We continue our Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies series with Pick 3. Mike kicked off the series on Sunday with strategies for the first overall pick and Keith added three approaches to the draft from the second slot. I'm here to give you a bit of insight as to how you can plan to draft from the third spot!
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.
I'm also not going to be doing the safe, route here. I think we all know how to draft our teams, using rankings, projections, and taking the best overall player to build a balanced roster. Instead, I'm going to do some more extreme builds.
Now the main thing differentiating the strategies for Pick 3, from Picks 1 & 2 is you are not getting either of the two consensus top picks in Justin Jefferson and Christian McCaffrey. Sure in some leagues, crazy things could happen, but I'm going off the assumption that this is not going to happen. In fact, in all the mocks I did to prepare for this article, it did not.
The other notable thing with the third pick is you are still close enough to the turn to feel like you can double tap, but there were a few times in each mock that the player I was hoping to come back to me, did not. Keep that in mind when making your selections. Reading the room, knowing who your opponents have at 1.02 and 1.01 when the "turn" picks happen matters some when selecting your players before their next two picks.
I don't mention my last two picks in the draft in any of my strategies cause it was a defense, then a kicker each time.
Fantasy Football Draft Slot Strategies - Pick 3
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Taking One of the Elite QBs Early
In all my years of playing Fantasy Football, taking one of the top quarterbacks early is something I have never done. Superflex excluded.
I'm not sure I will do it this year either, but I am aware that there is a fairly large gap in projections when it comes to Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts compared to the other quarterbacks. This is something that has not happened in other years. That makes taking a quarterback early not as cringe-worthy of a strategy this season. Let's see how it played out.
Rounds 1 & 2
I took Austin Ekeler with pick 3 overall. Yes, Ja'Marr Chase was sitting there as well, but I'm a firm believer still that if you can get one of the elite running backs that you do it. The difference they can make on your team at a position where consistency is lacking every season is key.
Next up I wanted a top receiver and Garrett Wilson came back to me. Jaylen Waddle was also in consideration. However, getting a team's No. 1 pass-catching option with Aaron Rodgers seemed like a better option to me than taking a team's No. 2 pass-catching option with Tua Tagovalioa. Don't get me wrong I like Waddle a lot, I'm just expecting big things from Wilson this season.
By the way at this point in the mock, not a single quarterback had been drafted. So it was obvious to me I would get one of the top three. I have seen Mahomes, Allen and Hurts all go in the 2nd Round in many mocks/drafts already, so you will need to adjust if you want them and that starts to happen.
Round 3 - My QB
By the time it got back to me at 3.03, Josh Allen had been drafted. I wound up taking Patrick Mahomes as my quarterback. I get the arguments for Jalen Hurts and think he is fantastic, but Mahomes I believe he is a bit safer at the position being able to rely on his arm more. Hurts is great, but we've seen it year to year, quarterbacks that rely so heavily on their legs for a large portion of their fantasy points fall off quicker. I want to go the safer route if I'm using this kind of draft capital on a QB. It also didn't hurt that Mahomes was the overall top player available on the F6P Draft Cheat Sheet.
There were a lot of good players I passed up on taking my QB early here, including...
Now that I have my QB it is time to focus on the rest of my roster. Now with taking my QB, I'm not one to take a TE early too. I think that puts you too far behind at the RB and WR positions.
Miles Sanders was a calculated pick. I saw that there were two running backs on the board who were their team's number one option by a large margin, Cam Akers and Sanders. I choose Sanders because of many of the reasons I mentioned on the F6P Hour Podcast. Sanders was also my pick over receivers such as Jerry Jeudy, Christian Watson and Terry McLaurin, hoping that there were more of them available that I liked and at least one would fall back to me. Indeed two did and I choose Jeudy who I believe can do very well with Sean Peyton there and a Russell Wilson bounceback season.
Michael Pittman and JuJu were the best available players on the board picks, other than tight end, but again as I passed on some of the top talent at RB and WR early picking a QB in the third, I need to build solid depth.
I know I'm going to get looks about the Javonte pick but hear me out. He is still a fantastic talent. Again the offense should be much better, and even with the risk that he doesn't start the season, he is my RB3. That is a risk I'm willing to take to get a potential top-10 running back after he returns to the field in the 6th Round.
#Broncos RB Javonte Williams Avoids Training Camp PUP List
— Zack Kelberman (@KelbermanNFL) July 24, 2023
Depth and my tight end were drafted here.
I'll start by saying I got Evan Engram with my 11th Round pick. There was a massive gap between the previous TE drafted, Kyle Pitts in Round 7 and my Engram pick. Just goes to show if you want to spend up for one of top 7 TE you will have to. If you don't get them, it is looking like you can wait. After I took Engram the rest of the teams who needed TE all took one in the same round. Nice to be the start of a run.
I was graded a solid 90/100 on FantasyPros Mock Draft tool with this strategy and second overall best team.
My opinion is I'm still not sure I'm sold on taking one of the elite three quarterbacks given the price you have to pay. I for one really like Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence a lot. Burrow went in Round 5 (to be fair I don't think that happens in a real draft), but TLaw went in Round 7. Those are nice quarterbacks to have at a much cheaper price and allow you to take much better running backs and wide receivers than I was left with later in the draft.
Still, it's fun to not ever have to think twice about your QB with having somebody like Mahomes just dominate week to week. I was also able to make it work by finding some players later in the draft I like to build my team.
Again the key here is if you go early QB, I don't think it is wise to go early TE too and vice versa. The positional advantage you give yourself at those two positions is awesome, but you really put yourself in a huge hole at running back and wide receiver. You will need to hit on so many more late-round picks or pick up players off waivers if you take both quarterback and tight end early.
Zero Running Back is a popular buzzword strategy, but it is honestly not one that I prefer. I feel like it leaves you too thin at the running back position. However. going WR-Heavy with three top-end receivers is something that I've seen implemented successfully more often. This is because it still allows you to grab running backs that are more reliable.
Once again JJ and CMC went first. Since I'm forcing an early receiver strategy here I went Ja'Marr Chase. It is super close between him and Cooper Kupp, but Chase wins out by a hair on the F6P Cheat Sheet so I went with it. In PPR, Kupp would get the nod though.
In Round 2, I was pleasantly surprised to see Amon-Ra St. Brown there for me. This was a no-brainer pick for me as I think he has proven he is a great receiver. The other two receivers I was considering were Jaylen Waddle and Chris Olave as Garrett Wilson was taken a couple of picks ahead of me.
If I had not been going WR-Heavy early, Najee Harris was somebody to debate on taking. I think he is in for a really strong season as the proven bell-cow back for the Steelers and with Kenny Pickett taking a step forward this season.
In Round 3, a guy I was debating on taking when I took ARSB, was there for me still, Chris Olave! Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Olave is going to be the No.1 in a Derek Carr-led offense. Carr has proven over the years he loves to hyper-target one receiver and this year that is going to be Olave.
I'm thrilled to have started with these three receivers and now I can sit back and build out the rest of the positions for the most part. I can't ignore receivers though cause even though it is a position of strength, it needs to stay that way. Ignoring it until the very end will ruin any good start.
This wasn't exactly planned but I did take three running backs next. The board dropped some very solid backs to me, with lots of upside too. Taking backs with upside is something you will need to do when not addressing the position earlier. I didn't need to go for massive upside like if I was drafting Zero-RB, but adding a bit of upside with some stability/safety is key.
With that said, in Round 4, I took J.K Dobbins. My debate at this point was him or Jahymr Gibbs. As much as I like Gibbs, I think Dobbins is the safer bet here to get more of a workload and I felt like I needed more stability than a rookie who might just be a pass-catching back for the most part.
In Round 5, I went with more stability, but a player who I think is being very underrated, Dameon Pierce. I missed on Cam Akers by one pick and could have gone with Rachaad White too, but Pierce is more proven than White so it wasn't much of a choice to me. Pierce with a rookie quarterback, should be relied upon very heavily so this was a great RB2 for my team.
Round 6, we see a familiar face from my previous strategy, Javonte Williams. Just like before, this is a massive upside play here. I'm willing to take the chance in Round 6 on a guy like this over the A.J. Dillon and James Cook who might produce fairly well, but won't take my team to a championship.
I added three more pass-catchers in these rounds, to help solidify my teams strength. One being a tight end, and we'll start there.
Dallas Goedert is my tight end drafted in Round 7. My thinking at going tight end now, instead of waiting, is I was already prob one of the weaker running back rooms in the league, so I didn't want to be weak at both tight end and running back. Yes, I could have gone quarterback as well, but I feel like I can find a quarterback later that I feel good about than a tight end, especially with someone like Goedert on the board still.
Next up I took George Pickens and Rashod Bateman. Pickens has a very good chance at being the WR1 for the Steelers this season and even if he isn't, he and Diontae Johnson should both be very productive. I was actually debating between him and Bateman so I was happy to get both.
Bateman is the WR1 for the Ravens, but Target #2 for Lamar Jackson, after Mark Andrews. However, in an offense that we think will open up the passing game a bit more with the arrival of Todd Monken, I'm happy to take a chance on Bateman as my WR5.
In Round 8, I went back to a familiar face, Antonio Gibson. I didn't go into too much detail with him in the previous strategy, but I do think he gets more involved this season with Eric Bieniemy in town. I expect him to bring over the same utilization of the running backs as Andy Reid employed in Kansas City, that is mostly getting them out in space as possible. This caters to Gibson's strengths a lot.
In Round 9, I finally take my quarterback and I was right, I was able to find a quarterback I liked late in the draft. Tua Tagolvaioloa is my man. He has the weapons around him to be special, we saw it last season. The question is health with him. However, I'm with Geoff Lambert from GoingFor2 who said on the F6P Hour, that if he can stay healthy he could be in the MVP discussion. OK, maybe that is a bit of a hot take, but I do think a top-5 Fantasy quarterback finish is well within reach.
In Round 10 I went back to the receiver well and drafted Michael Gallup. He is now a full year removed from his ACL injury and even though they traded for Brandin Cooks, I still believe Gallup has something left and can be better than Cooks. I'm still taking Cooks over him but at this point in the draft with the receivers that are left, Gallup is an easy late-round pick for me every time.
FantasyPros did not like this draft, giving it a 79/100, C+, and I can't say I disagree. The thing is though with strategies like this where you start heavy with one position, you are unlikely to get a high draft grade. The reason is these draft systems like balance and taking the best available player. You are passing on the "better" player early on to force being strongest at a single position, in this case, wide receiver. Then you draft the rest of the team hoping to get a steal later in the draft.
However, it doesn't mean it can't work and I hope I showed just how you can make it work by drafting some solid running backs, some with upside and high ceilings too. Also by adding a strong tight end and finding value at quarterback later.
I have another note about some of these extreme strategies in the RB-Heavy start, so keep reading.
Since I went WR-Heavy, I thought I'd counter that with RB-Heavy. Personally, this is a strategy that I would use more than WR-Heavy. I know I'm a bit old school and still like running backs. I know it's not cool to like drafting running backs. It's OK, I never sat at the cool kid's table.
I started off with three straight running backs, leading off with, you guessed it, Austin Ekeler. Not much else to add here, so I'll move on.
In Round 2, Najee Harris was the next up for me. Breece Hall went right ahead of him and would have made for a tough choice. Ultimately, I would have still gone Harris knowing that the injury risk is there with Hall and even when he does play, there is a chance the Jets don't give him a full workload. Harris, I'm not worried about workload issues as mentioned before.
Round 3 I could not have asked for a better player to be sitting there with Travis Etienne Jr. Now Aaron Jones was also on the board, but I believe in the Jaguars offense more than I do the Packers this season (I can't believe I just typed that sentence). Etienne should still be the primary ball carrier and lead this team in touches, despite talk that they are going to reduce his workload.
Now there were some pretty nice receivers I passed on with these last two picks. Most notably Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaylen Waddle. However, since I'm forcing this strategy I picked the running backs and I'm actually quite pleased with the start.
Now time to address my receivers. You might be asking yourself what about going after a quarterback or one of the top tight ends? I would not do that unless by some miracle Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts fell to the 4th Round, or if Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews did. For the latter, they were gone by Round 2. For the quarterbacks, they were gone early in the fourth, later than I thought they would have gone.
Anyway back to my draft. My first receiver taken was ol' reliable DJ Moore D.J. Moore. I'm a tad worried about Justin Fields' passing ability, but Moore has been, dare I say it, quarterback-proof in his career. So with my first receiver, I'll take a bit of a safety net. Shockingly I almost had an even more reliable Keenan Allen, who was drafted one pick ahead of me.
Next up I went back to a guy who is a bit safe but also has massive upside in Jerry Jeudy. I've already talked about why I like him, so I'll save you the speech, but he is a great receiver to pair with DJ Moore.
I thought about going a bit risky, knowing that I needed to make up some ground, and taking Christian Watson. However, I believe Watson's floor is much lower and it wasn't a good fit for this team.
My last receiver is Diontae Johnson. A bit boring maybe, but some of the receivers who have a higher ceiling, such as Mike Williams and Brandon Aiyuk were already drafted. Johnson is going to be peppered with targets and should see some positive regression with his touchdowns (zero last season!). His addition gives me a very safe floor receiving room to go along with my very good running back room.
I"ll be honest, I was hoping to get another running back in these rounds, but they were flying off the board in this draft. So it forced me to pivot.
In Round 7 I took Justin Fields to give me a very high-ceiling play at the position. I could have gone after Javonte Williams or even a fourth receiver in Mike Evans, but I thought the upside of Fields could give me a positional advantage over everybody else except those who have the top-3 quarterbacks.
Rounds 8 & 9 I was thinking about taking a running back to make the strength of my team even stronger, but it did not go my way. Instead, this is where I took some chances at the receiver position. Gabe Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Skyyy Moore.
JuJu is probably the safest of the group as I expect him to be the target leader in New England. The receptions and yards alone will keep him a solid FLEX play most weeks with WR2 upside when he scores.
Davis and Moore are a bit riskier but have very high ceilings. Davis was being projected very high last year and despite finishing as WR27 overall was actually not great. Yet we still know the upside is there as we've seen his ability to completely dominate at times. Three times last season he finished as a WR1, once being the No. 1 WR on the week. At this point in the draft, I'll take my chances on Josh Allen's WR2.
Skyy Moore to be fair is a complete dart throw. We don't entirely know what his role will be in the Chiefs offense this season. All we know is his rookie year was not great. Without JuJu there, perhaps there is room for him to break out, and just like Davis, his quarterback isn't bad either!
At this point in the draft, I was looking at players such as Rondale Moore, Jeff Wilson Jr. and D'Onta Foreman. Tight End was a position of need, but knowing I was on the short end of the turn and both teams picking in-between me had their tight end, I waited.
My strategy to wait on a tight end worked and I was able to grab the next best one on the board in Evan Engram. Even with Calvin Ridley returning to the NFL and now with Jacksonville, I think the Jaguars offense is in for a great season and Engram is well worth the TE8 off the board in every league.
My final positional pick was Gus Edwards. A solid running back, not flashy, but how can you go wrong with a guy who has averaged 5.0 yards per carry every season of his career? I like him as a late-round pick, and even more so for this team that stacked their running back room early.
Yes, I could have gone a bit more upside with my fourth running back and selected Roschon Johnson, Tank Bisgby or Kendre Miller, but I don't need that upside at this point. I need steady point production from a backup running back. Besides we don't know what those player's roles will be. I think we have a good idea of what Edwards will be.
Interestingly enough this was my highest score of all three mocks I did using the FantasyPros Mock Draft tool, with a 95 out of 100. I also liked this one the most too, even though there is quite a bit of risk involved with it.
I think one of the reasons the score was so high, is the quality of receivers that fell to me. So keep in mind, you might not get so lucky. Still, I'm a sucker for running backs, so this method is the most preferable to me out of the three I choose to mock for you.
The other note I wanted to make about some of these extreme positional load strategies, is you will need to be very active on the waiver wire and even trading to make up for the deficit you have at the other positions. This is the case whether you go RB-Heavy, WR-Heavy, Zero-RB or whatever you do that ignores either the receiver or running back position for a portion of the draft in the beginning.
I hope this was helpful. Make sure you read the rest of our draft strategy articles so you can go into your drafts with all the ammo you need.
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