If you are lucky enough to get a top spot in the draft, there is not much thought going into your first selection. Got the first overall pick? You’re taking Adrian Peterson all day. Second or third? You’ve got Jones-Drew, Forte, Turner, or even Tomlinson or Steven Jackson if they’re your type. There are plenty of options that you really can’t go wrong with. But someone also has to draft last. Some might see that they got the 12 spot, and immediately think their season is done. How are you supposed to build a championship contender with the last pick? Well, with the proper strategy, you can put yourself a step ahead of the competition drafting from the 12 spot.
Before getting into the strategy, there are two common misconceptions about drafting in the 12 spot that I’d like to set straight.
1. The last pick puts you a step behind everyone else from the start. – In the first round, yes it does. But the 12 pick also gets the first pick in the second round. No picks are guarantees, so making your second pick before everyone else gives you an advantage.
2. But you have to wait 22 picks between each turn. – Also true, but why is this a disadvantage? Sometimes you may miss out on a position run, but why is that bad? If you are well prepared, you don’t want to get caught in the position runs. Each time your picks come around, grab a safe pick, and then take a pick with high upside. Stick to your strategy, avoid position runs, and maybe you can even start a run or two to throw others off their game.
Many traditionalists will tell you that you have to go with running backs with your first two picks. Another very popular strategy is drafting the best player available at each position for the first few rounds. And if you haven’t discovered my favorite, the WR strategy, I would like to introduce it to you.
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com’s average draft position (ADP) for 12 team leagues, 8 of the first 11 picks are RB’s, and the other 3 are WR’s. That leaves you with the #9 RB, #4 WR, and #1 QB at the turn. It also leaves you with the #1 TE, #1 K, and #1 Defense, but if you’re looking at those positions in the first round, you’ve already lost your league. Now everyone knows that your draft won’t look the same as most mock drafts, but ADP is the best way to judge when most players will be drafted. There is always that guy that either doesn’t know what he’s doing, or thinks he knows too much, and takes a QB way too early. Can you win that way? Sure, if you find great value late you can make up for this mistake. And then there’s always that Cowboys homer taking Barber a round and a half too soon. (Or Packers fan taking Grant, Bills fan taking Lynch/Owens, etc.) Take a look at the draft order, and you can take advantage of these nuances if you see them coming.
If you follow the traditional RB strategy, you’re likely looking at the #8-10 RBs with the 12th overall pick. Then when the 3/4 turn comes around, (36th/37th overall) you’re looking at the #14/15 WR’s. If you wait for the 5/6 turn to come around for your WR2, you’ll be looking at the #24 WR. Going RB/RB, then WR/WR will give you a low end RB1 and WR1, and high end RB2 and WR2. Put simply, your top 4 picks will be very average. Nothing wrong with that if you do your homework and get some value late in the draft.
If you decide to go with the best available player for the first few rounds, you’ll likely be drafting RB/WR on both the 1/2 and 3/4 turns unless Brady/Brees/Peyton fall to 36. This will likely give you the #9/19 RB, #4/14 WR. You’ll have a slightly below average RB1, average RB2, and top end WR1 and WR2. Your RB’s will be slightly below average, but WR’s will be very good. You could easily make up for the slight deficiency in RB’s with some high upside picks later in the draft, and you have a step up on the competition with your top 2 WR’s.
Now if you’re looking for a different strategy, try the one that helped me win a championship last year, the WR strategy. Take the top 2 WR’s on the 1/2 turn, and the top 2 RB’s on the 3/4 turn. Going by ADP, that will net you the #4/5 WR’s, and #19/20 RB’s. Those top 4 might not strike fear into your opponents, but the true value of this strategy lies with what happens next. As WR’s have less injury risk, and are more consistent on a yearly basis, it’s easier to predict who will be in the top 5 WR’s than top 5 RB’s. You already have 2 of the top WR’s. You can wait until round 9 or 10 before grabbing your WR3 because you know your WR1 and 2 will be putting up good numbers every week. You might not end up with an elite RB, but you can easily build a stable of solid contributors and play their best matchups. You can use 2 more picks at the next turn on RB’s knowing you have very good point totals coming from your top 2 WR’s. Lynch, McFadden, Bush, Ward, Moreno, LJ, Thomas Jones, Stewart, Rice, Parker, and White all have ADP’s in the 4th round or later, and coming out of the draft with 4 of these backs rounds 3-6 is a very good possibility. Then as others are taking Fred Taylor and Willis McGahee as their RB4 hoping to squeeze out carries, you can take fliers on Bernard Scott, Glen Coffee, and James Davis as your RB5 and 6, who could put up RB2-3 numbers with significant carries.