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Late Pick Draft Slot Strategy (Fantasy Football)

by John Ferguson | @FantasyFerguson | Featured Writer
Aug 1, 2019

The late draft slot has always been one of my personal favorites in snake drafts. The idea of getting two players who could both potentially return first-round draft value has just seemed like an advantage over an early slot who will nail an early first pick but be left to hang and wait for the late-second/early-third round for their next selection.

In this article, I am going to look at some potential roster builds with the late draft slot as your pick as well as look at the historical production of players who were selected at the first/second-round turn in snake drafts. In the early and mid-slot piece we only looked at historical first-round production, but with this slot being unique in offering similar player value with the quick turnaround, we will dive a little deeper. Historical ADP will be pulled using FantasyData.com as a reference, while recent final ranks can be found using FantasyPros “Fantasy Leaders” report. The late draft slot is referencing picks nine-12 for the first round and picks 1-4 (13-16 overall) in the second round. in standard 15 round drafts with full PPR as the scoring format. Though the ADP numbers may look off here or there, the players are being pulled based on their overall predraft ranking.

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Historical First Round Picks and Their Performance

So, first up, let’s take a look at historical late-first/early-second round draft picks and how they actually performed to see if you’re really at an advantage or disadvantage with this later pick. So far we have confirmed that historically, early picks (1-4) have generally paid off pretty close to their draft price while mid-round picks (5-8) were a little rough.

2018

ADP

Position Rank

Final Overall Rank

Final Position Rank

Melvin Gordon (LAC)

9.3

RB8

33.0

RB8

DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)

9.5

WR2

8.0

WR1

Kareem Hunt (KC)

11.0

RB9

47.0

RB12

Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)

11.5

WR3

46.0

WR15

Christian McCaffrey (CAR)

12.6

RB10

3.0

RB2

Julio Jones (ATL)

14.3

WR4

14.0

WR4

Dalvin Cook (MIN)

15.1

RB11

115.0

RB30

Michael Thomas (NO)

16.2

WR5

16.0

WR6

2017

ADP

Position Rank

Final Overall Rank

Final Position Rank

Mike Evans (TB)

7.9

WR4

52.0

WR17

A.J. Green (CIN)

10.0

WR5

37.0

WR10

Melvin Gordon (LAC)

10.1

RB6

11.0

RB5

Jordy Nelson (GB)

11.4

WR6

118.0

WR46

Michael Thomas (NO)

13.3

WR7

24.0

WR6

Jay Ajayi (MIA)

13.8

RB7

121.0

RB36

DeMarco Murray (TEN)

15.2

RB8

80.0

RB20

Jordan Howard (CHI)

16.8

RB9

57.0

RB14

2016

ADP

Position Rank

Final Overall Rank

Final Position Rank

Allen Robinson (JAC)

9.2

WR6

66.0

WR24

Lamar Miller (HOU)

9.8

RB4

80.0

RB19

Adrian Peterson (MIN)

10.7

RB5

432.0

RB128

Le’Veon Bell (PIT)

12.3

RB6

5.0

RB3

Brandon Marshall (NYJ)

13.0

WR7

113.0

WR49

Keenan Allen (LAC)

13.8

WR8

413.0

WR165

Rob Gronkowski (NE)

14.2

TE1

184.0

TE26

Mike Evans (TB)

15.7

WR9

10.0

WR3

2015

ADP

Position Rank

Final Overall Rank

Final Position Rank

Demaryius Thomas (DEN)

9.1

WR4

28.0

WR11

Rob Gronkowski (NE)

10.3

TE1

32.0

TE1

C.J. Anderson (DEN)

10.7

RB6

117.0

RB31

Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)

11.4

WR5

8.0

WR5

Calvin Johnson (DET)

13.1

WR6

29.0

WR12

Matt Forte (CHI)

13.7

RB7

53.0

RB7

Jeremy Hill (CIN)

14.4

RB8

90.0

RB20

Randall Cobb (GB)

15.9

WR7

60.0

WR25

 
2018 was a great year to have a late-first round draft pick, but other than that there are definitely more players with a negative value differential over a positive one. Like most draft slots, WR is generally the safer pick here. Nine-of-16 WRs were able to still finish as a WR1 (inside the top-12) who were taken at these spots. That gives you a 56% success rate to land a WR1 with an early-first/late-second round pick. As far as RBs go, only six-of-14 players selected here managed to finish as an RB1 dropping your success rate down to 43%.

Early Round Methods of Roster Construction

Given the historical information above, you have a few choices to make with your first two picks and they will help you set the foundation of your roster construction. A balanced approach would see you grabbing one RB and one WR here. You have a less than 50% chance of landing an RB1 here, but it is a hard position for some to avoid early in drafts. ZeroRB draft strategy has picked up a lot of steam over recent years though and with the two picks close together, a less risky approach here would actually be to go with back-to-back WRs at the turn and grab your RB1 later.

I should mention the lone TE who popped up here a few times at this draft slot, one Robert James Gronkowski. It was always a fairly controversial pick taking Gronk so early in drafts during the years sampled here, but with the TE position continuing an upward trend in general at the top tier over the last few years, it’s almost a must to grab one of the elite options available. Being at the turn here makes that a bit difficult though, honestly. If you have the 1.09 and 2.04 picks then I could see taking the likes of Travis Kelce there, but I am not taking him or any TE ahead of a top-5 WR in most cases.

It’s important to consider your league’s scoring format here. For this approach we are looking at full PPR, so knowing that you can find value with passing-down backs and WRs offering higher ceilings in full PPR over half or just non-PPR leagues might make it harder to avoid an RB here if you’re not in full PPR.

Beyond the First Round

Once those first two picks in are, you can sit back and watch the next two rounds unfold. You have ample time to set your next plan of attack into place and I highly recommend selecting players to your queue to make things a little easier on yourself and to avoid last-minute scrambling. Depending on your first two selections, you can decide where you want to go next. If you (most likely) faded TE and one of the consensus top-three tight ends are still miraculously available, I highly recommend grabbing one with your third-round pick. If you missed out on the upper echelon TEs already, it’s really best to just wait and grab someone much later. The production dropoff at TE is amongst the quickest and steepest out there.

If you went with the WR heavy approach early, you can still get a jump on potentially landing a backend RB1 with a third or fourth-round pick. There are varying degrees of the ZeroRB strategy and I personally have always been a proponent of the one-and-done method, which basically is still ensuring you get a potential RB1 with one of your first three or four picks and then waiting much longer before selecting your RB2 options.

Go with the Flow

Reading how the draft unfolded since your last pick is important. Seeing where your league-mates have drafted heavy and which position has fallen the most is usually the best way to go. The most important thing to remember on draft day is to BE FLEXIBLE. Let the draft come to you, and don’t force a strategy that just doesn’t fit the flow of your draft. If you went WR heavy early and the rest of your draft went RB heavy, don’t feel a need to follow suit. There are probably better players still available at WR and having the potential of three elite guys there will help offset the scoring difference you will see from having a lower-valued RB.

You also never know what will happen. Guys like Alvin Kamara and Phillip Lindsay come out of nowhere every year and put up RB1 numbers after going completely undrafted. The draft is just one piece of the puzzle in season-long leagues and though it does help set the stage for your championship run, it won’t single-handedly get you there. You still need to work the waivers, negotiate trades, and make accurate start/sit decisions to take you to the promised land.

I hope this helps set you up for success and gives you a better vision of how to approach your draft from one of my favorite spots. Good luck out there!

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John Ferguson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from John, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyFerguson.

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