I start my redraft preparation in January. I’m not a huge Dynasty fantasy football player, and Best Ball is mostly dominated by one company that is now partially owned by Black Rock, so I’m out on that, too. Everything I do for 9 months of the year, ultimately, comes down to this weekend. The countless mock drafts, the endless Stathead queries (I currently have 111 Stathead queries in my Downloads folder, mostly from the last two months), and the hundreds of thousands of words all come down to this: drafting a redraft fantasy football team. And, while Evan Hoovler’s wonderful barbecue strategy outlines the Do’s & Don’ts of salary cap drafts, I wanted to take my own crack at it by giving you your snake draft do’s and don’ts for 2022, based on my personal draft strategy. We start with the Do’s, and tomorrow, we will get you the Don’ts. Please keep in mind, that these are not for Superflex leagues!
Do Get Your Guy in Rounds One through Three
We’ve reached a point where we have enough fantasy football analysis kicking around that the true first-36 picks are the first 36-40 picks off the board. Long gone are the days of advocating for Mike Vick at 1.01 in a 1QB league, or talking up C.J. Anderson into the first round. The NFL talent is abundant, as well. We’ve reached a point where we have a lot of stud established stars at the top of fantasy football drafts (Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, and Travis Kelce) as well as guys on the come-up (Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Mark Andrews). But, our savviness has given everyone a modicum of perceived risk and warts, because we actually interrogate these picks now. For example 1.01 Jonathan Taylor is the lowest-scoring reigning RB1 since Devonta Freeman over half a decade ago, presumptive 1.02 Christian McCaffrey has played in ten games in two years, and presumptive 1.03 Cooper Kupp is hoping to become the second WR ever to have multiple 130 catch seasons.
We’ve already thoroughly vetted all of these players, and found valid reasons for, or against, drafting them. So really: just get your guy. There’s no over drafting any of these players because we know all of them inside & out, and really, we are weighing the pros and cons of each of them. We don’t have the LaDanian Tomlinson Written In Pen First Overall Pick anymore, so just get who speaks to you. Don’t take Cooper Kupp at 1.03 if you think that Ja’Marr Chase is going to lead all WR in fantasy points, just get Ja’Marr Chase instead, for example.
The same goes for the downline players. Just get your guys; we have so many talented players, that ADP can fly out the window to start the draft. If you want to start your draft with basically any RB1 and any WR1, nobody can fault you.
Do Go Hero Running Back
Hero Running Back (or HeroRB) is a draft strategy where you get one stud running back in the first couple of rounds, load up everywhere else, then come back with a handful of running backs starting later in the draft. For example, you start with Austin Ekeler at 1.05, but you might come back to the position in round six (A.J. Dillon) and then you snatch a few guys in rounds 8-10 (Tony Pollard, Melvin Gordon, Chase Edmonds, Darrell Henderson, Rhamondre Stevenson, and more, all have ADP in rounds 8 through 10). This keeps you from getting behind the eight-ball at running back.
That’s the main problem that HeroRB grew out of solving: the ZeroRB (no running backs until late) strategy left you scrambling at two starting roster spots: RB1 and RB2. By starting with a HeroRB strategy, you lock up your RB1 slot, and then you can take full advantage of stud-ifying the rest of your roster before coming back and trying to clean up running backs that can hopefully rotate into an RB2 slot. This is the best of both worlds of strategies, between the Old School “Robust RB” strategy and the Low T modern “Zero RB” strategy.
Do Get a “Top-Twelve” Wide Receiver
Whatever a “top-twelve” wide receiver means to you, go out and get one. For me, that means I have to leave my draft with Keenan Allen or Diontae Johnson, at worst. This one goes with the HeroRB strategy above, but it also warns you against going completely hog wild with a quarterback and tight end, and all of a sudden your starting lineup includes Tyler Boyd and James Cook. That’s when you know things have gone horribly wrong. Sure, you have Josh Allen and Kyle Pitts, but at what cost? I tend to make sure I come out of the first three rounds with at least one running back and one wide receiver, that gives me a chance to make sure that I don’t get caught lacking at these positions. This one is especially true in three wide receiver leagues. In these leagues, the scarcity scale tips closer to wide receivers, and away from every other position, as you have to start three of those bad boys (compared to just one tight end or QB).
But, here’s the rub. Remember when I said, “whatever a ‘top-twelve’ wide receiver means to you?” Well, there are not exactly twelve top-12 wide receivers. That makes sense if you think about likely potential WR1s as top-twelve receivers, and also how every analyst has different tiers. For me, there are about ten top-12 wide receivers (I don’t see Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman as true top-12 guys), and for other analysts, the top-12 list can go all the way down to Mike Williams (WR16). Figure out who you feel happy with as your #1 wide receiver, and go out and get one of them.
Do Have a Plan (at Quarterback and in General)
In years past, it was easy to sort of just… wing it at quarterback. There were plenty of fallback options, and the top tier wasn’t all that much different from the guys on the waiver wire. Now, with a crop of studs, then solid quarterbacks, then just abject question marks, the difference between winning a title and missing the playoffs in 2022 could be whiffing on a quarterback without a backup plan. For example, my standard plan is Jalen Hurts at ADP, wherever I draft. I think that he’s a top-five quarterback this year, and he’s generally going in round six or seven. I love that for him, and I will snatch him up everywhere. I also think that Russell Wilson is going to blow up in Denver this year, so if I miss on Hurts, then I will make sure I get Wilson (maybe I will reach a bit) or Trey Lance, depending on who is there in the ninth. If I miss on both of them, I activate the Firewall Protocols, where I take whichever of Matt Stafford, Tom Brady, or Kirk Cousins is there in round ten. It’s not what I want to have happen, but it’s my plan.
And, if I must engage Firewall Protocols, I’ll stay fluid (call ‘staying fluid’ step 4A). I’ll see if there’s an upside guy I can pair with Kirk Cousins who might replace him (say, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, or Jameis Winston). That way, I can find my stud QB while Cousins quietly plugs away for me. And, if I don’t find that stud QB? Oh well, I have Cousins.
The important part here is that I have a plan and I don’t end up panicking and taking a guy I don’t want because I waited too long at QB.
That brings me to the second part of this: have a dang plan. Write down the guys that you want, before the draft even starts. If you’re drafting on a website and the software allows you, put them on your watchlist/queue, so that you don’t miss them as they come up. You might want to get Melvin Gordon, as a priority, but you can’t do that if you forget about Melvin Gordon in the middle of your draft.
This is what I do, personally.
I start with a piece of paper, and I write across the top QB RB WR TE
Then, I go to whatever ADP I want, and I write down the players I like at each position at their price. That’s my draft list. If you use Beersheets (and you should), then you can put a Y to the left of the player in the spreadsheet. This will highlight the player in green. Remember to get your guys, but you can’t get your guys if you don’t have a plan to get them. Then you’re just winging it. While winging it might feel like staying fluid, you’re just going in unprepared, which is different than…
Do Stay Fluid
Also, stay hydrated. You don’t want to go in there and have an absolutely rigid plan that has you forced to take POSITION in ROUND no matter what. That leads to you leaving value on the table, and leads to you needing to play catch up to the rest of your draft, because you took Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Courtland Sutton still on the board, because that’s what your DRAFT STRATEGY said. Let the draft come to you, and make sure that you get your guys. That doesn’t mean you should press the issue and overreach in order to get your guys, but if you setup your draft like I did at quarterback, and all of Hurts, Stafford, Russ, Lance, Brady, and Cousins are off the board in round five, that isn’t a sign to go get Ryan Tannehill in round seven. That’s pressing because you panicked. And fluid doesn’t panic, it stays nice and loose.
And you should, too.