2013 Fantasy Football: Round-by-Round Draft Strategy

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 05:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after fullback John Kuhn #30 scores on a three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The most important thing anyone can do going into their fantasy football season is to have a plan. Formulating a strategy totally from scratch can be overwhelming, though, so I'll try to outline a strategy here.

2013 is a pretty unique year, and there are some very clear trends that I see which should dictate your draft strategy.

This is my own little attempt at a Draft Day Manifesto, although it is a lot shorter than the real Manifesto, which is still a must read for any fantasy owner.

First off, kickers and defenses should be taken with the last two picks, no exceptions. They're both extremely hard to predict, and it's always better to load up on extra position players.

Now moving on to the more important positions, starting with the quarterback. Last year, there were a few elite passers followed by a whole bunch of question marks, so it generally behooved you to grab one of those top few, if possible.

But this year, it's an entirely different story. Aaron Rodgers stands alone at the top, and then there are 8-10 very good options after that, with a few others behind them with some serious sleeper potential.

There aren't any rookies worth taking, but young guns Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kapernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton could all be big-time producers.

One thing I'm not sold on is RGIII, Kapernick, Wilson, and Newton as top-five quarterbacks this year. They may get some boosts from rushing yards, but don't put up the passing stats like Rodgers, Drew Brees, the Mannings, and Tom Brady.

With the plethora of good options at quarterback, it's probably best to shape out your top 8-10 players, and then wait as long as you can to grab one of them.

At running back, it's a bit of a different story. This year, there is a somewhat bigger group of starting-quality backs, but then a pretty significant dropoff.

The way I see it, there are 15 running backs who I would be very confident in starting every week. After that, there are a ton of risks out there. There's also a lot of upside, which makes for solid third and fourth running backs, but not starters.

If you look here at the ESPN rankings, their top 15 are actually the exact same ones I would have, although not in the same order at all (keep an eye out for my rankings in the coming weeks).

Also be aware of short-yardage vultures who can drastically reduce the value of otherwise talented starting backs. I'm looking at you Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene. 

Wide receiver is the easiest position to draft this year because there are so many solid ones. To give somewhat of a rough count, I'd say there are between 25-30 very good ones, with a few elites at the top.

Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green are the clear top two, but even then, there is barely any gap between them and guys like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Percy Harvin and the dangerous tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White.

They're all worth going in the third round, but I'd be cautious before taking anyone other than Johnson and Green before then. 

After them, there's a solid 15-20 guys who figure to be extremely productive. I think there's still a quality of risk to some of them, especially rookies like Tavon Austin, but most of them will end up being solid fourth-to-sixth round producers. 

Lastly, we get to tight end, which is probably the strangest position this year because of its lack of potential after Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, who is actually a big question mark himself.

I would mostly stay away from taking a tight end until the later rounds once you have your other starters. The only exception would be Graham, who is definitely worth a third-round pick if you're lucky enough to have him fall there.

To put everything together, I have a rough guideline to follow after consuming all of that information.

First and foremost, look to nab a running back in the first two rounds so you are not gambling with your RB2.

Then if you can take Graham in the third round, draft him. After that, take two receivers and a quarterback in whatever order necessary. After that, best player available.

If Graham isn't there, then take a quarterback, RB3 and three starting receivers in whatever order necessary. 

A few more general rules: remember that running quarterbacks are still an injury risk, especially RGIII, who is now coming off his second major knee surgery in the past few years.

Always beware of rookies at any position, especially wide receiver. It is really hard to predict how they'll transition to the NFL and how they will fit in early on with their offense.

But also take a few big swings. Risk is inherent in fantasy sports, and there are some players who will end up breaking out and being major producers. You find one of them in the middle rounds, and that could be the difference in your season.

The only exceptions I would consider are if you can grab Rodgers at the end of the first round or Green at the end of the second round, assuming Megatron is gone. If you do that, make sure you get an extra running back or two earlier to cover yourself. 

Other than that, stick to this game plan and you'll probably do better in your league than I will in mine.