Fantasy football draft strategy can be as simple or as complicated as you like. but like everything, the more complicated things are, the more likely we are to make mistakes. and that’s the last thing we want on our draft day. even the smallest mistakes can have a ripple effect that can affect the entire draft.
but there is good news. we have a solution for you that is extremely simple. In fact, it’s just an 8×11 sheet of paper. A single draft board that will have all the information you need to completely dominate your competition. no more outdated magazines or folders full of printouts. Say goodbye to web browsers with 15 open tabs and complicated excel spreadsheets that always seem to break in the middle of your draft.
Reading: Fantasy football draft board 2019
We’re going to share with you my personal draft board for the 2019 fantasy football drafts, but before we do, here are a few tips to keep in mind that will help you dominate your draft:
- delete by value and not reach. when you hit, you leak value to your opponents. you put your board in place based on how you value the players. stick to the plan and don’t deviate on draft day. your opponents will make mistakes and let value slip away from you. make them pay for it.
- there are no “must pick” or “must avoid” players. even if you really like certain players, see the first tip. Don’t hit these guys. it is a bug that allows the value to slip towards your opponent. likewise, there are no “must avoid” players, only players that must be avoided in certain ads. However, there is a point in drafts where these guys will become assets if they stay on the board.
- You don’t need patrick mahomes to win your league. Sure, he’s great to have, but Mahomes will be gone sooner than a quarterback is worth drafting in leagues that start with just one quarterback. but you don’t understand everyone in my local league drafts quarterbacks very early.” it’s okay. you don’t have to drink the kool aid. follow your board and you’ll still end up getting value.
- the top is more important than the bottom. if you are faced with a decision between two players, choose the player with the higher ceiling. For example, Larry Fitzgerald and Will Fuller are often chosen in the same area of the draft. if you had to choose between the two, the best option is the most complete. sure, his floor is much lower, but fuller’s huge upside gives him more potential to be a fantasy difference maker.
- don’t overlook the importance of roster building early on of your draft. this cannot be overstated. people often write based on ratings, which is not necessarily a problem. however, a fantasy draft is not ladies. it’s chess we have to think ahead about how the early picks we make will affect our roster building going forward. that’s especially true if you’re facing the possibility of receiving a wide receiver early in your draft.
With these tips in mind, let’s dive into the draft board and strategy for each position in this year’s drafts. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my skill position fantasy football level rankings. I provide detailed information on quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
The following advice is general and can be considered for all fantasy football scoring formats. Keep in mind that the difference between PPR and non-PPR is often not as significant as many believe. For example, according to the PFF fantasy football statistics tool, James White was No. 7 rb in ppr in 2018 and the no. 11 rb in not ppr. likewise, tarik cohen had 11 in ppr and 17 in non-ppr. the difference between the two formats for these ppr specialists was marginal at best. so instead of moving players up or down significantly based on scoring settings, it’s a better idea to be aware of pass-catching backs. these players will be more volatile regardless of the format.
[Editor’s note: All pff elite and edge subscribers have access to the updated draft of jeff ratcliffe, the 2019 fantasy playbook, rankings, projections and more. sign up today to get access!]
It’s easy to sit here and tell yourself you should draft christian mccaffrey or saquon barkley, but that advice won’t do you any good if you end up with a pickaxe at the end of a snake draft. instead, I encourage you to put together a solid set of general classifications.
In a 12-team league, I recommend covering five rounds of the draft, which works out to about 60 players. For starters, here are my top 60 players. this is a balanced set of ratings that can be applied to all fantasy formats.
60 Best Overall
The goal of this list is to seek value with each of your selections until this list is completely exhausted. with early picks, it’s fine to go straight down the list. though, as I noted above, you’ll need to consider early on whether you want to get one of the top 10 brokers. Given the premium at the position, you may not stand a chance if you decide to go with a wide receiver in the middle of the first round. if you think your draft is going to be rb-heavy, it may make more sense to take the best rb on the board and let the value slip away at wide receiver.
let’s say you pick 1.06 and five runners are already off the board: ezekiel elliott, barkley, mccaffrey, alvin kamara, and david johnson. Deandre Hopkins is the best man on your board, but if you go with him, the rest of the top 10 racers will surely be gone before your next pick. if you’re comfortable starting the season with a front rb2 as your top rear, go for hopkins.
However, I recommend being a bit more flexible with your board and choosing one of the top 10 remaining racers. in this case, it would be bell. It may seem that we are overvaluing it, but it is not. what we are doing is giving a premium on our list building. Sure, Hopkins is awesome, but we’re going to have more opportunities to get value as a wide receiver than as a running back.
Otherwise, keep selecting players off this list until the list disappears. You’ll notice there’s only one quarterback on the list: Patrick Mahomes. he is almost guaranteed to be picked long before where we have him ranked. don’t worry about that, there’s so much depth at quarterback that you’ll be able to find a solid option much later in the draft.
When drafting players from the top 60, don’t worry about bye weeks or players on the same team. these are little things that shouldn’t affect your decisions in the early rounds of a draft. all the players in the top 60 are strong fantasy options, so keep loading as many as you can.
You’ll likely still have options from this list for the first six rounds, and maybe even longer. Remember to keep a close eye on your list building and be ready to switch gears as soon as the list is empty. From here I’ll go by position and identify the players I’m highlighting on my draft board and the round I’m comfortable drafting them in based on current adp data. Please note that these round ratings are suggested values and do not guarantee that the player will not be picked earlier in your drafts.
You can follow these players in a printable version of my 2019 fantasy football draft board. Please note that this pdf was produced on July 29th. If you want the latest copy of my draft board, you can always find it in the 2019 pff fantasy playbook.
You hear it every year, but you can look forward to it as a quarterback. I know I know his league drafts quarterbacks over fantasy industry types. But don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of solid options in the middle and late rounds.
we all know what mahomes did last season. but did you notice that he wasn’t even selected until the 10th round in most fantasy drafts last year? Jared Goff was a standout option you could have picked in Round 11 as the 16th quarterback off the board. Dak Prescott finished 10th among quarterbacks and was selected in the 13th round. Mitchell Trubisky came off the board in the 14th round and earned multiple first-place weekly fantasy finals.
the depth at quarterback in the nfl today is astounding. last season, 12 quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards and nine had more than 30 touchdown passes. so even if your league drafts quarterbacks early, don’t take the bait. Unless you see the value drop at the position, like Deshaun Watson in the sixth round, the earliest you should look to draft a quarterback is the seventh/eighth round.
Rounds 7-8: Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield
While I think you can get better options later in the draft, getting one of these three signal callers at this range is solid value. Ryan is coming off a second-place fantasy finish where he nearly topped 5,000 passing yards, though that’s probably the top end of his fantasy range. Wilson stepped back for fantasy purposes in the Seahawks’ intense run offense, but showed he can still do it in the red zone. mayfield is one of the hottest fantasy names this year and might be off the board right now.
Rounds 9-10: Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Carson Goingz, Kyler Murray, Ben Roethlisberger
This is really the sweet spot if you want to take a mid-round quarterback approach in this year’s drafts. all of these guys may not be on the board, but at least one of them should be. and each of these quarterbacks has strong qb1 potential.
Rounds 11-16: Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Mitchell Trubisky, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, The Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Allen
These signal-callers are more likely to still be on the board late in the draft for those looking to use a late-round quarterback approach. I don’t always recommend starting the season with a backup quarterback, but it makes sense to pick two from this group. you’re not spending a lot of capital to get these guys, and taking two gives you a little insurance in case one of them goes bust. If you take this approach, it’s a good idea to write a “safe” option and a positive option. like this rivers and winston, or brady and trubisky, etc.
The rankings list above takes you through 26 riders, but there are some interesting names just outside the top 60 that you can rack up. remember, project for the ceiling, not the floor. that’s especially true in the middle and final rounds.
rounds 6-7: miles sanders, austin ekeler, tevin coleman
Questions abound at running back when you get to the middle rounds, but Sanders is in an interesting position in Philadelphia’s backfield. he may take him through October, but he has a good chance to lead the Eagles’ backfield in fantasy scoring. Ekeler is now in a prime spot given the uncertainty of Melvin Gordon’s situation. While Coleman is in a crowded house in San Francisco, he is the strongest bet to lead the backfield in touches.
Round 8: Darrell Henderson, Latavius Murray, Derrius Guice, Rashaad Penny
This is the main rank for premium handcuffs. Henderson and Murray fit the bill and would see significant value increases if Todd Gurley or Alvin Kamara missed the time. Likewise, the penny has value regardless of its handcuff status. Guice is coming off a serious injury and has a potentially lousy offense, but could still see some big volume this season.
round 11: royce freeman, ronald jones
Don’t let the last season fool you. freeman was better than you think. In fact, his 3.2 yards after contact per attempt was nearly a full yard more than teammate Phillip Lindsay’s average. While we can’t say the same about Jones, we also don’t have much to go on. He is a bull dart who has been given a clean slate in Tampa Bay with the new training regimen in effect.
Rounds 12-16: Nyheim Hines, Ito Smith, D’Onta Foreman, Jaylen Samuels, Kalen Ballage, Damien Harris, Chase Edmonds, Kareem Hunt, Devin Singletary
It’s about the advantages in the last rounds of your draft. while I prefer wide receiver options at this range, this group of players offers the most fantasy potential at the position. Hines will continue to see a role as a receiver in the Indy offense. Smith, Foreman, Samuels, Harris, Edmonds and Singletary all offer wives value with the potential for more fantasy during the season. hunt’s situation is murky, but if you can keep him under wraps for the first nine weeks of the season, it could pay dividends when his suspension is over.
Ideally, you’ll be sitting with at least three runners after the first six rounds. that means you’ll probably have two wide receivers and potentially a tight end. From there, you’ll want to rack up as much talent as you can as a running back and wide receiver, focusing on high-ceiling options. as I mentioned earlier, you could end up with a backup quarterback or maybe a backup tight end. but you really want to fill your bench spots with backups at running back and wide receiver. Say it with me now, “I will not draft a backup team defense. I will not select a backup kicker.”
Rounds 6-7: Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, Dede Westbrook, Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, Emmanuel Sanders
There are 29 wide receivers on the top 60 list, but there are solid options even off that list. value is strong at the top and bottom wide receiver in this year’s draft, and it starts with this group.
Rounds 8-9: Will Fuller, Keke Coutea, Courtland Sutton, Curtis Samuel, Donte Moncrief
here’s another sexy set of receivers offering a huge advantage at a nice discount. Fuller was in the midst of a great year before he was injured last season. Coutea also has the potential to generate strong production in Houston. Sutton was heavily targeted in the red zone last season and offers a touchdown lead. Samuel is poised for a larger role in Carolina. and moncrief could be emerging as the no. 2 options in pittsburgh.
round 10: wish jackson, devin funchess, anthony miller
while jackson’s production wasn’t particularly impressive last year, he still has great speed and is in a good position to produce in philadelphia. Likewise, Funchess landed in a solid spot with the Colts and could be an additional red zone weapon for Andrew Lucky. miller had an impressive seven scores last year and should step it up in year 2.
rounds 11-12: tyrell williams, james washington, daesean hamilton, parris campbell
grab it and break it. All four of these receivers offer a huge advantage at a nice discount on draft day. this is one of the best places to target the upside at wide receiver in your drafts.
rounds 13-16: andy isabella, marquez valdes-scantling, d.k. metcalf, john brown
The advantage continues in the later rounds of your draft. you have three newbies offering high ceilings in isabella and metcalf. Valdes-Scantling could move up the board if she can beat Geronimo Allison for No. 2 work. Brown isn’t in the best offense at Buffalo, but his skill set should be a good fit for Josh Allen.
Depth at tight end is almost non-existent once again this year. While it’s very tempting to take one of the Big 3 in Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle, we should also consider roster building. he’ll likely need to pick these guys in the first two rounds, which could leave him skinny as a running back. I’ve found that rounds 5-7 are the optimal place to tackle the tight end.
round 6: evan engram, o.j. howard
hunter henry actually made our top 60, so he can be considered in the fifth round. but engram and howard are not far behind. both players are young and have a chance to see a healthy workload this season.
Rounds 7-8: Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald
cook is coming off a strong fantasy season and gets a nice upgrade at quarterback with drew brees now throwing the ball to him. ebron finally broke last year but look for some regression. His touchdown production was unsustainable, and Jack Doyle should eat his target share. mcdonald has the opposite, as his goals must come up with jesse james out of the way. The Steelers also have a big hole to fill their offense with Antonio Brown out of the mix.
rounds 9-10: david njoku, austin hooper
If you’re looking for positive options after the first nine tight ends are off the board, these two are your best bets.
rounds 11-16: trey burton, mark andrews
It’s going to be tough to get a big shot at tight end in the later rounds of your draft, but you can at least aim for the upside with these two players. Burton was a top 10 fantasy pick last season, though he may be a streaky producer. Andrews quietly topped 550 receiving yards in his rookie season and is poised to step up.
team defense and kicker
In most cases, these two positions should be your last two picks in the draft. Don’t waste a mid-round pick on the Chicago Bears because the first pick rarely ends up as the first fantasy defense; ask anyone who drafted jacksonville last year. Likewise, Greg Zuerlein is a fantastic kicker, but you don’t need him to win your league. in fact, if he has these league positions from him, there’s a good chance he’ll broadcast sometime this year. there’s no point in spending draft capital on a pick that you’ll ultimately end up cutting.
the 2019 fantasy football draft draft
okay, now that we have all of our values and goals in place, let’s outline the draft strategy for fantasy football drafts of 2019. remember, flexibility is key, so you need to be able to adapt to the conditions of your draft. always be aware of what your opponents are doing and be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.
That said, it’s a good idea to present a general set of ideas:
- delete your top 60 list until it’s empty, but be mindful of building the list in the first two rounds. this is especially important if you are in the middle or end of the first round. remember that good broker options aren’t likely to fall to you, so you may need to bump them up a bit on your board. value is much more likely to slide at wide receiver.
- look to tackle tight end between rounds 5-7. if you see more than just the big 3 off the board on round 5, take one at this point. If no other tight ends have been recruited, you can wait until round 6 or even round 7. However, waiting any longer is not recommended. after the first nine tight ends, your options will be very uncertain.
- Given how skinny the running back is, don’t expect to find diamonds in the rough in the later rounds. Ideally, you’ll want to draft four running backs in regular-size leagues with a 16-round draft. to maximize the position, take four running backs in the first eight rounds.
- wait until the ninth round to look at the quarterback unless you miss some serious value at the position. that’s unlikely in local leagues, but resist the urge to fuel any quarterback runs in the early rounds. when your opponents draft a quarterback, they let you off the hook. if you don’t like the options available in rounds 9 and 10, you can wait even longer. he’ll still have solid quarterbacks to pick from in the later rounds of the 1qb leagues.
- value will drop all over the place at wide receiver. when you’re not looking at the quarterback in the later rounds, fill your bench with as much lead as possible at wide receiver.
- wait until the last two rounds on kicker and team defense and look for options with more matchups in week 1. we have this information for you in pff fantasy playbook 2019.
so there you have it. You’ll notice that my fantasy football draft board and strategy tips present a dynamic approach to the draft that doesn’t lock you into one path. You have multiple options in each position to aim throughout the various rounds. And hey, you may not agree with all of these selections. it’s fine, but the method is the most important thing here. you don’t want to lock yourself into one player per round. if that player is picked before he is up, he risks forcing a pick that he may regret. instead, follow this approach and you’ll end up with a very strong team that will dominate your league.