Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies – Pick 1

WR First | RB FIrst | RB/RB/RB

by Mike Lott
Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies - Pick 1

Are you looking to dominate your Fantasy Football league this season? It all starts with a great draft strategy, tailored to your draft slot. In this series, we'll be exploring a variety of approaches to help you build a winning team from every position in the draft order. We begin our Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies with Pick 1!

Keith continues the series -  Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies - Pick 2

The first overall pick can be a tough decision, especially with the rise of some young wide receivers.

The draft is one of the most important moments in the Fantasy Football season. It's where you'll acquire the players who will form the core of your team, so it's crucial to make smart choices. Your draft strategy will depend on a variety of factors, including your league's scoring system and the number of teams in your league. However, one of the most important factors is your draft slot.

Depending on where you're drafting from, you may have different options and opportunities available to you. If you're drafting early, you might go for a top-tier running back. If you're drafting later, you might need to focus on other positions and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Of course, there are many other draft strategies to consider, depending on your draft slot and personal preferences. Whether you're targeting quarterbacks who run, punting the tight end position, or loading up on running backs and wide receivers early, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to drafting in Fantasy Football.

That's why we'll be sharing a range of draft slot-specific strategies in this series to help you make informed decisions and build a winning team! We utilized the FantasyPros Mock Draft Wizard to help play out our Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies for 12-team, half-PPR leagues with 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 4 BN, 1 K and 1 DST roster settings.

Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies - Pick 1

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Going WR 1st Overall

For the first time in my Fantasy Football career, this might be the year where you can make the argument for legitimately drafting a wide receiver with the #1 overall selection. The monster years of LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander and a healthy Christian McCaffrey are long gone.

For that reason, in this mock draft, I took Justin Jefferson with the 1st pick, over Ja'Marr Chase.

After taking Jefferson, I followed up with another star wide receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown. This gives me an already crazy, strong receiving corp and sets me up to take Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones or Kenneth Walker to be my RB1.

Personally, I like Harris the best out of the three as he should see 15+ carries every week and will hopefully be used more in the passing game for Pittsburgh this year.

With the top three QBs off the board (Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts), I thought it would be a smart idea to go ahead and grab Joe Burrow with my 4th Round pick. This solidified my quarterback position in case there was a run of QBs.

In Round 5 it’s pretty wide-open on what you can do. You can finish off the wide receivers and take Keenan Allen or Deebo Samuel, who both would be incredible WR3s, you could take J.K. Dobbins or Cam Akers to be your RB2, or you could grab George Kittle at the tight end position.

I took Kittle for his potential positional value. The tight end position is known to be weak, even though there are some bigger names than in years past, but I am not a fan of having to worry about streaming tight ends on a weekly basis.

Needing just a wide receiver, running back and FLEX, in Rounds 6 & 7 you really have your pick of the litter:

RBs: David Montgomery, D'Andre Swift, Javonte Williams
WRs: Christian Kirk, Mike Williams, Diontae Johnson, Mike Evans

You could take one wide receiver, and one running back, or you could take two from one of the positions to fill your FLEX.

Here I went David Montgomery and Christian Kirk.

Side note - Yes St. Brown and Montgomery are now teammates in Detroit, but last year St. Brown and Jamaal Williams combined for over 2,000 total yards and 23 touchdowns. So in certain situations, it’s ok to have a WR/RB duo.

Even in Rounds 8 & 9, there were plenty of options to choose from, guys like Brian Robinson Jr., AJ Dillon, Antonio Gibson, Khalil Herbert and Rashaad Penny were all still available.

I drafted Robinson Jr. as my FLEX because of the number of touches he had last year as a rookie and recovering from being shot. Now that he has a year under his belt, and it’s quite clear he’s the guy over Antonio Gibson, this could be a steal in the 8th Round.

Seeing how much success young wide receivers have had in this league in recent years you can grab Quentin Johnston or Zay Flowers in the 9th Round. However, if you are the type of Fantasy manager who doesn’t trust rookies and loves late-round veterans, Brandin Cooks, Courtland Sutton, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Michael Thomas * are all likely to be available.

*draft Michael Thomas at your own risk!

I quickly jumped all over Johnston as I love him in the Chargers offense, catching passes from Justin Herbert. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams' injury history will likely play a role in Johnston’s successful rookie campaign.

Once you get into the 10th Round, it’s time to just fill your bench and really this is all based on your team's needs. You should look for bye-week fillers and potential handcuffs at the running back position.

However, if you do see a strong tight end still out there don’t be afraid to grab them. Remember, they could be used at the FLEX position as well!

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Going RB 1st Overall

With the first overall selection, if you decide to take a running back, you really can’t go wrong with either Christian McCaffrey or Austin Ekeler. They’re both in great offenses and are both heavily used in the passing game.

I personally like Ekeler a little better as he’s typically healthier and the Chargers running back depth chart is still very shallow.

Sticking with a running back in the 2nd round, you have your choice of Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones and Kenneth Walker.

You could follow that up with your first wide receiver in Garrett Wilson, who now has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, or Chris Olave.

Garrett Wilson went for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season with arguably the worst quarterback play in the league. I’m very excited about what he’s capable of doing with Aaron Rodgers under center.

In Rounds 4 & 5, you could fill your final wide receiver spots with the likes of Terry McLaurinJerry Jeudy or Drake London. But with George Kittle still sitting there, you might be inclined to take just one of the veteran wideouts.

If you decide to wait on the tight end there’s a chance you could still wind up with Dallas Goedert or Darren Waller in the 6th Round. However, if you did take Kittle you can always grab a guy like Mike Williams or Dionate Johnson in the 6th Round.

In round 7, there still could be a chance that Justin Herbert is available, and having an Ekeler/Herbert stack could be lethal.  Trevor Lawrence is not a bad second option at QB if Herbert is off the board.

Filling your FLEX shouldn’t be an issue. The only issue you could have is choosing which of the following running backs you want on your team: Brian Robinson Jr., AJ Dillon, Antonio Gibson, Khalil Herbert or Rashaad Penny.

Actually, being that you get back-to-back picks from the number one slot you can actually choose two of these guys, and rotate them in and out based on matchups.

In Rounds 10 & 11, there are plenty of veteran wide receivers who you can rely on for bye week fill-ins or in case of injury to a starter - Allen Lazard, Tyler Boyd, Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr., Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Gallup should be on the board.

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RB/RB/RB Strategy

If you’re the type of fantasy owner that values running back way more than wide receivers, then taking a running back first overall, as well as with your back-to-back picks in Rounds 2 & 3 might be the way to go in 2023.

As mentioned above, I personally like Ekeler a little better due to his lack of injury history and the Chargers shallow running back depth chart, but Christian McCaffrey works as well.

Then on the return with back-to-back picks, you should have your choice of some kind of combination of Breece Hall, Najee Harris, Travis Etienne Jr., Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Jahmyr Gibbs, Kenneth Walker III and J.K. Dobbins.

Pairing up any two of those RBs alongside Ekeler/CMC sets you up for a strong core moving forward in the draft. Also keep in mind as the season goes on and injuries around the league pile up, the value of these RBs skyrocket.

In Round 4 it’s wise to grab your QB. Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and possibly even Joe Burrow are almost guaranteed to be off the board, so if you don’t take the QB here, you could be in trouble when you pick again at the end of the 6th Round.

There are three guys I’d recommend targeting here and it could all be based on your preference:

  1. Do you prefer the scrambling QB? Take Justin Fields.
  2. Do you like the pocket QB with the laser rocket arm? Take Justin Herbert.
  3. Do you want a combination of the two? Take Trevor Lawerence.

With your very next pick, you must take your WR1. Depending on who you selected at QB it could determine this receiver:

However, there’s a chance these guys are off the board when you select in Round 5 which means you might have to pivot to guys like Terry McLaurin, Jerry Jeudy, or Drake London.

At the 6/7 turn, you can either finish off your WRs, or take a wide receiver and your tight end. If Kyle Pitts, Darren Waller or Evan Engram are available, go ahead and take one of those guys. Target a veteran like Diontae Johnson or Mike Evans as your WR2.

Since you waited until Round 5 to take a WR, Rounds 8 & 9 should be dedicated to taking a young potential stud who could have a breakout season, as well as a guy who might have a comeback-type year.

Michael Thomas or Odell Beckham Jr. might be a sneaky pick here, followed up with a rookie like Quentin Johnston or Zay Flowers for some WR depth.

Continuing to build a bench in Rounds 10 & 11, you can go any direction here. If you aren’t confident with your current group of wide receivers, you can continue to add weapons like Tyler Boyd, DJ Chark Jr., Michael Gallup, or Hunter Renfroe. Or if you took CMC, you can take Elijah Mitchell as a handcuff in case of injury. You can also just add to RB depth and draft Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson/Raheem Mostert or Devin Singletary.

With your final bench spot selection, you can take a look at the tight end position. Greg Dulcich or Cole Kmet are two solid options here as a backup and potential bye week filler.

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