Fantasy Football 2020: Ideal Strategy for Each Spot in 12-Team Mock Drafts

Theo SalaunContributor IIIAugust 14, 2020

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) running onto the field during an NFL game in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Chris Keane/AP Images for Panini)
Chris Keane/Associated Press

It's all about embodying water on the day of your fantasy football draft. All that film study, roster research and mock drafting should hydrate the spirit of strategic fluidity. The best managers go into the draft room with a general rubric for positional and player selections, but an understanding that priorities can shift on a whim.

The purpose here is to define how that rubric should look on a positional level. Generally, that means prioritizing high-volume running backs and wide receivers while saving quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and defenses for the later rounds.

But in the spirit of fluidity, managers should follow what the draft gives them. If you're comfortable with whom you have selected or whom your fellow managers are letting slip by, go ahead and grab an advantage at one of the lower-priority positions.

For these purposes, we're looking into the barometer for 12-team standard leagues with a mock of the first two rounds followed by analysis into how each position group should be approached. Typically, the first two rounds lay your team's foundation and allow you to follow value at positions for the rest of the draft.

For last season's fantasy scoring, FantasyPros' 2019 leaders are being used and, for general 2020 ADP, their 2020 consensus rankings. Those rankings do not serve as the basis for the two-round mock, though, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire does not seem to have received his full upgrade following Damien Williams' opt-out.

Like strategy in the draft room, the two-round mock is fluid and subject to adjust as the season nears, with all rankings capable of moving around depending on news we may receive over the coming weeks.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

                    

The 12-Team League, 2-Round Mock Draft

Round 1

Team 1: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

Team 2: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Team 3: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Team 4: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

Team 5: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Team 6: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Team 7: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Team 8: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Team 9: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Team 10: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

Team 11: Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Team 12: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

          

Round 2

Team 12: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Team 11: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Team 10: Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

Team 9: Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Team 8: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Team 7: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Team 6: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Team 5: Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

Team 4: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

Team 3: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Team 2: Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Team 1: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

              

Running Backs

Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

It's the most important position in fantasy football. Top running backs are invaluable. No matter where you're selecting, half or more of your selections should be running backs through the first four rounds. But the order you select them in depends on how the draft has affected your tiers.

If you're in the top three, you get one of the projected fantasy stars and then don't draft again until the biggest names are gone. At that point, you should ensure some scoring stability by prioritizing another top-tier back and as good of a receiver as you can get. Receivers with Week 1 upside will be available in later rounds, but outside of handcuffs, running backs with high upside will thin out relatively quickly.

Were you drafting in the middle six, you need to foreshadow according to your tiers. If you're high on a back, you need to grab him, but you can select Michael Thomas or Davante Adams if you think a relatively equal back will be making his way back to you. If, instead, you go receiver in the first, you will likely need to spend the rest of your early rounds looking for running back stability—leaving you looking at some high-risk, high-reward receivers later on.

If you're among the last three selecting in the first, pick your poison. Double up on running backs, but if you're confident in some middle-round backs, then balancing your roster with one back and one receiver is reasonable. The rest of your rounds will be dictated by this choice, and it's a long way back after the turn, so you're going to want at least one back you can trust here.

After establishing the head of your receiving group early, be sure you have some later-round backs in mind for upside, whether that be a rookie with a chance at a role like Antonio Gibson or a handcuff with RB1 potential like Alexander Mattison.

              

Wide Receivers

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Thomas and Adams can go in the first round because they have exceptional talent, prolific quarterbacks and no comparable competition on their teams. Still, Thomas was outscored by five running backs despite having a record-breaking season and outscoring the second-best fantasy receiver by 35.6 points in 2019. That second-best receiver, Chris Godwin, was outscored by 11 backs.

But it evens out considerably by the later rounds. Of running backs and receivers who scored at least 75 fantasy points in 2019, 47 were running backs and 61 were receivers. You can get starting flex value at receiver later in the draft, while you can't at running back.

When you do select receivers, however, they should be valued by their talent and expected volume as well as the potency of their passing attack and, sometimes, weakness of their defense. Some, like Thomas, Adams and Godwin, will go very early, but there is still tremendous value around the third, followed by big upside later on.

Players like Allen Robinson II and Terry McLaurin pass the eye test with flying colors and are the undisputed top options on their teams. They typically go in the third or fourth because of concerns about their quarterbacks. Rookies like Henry Ruggs III and Jalen Reagor, or even a veteran like Breshad Perriman, have obvious talent and the space to carve out high-scoring roles despite major question marks.

Find the late-round receivers whose ceilings you adore and be prepared to round out your roster with them.

                     

Quarterbacks

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

It's the most important position in football—but not in fantasy. Of the top 30 combined scorers in standard leagues for 2019, 23 were quarterbacks. Outside of rarities like Lamar Jackson's 2019 season or Patrick Mahomes' 2018 campaign, the gulf between top- and mid-tier quarterbacks is much narrower than the one seen with running backs and receivers.

You could theoretically stream a quarterback each week of the fantasy year without skipping a beat, so you should not prioritize a signal-caller in the early rounds. If the value makes itself available and you're comfortable with your running back and receiver depth, then you can grab Jackson or Mahomes—but they are unlikely to make it to you as eager opponents select them around the third round.

This year, high-upside QBs like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are all going in the middle rounds, while riskier but still-intriguing options like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady aren't coming off of the board until the later rounds. The surest way to build a strong, balanced team that can withstand surprise injuries is to build your running back and receiver depth and then grab one of those guys later on.

                  

Tight Ends

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Outside of Travis Kelce and George Kittle, you are playing with fire if you go early with a tight end. And even with them, you want to be sure you are confident in your running back(s) first.

Last year, Mark Andrews and Darren Waller were tremendous values in the later rounds. This year, it's guys like Hayden Hurst, Noah Fant and Mike Gesicki who have that slept-on potential. Outside of the top two, Andrews, Ertz and Waller are intriguing mid-round options, but only if you love the way running back and receiver is shaping up for you.

You can easily pass on them or even the volatile options and make away with a fun option in the later rounds. Hunter Henry and Evan Engram have injury concerns, Tyler Higbee and Rob Gronkowski have role concerns. The position shouldn't become a priority until later.

In 2019, the TE1, Kelce, would have been RB20 and WR12. Ertz, the TE5, would have been RB30 and WR31. Dallas Goedert, the TE10, would have been TE42 and WR52. Unless exceptional value opens up, your tight ends can wait until the more important positions are sorted.

                 

Defense/Special Teams

A streamer's dream. Defenses and special teams fluctuate widely every season and are susceptible to weekly matchups. Some don't even select one in their drafts, and that's honestly not outlandish.

This should probably be your last selection and be dictated more by the ease of their first matchups than their 2019 performances. If you don't get a great defense, that's fine. Streaming is a legitimate backup plan.

               

Kickers

Likely your second-to-last selection, just go for someone on a potent offense. Consider talent, especially range, shy away from injury history and go for the guy who has the trust of an offense you like.