John Paulsen's 2019 Draft Day Strategery
Be sure to check out my Final Thoughts for the Last Draft Weekend for updates on some of the situations discussed below.
We’re in the middle of August, so it’s once again time for me to outline how I’m going to approach fantasy drafts this year. I have participated in countless best-ball and industry drafts (and mocks) and I think I have a pretty good handle on my strategy for 2019.
This piece is written with a 12-team half-PPR draft in mind, but Rule No. 1 of fantasy football is to know your scoring system. Owners in standard leagues are going to want to favor running backs a bit more in the early rounds since that position gets a boost in that format. Owners in PPR formats can safely go WR-heavy in the early rounds. Owners in two-quarterback or superflex (QB-eligible flex) leagues should ignore all the late-round quarterback talk and be sure to draft a couple of top-20 passers before they’re gone. Owners drafting in 10-team leagues should be able to wait for an extra round or two to draft the targets I discuss below. A great way to discover how a particular scoring system impacts the different positions is to use our Top 200 Value-Based Rankings Report. Keep in mind that all ADP that I mention in this article assumes a 12-team, half-PPR draft.
Back in 2015, I had an epiphany when it came to formulating my overall draft strategy. At the two onesie positions—quarterback and tight end, where owners typically only have to start one—I felt great about Carson Palmer in the 13th round and Delanie Walker in the 10th/11th. I also advocated for the Angry Tom Strategy, which revolved around drafting a royally pissed-off Tom Brady in the 10th/11th round and taking Palmer later as his backup. This worked out even better than expected since Brady’s suspension was lifted and he played a full season. Oh, and Walker finished as the No. 3 tight end that year.
Since then, I have been trying to identify the best values at quarterback and tight end and then build my draft plan around them, and for the most part, it has worked. So let’s start with the quarterback position.
See John’s Quarterback Sleepers, Values and Targets for more detail on the position.
I mentioned Patrick Mahomes as a late-round target in last year’s edition of this piece, and while I had a quite a few shares in best-ball formats, I didn’t end up with much Mahomes in my redraft leagues after his price went up later in the summer. (That’s one problem with doing so many drafts throughout the summer—you get used to a certain price in June or July, but when August rolls around, someone else grabs him a round or two earlier.) Anyway, Mahomes is in a tier of his own as my No. 1 quarterback, but I do expect his numbers to regress a bit, so he’s not a great value at his current draft position relative to the other passers out there. (More parentheses: I just drafted Mahomes for the first time this summer in the fifth round of an industry mock draft, where all the analysts typically play quarterback chicken.)
So my advice at quarterback is pretty simple: Load up on the other positions for the first nine rounds and start thinking about a quarterback in the 10th round. Jared Goff, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson are all going off the board in the 10th, while Dak Prescott, Tom Brady (now that Josh Gordon is back), Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are typically available into the 11th round. At press time, I have this group ranked this way: Goff, Wilson, Brady, Jackson, Rivers, Prescott and Roethlisberger, and would be fine with any of these quarterbacks as my starter in Week 1. Sometimes, Jameis Winston, Drew Brees or Cam Newton slip into the 10th as well. If Newton’s shoulder is healthy, he easily has the biggest upside of the bunch.
I would be happy to draft Carson Wentz or Kyler Murray if they slipped a little (relative to their ADP) and were still around in the 9th round, but I’m typically waiting until the 10th or the 11th to draft a quarterback.
The Most Accurate Projections Since 2010