Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: #1 Pick

Fantasy Draft Strategy
Mark LoMoglio, The Associated Press Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) rushes for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.

The NFL season is almost upon us, and that means fantasy football drafts are happening! Having a strategy going into your draft is extremely important as it sets the stage for a championship winning season. Each and every draft is different, and strategies will vary based on the draft slot. I’m here to show some strategies based off the slots you could be drafting from to help win your league!

Something to remember when drafting is to stay flexible. A strategy is needed pre-draft, but that strategy could look completely different by the time it all ends. I’ll take a look here at the #1 overall pick and how to approach your draft from this slot. I’ll be using a 12 team PPR Sleeper mock draft to show my thought process and how different strategies could change and play out in a draft.

Pre-draft Strategy

Drafting first overall makes it tough to enter with a solid pre-draft strategy. The only given you have is that first pick. After that, you will have to pivot based on who falls. Having picks on the turn is nice, but waiting so long between picks almost guarantees you will abandon whatever ideas you entered the draft with. I will look to build an elite WR core after that top pick, while hoping some good RBs slide.

Round 1

Having the top overall pick makes for the easiest choice in the draft. Christian McCaffrey is the clear 1.01 in any draft and gives you a top notch RB1. McCaffrey gives me great flexibility and the option to go WR heavy if I a good RB2 doesn’t fall. I have no concerns for his health this season, and I expect him to receive similar volume to 2019. McCaffrey gives me an elite team cornerstone to build off of.

Rounds 2-5

I really like how the turn ended up for me. With my 2nd rounder I grabbed AJ Brown who will slide into my WR1 slot for the entire season. Brown offers insane upside to my team, even with Julio Jones now on the Titans. He is as good a bet as anyone for double digit receiving touchdowns. I expect him to up his reception totals as well. The value he offers in this part of the draft is well worth the pick.

Starting the 3rd round, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was staring right at me. I expected to build a strong WR core early, quickly pivoted once he slide to this . Edwards-Helaire provides high upside to my team as he is likely to improve upon his 2020 touchdown total. Yes, he disappointed last season based on his ADP, but he did finish as an RB2 even with 3 missed games. Pairing Edwards-Helaire’s potential with the sure commodity I have in McCaffrey gives me an elite RB combo. If Edwards-Helaire improves his touchdowns, he could be a steal here in the 3rd.

By my 4th round pick, I had completely pivoted strategies. I selected James Robinson with my pick here giving my a three headed monster at RB. I believe Robinson was the last high end RB2 available, and the gap between him and the next best guy was very wide. He was a very obvious choice here to me.

With by RB spot all squared away, I started looking at filling my roster with WRs. Diontae Johnson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tyler Lockett, and Robert Woods were all guys I was looking into with my 5th pick. With AJ Brown as my high upside WR1, I decided to go with a safe WR2 which left me with Johnson and Woods. I personally have Johnson ranked higher so that is who I chose. Locking him into my WR2 slot gives me a strong base at the position.

Round 6-9

These middle rounds are where leagues are won, so it is incredibly important to focus in here during your draft. I like to look for the highest possible upside and value with these next few picks, especially at the WR position. With my 6th rounder I went with Deebo Samuel. I think Aiyuk will be the main target outside of George Kittle, but Samuel still projects to get several targets a game. He has also been a serviceable WR2 to FLEX start the past two season in PPR formats. He offers high upside should the 49ers’ see more injuries or he cements himself as a key producer in the offense.

With my 7th pick, I took QB Tom Brady. Brady offers extremely high value in the mid rounds as the catalyst in that potent Bucs’ offense. He excelled under Bruce Arians last season, and I expect more of the same. Getting Brady and his potential as a top 6 QB in the 7th is a great selection.

Antonio Brown was my 8th round pick. He is a guy I try to get in every draft I do because of the insane value he offers. Brown was on pace to get 124 targets over a full 16 games last season, which put him on pace for 90 catches, 966 yards, and 8 touchdowns. His potential numbers in Tampa’s offense make Antonio Brown one of the better mid round steals this season. Brown and Samuel give me two high upside WRs who will be featured often in their offenses. I can start those guys in a pinch and be very comfortable with it.

With my 9th round pick I selected TE Tyler Higbee. Simply put, I had him as the last TE I can somewhat trust. Rams’ new QB Matthew Stafford has supported solid TE production before, and I think Higbee will receive his fair share of targets from him. He has also excelled when Gerald Everett has been injured, and he signed with Seattle. Higbee burned people last season, but he is still a serviceable TE. If he doesn’t pan out then I can stream the position.

Round 10-16

Darnell Mooney was my pick in the 10th. He was a product of bad QB play last season, and his talent is no secret any longer. Should the Bears’ quarterback situation improve this season, Mooney could break out and give very good value as the Bears’ number 2 receiver.

Phillip Lindsay is by far and away the most talented running back on the Texans’ roster, and I expect him to get the majority of the work in their offense. He won’t reach the stats he had in Denver, but he could be a valuable spot start guy for my roster. Taking him with my 11th rounder gives me decent upside with zero risk attached. This selection basically ends my search of running backs.

With my 12th pick, I took a flier on Terrace Marshall Jr. He will be the Panthers 3rd WR, and could see a lot of work in the red zone. He also is a great insurance policy of either of Carolina’s top two guys go down. I love snagging Marshall late in many of my drafts because of his high upside.

The Patriots WR room is very clouded, but I selected the guy they paid to come in and lead the team in targets. Nelson Agholor is an underrated weapon, and I think they want him to be their guy. I picked him in the 13th to stash him on my bench should be become the #1 guy in New England.

The Marquez Callaway hype train is building. Whether you believe it or not, taking that late round flier on him is worth it. If his connection with Jameis Winston continues into the regular season, then I have a really solid high upside WR2 option for the first few weeks in the 14th round.

With my final two picks I went with the Bears’ defense and Raiders’ kicker Daniel Carlson. I almost always wait until my final two selections to fill these spots unless I can’t find solid value from other positions. I also am never married to who I originally select for these spots as I will most likely end up streaming the positions.

Final Results

As I mentioned earlier, my strategy changed as the draft went on. I went into it looking to stock up on WR and I ended up with three stud RBs. Knowing what you want but staying flexible will start you on the right foot towards your league title. Here is the what the team looked like at the end:

  • QB: Tom Brady
  • RB: Christian McCaffrey
  • RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • WR: AJ Brown
  • WR: Diontae Johnson
  • TE: Tyler Higbee
  • FLEX: James Robinson
  • D/ST: Chicago Bears
  • K: Daniel Carlson
  • Bench: Deebo Samuel
  • Antonio Brown
  • Darnell Mooney
  • Phillip Lindsay
  • Terrace Marshall Jr.
  • Nelson Agholor
  • Marquez Callaway

Below is the entire draft board to see how it all went down.

There you have it folks. I hope this was helpful as you draft from that top overall slot! Remember to stay flexible as you draft because you never know what will happen. One last piece of advice is stick to your rankings and draft from them! I believe what I say here is helpful, but it’s your team. So draft like it is. This is just one draft strategy, you may have your own.

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