It Is that time of the year again. In just 4 short days the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Houston Texans in the first NFL game of the season, with the first full day of NFL games a week away. Although this will undoubtedly be an unusual season with the pandemic forcing us to adjust the way that we typically do things, the season will start on schedule.
This means that we can draft our fantasy football teams as normal, at least giving us some semblance of normalcy. And with this being the last weekend before the NFL season, I am sure there will be many drafts going on.
We did my league’s draft last weekend live in person, so if you would like to use this draft as a guide, our own NFL fantasy mock draft!
Don’t Forget to Look at the League Settings!
As I mentioned in my beginners guide to fantasy football, one of the first things you should do when joining a new league is look at the league settings.
Some of the more important details are what positions does your league use, how many points for touchdowns and yards, and if the league gives points for PPR (points per reception) or not.
Our league is not a PPR league, which affects how important certain running backs and receivers are. My league does give bonuses for hitting certain yardage goals in a game, for example if a running back gets 100 rushing yards or a wide receiver gets 100 receiving yards in a game they will receive 6 additional points, and a quarterback gets the 6 point bonus is he passes for over 300 yards in a game.
In addition to the scoring for the league, it is a good idea to check how many players will start at each position for your team each week. Our league uses a more traditional approach, starting 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 flex player (which can be a running back, wide receiver or tight end). In addition, you start one kicker and one team defense.
Some leagues have 3 wide receivers starting, putting more importance on them, or 2 quarterbacks, whether traditionally slotted quarterbacks or what is called a “super-flex” where in addition to the running back, wide receiver or tight end, you can use a quarterback in your flex position.
Some leagues also use IDP, which stands for Individual defensive players, so you would have to add that to your draft strategy as well.
Starting with the number 4 pick
I drafted 4th, which is a good spot because it guarantees me one of the top running backs. Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley should both be gone by this time, so I expected to take Alvin Kamara with my pick, but he was taken just before me at 3, which left me free to draft Ezekiel Elliot.
With 12 teams in the league, you will not draft again for awhile, so it is very important in the first 4-5 picks to ensure that you will have a bell cow back on your team, one that is not in a running back by committee situation. As you can see from the draft board, the first 7 picks were all running backs, as were 9 of the 12 first-round picks.
The only other players taken were the New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas, commonly picked as the top wide receiver off the board, and quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, easily the top two quarterbacks in a fantasy football perspective.
My next pick would not be until the 21st overall pick in the draft, but I wanted to ensure that my starting running backs were set so my strategy was to go old school and start by picking 2 running backs in the first two rounds. I feel there are many wide receivers that can be had in later rounds, due to the NFL’s increase in passing in recent years.
So I took Kanyan Drake, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals last year from the Miami Dolphins and had good numbers after joining the team. Other options would have been Miles Sanders for the Eagles, Chris Carson for the Seahawks, or James Conner from the Steelers, but I think that Drake has the right amount of experience (this will be his 5th year) and youth to have a successful year in an offense that put up points last year with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.
So I have my 2 running backs, now what?
With Elliot and Drake, I have two running backs that I should be able to sit and forget with the exception of their bye weeks, unless there is an injury. Now I need to focus on other positions. When my pick came up in the third round, the only tight end off the board so far had been Travis Kelce, leaving other top tight ends such as Zach Ertz and George Kittle still available.
That being said, I believe there are many options at tight end available much later in the draft that may not give quite as many points as Kelce or Kittle, but still serviceable from week to week. And with Mahomes and Jackson off the board, the next tier of quarterbacks include quite a few players, so there’s no need to draft a quarterback any time soon.
So the only obvious pick is to look at wide receivers (there’s not a single team defense that should be picked anywhere near this early, and kickers… well they’re kickers). I had a few options, such as Amari Cooper and Aj Brown, but I ultimately went with Allen Robinson for the Chicago Bears.
The offense obviously isn’t as good as the Cowboys, but Cooper has Michael Gallup and rookie Ceedee Lamb to compete with targets, plus I already have Ezekiel Elliot on my team and don’t like having too many players on the same team (exception would be picking a quarterback to combine with a wide receiver or tight end, since when one has a good game it is probable that the other would too).
As the snake draft came back around to me in the 4th round, I was looking for another receiver. I had a similar mindset as I had with the Robinson pick, look for a receiver that was the lead target on his team or a good number two from a prolific offense.
Robert Woods was taken with the pick just before mine, so I basically had to choose between DJ Chark form the Jacksonville Jaguars or Courtland Sutton from the Denver Broncos. Neither from great offenses, but Chark did have good numbers towards the end of last year, and they may be behind in a lot of games, which may be bad for the team but it’s good for fantasy points from receivers and quarterbacks.
Drafting in the middle rounds
Through 4 rounds, I am liking the way my team is looking so far. I shouldn’t have to worry about these 4 players producing each week. Now I still have one more spot for my flex, in addition to a tight end and a quarterback that I will have to figure out before too long. Obviously defense and kicker are not a priority until much later.
Since a flex can be a running back or wide receiver (or tight end), I had a lot of options in the 5th round. Quite a few good players at both positions. I considered David Montgomery, who in his second year with the Bears should improve, but he had a slight injury plus I already have Allen Robinson from the Bears.
Also Cam Akers was available, the rookie running back for the Los Angeles Rams who many expect to take the Rams starting job before too long. Not choosing him may come back to haunt me. There were quite a few second-tired wide receivers, so I figured there would still be some available for my next pick in the 6th round.
I saw Leveon Bell still sitting there, and although recent production tells us that he won’t do much this year, he still should have the ability to put together a strong season. Only 28, plus sat out an entire year two years ago, there is plenty of tread on his tires. Plus with 37-year old Frank Gore splitting carries with him, Bell should at least get an opportunity to put up numbers better than other who would be the third running back on my team.
I was correct about having options at wide receiver when my next pick came around. Even though I still did not have a tight end, none had been taken since the top 4 were gone in the first 3 rounds, so I was confident I could still get one with my next pick, especially since there were only 6 picks between my 6th and 7th round picks.
I chose Tyler Boyd from Cincinnati, who has a rookie quarterback in Joe Burrow but doesn’t have much competition for targets. AJ Green is one of the best when healthy, but that hasn’t been the case in awhile. He sat out the entire season last year.
I had hoped that Darren Waller, the tight end from the Las Vegas Raiders would still be available for my next pick, but he was taken 2 picks before my turn unfortunately. Knowing that it was already the 7th round and I had no tight end yet, plus it would be 15 picks before I was up again, I had to choose a tight end with this pick.
Although there were still a few of the mid-level tight ends available, it was entirely possible that they could all be taken in that time. Plus I wanted to double up on this level of tight end, so picking one now was necessary. I decided to go with Hayden Hurst, playing for Atlanta with Matt Ryan as quarterback means that he will have the opportunity to put up big numbers, and now that Austin Hooper is in Cleveland, Hurst is the main tight end on the team.
Building Depth and Filling in the Roster
I still haven’t picked a quarterback yet, so used my next pick on Carson Wentz, who when healthy is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so I am happy with the pick. Not to bad for waiting until the 8th round. Typically, if I waited this long I would have to pick 2 quarterbacks, and play the match ups, but with Wentz I should be able to play him each week.
The next two picks I added some wide receiver depth, for bye weeks and in case there are injuries or under performers on my team. I chose Sterling Shepard from the Giants, who I have read has had a good training camp and is the number one receiver on the team, and Deebo Samuel, who is injured but should not miss too much time at the beginning of the season.
In the 11th round, even though I still had not chosen a team defense yet, I decided to take my second tight end, Noah Fant from the Denver Broncos. He is entering his second year and the Broncos have stated that they would find more ways to get him involved in the offense this year.
Finishing up the Draft
Finally in the 12th round I picked a defense, which obviously the best defense are well off the board by this point, so I will be spending the season working the waiver wire for defenses, hoping that I can find good match ups throughout the year. I used the next two picks on defenses, picking the Kansas City Chiefs defense and the Los Angles Rams defense, but if I find better options on the waivers each week I will not hesitate to drop them.
I took a kicker with my second to last pick, which is the earliest I have even taken a kicker, which I typically reserve for my final pick. The following few days reminded me why I normally did that too. I chose Matt Gay, the kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because I can see them putting up a lot of points this year with Tom Brady having more weapons than he ever has before.
Of course, Gay was then cut by the Buccaneers, and Ryan Succop named the starting kicker. So I had to pick up my kicker off the waiver wire anyways!
With my final pick I chose Darrell Henderson, who I believe will be beaten out by Cam Akers soon in the new NFL season, but just in case he is not it’s good to have him on the bench.
Well there you have it, I am happy with how the draft turned out. Obviously plans change throughout any draft, and strategy has to be adjusted depending on where you are in the draft order.
Although there is plenty of depth in wide receivers this year, so you may want to address the running back position early, especially if you have one of the first 5 picks. If you do not get one of the top tight ends there is a plethora of players on the next tier who may be poised for break out years, pay attention to the new crop as well.
What do you think of my draft? Has your league had its draft yet? Let me know in the comments below!