John Lennon didn't play fantasy football, but if he did, his advice for you would probably be: "Fantasy drafts are what happen to you while you're busy making a plan."
Or something like that.
The point, if there is one, is that while it's important to have a plan going into your draft, you shouldn't be a slave to it. Otherwise, the draft will pass you by.
With that in mind, let's break down my rankings and philosophy for drafts this season.
10-Round Draft Rankings
|1||Adrian Peterson||RB||Minnesota Vikings|
|2||Antonio Brown||WR||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|3||Odell Beckham, Jr.||WR||New York Giants|
|4||Julio Jones||WR||Atlanta Falcons|
|5||Todd Gurley||RB||St. Louis Rams|
|6||Rob Gronkowski||TE||New England Patriots|
|7||David Johnson||RB||Arizona Cardinals|
|8||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Dallas Cowboys|
|9||A.J. Green||WR||Cincinnati Bengals|
|10||Lamar Miller||RB||Houston Texans|
|11||Dez Bryant||WR||Dallas Cowboys|
|12||DeAndre Hopkins||WR||Houston Texans|
|13||Brandon Marshall||WR||New York Jets|
|14||Mark Ingram||RB||New Orleans Saints|
|15||Doug Martin||RB||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|16||LeSean McCoy||RB||Buffalo Bills|
|17||Allen Robinson||WR||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|18||Jordy Nelson||WR||Green Bay Packers|
|19||Alshon Jeffery||WR||Chicago Bears|
|20||Thomas Rawls||RB||Seattle Seahawks|
|21||Devonta Freeman||RB||Atlanta Falcons|
|22||Mike Evans||WR||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|23||Jamaal Charles||RB||Kansas City Chiefs|
|24||Demaryius Thomas||WR||Denver Broncos|
|25||Sammy Watkins||WR||Buffalo Bills|
|26||Le'Veon Bell||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|27||Brandin Cooks||WR||New Orleans Saints|
|29||Carlos Hyde||RB||San Francisco 49ers|
|30||Cam Newton||QB||Carolina Panthers|
|31||Julian Edelman||WR||New England Patriots|
|32||Randall Cobb||WR||Green Bay Packers|
|33||Greg Olsen||TE||Carolina Panthers|
|34||Eddie Lacy||RB||Green Bay Packers|
|35||Amari Cooper||WR||Oakland Raiders|
|36||Keenan Allen||WR||San Diego Chargers|
|37||Eric Decker||WR||New York Jets|
|38||Aaron Rodgers||QB||Green Bay Packers|
|39||Russell Wilson||QB||Seattle Seahawks|
|40||C.J. Anderson||RB||Denver Broncos|
|41||Jonathan Stewart||RB||Carolina Panthers|
|42||T.Y. Hilton||WR||Indianapolis Colts|
|43||Kelvin Benjamin||WR||Carolina Panthers|
|44||Matt Forte||RB||New York Jets|
|45||Dion Lewis||RB||New England Patriots|
|46||Golden Tate||WR||Detroit Lions|
|47||Andrew Luck||QB||Indianapolis Colts|
|48||Jarvis Landry||WR||Miami Dolphins|
|49||Jeremy Maclin||WR||Kansas City Chiefs|
|50||Ryan Mathews||RB||Philadelphia Eagles|
|51||Doug Baldwin||WR||Seattle Seahawks|
|52||Jeremy Hill||RB||Cincinnati Bengals|
|53||Giovani Bernard||RB||Cincinnati Bengals|
|54||Emmanuel Sanders||WR||Denver Broncos|
|55||Allen Hurns||WR||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|56||Donte Moncrief||WR||Indianapolis Colts|
|57||DeVante Parker||WR||Miami Dolphins|
|58||Delanie Walker||TE||Tennessee Titans|
|59||Drew Brees||QB||New Orleans Saints|
|60||Ben Roethlisberger||QB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|61||Jordan Matthews||WR||Philadelphia Eagles|
|63||Melvin Gordon||RB||San Diego Chargers|
|65||Latavius Murray||RB||Oakland Raiders|
|66||Danny Woodhead||RB||San Diego Chargers|
|67||Frank Gore||RB||Indianapolis Colts|
|68||Duke Johnson||RB||Cleveland Browns|
|69||Ameer Abdullah||RB||Detroit Lions|
|70||Michael Crabtree||WR||Oakland Raiders|
|71||Larry Fitzgerald||WR||Arizona Cardinals|
|72||Michael Floyd||WR||Arizona Cardinals|
|73||DeMarco Murray||RB||Tennessee Titans|
|74||Jeremy Langford||RB||Chicago Bears|
|75||Arian Foster||RB||Miami Dolphins|
|76||Carson Palmer||QB||Arizona Cardinals|
|77||Tom Brady||QB||New England Patriots|
|78||Marvin Jones||WR||Detroit Lions|
|79||DeAngelo Williams||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|80||Josh Gordon||WR||Cleveland Browns|
|81||John Brown||WR||Arizona Cardinals|
|82||T.J. Yeldon||RB||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|83||Justin Forsett||RB||Baltimore Ravens|
|84||Rashad Jennings||RB||New York Giants|
|85||Kevin White||WR||Chicago Bears|
|86||Eli Manning||QB||New York Giants|
|87||Blake Bortles||QB||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|88||Tony Romo||QB||Dallas Cowboys|
|89||Stefon Diggs||WR||Minnesota Vikings|
|90||Tyler Lockett||WR||Seattle Seahawks|
|91||Sterling Shepard||WR||New York Giants|
|92||Travis Kelce||TE||Kansas City Chiefs|
|93||Jimmy Graham||TE||Seattle Seahawks|
|94||Coby Fleener||TE||New Orleans Saints|
|95||Chris Ivory||RB||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|96||Torrey Smith||WR||San Francisco 49ers|
|97||Vincent Jackson||WR||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|98||Zach Ertz||TE||Philadelphia Eagles|
|99||Willie Snead||WR||New Orleans Saints|
|100||Tyler Eifert||TE||Cincinnati Bengals|
OBJ's Trade to Cleveland Has the Browns Hyped
Le'Veon's Power Move Pays Off After Signing Massive Deal with Jets
Friends to Foes, Ex-UGA Teammates Meet in Super Bowl
Cooks Gave a Super Gift to This Rams Employee
Mahomes Loves Ketchup as Much as Torching Defenses
Bears Hoping to Ride Club Dub to the Super Bowl
The Worst Fantasy Football Punishments for Last Place
NFL Players Bring Soccer Traditions to the NFL
JuJu Is a Man of the People
Bills Superfan 'Pancho Billa' Continues to Inspire
Happy 26th Birthday to OBJ 🎉
Mahomes Is 'Showtime' Off the Field Too
Thielen's Ride from Underdog to Record-Breaking WR
Shanahan and His Son Carter Are Hyped for Carter V
Browns Winning Off the Field with Community Service
Conner's Journey from Beating Cancer to Starting RB
Does Donovan McNabb Deserve Your 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Vote?
B/R Fantasy Expert Matt Camp Gives His Picks for Keep or Release After Week 2
Does Hines Ward Deserve Your 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Vote?
As hinted at in this article's introduction, I believe in two main draft principles:
- Go into your draft with the loose framework of a plan.
- Don't be afraid to deviate from the plan depending on how the draft develops.
So this year, what's the plan?
The first part of the plan, every year, is to take trustworthy and reliable players in the first three rounds.
I'm talking players who have either consistently been top fantasy performers in the past or who have the talent and opportunity to be solid players this year. Players who don't have a history of off-field or injury concerns that could cost them playing time. Players who have produced in the past (i.e., receivers who have a history of accumulating a lot of targets, receptions and receiving yards rather than players who had a season with double-digit touchdowns).
Targets and yards are indicators of a player's role in a team's offense. Touchdowns, on the other hand, can be extremely fickle.
So that's the broad plan for the first three rounds. But on a more specific level, I want to secure reliable running backs as quickly possible.
Look, running back was a mess last year. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, wide receivers, outscored every running back. Just five running backs had as many or more points than Rob Gronkowski. In the flex rankings, just nine running backs finished in the top 25.
And the position was such a mess, Danny Woodhead—who only had 97 carries—finished as the 10th-ranked player at the position. Danny Woodhead!
Now last year, in particular, was insane. Jamaal Charles, Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Justin Forsett and Jonathan Stewart all missed significant time to injury. Eddie Lacy, DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris were huge busts. And a number of players found themselves trapped in running back-by-committee situations.
In 2015, productive running backs were worth their weight in gold. There's little reason to believe anything should be different this season.
It's why Adrian Peterson would be my top overall pick. It's why I have 13 running backs in my top 30, second only to wide receivers (14). It's why young players with just one season of production (Todd Gurley and David Johnson) and a certain rookie (Ezekiel Elliott) should be first-round picks.
And it's why players such as Thomas Rawls are in my top 20 (though that is definitely subject to change). Rawls is a member of a Seattle Seahawks offense that loves to pound the rock, but he also only has one year of fantasy viability and is battling Christine Michael for touches.
“His consistency is really much, much improved, in that he is seeing the line of scrimmage really well,” head coach Pete Carroll told Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times when asked about Michael. “He’s taking advantage of the plays. He ran kind of wild at times and was impatient at times.”
Now that he isn't so impatient, Michael is a threat to steal carries in Seattle. It's indicative of a trend happening across the NFL—coaches would rather spread out carries and keep players fresh rather than riding just one running back—and it certainly makes Rawls a risky pick.
In turn, that makes the league's true feature backs all the more valuable.
Even Bell—who will be suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season—is incredibly valuable because of how productive he'll be when he returns. Without the suspension, Bell would have been the top overall player in my rankings. Even with three games on the sideline, he's still a top-30 pick, if only because he'll be a force of nature for the rest of the season.
If you are drafting solely on positional value, you'll target running backs early and perhaps tight end Rob Gronkowski, who often has more value over other players at his position than any other player in the NFL.
If we look at Gronk's value over replacement player (VORP) in 10-man leagues—calculated by defining a replacement player as the No. 11 quarterback and tight end and the No. 21 running back and wide receiver, since standard leagues require you to start one quarterback, one tight end, two running backs and two wide receivers—Gronkowski is still among the league leaders.
|2015 VORP Leaders|
|Rank||Player||Team||Overall Fantasy Points||VORP (Total)||VORP (Per Week)|
|1||Devonta Freeman||Atlanta Falcons||230||+111||+6.9|
|2||Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh Steelers||243||+108||+6.7|
|3||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings||217||+98||+6.1|
|T4||Julio Jones||Atlanta Falcons||231||+96||+6|
|T4||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||373||+96||+6|
|T6||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots||176||+88||+5.5|
|T6||Brandon Marshall||New York Jets||223||+88||+5.5|
This list is also a strong indicator of how you should format your first round. Five of the top seven players in VORP last season came from running backs and wide receivers, suggesting that the elite players at those positions are generally more valuable than the top options at other positions.
Whereas the quarterback and tight end positions tend to even out quickly in terms of production, the top options at wideout and running back separate themselves from the pack. That's why they dominate the opening rounds.
And that's why after last year's debacle, I'll be hoping to nab at least two reliable, high-ceiling running backs in the first three rounds and building my team from there. Every other position has quality depth well down the board. But the running backs thin out quickly.
Don't miss out.