Below is a simple round-by-round strategy meant to provide the best shot at winning a championship with a roster full of solid performers who will keep you in contention each week. It also has some recommendations for players with upside, some of which are sure to get you kudos in the draft chat.
The following plan is best applied to a 12-team, point-per-reception (PPR) league using the following starting lineup: one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex player (RB/WR/TE), one defense, a kicker and seven bench players. However this plan will also translate well to standard-scoring formats and leagues with just 10 teams. Players in each round are listed in order of preference.
You are going to start off selecting a running back. If you have the No. 1 pick, then Christian McCaffrey is your guy. He became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 or more rushing yards and 1,000 or more receiving yards in the same season last year and should be the focal point for Carolina in 2020.
If he isn’t available you want to select your running back among these names, in order: Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Dalvin Cook, Miles Sanders, Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler.
Go with a running back again in the second round. If any of the names above are available then swoop in and select him. If not look for Miles Sanders or Kenyan Drake. After joining the Cardinals in Week 9, Drake saw his fantasy output improve from 9.5 to 19.7 points per game in point-per-reception leagues. If they aren’t available, target James Conner, Nick Chubb or Aaron Jones.
Hopefully Mike Evans, wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is still hanging around. Only D.K. Metcalf saw more targets than Evans in the end zone (14) last season. D.J. Moore is also a solid target here. He had four games with at least 100 receiving yards in 2019 and is a threat to break open the field with a big play.
If those two were already selected, focus on Allen Robinson, Adam Thielen, Kenny Golladay or Odell Beckham Jr.
Solidify the tight end position with Mark Andrews. The third-year pro led the Baltimore Ravens in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season, showing amazing chemistry with reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.
If he is gone, look again toward the wide receiver position, specifically A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf or Terry McLaurin. McLaurin averaged 4.2 catches and 65.9 yards per game with Dwayne Haskins, (just named the team’s starting quarterback) under center, which projects to 68 receptions for 1,053 yards over a 16-game season.
Tyler Lockett would also fit your plan in this round.
It’s time for a quarterback and Russell Wilson should still be lurking on the board. He’s never missed a start in eight seasons (no jinx) and has thrown for 30 or more touchdowns in each of the last three years. If he is gone, look for running back Kareem Hunt. After serving his eight-game suspension last season he averaged nearly 13 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.
Shore up your receiving corps with either Stefon Diggs or Michael Gallup. Diggs has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons and will be the No. 1 option in Buffalo’s passing attack. Gallup tallied 66 catches, 1,107 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his second year as a pro.
Go for Tyler Boyd, another wide receiver. He primarily plays in the slot for Cincinnati, a target rookie quarterback Joe Burrow was fond of last year at LSU. Burrow’s preference for his slot receiver allowed Justin Jefferson to lead the nation with 111 receptions and produce 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.
If you missed out on Wilson, you could snag Matt Ryan here, too. The Atlanta Falcons have a subpar defense in 2020 and a dubious running game, which could lead to Ryan throwing the ball early and often this season.
Take a look at your roster and see where you need depth. If it is at running back, look for Matt Breida. If it is at wide receiver, select Diontae Johnson.
Johnson was able to haul in 59 of 92 targets for 680 yards and five touchdowns from quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. He will have starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center for Year 2.
Breida was traded to the Miami Dolphins this offseason after a down year in San Francisco, but his explosiveness as a runner could give your fantasy squad a big boost from the bench. Breida was deemed the fastest ball carrier of 2019 after reaching 22.3 mph on an 83-yard rushing touchdown in Week 5.
There are three players to choose from in this round. Wide receiver Marvin Jones, running back Chase Edmonds and quarterback Josh Allen.
Jones posted 16.4 fantasy points per game with quarterback Matt Stafford healthy and 12.5 after Stafford was lost for the season in Week 9. Stafford is expected to be healthy for 2020.
Edmonds will need to surpass Drake on the depth chart but Drake is already dealing with some soreness in his foot. Plus, Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said he was “really excited about those two guys” and expects both to be part of the game plan during the regular season.
In Buffalo, Allen has some risk to his rushing touchdown total, but he does get an improved receiver corps to throw to in 2020. If you don’t yet have a quarterback, this selection makes the most sense.
Running backs are the most important position this year, so you want to make sure you have plenty of depth at the position. There are three players in this round you want to get your hands on. Greeb Bay’s A.J. Dillon, Dallas’s Tony Pollard or Philadelphia’s Boston Scott.
Dillon amassed 4,618 yards from scrimmage and 40 total touchdowns in three years at Boston College. He excelled at the combine, too, earning a speed score (adjusted for a player’s weight) and burst score (the summation of his vertical and broad jump) in the 97th percentile from the analytics group at Player Profile. Pollard was successful in his first season as a pro in Dallas, even with Ezekiel Elliott at the top of the depth chart, and finished 2019 with 562 total yards and three touchdowns. In a limited role last year, Scott produced more fantasy points per opportunity (rushes and targets) than every running back with at least as many chances with the exception of Ekeler, James White and Hunt.
DeSean Jackson gets a boost after his teammate, Jalen Reagor, suffered a slight tear in his labrum during practice. Jackson struggled with injuries last year but he and quarterback Carson Wentz showed some chemistry. The two connected on nine of 10 passes for 159 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. Jackson also led the league in yards per reception (18.9) in 2018.
Chris Thompson goes to a new team but plays in a familiar system with former head coach Jay Gruden calling plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his last three years with Gruden in Washington, the 29-year-old averaged 911 total yards and four total touchdowns per 16 games.
The hype train has left the station on New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon.
“He’s our starting tight end,” Jets Coach Adam Gase told reporters. “Chris gives us a lot of flexibility. It’s rare to have a guy with the ability to be as effective as a pass catcher and a guy that’s explosive when he gets the ball in his hands, and still be an on-the-line tight end that can block.”
That translates to mean Herndon should be on the field a lot with a chance to surpass his 2018 totals (502 yards and four touchdowns). He was injured in 2019, which may help depress his value.
If you need a back up quarterback take a flier on Teddy Bridgewater. Carolina’s defense is the youngest in a decade and could force the team to play from behind often, leading to more passing attempts. Luckily, Bridgewater has plenty of weapons to throw to, including Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson and Ian Thomas.
You want a defense that is going to get a lot of sacks because that correlates to more fantasy points. It doesn’t hurt to have a good secondary, too, for interception possibilities. Some of the teams with the best of both (per Pro Football Focus) and expected to still be available are the Philadelphia Eagles (second-best defensive line and 12th best secondary), Los Angeles Rams (8th and 9th, respectively) and the Los Angeles Chargers (9th and 2nd, respectively).
You need a kicker. Anyone will do.