Unlike having the first overall pick in your fantasy draft, there’s sometimes a groan when you find out you’re picking last. Some fantasy managers love the opportunity to snag two guys every time their pick comes up, while others dread the long waits and the disadvantage when it comes to the talent of the team’s first-round pick. So what’s a fantasy manager to do?
Assuming your league doesn’t allow trades—the vast majority of redraft leagues don’t—you’ll be stuck with whatever pick the random number generator gives you. There are a few rules to keep in mind and a few scenarios that you’ll need to play out in your head. The closer you are to the poles pick-wise, the more cerebral you’ll have to be throughout the draft.
Value Top Running Backs
Although there’s always a new twist on the “zero-RB” draft strategy floating around every preseason, I don’t subscribe to that method—or really any method where you have to predetermine what positions/players you’re definitely taking before seeing how the draft plays out. However, I very strongly recommend that you take at least one running back at the turn to open your draft, otherwise you’ll likely be quite disappointed with your remaining options.
Based on current ADP, a player drafting 12th in a 12-team league will have one of these options for their selection at the Round 3/4 turn: David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, or James Conner. They’re fine RB2 options, but toward the lower end—all three rank between RB18 and RB24 for me on The Eisner Board. Getting two of them as your starting running backs isn’t ideal, because you’ll be at a major disadvantage at RB1 and even a slight disadvantage at RB2 based on preseason projections. If you feel really strongly about those players or get lucky enough for a player like Leonard Fournette or Todd Gurley to fall to the end of the third round, you’ll be in decent shape. If not, starting WR-WR or WR-TE is risky.
Just like those picking No. 1 overall, this seems obvious. However, it’s easier said than done, especially if your leaguemates are slow drafters—you could be waiting as long as 20-30 minutes before your third and fourth selections. Don’t lose focus during this long pick intermission.
You won’t be able to react quickly to runs and values as you’re boxed into your own little corner at the turn. However, you still need to identify those trends and decide whether to zig or zag. Let’s use the tight end example from the other article, but with a twist.
Travis Kelce (ADP: 17.0), George Kittle (ADP: 21.8), and Zach Ertz (ADP: 41.8) are all gone in the top 35. Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (ADP: 44.3) is too. There’s a tier drop from the current TE5 (Darren Waller) down to TEs 6-7 (Evan Engram, Rob Gronkowski). Waller’s ADP is 56.8, so it’s unlikely he’ll make it back to you at pick No. 60 at the end of the fifth round. Do you grab Waller at pick 36/37?
My advice in this scenario is to trust your personal rankings, whether you use mine, another analyst’s, your own, or something in between. This early in the draft, you should take the best players available. Reaching too far down your board to follow a trend is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t start Kicker or DST run (unless it’s the final round)
I’m not sure how much longer kickers will be a part of the fantasy game, but it’s still a starting position and you’ll need to take one on draft day. The same goes for DST, and many are searching for the Chicago Bears of 2018 or the New England Patriots of 2019. Finding a DST like that is a true advantage. However, identifying those teams in advance of the regular season is a nearly impossible task. The margins after DST1 are usually fairly slim. For example, the difference between DST2 and DST13 in 2018 was only 1.9 fantasy points per week apart. That rose to 3.4 fantasy points per week in 2019, but when factoring in consistency and easy streamability, isn’t enough of a margin to spend significant draft capital on.
As for kickers, sure, having a Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker is a nice perk, but the reality is there’s a small difference between the fantasy production of elite kickers and a low-end starter. Last season, there was a 2.4 fantasy points per game difference between the K1 (Butker) and the K9 (Greg Zuerlein). The difference between K1 and K10 in 2018 was 2.1 fantasy points per week. That isn’t worth completely disregarding, but those margins are even closer if you stream kickers and/or account for players like Younghoe Koo, who didn’t kick for the entire season in 2019. Odds are, since you’ll have the first pick in the last round of the draft, you’ll be drafting a kicker before the majority of your league anyway. Don’t exacerbate the issue by jumping the gun a couple rounds earlier.
Having the last pick isn’t the easiest spot to draft from, but if you nail your first two picks you could be set up for a deep playoff run. Stay calm, don’t panic when runs inevitably occur far away from your draft picks, and trust your research. If you do those three things, you’ll thrive on draft day.