One of my favorite parts of fantasy football is laying out my first-round strategy for the draft. There's the old saying that you can't win your league in the first round but you can lose it, and that certainly holds true.
But just as true is that the first round and your place in the round often dictates the rest of your draft.
Do you take a quarterback a little high in the middle of the first round, knowing you may miss out on the elite options in the second? Or do you play it safe and go for that running back? Are you really going to target a wide receiver in the first round? Or will you look for good values there later?
Questions, so many questions. In this article, I've decided to let you into my thinking on how I'll be approaching the first round (in a 10-team snake draft) pick by pick. Just do me a favor—don't tell my league mates this article exists.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. There are four players I'm considering if I've got the top spot—Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Aaron Rodgers.
On one hand, I believe Rodgers is the safest pick. On the other, the running back position is so shaky this year, I'm not passing on these three guys, who I know will produce. So Rodgers is my fourth option.
I love LeSean McCoy, but I don't think there's a snowman's chance in Arizona that he'll score 20 touchdowns again next season, especially when his previous high in scores was nine. The Eagles won't ride him so hard this year, either. So he's my third choice.
It comes down to Arian Foster and Ray Rice. This is a tough one. Rice hasn't missed a game in three years, and in that time hasn't finished one of those seasons with less than 1,700 all-purpose yards. Last year, he cleared up his biggest issue, scoring touchdowns, by reaching pay-dirt 15 times.
Foster was a bit banged up at times last year, but he's played 29 of 32 regular-season games the past two years. All he's done in those two years is compile 4,061 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns. I can't pass on those numbers.
I love Rice, but if I get the first pick, I'm going with Foster. After that, my choices would be Rice, McCoy and Rodgers, in that order.
Obviously, if any of the above players are available at any point in the first round, they are my first choices. To me, they're the obvious, elite options.
After that it gets really tricky. To me, there are three obvious first-round players left (Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson), two risky running backs (Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson) and a huge question mark with the last pick.
With the ever-tricky fifth pick, I'm going with a quarterback. Here's why:
I know that when my pick comes back around in the second round at No. 16, all of the top-tier quarterbacks will be gone (Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Stafford). But when I take a look over at ESPN's Average Draft Position, I see there's a chance a player like Matt Forte might fall to that spot.
Plus, I know players coming off injury like Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden will be there. Or, I could roll the dice on Marshawn Lynch. I'm not losing much value by waiting until the second round to take a running back.
So which quarterback will it be? I've got to go with Brees. Even with all of the Bountygate distractions, he's simply the safer option of the two. Year in and year out, Brees delivers from a fantasy perspective.
With the sixth pick, I obviously would then take Brady if the above five players were gone.
With the above players gone, I'm now turning my attention to Calvin Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson and then the rest of the board.
With the seventh pick, I'm going with Calvin Johnson. If he remains healthy, you simply won't get the sort of value from a player compared to others at his position like Johnson offers. You may still be able to snag Stafford in the second round, and you'll certainly have your pick of a lot of nice running backs.
I don't trust Maurice Jones-Drew (how will the holdout affect his performance when he returns?) or Chris Johnson (remember how his holdout affected his performance last year when he returned?), but they're the safest remaining options in an unpredictable field of runners.
Both don't lose touches to platoon situations, both are also receiving threats, neither loses too many goal-line looks and neither has a history of injuries. I like Johnson to bounce back, so he's pick eight, followed by Jones-Drew at nine.
That leaves the 10th pick, and since this is a snake, we'll make the 11th pick as well. I'm not missing out on a top-tier quarterback at this point, so I'm going with Stafford at 10. And I don't want to have to wait until the end of the third round to select a running back, so I'm going with Forte at 11.
Each are risky—Stafford due to injury concerns, Forte because he may lose carries and touchdowns to Michael Bush—but both are proven performers who are the best combination of upside and security I'm going to get at this point.
I would also consider taking Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald here, but I think I can find solid values when I come up at the end of the third round at wide receiver. At either quarterback or running back that will be more difficult.
So there you have it—my first-round strategy. I'm excited to hear how you'll be approaching your first round, so be sure to hit me up in the comments.
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