Snake Draft Strategy for Early Picks: No. 1-4 (2022 Fantasy Football)
While the 2022 NFL season is still a few months away, it’s never too early to prepare for your fantasy drafts. Everyone is excited come draft day to build their winning team. However, it is easy to drift away from your draft plan and panic, especially when a player you were targeting gets picked just ahead of you or you’re on the wrong end of a positional run.
Yet, fantasy players have plenty of time to prepare for the draft and put together a game plan. So how can you ace your fantasy draft? Here are a few general tips and strategies to help you ace your draft with a pick in the top four.
Know Your League’s Rules
This tip applies to all fantasy games. If you don’t know the rules, you’re playing with a massive handicap. Everyone should check if the league is 1-QB or Superflex and PPR or non-PPR. However, is the league tight end premium? Do you start two or three wide receivers? How many flex spots? Are you playing with team defenses or individual defensive players (IDP)?
Have Your Tiers
Whether you do your own rankings or pick a few experts you trust, always have the players broken down into tiers. They are critical in helping you make 30-second decisions when on the clock during the draft. The last thing you want to happen is you get placed on auto-pick because you can’t decide between two options. Furthermore, the tiers help you break down the difference between two players. If you have rankings without tiers, how do you determine the difference between your WR20 and WR21? The tiers will also help you stay on track in taking the best player available during the draft.
Pick a Draft Strategy
Do not go into your draft blind or with the mindset of “winging it”. That is the quickest way to have an awful draft and severely hamper your chances of winning the league. Instead, pick a draft strategy. There are several options, from Zero-RB to running back-heavy. Depending on your league’s starting lineup requirements and draft slot, some strategies are better than others. However, any draft strategy is better than no strategy.
Be Ready to Modify Your Strategy
Everyone knows the saying, “(bleep) happens”. Things won’t go according to plan in your fantasy draft. Either someone will reach for a player you were targeting in the next round, or a run on quarterbacks will happen sooner than you were planning. Regardless, the key is to remain calm and adapt. Go with the flow of the draft. If your draft strategy needs to be modified or completely changed, be able to conform to the situation.
Track Other Teams’ Picks
Make sure you keep track of the players and positions the other teams in your league have or haven’t drafted, especially if you are near the turn. For example, if you are picking one spot from the turn and that team on the turn already drafted Travis Kelce, you can wait until after the turn to grab a tight end. The reason why is that team is unlikely to draft a tight end with Kelce already on their roster. Furthermore, this is extremely important when picking in the middle of the round. You have a long wait until you’re back on the clock every round and must decide which players you’re willing to risk sliding back to you.
Draft Strategy for Picks 1-4
The ideal draft strategy with a top-four pick is Hero RB. Passing up a superstar running back like Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, or Najee Harris is foolish. “You can’t win your fantasy league in the first round, but you can lose it,” is one of the most important sayings in the fantasy football world. All four of these running backs can end the year as the top-scoring player at their position and possibly the top-scoring non-quarterback. Passing on one of them for Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, or a quarterback would be a mistake.
However, you could consider a quarterback like Josh Allen or Justin Herbert with your top-four pick if you’re in a Superflex league. I would take Taylor over any quarterback after his success last year and expected workload this year. After that, it’s up for debate. Depending on your league-mates, you might not want to wait until the second round to grab a quarterback in your Superflex drafts.
This range is the part of the draft where teams tend to make mistakes. After grabbing a stud running back in the first round, you want to draft a mix of floor and upside players with these picks. If you use the Hero-RB strategy, don’t be afraid to change course if a running back with RB1 upside slides back to you in the second round. According to Rotowire, D’Andre Swift has a mid-second-round ADP. If he slides to you with your late second-round pick, I recommend changing your draft strategies and grabbing Swift, giving you two high-upside running backs.
With a top-four pick, you will quickly be back on the clock. If you are playing in a Superflex league, this would be the time to grab a quarterback if you haven’t already. The last thing you want is a run to start right after your pick. In 1-QB leagues, you should grab either Kelce or Mark Andrews if they slide to the third round. Having an elite tight end to plug and play every week is so helpful and will keep you out of the waiver wire bidding wars.
After a long wait, you are back on the clock late in the fourth round. Regardless if you’ve altered from the Hero-RB strategy or not, you should target a wide receiver with this pick. If you managed to draft Kelce or Andrews in the second or third round, you should feel confident drafting a risky wide receiver with this pick. However, you will want to target a safe-floor wide receiver with this pick if you didn’t grab one of those two tight ends. Remember, you want to draft two safe-floor players and one high-upside player during these three rounds.
These are the rounds where you want to target upside at the quarterback position. If you’re playing in a 1-QB league, this is the range to target a quarterback. Your targets should be Allen, Herbert, or Patrick Mahomes if they are available in the fifth round. However, don’t fall into the trap of grabbing a quarterback early if one of those three isn’t available. Instead, wait a few more rounds and target a high-upside quarterback like Jalen Hurts or Trey Lance.
Rounds 5 and 6 are excellent for double-dipping on running backs. You can find numerous quality running backs that can provide RB2 value. Furthermore, you might be able to find a few potential running backs who could turn into low-end RB1s in the right situation. Even if you started your draft with back-to-back running backs, don’t avoid taking another pair in this range if the value is there. Remember, there is no such thing as having too many good running backs.
Regardless if your league has two or three starting wide receiver spots, the latter part of this range is where you want to load up on wide receivers. The depth at wide receiver is extremely deep this year, and this is the range where you can find a great mix of high-upside and safe-production players. Depending on the type of wide receivers you’ve already drafted, you should either shoot for the moon with upside or target a pair of safe-floor wide receivers.
Rounds 10 and Beyond
Everyone knows you wait until the last two rounds to draft a kicker and team defense (assuming your league has them). Don’t be afraid to draft them a round earlier to get the best Week 1 matchup possible, but don’t draft a kicker or team defense for the entire season. Not only is streaming the better strategy, but you will need to spend an earlier pick to guarantee yourself Justin Tucker or the top team defense.
Aside from the lackluster positions, the later rounds are when you want to target upside and lottery tickets. With an early draft slot, you are close to the turn and can look at the players in bunches. Decide on which upside players you value the most, given your team’s roster construction. If you are light on running backs, you will want to load up on handcuffs and one-injury-away players. On the other hand, if you only have three wide receivers heading into the double-digit rounds, you will want to load up on players with the potential to break out.
If you didn’t draft a plug-and-play tight end early, you should target a pair of tight ends in this range. Don’t draft them with the mindset of holding both for the entire year. Instead, pick the two you think have the best shot to go off in Week 1 and early in the season. You will likely end up dropping one after Week 1 to grab the hot waiver wire addition and the other to grab a new streaming tight end for Week 2. Many people get caught reaching for second- and third-tier tight ends in the early to middle rounds. Either pay the price for a plug-and-play high-upside stud or wait until the final few rounds and stream the position.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.