick: Willie Snead, WR
Top players on the board: Marcus Mariota, Ameer Abdullah, Frank Gore, Brandon Marshall
Like I said before, almost every team has taken a starting quarterback, so there’s no reason to take a quarterback now. I like to get some high end depth at RB and WR in these middle rounds because – news flash – players get hurt or bust decently often, especially at RB. Ameer Abdullah is a great third option for my team as someone who should see 200+ touches this year in a solid offense in Detroit, and can put up solid numbers during bye weeks and against easy matchups.
My pick: Ameer Abdullah, RB
Rounds 8 and 9:
Top players on the board: (8) Paul Perkins, Eric Decker, Cameron Meredith; (9) Jonathan Stewart, John Brown, Jeremy Marlin
At this point, I’m still looking for high level backups, and I know that there are some potentially great late-round RBs still deeper on the board. I can grab two high end wide receivers here and not have to worry about the position for the rest of the draft. Cameron Meredith sticks out as a high-floor option with decent upside. Last year, Meredith was a WR1 for almost half a season, and retains that number one role in Chicago. Next round, John Brown is still available, and his upside is tremendous. Even if Brown only sees 80-90 targets, with Carson Palmer he can turn those targets into big plays. Brown is a good upside play to have on my bench with the more consistent Meredith.
My picks: Cameron Meredith, WR; John Brown, WR
Rounds 10 and 11:
Top players on the board: (10) Jameis Winston, CJ Prosise, Duke Johnson; (11) Jameis Winston, Marvin Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers
These are the rounds that I’m starting to look at rounding out my RB core with lottery ticket picks. I don’t need more WRs, and Greg Olsen should be able to start 15 weeks of the season. CJ Prosise is not someone I want to start on a weekly basis, but he could eventually be the Seahawks’ starting running back. He should handle 3rd downs, but if he gets more touches, he could perform like a top-20 back. Similar to Prosise, Jacquizz Rodgers could become a top-20 back. He will start for the first three weeks Doug Martin is suspended, and could earn the starting role in Tampa Bay. These two guys could become weekly starters if things break their way, making them valuable bench pieces.
My picks: CJ Prosise, RB; Jacquizz Rodgers, RB
Rounds 12 and 13:
Top players on the board: (12) Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Breshad Perriman; (13) Philip Rivers, Eric Ebron, Carson Palmer
Now that I’ve secured a strong bench at RB and WR, it’s a good time to finally pick up a starting quarterback. As you’ve noticed, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott have fallen all the way to this point; every other team has their quarterback, so there’s no reason for them to draft one until the last couple rounds. Why should I draft one then? It’s round 12, and I can still grab Jameis Winston, who should be a near lock for 4200 yards and 30 TDs. Just to be safe, I also drafted Carson Palmer, who just two seasons ago was the QB6, and still has many of the same weapons. Waiting for quarterback is one of my favorite drafting strategies, and I have two very solid options in this case.
My picks: Jameis Winston, QB; Carson Palmer, QB
QB: James Winston
RB: LeSean McCoy
RB: Lamar Miller
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Alshon Jeffrey
WR: Willie Snead
TE: Greg Olsen
D/ST: New York Giants
K: Wil Lutz
Bench: Ameer Abdullah, CJ Prosise, Jacquizz Rodgers, Cameron Meredith, John Brown, Carson Palmer
This is how my roster looked by the end of the draft. I really like how this team shaped up, especially at RB and WR. The only thing I’d worry about with this team is injury, since McCoy, Bryant and Jeffrey have all dealt with injury in the past. However, I have good depth to protect against those injuries. Fantasy Draft Wizard gave me a B, but don’t pay too much attention to mock draft grades. Take the players you want for your team, and figure out a strategy that yields a championship roster. Hopefully this advice starts you on the right path!