Late Draft Slot Strategies (2019 Fantasy Football)

Jun 9, 2019

If you have a late draft slot, it might be better to grab an RB2, like Josh Jacobs, before selecting your third WR

If your fantasy football league holds a seasonal draft, the roster construction should be based on draft position. Whether it’s a straight or snake format, it is important to have a plan prior to the draft day to avoid being forced into quick decisions as the clock expires. Having a late draft position in Round 1 makes it harder to predict the player pool since most teams have already selected.

Let’s take a look at the optimal draft strategies from the late (nine through 12) draft slots in a 12-team league. We’ll assume standard rosters, with one quarterback, two running backs, three receivers, one flex, one tight end, one kicker, and one defense as starters, plus five bench players. We will project a half-PPR scoring format, which is currently the most popular setup for fantasy football leagues.

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Round One/Two

You can’t win your fantasy league in the early rounds, but you certainly can lose it. It is critical to avoid busting with your early picks, as most of your seasonal fantasy production will come from the early slots. In 2019 redraft leagues, selecting in the late draft slots in a straight or snake format will forge different paths towards the optimal roster.

General Rule: High Floor and Low Risk

Straight Drafts: The best choice is to select a wide receiver. The top running back bell cows (Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Alvin Kamara) will all be gone with early picks. It is too risky to pick a second-tier running back when the top wide receivers are almost all available.

Over the past five years, the top five wide receivers per ADP have provided very high floors. Below is a list of the players selected with their end of year rank in parentheses:

WR ADP 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
1st Calvin Johnson (15) Antonio Brown (1) Antonio Brown (3) Antonio Brown (2) Antonio Brown (4)
2nd Demaryius Thomas (2) Julio Jones (2) Julio Jones (6) Julio Jones (4) DeAndre Hopkins (2)
3rd Dez Bryant (4) Dez Bryant (78) Odell Beckham Jr. (4) Odell Beckham Jr.  (83) Odell Beckham Jr. (15)
4th A.J. Green (24) Demaryius Thomas (12) A.J. Green (33) Mike Evans (17) Julio Jones (5)
5th Julio Jones (6) Odell Beckham Jr. (5) DeAndre Hopkins (28) A.J. Green (11) Michael Thomas (6)

 
The second round pick in a straight draft provides an interesting decision. The preference here is selecting a second wide receiver. Coupling Adam Thielen, T.Y. Hilton, or Keenan Allen with your high-end first-round wide receiver would form a formidable half-PPR duo. Having an elite positional grouping is a huge roster construction advantage.

Snake Drafts: A late-round draft position aligns perfectly for the 2019 season. There is an opportunity to draft both a top wide receiver and running back, providing a solid foundation for your fantasy team. Pairing David Johnson/Joe Mixon with Julio Jones/Michael Thomas provides a solid foundation that a very high fantasy floor.

Round Three/Four

General Rule: No Quarterback or Tight End

Straight Drafts: Never secure a third wide receiver before selecting a running back. With two wide receivers already in place, the third-round pick should be the safest running back. Your chance at the fantasy playoffs may hinge on selecting the best choice among Josh Jacobs, Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, and Kerryon Johnson. Since a straight draft always means waiting for 12 picks, your second is determined by a direct question — are you more confident finding a starting wide receiver or running back in Round 5? The wide receiver value here is too good to pass up. Take your best choice among Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, or Tyler Lockett.

Snake Drafts: Given the later round running back value, the play here is to secure your starting wide receiver group. If your fellow drafters leave you the opportunity to choose among Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, and Julian Edelman, you must take advantage. Assuming you drafted a high-end running back in Round 1, your late-draft slot team should already be strong.

It is important to avoid selecting a quarterback or tight end in this area. The top tight ends are off the board, and the quarterback position is the deepest it has ever been. Don’t spend a Round 3 or 4 pick on a position with just one starting player.

Round Five/Six

General Rule: Emphasize Upside

Straight Drafts: It is now time to shift gears away from safety plays. Middle round draft selections usually have low ceilings. The variance in projected point production starts to level off, but there are still landmines to avoid. There were some colossal busts from this draft area in 2018:

Player ADP End of Year Positional Rank
Carlos Hyde RB27 RB46
Rex Burkhead RB28 RB78
Greg Olsen TE5 TE24
Michael Crabtree WR31 WR54

 
Those four players were all older veterans with limited upside. In 2019, the ideal Round 5 targets (regardless of position) include Sammy Watkins (especially if Tyreek Hill is suspended for the season), Calvin Ridley, and D.J. Moore. In the Round 6 position, similar upside players include Robby Anderson, Latavius Murray, and even Vance McDonald.

Snake Drafts: Drafting late in Round 5, but early in Round 6, necessitates a reach with the second selection. With no pick until the end of Round 7, do not be afraid to select players such as Murray or Anderson almost 10 picks before their ADP. In snake drafts, reaching for players is necessary with late first-round draft slots. If you don’t reach for a few players with your second pick at the turn, there isn’t enough risk embedded in your strategy.

Summary

Whether participating in a straight or snake draft, there is a significant amount of strategy that can minimize the decision-making process when you are on the clock. When drafting with a late first-round pick in standard or half-PPR formats, the overall guidelines are the following:

  • Stay safe with your first two picks. Avoid season-killing busts at all costs.
  • With quarterback and tight end representing one player starters in most leagues, avoid selecting either position until at least Round 6.
  • Never select a third wide receiver before selecting your first running back.
  • Target upside picks starting in Round 5. The importance of high-floor players is inversely proportional to the round number.
  • Since your even round picks occur well before the odd round picks (after Round 1), don’t be afraid to reach on a player you want.

While each draft will vary based on your opponents’ decisions, the above rules provide a solid foundation for all seasonal league drafts. The stronger your draft is, the higher the chance you reach the playoffs with a shot for a fantasy football championship.

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