Fantasy Football 2018: Ideal Strategy for Each Spot in 12-Team Mock Drafts

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his seven-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter with Le'Veon Bell #26 during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on October 22, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

A fantasy football draft is a little bit like the real thing: You can mess up with your first pick and still win, but it makes the job a lot harder.

If you're selecting in the first half of the opening round, swinging and missing with your top selection—whether it's your fault or due to factors outside your control—could be a massive blow.

For instance, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson was universally regarded as one of the best fantasy players entering the 2017 season. Then he suffered a wrist injury in the opening week and missed the rest of the year.

Although Johnson is an example of how the surest bets can yield little return, mitigating risk is the best approach in the first round. Here's a first-round mock draft to act as a guide when the time comes to build your roster.

        

2018 Fantasy Football Mock Draft—First Round

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

2. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

4. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

6. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

7. DeAndre Hopkins, RB, Houston Texans

8. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

9. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

11. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

12. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Obviously, there will be differences of opinion about the order of that mock and a few of the players included, but running backs and wide receivers should dominate the first two rounds.

The gap between premier running backs and wide receivers and very good players at those two positions is substantial. The same can't be said for quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson scored more points (347.8) than any other player in 2017. Cam Newton (299.5) was second, and the gap between him and 15th-place Matt Ryan was 71.4 points (4.5 points a week).

Also keep in mind Ryan's 228.1 points would have ranked fifth among running backs and first at wide receiver.

Missing out an elite quarterback and settling for a marginal one as your starter probably isn't going to be the decisive factor for your team's playoff hopes. The strategy might backfire in some weeks, but you have to balance that with the returns you'll receive at other positions.

Jared Goff would be a good quarterback to target in the middle of the draft. According to Yahoo, Goff's average draft position is 89.9, which would put him in the seventh round of 12-team standard leagues.

Goff threw for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns in his second season, and he'll now have Brandin Cooks to throw to this year:

With Cooks, Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp, Goff has enough around him to at least be a solid fantasy producer while maintaining a high ceiling.

Through the first four rounds, most fantasy owners should have an even split of running backs and wide receivers.

Tight end isn't worth targeting until the third round at the earliest, and even then you'd be putting a lot of faith in a 29-year-old Rob Gronkowski staying healthy for the entire season. Travis Kelce, meanwhile, is playing with a quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who's entering his first year as the starter.

Depending on how high other owners reach for Gronkowski, Kelce and Zach Ertz, banking on a rebound by Jimmy Graham might be the smart bet.

Graham caught 57 passes for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season with the Seattle Seahawks. He's likely to be a key piece in the Green Bay Packers' passing game since the team didn't really sign a replacement for Jordy Nelson.

There's something to be said for taking an unconventional approach and zigging when everyone else is zagging. For the most part, though, don't try to outsmart yourself.

Try to knock out your top two running backs and receivers before looking at your QB1 and TE1. From there, fill whatever holes you have left in your roster. And wait until the last round for that kicker.

     

Fantasy scoring info courtesy of FantasyPros.

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