An Expert's Cheat Sheet to Dominating NFL.com Fantasy Drafts
I say this every year, but it always Bears repeating: There is no singular perfect draft strategy for fantasy football. Successfully navigating a fantasy football draft requires preparation, foresight, quick-thinking, and the ability to adjust on the fly. This article will focus on that first quality, preparation, as I have used our mighty 4for4 rankings and the ADP Bargains tool to help provide you some strategic angles for attacking drafts on NFL.com.
Before I get into all of that though, I have two general strategy reminders:
1. Know your league
2. Know your scoring system
Rankings, analytics, and strategy are all well and good, but if you have a die-hard fan of a team in your league who is going to overdraft that team’s top players, that’s going to change the flow of the draft. Knowing your league mates and their draft-day tendencies can be just as important to drafting successfully as studying rankings and sleeper articles all offseason.
Standard NFL.com leagues feature PPR scoring, and require a starting lineup that features: one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, one FLEX, one K, one D/ST.
Now that we have cleared that up, below you’ll find several strategy tips for NFL.com drafts. Remember: these are not ironclad. These are ideas and strategies to keep in mind as your draft progress. By watching out for these players, trends, and opportunities, you should be able to acquire a title-contending 2020 squad.
PRINT: Jump to 16-Round Cheat Sheet
Wait on QB
It is a fantasy tale as old as time: wait until the later rounds to draft your quarterback. It’s as true in 2020 as it has been pretty much every year since the idea became part of mainstream fantasy strategy. Per NFL.com ADP there are 12 quarterbacks going within the first eight rounds of 12-team drafts. That is ideal for those looking to wait at the position while stockpiling running backs and wide receivers—a strategy that could be even more important as we wade into the unknown of a fantasy season in the midst of a global pandemic.
If you have read any of my other site-based strategy columns, you’ll notice the same group of late-round passers feature prominently here. Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Daniel Jones, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, and Gardner Minshew all offer tantalizing upside at a basement-level cost compared to the passers flying off the board in the first 10 rounds. I can’t stress this enough, but waiting to draft a quarterback is really the ideal approach in NFL.com drafts.
Exploit the Depressed Rookie RB ADPs
Perhaps these ADPs/rankings reflect earlier, more skeptical times in the fantasy offseason, but whatever the reason all of the main rookie running backs – Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, Zach Moss, etc. – are going off the board way later than they do on other platforms. You shouldn’t wait until their ADP to take them (for instance, don’t wait until the ninth round to draft Taylor, which is where he’s currently going), but you can maybe wait a round or two as these players won’t feature as prominently within the draft client. I recently did a mock draft on NFL.com and was able to nab Swift in the seventh round, and he has a fourth-round ranking on 4for4. Monitor how the draft is flowing, where these players are going, and draft accordingly.
Draft an Elite WR Early. Then Draft Terry McLaurin/Will Fuller/Marquise Brown
Of the mocks I completed on NFL.com, I felt the best about my drafts when I secured an elite wide receiver early. I was able to build enough running back depth in the subsequent rounds, and then frequently found myself able to draft one or two of Terry McLaurin, Will Fuller, or Marquise Brown, all three of whom happen to be among my favorite breakout wide receiver targets for 2020. McLaurin and Brown have ADPs around pick 90 (eighth round in a 12-team league), while Fuller’s ADP clocks in at 103. Nabbing a top wide receiver like Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams or Julio Jones, and pairing them with the WR1-upside of any of this trio makes for a rich fantasy combination. As with the rookie running backs, don’t wait until the actual ADP arrives to draft these players. Just keep an eye on the flow of the draft and grab them a round or two earlier, which is still a steep discount given most of their rankings on 4for4.
Draft an Elite TE (Preferably Mark Andrews) Early or Wait Late
Normally in this space I kind of just paint with a broad brush for the elite tight ends, but since Mark Andrews’s ADP is inching toward the beginning of the fifth round in 12-team leagues, I wanted to give the Raven a little more love since he’s such a value. Andrews was the TE4 last season on the back of 64 catches, 852 yards, and 10 touchdowns. But as Jennifer Eakins notes in her defense of Andrews in a player debate from June, Andrews racked up these numbers despite playing just 44% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps (476 plays). For comparison, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, and Zach Ertz all saw more than 815 snaps and a play percentage of 86%. The Ravens orchestrated an extremely effective, run-heavy offense last season, but they could be forced to pass more this season. Increased playing time for a healthy Andrews on a more pass-heavy offense gives him the path to finish as the TE1.
As usual, if you miss out on a top guy, wait until the double-digit rounds. Jared Cook is on the cheat sheet because of his 4for4 ADP Bargain total, but I prefer to wait a few more rounds and try to land Hayden Hurst, Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, or Blake Jarwin.
The Bottom Line
These recommendations are not gospel. Use which ones you agree with or fit the way your draft is flowing. Or tweak these strategies to match your own philosophy. As your draft approaches, be sure to utilize 4for4’s Draft Analyzer tool. It uses your league’s scoring settings and 4for4’s rankings to help you strategize. For more information, check out Jennifer Eakins’ Draft Analyzer Walkthrough.
Lastly, this handy 16-round cheat sheet is compiled both by using 4for4’s ADP Bargains tool and my own general feelings on some players. Use it as much or little as you’d like. I put some player names into rounds to reflect where they should be taken, even if that round is ahead of the current ADP. For instance, Raheem Mostert, perhaps from his contract/trade dispute, has a severely depressed ADP on NFL.com, but I place him at a more appropriate round where you may still get him at a discount.
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