Having the first overall pick in your fantasy draft may seem like an incredible reward, but it’s often a frustrating experience. Sure, you’re guaranteed to roster your favorite/top-ranked player, but it’s a long, long wait until you get to pick again. Plus, you’re often forced to reach for players you like because, after picking twice in a row, you have to watch 22 more players (in a 12-team league) come off the board before you can choose again. It’s easy to find yourself in a bad situation when you open up your league’s draft app and see you’re leading things off.
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 quickly settle on your top pick (Christian McCaffrey, please and thank you) and then wonder what happens next. 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.
This seems obvious, but 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 second selection. Even if you’re not a McCaffrey person, you’ve likely settled on who your No. 1 pick is long before your league’s draft page opens. The real draft starts at pick Nos. 24 and 25. 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. Maybe the top tight ends are flying off the board a little earlier than expected in the second round. Travis Kelce (ADP: 17), George Kittle (ADP: 21.8), and Zach Ertz (ADP: 41.8) are all gone in the first 23 picks. Maybe you really believe Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews is poised for a monster season, eclipsing last year’s totals. His ADP is 44.3, which means he might get back to you for your fourth-round pick at No. 48 overall. However, given the context of the early run at the position, it’s very unlikely. So you must choose at pick 24/25 whether it’s worth reaching for Andrews or not, knowing it’s likely your last chance to draft him.
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. The key phrase there, though, is “your board.” More on that below.
Get Your Guy
Although this might seem counterintuitive to the section above, it’s really not. Getting your guy doesn’t mean reaching 30 picks, it means trusting your own evaluations. Value is very important, but they don’t hand out league trophies for the best Moneyball team. Picking at the top and bottom of each round makes finding values difficult, so you’re going to have to be bold and decisive.
Maybe you are really high on new Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon this season. At pick No. 25 he’s your top-ranked player and a perfect fit at your RB2 spot, but his ADP is 37.8. You can’t get caught up in not getting a good value here because A) he is worthy of a top-25 pick based on your personal rankings and B) he isn’t going to be available when you pick again at No. 48. The time to strike is now and you can do so with confidence if you trust your own rankings/evaluations.
Optional: Weekly Positional Advantage
A few things need to play out but, given Lamar Jackson’s ADP of No. 20 overall and Patrick Mahomes’ ADP of No. 21 overall, there’s a decent chance one of those players will be available to you at pick 24/25. While I’m firmly in the wait-on-quarterbacks club in single-QB leagues, I’d make an exception in the third round for Jackson or Mahomes. Taking one of these players gives you a major weekly positional advantage at two positions: RB1 and QB1.
Last season, according to Joe Pisapia’s Fantasy Football Black Book, McCaffrey was 62.9% more valuable than the average RB1 and Jackson was 34% more valuable than the average QB1. While those numbers likely won’t be replicated this season, it speaks to the advantage of having the best player at a position. Going into each week’s fantasy matchup almost guaranteed to outscore the other team’s starting QB and top RB is tantalizing. Given how deep most believe the wide receiver position is, starting your fantasy draft with McCaffrey, another top 15 running back, and either Jackson or Mahomes will give you an advantage over the rest of the field.
Drafting from the No. 1 overall position can be a challenge, but if you’re prepared and attentive, you can ace the test. Stay calm, don’t panic when runs inevitably occur, and trust your research. If you do those three things, you’ll thrive on draft day.