Drafting with a plan is just plain smart. You should always go into a draft with a plan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put palm-to-face in reaction to another manager’s lack of preparation. Looking at ADP and considering draft strategy, here are three fantasy football players to target in each round of the draft.
ROUND 1 – TARGET A RUNNING BACK
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY (CMC) [ADP 1], ALVIN KAMARA [ADP 5] AND JOE MIXON [ADP 11]
The drop-off for grabbing an elite running back is steep. Getting one of these top performing running backs early is crucial to the structure of your roster.
CMC is an impressive all-purpose back, earning 1000 yards in both rushing and receiving in 2019.
Alvin Kamara can be just as lethal when healthy. Fighting an ankle and knee injury since week 6, Kamara still put up respectable numbers last season. His stats, especially rushing TDs, are sure to increase in 2020.
Joe Mixon is not the same caliber of runner as CMC or Kamara, but he can be counted on for consistency and will receive a good amount of targets out of the backfield. This goes to show how quickly elite RBs come off the board and how little of them there are to choose from.
Mixon is now playing with Joe Burrow, who made every player around him 10X better at LSU. That trend could very well continue into Burrow’s NFL career and pay huge dividends for Mixon owners.
ROUND 2 – GET ANOTHER RUNNING BACK
NICK CHUBB [ADP 13], MILES SANDERS [ADP 14], AND KENYAN DRAKE [ADP 15]
If you’re in the back of the second round and Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins or Chris Godwin are still there, it means there was a heavy RB run. It’s okay then to select one of these top wide receivers.
This is mostly because the RB you’ve selected in round one is most likely CMC, Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliot and they are as safe a back as they come. The safer the running back, the more forgiving it’ll be to stray away from strategy and acquire a receiver.
ROUND 3 – GET YET AGAIN, ANOTHER RUNNING BACK
Clyde Edwards-Helaire [ADP 22], GEORGE KITTLE [ADP 24], AND TODD GURLEY [ADP 27]
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH) in the third round is a great pickup now that Damien Williams has opted out of the season.
However, I would suggest you either have a top RB in CMC, Barkley or Zeke or two solid running backs in the likes of Mixon and Chubb before making the commitment. This helps to balance the risk you’re taking by selecting a rookie so high. But CEH is probably as safe as they come in regards to rookies.
I’ve mentioned before how nice it is to have a top tight end, and a third round price tag is not a bad asking price for an elite player like George Kittle.
Many managers are running as far away as they can from Todd Gurley, but he’s now heading to an Atlanta Falcons offense that heavily includes their backs in the passing game. He has little competition behind him, and the Falcons have him on a one year deal. Expect them to run Gurley into the ground, providing great fantasy potential for owners.
ROUND 4 – BE OPEN TO A RECEIVER
ALLEN ROBINSON [ADP 30], ADAM THEILAND [ADP 34], AND MELVIN GORDON [ADP 38]
The fourth round is the turning point where the value of receivers begins to equal that of running backs and actually becomes the more valuable position.
Allen Robinson and Adam Theiland have WR1 upside, and both are garnering high target shares in their respective offenses.
Melvin Gordon is the last of a dying breed at this point. When you look at the running back position later in the draft you either have rookies or questionable vets. Depending on how you’ve constructed your roster to this point will dictate which course you will take.
ROUND 5 – LOOK AT TIGHT END
ZACH ERTZ [ADP 41], MARK ANDREWS [ADP 43], AND COURTLAND SUTTON [ADP 47]
If one of these two tight ends manages to fall to the fifth round of your draft, think hard about selecting one of them. I prefer Andrews. Both are the focal point of their passing offenses and neither team has a dominant receiver to vulture targets. Ertz and Andrews will routinely be depended on to drive their offenses down the field and catch red zone targets in 2020
The Denver Broncos have loaded their team with talent to help Drew Lock be successful. If you look at Sutton’s numbers, you’ll see that he played best with Emmanuel Sanders and struggled without him.
Now Denver has Jerry Jeudy and speedster K.J. Hamler, highly regarded rookie receivers to help Sutton break double teams and get open for big plays.
ROUND 6 – STAY CLEAR OF RUNNING BACKS
D.K. METCALF [ADP 51], DJ CHARK [ADP 52], AND RUSSELL WILSON [ADP 57]
The running backs in this spot are not any better than they are a couple of rounds from now. When you’re in the sixth round there are plenty of other positions to consider.
D.K. and DJ are top talent for their team but of course have questions around them. D.K. is in a run-heavy Seahawks offense, but has an advantage with Russell Wilson throwing him the ball. Chark is a great athlete, but has an unproven quarterback in Gardner Minshew throwing him the rock. I wouldn’t want either guy as my WR1, but they should produce as solid WR2/3 options.
Russell Wilson has done nothing but be a QB1 since entering the league. He is safe, consistent, healthy, has an incredible arm and provides a safe floor with his rushing abilities. You can’t go wrong grabbing him in the 6th round.
ROUND 7 – MARKETS CHOICE
DAK PRESCOTT [ADP 60], STEFON DIGGS [ADP 64], AND KAREEM HUNT [ADP 66]
If I were putting together an NFL team, I would absolutely select Deshaun Watson, who is going one spot behind Dak Prescott. But I can’t overlook the sheer mass of weapons Dallas has surrounded him with.
The Bills spent their 2020 1st, 5th and 6th round picks along with their 2021 4th round to acquire Stefon Diggs. They are going to make it a point to give him every opportunity to succeed. I don’t love players transitioning to a new team, especially in the mist of COVID, but he is a veteran with a lot of talent, and you can draft him in the seventh round for a great value.
In the seventh round you’re storing up solid depth. Not exactly the starter, but Kareem Hunt does more than just run for the Browns. He’ll move all over the field and with Jarvis Landry injured to start the season, there are rumblings Hunt will be working more in the slot. His talent and opportunity in a run-first offense is enough to warrant him a seventh round selection.
ROUND 8 – DEATH VALLEY
JULIAN EDELMAN [ADP 72], TYLER BOYD [ADP 73], AND TYLER HIGBEE [ADP 77]
I’m not impressed with this cluster of players, but no one in the 8th round is elite…yet. Julian Edelman has been great in PPR formats but the Patriots offense is plagued with many questions. However, with so many defensive players opting out, Belichick might need pass the ball often in 2020. Edelman could benefit largely is this is the case.
Tyler Boyd is the only guy I’m excited to grab here in the 8th round. He’s a solid WR2, but being drafted as a WR3. He assumes the slot role for a rookie quarterback that utilized the position heavily in college.
Tyler Higbee poses many questions. The number one TE from weeks 13-16 in 2019, Higbee became the go-to guy when Sean McVay shifted offensive philosophies to 12-personnel. Cooper Kupp moved from the slot to the outside and Higbee took over the middle.
Before his four week explosion, the Rams ran more 11-personnel, when Higbee was TE35 for the first 12 weeks. The question we need answered is which offensive strategy will McVay end up using in 2020?
ROUND 9 – START THINKING QUARTERBACK
MATT RYAN [ADP 83], JOSH ALLEN [ADP 87], AND BRANDIN COOKS [ADP 89]
Matt Ryan and Josh Allen are strong fantasy quarterbacks. Ryan has no shortage of weapons in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley.
Josh Allen got a new gift in Stefon Diggs over the offseason and provides a safe floor with his rushing abilities.
Brandin Cooks has certainly had his share of ups and downs in his career. Mostly ups, and now Cooks is the top wideout for a Houston team that needs one desperately. Drafting the WR1 for a team in the ninth round is never a bad idea.
ROUND 10 – WHAT DOES YOUR TEAM NEED
JK DOBBINS [ADP 88], KE’SHAWN VAUGHN [ADP 92], AND DIONTAE JOHNSON [ADP 99]
It’s all about roster construction at this point. Ask yourself which directions your team is leaning. Have you been too risky with injury-prone players or drafted too many unproven rookies? Is your team more boom/bust than safe or do you need to add a little variance?
Dobbins and Vaughn could add a needed boom to your roster if they usurp the starting role, but the transition could take half a season or longer to occur. If you drafted a good amount of proven running backs then taking a chance on one of these backs could pay off. If you didn’t, you may be safer picking more secure backs such as Sony Michel or Phillip Lindsay.
Diontae Johnson may be the next star receiver in Pittsburgh alongside Juju Smith-Schuster, but first he’ll have to prove himself worthy to Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson is more explosive and talented then James Washington and doesn’t play the same type of role as rookie Chase Claypool. If he and Big Ben connect early, could be a huge fantasy grab in 2020.
ROUND 11 – TAKE YOUR PICK
MATT BRIEDA [ADP 102], HAYDEN HURST [ADP 105], AND DARIUS SLAYTON [ADP 108]
When given the opportunity, Matt Brieda was an incredible running back in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. But now he’s going to the often pass-needy Miami Dolphins. Out of he and Jordan Howard, Breida is the obvious passing back and should receive a healthy snap share with the Dolphins.
Austin Hooper ended 2019 as TE6, playing 32.5% in the slot and commanding a target share of 18.5%. Hayden Hurst will now fill Hooper’s role with the Atlanta Falcons and could very likely end 2020 as a top ten tight end.
Darius Slayton plays for the New York Giants who don’t have a true number one receiver. He is the only deep threat option as teammates Evan Engram, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepherd compete for short-yardage targets.
ROUND 12 | 13 – SHOOT FOR THE STARS
DARRELL HENDERSEN [ADP 111], CEEDEE LAMB [ADP 115], AND HENRY RUGGS [ADP 119], JUSTIN JEFFERSON [ADP 121], ZACH MOSS [ADP 123], AND MIKE GESICKI [ADP 129]
Rounds 12 and 13 are focusing on the same type of draftees: Big breakout potential. At this point, you don’t want another safe player full of mediocrity. You want a player that has the opportunity and talent to catapult up draft boards.
There are usually signs to help pinpoint these breakouts. First is talent. Talent is hard to measure but you know it when you see it. Players like Ceedee Lamb and Justin Jefferson consistently performed at high levels and put up impressive college numbers.
Then you have to look at situation. Henry Ruggs III with his blazing speed falls into a situation with the Las Vegas Raiders who desperately need a spark at the receiver position. There isn’t an established presence as the top WR in Vegas, so Ruggs has a great opportunity to prove himself and boom early.
Gruden and company will give Ruggs every opportunity to show out for the Raiders. If their Antonio Brown signing taught us anything, it’s that they are patient with players who possess talent.
ROUND 14 – PICK YOUR FAVORITE PERSON LEFT
BAKER MAYFIELD [ADP 131], JALON RAEGOR [ADP 134], AND N’KEAL HARRY [ADP 157]
There are many players I could touch on here that qualify as a potential breakout and worthy of a late round selection. But the most important thing to remember with your last pick is to get the player you want most. Odds are that you’ll drop this player at some point so you might as well pick someone you enjoy having on your team.
Round 15 | 16
Finally, in typical leagues there are only 16 rounds in a fantasy draft. Rounds 15 and 16 are typically reserved for defense and kicker because the difference between them are minimal.
Final Thoughts On Fantasy Players To Target
With a solid understanding of this draft strategy I’m confident you are going to know exactly which players to target in fantasy this season to create your dream roster.
Pair this knowledge with fantasy football players to avoid and you will be in great shape!
Finally, be sure to check out our draft kit for an even bigger competitive advantage.
Now go and bring home the championship.
Be sure to follow Jeff Roberts on Twitter @FantasyRoberts for more.