Perfect Draft: 3rd in a 12-Team ESPN PPR League
The third spot is my favorite this year. The consensus top three picks are Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, in any order. As someone who defaults to taking a running back with my first pick, having three guys at the top whom I like is great. Generally, if I’m not picking in the top three this year, I like to pick at the back end of the first round, since I value the 10 or so players after the top-three similarly, for the most part. Having the third pick—as opposed to the first—allows me to grab one of my top running backs, while reducing the number of players off the board before it gets back to me. I have no problem letting the two owners in front of me determine which of the three backs falls to me.
The downside to having a top-three pick is obviously you won’t be picking again until at least pick 22. Of course, you get an early choice in the third round, but having nearly 20 players go off the board between picks can be difficult to accurately predict whether or not you can wait one more round for someone you’re targeting. That’s one of the reasons practicing with Draft Analyzer is so great. After several mocks, you can get an idea of which round you need to take your favorite value picks. Plus, using Draft Analyzer during the draft with the settings unique to your league can help you plan with the draft optimizer screen.
In this article, I will walk through a perfect draft with the third pick in a 12-team ESPN PPR league. Each pick was optimized using projections and value-based rankings from the 4for4 Draft Analyzer tool.
Draft Analyzer Settings
- Roster Settings: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (WR/RB/TE), 1 Kicker, 1 DEF, six bench spots
- No QB until the 8th Round (sort of): I honestly don’t even want to look at a QB until round five or so, and I usually don’t take one until round eight or later. Draft Analyzer allows me to de-select positions in individual rounds to improve the options presented to me each round. I set it to ignore QB until the eighth round, while leaving just the fifth round open. That doesn’t mean I want to draft a QB in the fifth round, but that’s around the time I’ll consider one of the elite ones if they fall there. It also will let me Dak Watch, where I follow the status of Dak Prescott, just in case he drops to the sixth round, where I will usually pull the trigger.
- No Kicker or D/ST until the last two rounds: I usually stream both these positions, so there’s no reason to draft one earlier than I absolutely have to. Choosing not to draft either, if your league allows, is also a viable strategy I will sometimes use in order to keep an upside RB or WR on my roster a little longer before I have to make final cuts before Week 1.
- Targets: There are always guys I like and guys I don’t going into a draft, and I love that I can set Draft Analyzer to remind me to take some of my later-round targets when I need to grab them. This year, I like Tarik Cohen, Allen Lazard, and Ian Thomas when rounding out my roster depth, so I plugged them in as targets before I started the draft.
For a comprehensive tutorial on setting up Draft Analyzer for your league, read our Draft Analyzer Walkthrough.
Oddly, Michael Thomas went second in this mock, so I went ahead and took the number two player on my board. You could easily talk me into Elliott here, and half the time, I might take him over Barkley, but the key here is to pick your favorite of the top-three backs. Or whichever one falls to you. Barkley was slowed by injuries last season, missing three games, but he still managed 1,003 yards rushing, 52 receptions, and eight touchdowns. Barkley is a legit threat for 100-plus targets and should be the workhorse back for a team with what Justin Edwards considers to be a top-10 offensive line this year.
Draft Analyzer suggested Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Travis Kelce and Dalvin Cook. As I said though, Elliott is the only one I’m really considering here other than Barkley. Locking in one of the top three backs will set my roster up nicely, especially with the value at WR in rounds 3-7 this year, according to ADP. Players like D.J. Chark, Robert Woods and Tyler Boyd are all nice options if you skip WR early.
Each round, Draft Analyzer suggests the top available suggestion along with four alternatives, as shown at the top of this section. Throughout the rest of the article, I will note those suggestions as well as my top alternative to the player that I actually selected.
My Top Alternative: Ezekiel Elliott
I don’t usually take a TE early, but the back end of the second round is where I start to look at Kittle and Kelce. Kelce never makes it this far, but in some simulations, I’m able to nab Kittle here. Running the simulation multiple times, Kittle is rarely available by the time it gets back to me in the third round, so if you want him, this is the spot to take him. Kittle produces like a top-10 WR and should continue to be the primary target in the 49ers passing game. He was third among TE’s in receiving yards last year, despite missing two games.
If Kittle was off the board here, I’d look at Mark Andrews, but I’d gamble on him being there in the third round. The real target for me would be Kenny Golladay, who may be due for some touchdown regression, but who also flashes elite WR1 ability. I’m super bullish on Golladay turning into an elite WR, but I couldn’t pass on Kittle here, considering the depth at WR this season.
My Top Alternative: Kenny Golladay
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