What makes Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the greatest player-coach duo in NFL history is their preparation, in-game execution, and ability to adapt on the fly - as many would say the Patriots are playing chess while the other NFL teams are playing checkers. These same characteristics are also what gives fantasy owners a leg up on the competition during the draft process. Now the draft is just one piece of the puzzle but since it sets the framework for the team you'll be managing all season it's imperative that you're prepared to handle whatever comes your way.
So, before you draft, it's important to review and understand your league's settings because naturally, this will affect how you draft. How many QB's do you need to start? What positions can play in your flex? Is your league full point PPR, half-point PPR or standard scoring?
For the exercise below I'll be doing mock drafts using the FantasyPros.com Mock Draft Simulator. The league settings for the mock drafts are: 10 Team, PPR, QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Flex, DST, K, 6 Bench.
The first thing that stands out to me here is that you're required to start 3 WR and since it's a PPR league you're likely going to be starting a WR in your flex spot. Under this assumption, the demand for starting WR (4) is double that of any other position (RB - 2). So, I'm more inclined to draft WR heavy because you're required to start a certain amount to fulfill roster requirements and since it's a point per reception format they're the position receiving the greatest boost.
After you have an understanding of how you'd like to ideally build your team it's time to lay out a draft plan. I would suggest running through a couple of different mock draft scenarios using one of the 1,000 mock draft simulators that are now out there today on ESPN, Yahoo etc just to get a feel for how each team pans out. The benefit of doing this is because no draft goes exactly according to plan, you'll need to be comfortable improvising on the fly, and it's often foolish to stick to your plan no matter what. By doing this you might miss out on values. For instance, late round QB is the trend these days, and I'm on board with the philosophy that there is no need to reach on a QB, but if Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are available in the late 3rd/early 4th round I'm taking them every day. Even though QB's are a dime-a-dozen position Rodgers and Brady are values at this point.
It also helps to know your league. If you know your league mates don't value the Quarterback and Tight End positions you can adjust accordingly. Maybe you know you can get Greg Olsen a round later than his ADP so it gives you the opportunity to pick up another RB or WR.
While drafting it's imperative that you are reactive to how your draft is going in order to create a roster that wins from a ceiling and floor standpoint week in and week out. What I mean by this is that when you're building your WR corp, for instance, I would suggest not drafting Golden Tate, Larry Fitzgerald and Jarvis Landry. While all these players are consistent performers there is zero upside since they don't often score touchdowns or rack up insane yardage totals because of their usage. So instead of drafting Landry as your WR3, how about drafting a Martavis Bryant or someone who can put up 30 points weeks every so often? It's good to have that balance.
That last point is also why I don't really agree with drafting off of an experts Top 200 Cheat Sheet because it doesn't factor in roster construction and it looks at everyone from a season long approach when Fantasy Football is really a week to week game. That's why I prefer laying players out in tiers so you can grab from each bucket to create a dynamic squad.
Every plan works if you pick the right players, right? So without further ado here are some mock teams that I've built.
Team A (1st Overall)
(Projected Starters For Each Team Are In Bold)
QB - Russell Wilson
RB - David Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Doug Martin, Darren McFadden & Rex Burkhead
WR - Doug Baldwin, Demaryius Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, Marvin Jones & Ted Ginn Jr
TE - Tyler Eifert & Austin Hooper
Draft Review: I absolutely love this team. I'm honestly open to arguments for Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown over David Johnson at 1.01 but every time I have the 1st pick I can't pass up DJ. After building an RB foundation I went on a run of WR's which has been my theme of drafting this season. Baldwin, Demaryius, Diggs, and Hill I believe are 4 of the Top 20 WR's in fantasy this year and create a nice combination of a very high weekly floor with a built in ceiling. Baldwin and Hill have shown huge week-winning upside in the past while Diggs is on the cusp of a breakout. I'm a Russell Wilson truther, if you put him in New Orleans offense he'd be just as productive as Drew Brees, and grabbing him in the 6th Round is a solid value. At TE, I'm on board with taking Tyler Eifert in the 9th round since the injury risk is already baked into the cost to obtain him. I also scooped up Austin Hooper later in the draft as insurance. Doug Martin and Darren McFadden compliment one another as Martin is suspended for the first 3 games of the season while McFadden will be the head honcho in the Dallas backfield while Zeke serves his suspension. McFadden is a guy who I'm willing to take earlier than most because he's going to put up RB2 production at a minimum and anytime you can guarantee like 4-6 starting caliber weeks out of a guy you're picking in the 2nd half of your draft you're getting a great return on your investment.
Team B (5th Overall)
QB - Marcus Mariota
RB - Isaiah Crowell, Dalvin Cook, Carlos Hyde, Ameer Abdullah, Jonathan Williams
WR - Odell Beckham Jr, Dez Bryant, Tyrell Williams, Kenny Britt, Corey Davis, Robby Anderson, Cooper Kupp
TE - Rob Gronkowski
Draft Review: The TD upside on this squad is enormous. Odell, Dez, and Gronk are 10+ TD guys annually given full health. Obviously, there is a risk in this approach since Dez and Gronk have been recent injury histories but you're not going to win leagues by playing safe. In the middle rounds, I scooped up 4 RB's who project to be RB2's at a minimum. Crowell and Cook are playing behind improved offensive lines and have larger pass catching roles than presumed. Hyde and Abdullah roles are also ambiguous since we've never seen them handle full workloads for a whole season but they are talented backs who were 2nd round picks for a reason. Marcus Mariota in the 9th is the reasonable landing spot for him. One of the more criminally underrated players this offseason is Tyrell Williams who is coming off a Top 15 season at the WR position last year. I'm scooping him up in the middle rounds all day. He's a better player than the already injured Mike Williams. Corey Davis has been injured most of training camp but received rave reviews earlier this offseason. Much like Michael Thomas last year, I can see Davis really becoming a core piece of your team later on in the year in his rookie season.
Team C (10th Overall)
QB - Tom Brady
RB - Carlos Hyde, Ameer Abdullah, Darren McFadden, Paul Perkins, Kareem Hunt & Rex Burkhead
WR - AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Eric Decker & Robby Anderson
TE - Jimmy Graham
Draft Review: Like I stated above if Tom Brady is available in the late 3rd/4th round I have to pull the trigger on him. At the WR Corps, you're not going to get a better 1-2 punc than AJ Green and Dez Bryant. I doubled up on Chargers WR's and that's not something I would totally suggest doing due to the week-to-week volatility that might ensue. Robby Anderson is a perfect late round dart through as he's the only Jets WR with a pulse at this point. Again I took pretty much a zero RB approach by not selecting one until the 6th round so I'll delve a little more into my selections here. I swear I'm going to live and die by Carlos Hyde this year but he's such a value at even the 4th and 5th rounds of drafts. Hyde was slandered by 49ers beat reporters this Spring and there was all this buzz around Joe Williams. Joe Williams is a f'ing scat back and even though he was hand picked by Kyle Shanahan that doesn't mean logic is going to be thrown out the window. Kyle Shanahan also hand picked Tevin Coleman in Atlanta and Freeman still held down that backfield the past two years. Speaking of the Atlanta backfield, Paul Perkins is a similar talent to Devonta Freeman. I love Perkins as a player but I just can't get over how much of a disaster the Giants running game has been in recent years but in the middle rounds he's the perfect flier. Kareem Hunt should be more of a 4th round pick after Spencer Ware's injury.
No team comes out perfect. Every team will have an area of weakness that needs to be address but it's up to you to decide which area your are most confident in addressing during the season. For me it's filling the RB2 position.
If you're not on board with my drafting approach you can find a couple other mock drafts using different approaches.
Team A (1st Overall - RB Heavy)
QB: Cam Newton
RB: David Johnson, Todd Gurley, Ty Montgomery, Derrick Henry, Thomas Rawls
WR: Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald, Willie Snead, Eric Decker, Randall Cobb, Cooper Kupp, Chris Hogan
TE: Rob Gronkowski
Team B (5th Overall - Balanced)
QB: Jameis Winston
RB: Lesean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Danny Woodhead, Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden
WR: Doug Baldwin, Brandin Cooks, Larry Fitzgerald, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Matthews, Sterling Shepard, Tyler Lockett
TE: Zach Ertz
Team C (10th Overall - RB Heavy/Early QB)
QB: Tom Brady
RB: Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, Kareem Hunt, James White
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Desean Jackson, Randall Cobb, Rishard Matthews, Ted Ginn, Chris Hogan
TE: Jimmy Graham