How should you approach the early picks in your fantasy football draft? It's a tough question—particularly if you're in a larger league—but it's one that has to be answered to build a successful team.
How you draft in the early rounds is entirely up to you. Do you prefer to target two running backs and then build your roster from there? Great. Are you playing in a point-per-reception league and keen on grabbing two pass-catchers early? Go for it.
If you are going to build a contending roster, though, it's important to also be flexible. Locking in on a particular position or strategy can backfire if your fellow owners don't draft according to expectations. This is especially true in a larger league with a snake-draft format.
Remember, if you pick early in one round, many players are going to come off the board before you select in the next.
Here, we will examine some terrific scenarios and strategies to help with your snake draft, using a four-round mock as a guide.
Team 1: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Team 2: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Team 3: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Team 4: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Team 5: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Team 6: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Team 7: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Team 8: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Team 9: Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets
Team 10: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Team 11: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Team 12: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
If you are picking early or late in the first round, it's a good idea to target a starting running back if possible. Do not force the selection, but try to grab a player who is likely to get a lot of backfield work on a weekly basis.
When picking early, every-down backs like Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey are the perfect choice. They are involved in both the running and passing games, and they are rarely going to come off the field in 2019.
Later in the round, starting backs like Todd Gurley and James Conner don't have quite as much value, but they should see a lot of early-down work.
The middle of Round 1 is the perfect place to grab a No. 1 receiver like DeAndre Hopkins or Davante Adams. They are going to produce on the stat sheet in most weeks, and they have added PPR value. Picking a receiver in the middle of Round 1 affords you flexibility since you are looking at roughly one full round before selecting again.
If you pick a receiver within the first few picks, you may miss out on a top-tier running back by the end of Round 2. If a guy like Hopkins or Adams is still there at the end of Round 1, then someone else messed up, and you should jump on the selection. You can grab your RB1 in just a couple of picks.
Team 12: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Team 11: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Team 10: Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Team 9: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Team 8: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Team 7: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
Team 6: Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Team 5: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
Team 4: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Team 3: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Team 2: Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Team 1: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Entering the second round of this mock, the teams picking late in Round 1 are in a nearly ideal situation. Both the 11th and 12th teams took starting running backs, and they can now grab elite receivers in Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Each team consequently has a legitimate RB1 and WR1 on its roster.
Teams picking in the middle of a round are also in a good spot because they have the option to take receivers or running backs and still have a quality starting duo. Team 5, for example, now has two top-tier receivers in Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. Team 10 has Adams and Melvin Gordon.
Gordon is not an ideal pick at this time because he's still holding out. And the Los Angeles Chargers don't see extending him as a priority.
"While it would be beneficial for [quarterback Philip] Rivers to have Gordon around, Rivers is also a free agent after this year," CBSSports.com's Jeff Kerr wrote. "The Chargers need to work out a contract extension with Rivers."
Team 2 doubled down on running backs—always a sound strategy, while Team 1 went ahead and grabbed Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Normally, taking a quarterback in Round 2 is reaching, but it's acceptable here. Why? Let's go to Round 3.
Team 1: Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Team 2: Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders
Team 3: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Team 4: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Team 5: Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Team 6: Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Team 7: Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Team 8: TY Hilton, QR, Indianapolis Colts
Team 9: Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Team 10: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Team 11: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Team 12: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
In this scenario, Team 1's manager scooped up Mahomes, knowing they were back on the clock early in Round 3. By grabbing Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, Team 1 now has an elite running back (Barkley), an elite quarterback (Mahomes) and an elite receiver.
Team 1 could have taken Evans first and Mahomes second, but the order here doesn't matter.
Team 11 also has an ideal scenario. While the team's manager doesn't have a quarterback, finding Atlanta Falcons back Devonta Freeman late in Round 3 is terrific. Team 11 now has two starting backs (Freeman and Gurley) and an elite receiver (Jones).
Team 5 doubled up on top-tier receivers in the first two rounds and still found a starting-caliber back in the Seattle Seahawks' Chris Carson here. Again, that's a great scenario.
Team 12: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Team 11: Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Team 10: Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Team 9: Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Team 8: Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Team 7: Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Team 6: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
Team 5: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Team 4: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Team 3: Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Team 2: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Team 1: DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Team 5's wait for a quarterback pays off in a big way in this scenario. That team's manager now has two receivers, a running back and potentially the second-best signal-caller in all of fantasy football: Deshaun Watson.
According to Athlon Sports, Watson's rushing and passing abilities give him "the best chance" to knock off Mahomes as the top fantasy quarterback this season.
Though Team 1 did take Mahomes in Round 2, that team's manager is in a premier position with this scenario. Carolina Panthers wideout DJ Moore may not be an elite fantasy receiver, but he's a starting-caliber option who pairs with the premier trio Team 1 has already put together.
This is when you are moving past the true top-tier players at most positions. There are exceptions, however.
While Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs is a sleeper at this point, he does have the potential to become an every-down back this season. Zach Ertz is already an elite tight end, and he partners well with Team 10's core of Adams, Gordon and Derrick Henry.
By this point in the draft, you should have at least one running back and one receiver. If you've taken a quarterback or a tight end by the end of Round 4, they had better be elite prospects like Ertz or Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
By grabbing at least one running back and one receiver, you should have a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of your starting lineup.
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