All offseason long, the staffers over at PFF Fantasy have been participating in mock drafts, starting with one commencing immediately after the Super Bowl and ending … well, whenever the one we are currently conducting wraps up (it’s in Round 12 as I write this). And as such, I’ve learned some drafting lessons for 2018.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways that you can apply to the final big draft weekend of the fantasy football season.
There is no right strategy and no wrong strategy
Okay, that’s a lie. Drafting your kicker in the third round is the wrong strategy. But any strategy espoused by fantasy pundits is only as good as the fantasy player employing it. Zero-RB can be fine, but it means your job isn’t nearly done at the end of the draft — an inherent part of the strategy is being able to nail waiver claims all season long. You can take a quarterback in any round you want, so long as you take the right quarterback and make the right other picks around him. Taking a quarterback in the 14th is no good if you burn your earlier picks on Trent Richardson-types. And you can take Aaron Rodgers in the first round if you can find this year’s Alvin Kamara and JuJu Smith-Schuster later on.
So keep this in mind as you read on. Nothing below is hard-and-fast. It’s just the best approaches I’ve found from a summer of drafts.
Get out of the first three rounds with at least one running back
We’ve had various drafters attempt variations on the zero-RB approach all offseason long, and while the draft isn’t the end of things (see the above note about waiver claims) … for the most part, I don’t think the drafts have worked out if you don’t come away with a starting running back by the end of Round 3.
That’s my proposal for zero-RB aficionados in 2018. Get out of the first three rounds with a running back. Maybe it’s Todd Gurley, maybe it’s Jordan Howard, but get one of the big names. And then wait. Fill out your receivers, maybe your tight end, maybe even a quarterback, before getting back to the ballcarriers. Particularly in PPR leagues, there are enough third-down-type backs that you’ll be able to get your second back later with no real problems.
If you don’t have a tight end by the middle of the fourth round, don’t take a tight end until the 11th
I am 100 percent fine spending a second-rounder on Rob Gronkowski, a third on Travis Kelce, a fourth on Zach Ertz. No complaints at all. But that’s only three players, meaning only three rosters that will have a tight end by that point. If you miss out on those guys, just wait. The second tier at tight end has problems, and nothing sets those guys far enough ahead of the third(-ish) tier that it’s worth a fifth-rounder on Greg Olsen or a ninth on Jordan Reed.
I’ve seen drafters come out of full drafts with David Njoku and O.J. Howard as their tight ends. Or Benjamin Watson and Vernon Davis. Or … any combination of guys going in the teens, really. My personal favorite is drafting Tyler Eifert (as much upside as Reed, slightly more risk, but a four-plus-round discount), pairing him with a high-floor, low-ceiling option such as Watson, Charles Clay or Jared Cook, and loading up elsewhere.
The turn is a great place to pick … unless you’re in a two-QB/superflex league
I quite enjoy being able to lump a pair of picks together in most drafts. Yes, there’s a long wait between your spots, but being able to double up makes up for that.
But if your league calls for multiple quarterbacks, it gets tricky. Superflex drafts are less predictable than their one-QB counterparts and are very subject to runs at the position. If you pick at the end of the first/start of the second and Aaron Rodgers is the only name off the board at the position, there’s a huge question mark. If you avoid quarterback, you’ll get a pair of strong players at RB and/or WR, but then if there’s a run at QB, you’re stuck watching names fly away with no recourse, and you might end up with Ryan Tannehill. Conversely, if you dive on quarterback too early, and the rest of the league lets them fall, you miss out on the skill players at the flex positions and end up with Chris Thompson or Randall Cobb.
If you have a way to get your draft slot, opt for the turn in one-QB leagues, but middle of the draft in two-QB.
Please, please, please, take your DST as late as you can
The Jaguars are probably going to finish the season as the No. 1 fantasy defense, or close. Anything lower than, say, fourth would be a huge upset. But even with that, it’s not worth the eighth-round pick it takes to acquire the unit.
This is an incomplete list of the players taken immediately after the Jacksonville defense in our staff mocks (and remember, these are expert/analyst mocks, where defenses will generally go later than in public drafts anyway):
• Corey Clement
• Ameer Abdullah
• John Brown
• James Washington
• Ricky Seals-Jones
• Jameis Winston
• Corey Clement again
• Bilal Powell
• Matt Breida
The last 10 years, the defense that finished the year No. 1 in fantasy was drafted seventh or worse every year. In the same span, the defense going first in drafts has averaged a finish of 9.5 at the position. There’s no value to be found in taking a defense earlier than the second-to-last round, maybe third-to-last if Jacksonville does fall that far. Eighth round? Ninth? Just say no.
Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus.
Read more fantasy football news and analysis:
How to pull off the perfect fantasy draft using the Zero RB strategy
Colts tight end Jack Doyle is getting no respect in mock drafts
Tyreek Hill is going higher in mock drafts than he should be
QB rankings: What to do with Andrew Luck?
Draft dilemma: Deshaun Watson probably isn’t worth the risk