When it comes to the late set of fantasy football snake draft picks, a well-prepared and adaptable strategy is essential. It’s no longer about determining which players are good or bad since they are being drafted in Round 1 for a reason. Instead, the focus shifts towards establishing a solid foundation that sets the standard for your roster throughout the draft. Even before making your selection towards the back end of Round 1, it’s crucial to consider your player targets for the crucial Round 2 follow-up. In order to achieve success in this exercise, the importance of preparing tier lists or utilizing FantasyPros’ built-in tiers and rankings cannot be overstated. However, the task becomes more challenging without a top-8 pick, as will be the case in this scenario.
- Draft Targets for Every Round: Early | Middle | Late
- Fitz’s Draft Primers: QB | RB | WR | TE
- Fantasy Football Draft Strategy
- 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
As we approach the end of Round 1 in the 2023 fantasy football drafts, one question looms large: the debate between selecting RB, WR, or possibly even QB, and how that decision will impact subsequent rounds. Draft slots in the 1.09-1.12 range, where there tends to be more variability compared to earlier in Round 1, are set to offer an exciting experience. In this article, we will consider these selections as “late snake draft picks,” with the early snake picks ranging from 1.01 to 1.04 and the middle snake picks falling between 1.05 and 1.08 in traditional 12-team fantasy football leagues. The ADP source for this discussion will be Underdog and FFPC Best Ball, with the latter serving as the host for the 2023 FantasyPros Championship.
Fantasy Football Snake Draft Strategy for Late Picks
Let the Draft Begin.
Picking in the late part of Round 1 tends to be easier than the middle. Although you miss out on the top overall players, having two picks inside the top-16 overall players has its advantages. As is the little wait in between picks, especially if you pick at 1.11 or 1.12.
I’ve praised the “hero-RB approach” with early and mid-snake draft picks, and that strategy still works even with a late pick in Round 1. Hence, why my approach going into any snake draft is that I want one running back in the first three rounds.
Usually, Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb or Jonathan Taylor will be there at the backend of Round 1 or waiting for you in Round 2 if you opt for a WR first between Stefon Diggs, A.J. Brown, or Amon-Ra St. Brown.
In thirsty RB drafts, it can be hard to pass on two falling top-tier studs at WR, especially in PPR formats. So WR-WR is still in play. Ultimately, you need to read the room with a late-round snake draft pick, to understand whether you should go RB or WR first. Because if you play your cards right, you can get the top RB/WR on your draft board potentially.
I personally feel very comfortable with Chubb as my hero RB, so I don’t mind taking him a few spots ahead of ADP at the start of Round 2 or late Round 1. And I’ll be happy with whatever WR/RB falls back to me.
Because picking at the turn means you are going to get a blend of pretty closely ranked players. The guys ranked from 8-16 are marginally different, so don’t be afraid to go slightly against ADP.
But I want to stress that you should mostly avoid “reaching” on a running back (especially one based solely on a volume projection) versus a top-end wide receiver that may fall into the back of Round 1.
In Superflex, I am still most likely selecting my highest remaining Tier 1 fantasy quarterbacks. They won’t be available later in Round 2.
You can view my Tier 1 quarterbacks in my QB Best Ball Primer. However, because there are only seven of them, don’t reach Tier 2 QB in Round 1. Just take the best non-QB available. But in the rare instance that you can snag two Tier 1 QBs, you SMASH the draft button.
Round 1-2 Takeaways:
- Picking late in Round 1 can still be advantageous, with the opportunity to secure two top-16 players and avoid long waits between picks.
- Consider a WR-WR approach if top-tier RBs are not available, as elite wide receivers can provide significant value in PPR formats. But follow the same strategy if WRs get drafted first if you can acquire two top-tier RBs.
- Ideally picking from the 9th-16th picks I am trying to just stack together my two highest-ranked players by leveraging ADP and what has already transpired during the draft.
- My order from the 9-16 range: Bijan Robinson, Nick Chubb, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, Tony Pollard and Garrett Wilson
- In Superflex leagues, prioritize Tier 1 quarterbacks early on as they are unlikely to be available later in Round 2. Without a top-7 pick, you should take the best non-QB and then another QB in Half-PPR. Just too difficult to make up the gap with positional players versus QB. But in full-PPR, go gun-hoe if you can draft two elite WRs/RBs. Then address QB in Rounds 3-4. I say this because in full PPR, top-end WRS/RB can better combat QB scoring in Superflex formats.
If you went WR-WR to start, it’s important to recognize the RB1 you’ll be selecting in Rounds 3 & 4. It’s most likely some combination of Travis Etienne Jr., Jahmyr Gibbs, Kenneth Walker III and Najee Harris. Maybe Breece Hall or Rhamondre Stevenson.
If you’re not okay with any of those guys as your hero RB1, then don’t start your draft at WR-WR. Or just continue to punt the position in a more full-on “zero-RB” approach.
I also love the value of tight end Mark Andrews as an option in the 33-43 pick range.
Overall, if you focus on drafting the three best overall players inside the top-36 (which will be WRs more often than not), you are setting a strong foundation for your team.
Round 3 is where we have typically seen the elite quarterbacks come off the board. But this year, we have already seen them rise into Round 2 based on the edge elite fantasy quarterbacks presented to drafters last season. However, as I laid out in my QB Best Ball Primer – as did Tom Strachan in his early approach to best-ball drafts last season – being the first to draft a quarterback doesn’t always grant you the best advance rate.
Tom said it best by defining the elite QBs’ win rate as “disappointing, to say the least,” entering 2022.
And he would be proven right. Only two of the QBs drafted inside the top-4 rounds finished with top-4 advance rates. Essentially a coinflip.
Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts were being drafted outside the first 5 rounds. And the other five quarterbacks with the highest advance rates from Round 1 were drafted outside the top 100 overall picks.
Value is still the name of QB, which is why I stress a pseudo-late-round “elite” quarterback strategy. Essentially getting the last or second-to-last quarterback with top-tier upside to capitalize on value. This will change based on where QBs fall in ADP, but I’d say Rounds 4-6 is the more appropriate range.
Burrow, Justin Fields and Justin Herbert tend to still be on the board in Rounds 4-5. I’d select whichever falls the furthest. Whether that be in Round 4 or at the beginning of the middle rounds (5-9).
Rounds 3-4 Takeaways:
- If you started with WR-WR, carefully assess the RB1 options available in Rounds 3 and 4 (Travis Etienne Jr., Jahmyr Gibbs, Kenneth Walker III, and Najee Harris) to ensure you’re comfortable with them as your hero “RB”.
- Prioritize drafting the best overall players within the top-36, often wide receivers, to establish a strong foundation.
- Elite quarterbacks tend to come off the board in Round 3 but consider a pseudo-late-round “elite” quarterback strategy in Rounds 4-6 for better value.
- Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, and Justin Herbert are favorable quarterback targets in Rounds 4-5.
In the middle rounds of drafts, it’s critical that you come prepared with an optimal and flexible approach. Following up on a strong start coming out of the early rounds is critical to your success. The player pool isn’t as strong as at the beginning of the draft, but the difference in hitting on the right guys in the range can make or break your roster.
Four rounds deep, you have already drafted a good chunk of your team. This is YOUR CORE. So, your strategy may differ slightly depending on the foundation you built during the early portion of your draft. Ergo, if already roster three strong running backs (or at least ones you spent high draft capital on) there’s virtually no need to address the position in any capacity. Depth – especially in leagues where you have access to the waiver wire – tends to be overrated in fantasy football.
However, the overarching approach to the middle rounds is going to remain static for the most part regardless of what you already did. The focus is still on drafting the “best player available” or BPA. Too many times drafters make the mistake of drafting for need in the middle-rounds – when the priority should be filling your roster will as many potential level jumpers or league-winners as humanly possible. Especially at the wide receiver position. Because it’s easy to find plug-in production. Focus on drafting players that have difference-making upside in their range of outcomes.
As I identified in the Best Ball WR Primer, the name of the game with wide receivers remains to scoop up value in the middle-to-later portions of drafts, with the position counting for the biggest part of your best-ball roster. Take advantage of WRs that fall in ADP, while other teams “reach” on running backs that they think they need. The same goes for the reverse narrative. Take advantage of RBs that fall in ADP while others reach on subpar wide receivers that they think they need.
In most 2023 drafts, you will be shocked at how quickly the WR position dries up despite the false narrative that the position is deep every year. It’s not deep. If anything, it’s extremely diluted, which makes it much more essential you draft the remaining wideouts toward the start of the middle rounds. You’ll feel (and perform) much better knowing that you aren’t trudging out WRs ranked outside the top 40 as your weekly WR3.
Wide receivers in the middle rounds are often the ones that tend to take massive leaps and vastly outperform their ADP. And when in doubt, just keep drafting WRs that have breakout potential. Chances are they all won’t hit…but all you need is one to hit big to reap the benefits.
Gravitate toward the pass-catchers in a high-powered offense with some target ambiguity versus the guy who has a more obvious high-end target floor in a bad offense. And do not shy away from the real-life No. 2 WRs…as these players often represent the best fantasy values because their ADPs are almost always suppressed as they aren’t their team’s “No.1.”
Some of my favorite WR targets from Rounds 5-9 (picks 50-100) include Drake London, Chris Godwin, Diontae Johnson, Brandon Aiyuk, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Tyler Lockett, Jahan Dotson, Jordan Addison, Gabe Davis, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Elijah Moore.
Only once you’ve got a plethora of breakout WRs to work from, I give you permission to dive back into the running back pool before we enter the double-digit rounds.
Because after WRs, breakout RBs are the next target in the middle rounds. Specifically, once the drafts enter the late RB2 early RB3 range (RB20-RB38) or RBs with a top-40 ADP. That group presented the greatest hit rate for fantasy running backs to return a mid-range RB2 (RB17.2) finish as I found in my article from 2022 titled, How to Identify Sleeper & Late-Round Running Backs to Target (2022 Fantasy Football).
Running backs that hit in this general range last season included: Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, Rhamondre Stevenson, Dameon Pierce, Devin Singletary, Kenneth Walker III, and Tyler Allgeier.
Keep in mind that the majority of RBs in this range can be found in my Tier 3. Here are some of my favorites in 2023: Cam Akers, Rachaad White, Dalvin Cook, James Conner, James Cook, Antonio Gibson, A.J. Dillon, Zach Charbonnet, Rashaad Penny, De’Von Achane, Khalil Herbert and Damien Harris.
You can find the full-tiered rankings in my 2023 fantasy football rankings.
For the remaining onesie positions, you are once again playing the value game. My favorite QB in the middle rounds is Deshaun Watson. An auto-pick for me in Rounds 7-8 if I need a QB.
The same approach goes for the tight end position. By zero means am I willing to draft a tight end in the middle rounds that doesn’t have elite upside. And again, they need to fall into ADP.
That’s why using tiered rankings is so critical to your success – as it helps you unearth draft values by preventing reaches.
For more information on why you need to “stay out of the middle” at tight end, check out my tight end primer.
The only tight ends I am actively targeting in the middle rounds (considering ADP) are Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts. Waller is an auto-pick for me in Round 7.
Rounds 5-9 Takeaways
- Focus on drafting the best player available, particularly wide receivers with breakout potential, as the position tends to dry up quickly in drafts.
- Look for pass-catchers in high-powered offenses with target ambiguity and consider real-life No. 2 WRs who can offer excellent fantasy value.
- Target breakout running backs in the late RB2 to early RB3 range (RB20-RB38) who have a top-40 ADP.
- Utilize tiered rankings to identify draft values and avoid reaching on quarterbacks and tight ends unless they have elite upside.
Rounds 10 and Beyond
You should be actively implementing “what if” thought exercises in the late rounds of your fantasy football drafts. Simply put, “if “x” happens, what would that do to “x” player’s value.” Again, this is most commonly seen from injuries, with players seeing spikes in production/value when a teammate goes down. Some players have that factored into their ADPs with injury-prone teammates, but others do not. And at the end of the day, it’s full-contact football. Guys we expect to get hurt and guys we don’t expect to get hurt are going to miss games. We can’t project when/if said injuries are going to happen, but what savvy drafters can do is stockpile the back of their drafts with talented players that are being discounted because of their situation.
Worry not about what Player A’s role will be in Week 1 when you draft them in the late double digits. Chances are that doesn’t matter. Focus on what’s in the players’ range of outcomes should he see an expanded role as the season wanes. Fantasy championships aren’t won in September or October.
That was one of the biggest takeaways from my 2022 season recap article. Don’t overvalue early-season opportunities versus talent. I fell for the Romeo Doubs‘ hype train and didn’t invest nearly enough in Christian Watson, even though everything that was not written by a Packers training camp beat reporter clearly showed that Watson was the superior prospect.
And all it took was for him to get healthy and for Doubs to underwhelm as a Day 3 pick – not shocking – for everybody else to get on board.
Just buy the dip on talent when the ADP is so suppressed due to the situation. And don’t forget about the players that delivered worthwhile performances in the past when they were presented with opportunities. Being a proven asset in some capacity matters.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garett Wilson, Richie James Jr., Greg Dortch, and Elijah Moore all either increased their production or commanded targets at a high rate due to injuries to teammates around them this past season. Not all of them will be late-round picks, but some definitely will. And those are the archetype of players you should be looking to target.
Some of my favorite late-round WRs (outside the top 100) include Elijah Moore, Zay Flowers, Jameson Williams, Skyy Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nico Collins, Jakobi Meyers, Darnell Mooney, Zay Jones, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark Jr., Hunter Renfrow, Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James Jr., Deonte Harty, Jayden Reed, Marvin Mims Jr., Jalin Hyatt, Darius Slayton and Justyn Ross.
Hodgins seems like a completely forgotten WR, despite the fact that he could lead New York in targets in 2023. Once fully entrenched in the offense from Week 12 onward, Hodgins has zero drops on 45 targets and averaged 10.9 fantasy points per game – equivalent to Chris Olave and Deebo Samuel (WR25). He averaged 9.1 fantasy points per game overall on the year.
I also believe in another thought exercise of,” He’s the discount version of Player X.” I find it very useful.
Players that have defined roles that go extremely late can also be beneficial targets. The constant bombardment of “upside-centric” analysis makes these players not talked about enough. Even though players entering 2022 like Zay Jones and Curtis Samuel – clearly defined roles on offense with spikes of proven production – were strong contributors to their rosters. There’s an upside to playing an every-down role on an offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster anyone?
Hence, why chasing the upside-centric dragon is not wrong. You want upside on your fantasy football teams. But some balance never hurts. Because “only-upside” players typically also have extremely shaky floors. And too many guys that fail to fire will leave your squad helpless.
Chase players that project for air yards and rookies. Air yards tell us how often a player is being used downfield, which is part of the formula when it comes to spike weeks of fantasy production. Particularly at WR and TE.
Some potential late-round guys in 2023 drafts that commanded a high end of their team’s air yards (20% or higher) in 2022 include Darius Slayton, Van Jefferson, Nico Collins, D.J. Chark, Alec Pierce, Terrace Marshall, Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, Tyquan Thornton, Michael Gallup, Mack Hollins, Rondale Moore, and Chase Claypool.
Players with high aDOTs (average depth per target) include Jameson Williams, Gabe Davis, George Pickens and Jahan Dotson.
When it comes to rookies, you need to be aggressive in drafting them throughout the summer months. I mentioned this in both the RB best-ball primer and WR best-ball primer. Specifically for rookie WRs, it is even more important.
Their ADPs often do not fully capture the upside they possess. The ADP acts more like a hedge or median projection when first-year players of recent years are so much more boom-or-bust. They either hit in a big way – Garrett Wilson, Jahan Dotson, George Pickens, Drake London, Chris Olave, Christian Watson – or drastically underwhelm – Skyy Moore, Treylon Burks, Jameson Williams. They are lottery tickets that you need to always draft as they are frequently discounted outside the top 36. Take full advantage.
Keep in mind that rookie WRs’ roles often grow as the season progresses. That makes them the perfect backfill targets for best ball formats that have prize structures heavily based on the final few weeks of the season.
My favorite strategy is drafting veterans and rookie WRs from the same teams. Because it’s a very underrated strategy, that helps you capture an immense upside. Also, guarantees you at least one “hit” from each WR group you draft.
Last year would have looked like this from some of the top guys.
- Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson
- Michael Thomas, Chris Olave
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams
- Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson
- Allen Lazard, Christian Watson
Hardly did we see both guys hit. But the fact that the presence of just one other pass-catcher suppressed the cost of the other, makes it easier for them to smash their ADPs.
This is essentially my Tier 4 of tight ends, which ranges widely from TE15-TE32. As briefed in a previous rookie Mock Draft, you don’t want to overextend yourself for any of these TEs because the production will likely be negligible at best, drafting toward the beginning of the tier versus the end. So just wait and take shots on multiple tight ends.
Ideally, ones with either a path for receiving volume, an every-down role, and/or above-average athleticism.
My favorite late-round tight ends to target (outside top-10 runs) include Dalton Schultz, Greg Dulcich, Dalton Kincaid, Gerald Everett, Sam LaPorta, Mike Gesicki and Jelani Woods.
Over the past two seasons, Schultz ranks 6th in points per game, 7th in target share (17%), 15th in target rate per route run (21%), fourth in receptions, 10th in yards per route run and 6th in route participation, despite facing FIERCE target competition in Dallas.
With Prescott under center (31 games played) Schultz was averaging nearly 13 fantasy points per game in PPR (12.87). That would have ranked second among all TEs in 2022. Nearly top-12 WR fantasy-like numbers.
In 2021, Schultz scored nearly as many fantasy points per game as CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper with Prescott at QB. In 2022, he posted a 24.4% target rate per route run, which would have ranked sixth.
Woods was listed as a tight end in Pat Fitzmaurice’s Fitz’s Fantasy Football Draft Targets: Tight Ends. And I am on board. The second-year tight end has gotten some recent lip service from the new coaching staff in Indianapolis and is uber-athletic. He finished the season from Week 12 onward second in yards per route run among all tight ends (2.6).
Among the late-round QBs, it’s critical that you draft knowing what their schedule is to open the season. Because they are non-established studs, you need to know they have plus-matchups working in their favor to trust them in your starting lineup.
And finally, addressing the late-round running backs. Do not handcuff your running backs in traditional formats, where you have access to the waiver wire. However, you do want to handcuff your RBs in the best ball format. A No. 2 RB filling in for an injured starter who got you to the playoffs could be your key to victory in Week 17.
Outside the top 100 ADP, my favorite running backs include Zach Charbonnet, Rashaad Penny, De’Von Achane, Khalil Herbert, Damien Harris, Jaylen Warren, Kendre Miller, Devin Singletary, Kenneth Gainwell, Roschon Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Chuba Hubbard, Leonard Fournette, Jeff Wilson Jr., Kareem Hunt, Gus Edwards, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Joshua Kelley, DeWayne McBride, Latavius Murray and Jordan Mason.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Identify running backs with the potential to see/possess goal-line roles in high-scoring offenses. Pinpointing a team’s primary red-zone back is an easy way to hit on a fantasy running back.
- If you are fading the “starter,” you should naturally be higher on one of their backups.
- Target impending free agent running backs. Notable free agents at the end of the 2023 season include Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson. Joe Mixon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire have club options in their contracts but are likely playing their final seasons in their respective teams.
- Aim for running backs on teams who have no clear-cut starter — ambiguous backfields. This is where breakout running backs are often found.
Rounds 10 and Beyond Takeaways:
- Implement “what if” thought exercises to identify players whose value could spike due to injuries or expanded roles later in the season.
- Focus on talent and range of outcomes for players with suppressed ADPs due to their situations.
- Target late-round wide receivers with potential for increased production due to injuries to teammates, proven assets, or defined roles on their respective offenses.
- Consider players with high air yards or aDOT (average depth per target) for potential spike weeks of fantasy production.
- Be proactive in drafting rookies, especially rookie wide receivers, as their ADPs may not fully capture their upside.