Fantasy Football Drafting by Position

Your fantasy football season will run for months. But, to a huge degree, the outcome of your season will be decided in the first few hours of your league’s season — while the draft is going on. 

As you make your picks, you’ll build out a roster that you’ll rely on to carry you to victory week after week. You’ll have free agent pickups and trades in your fantasy future, to be sure, but this first roster that you assemble will form the bedrock of your team all season long. It’s crucial to get these picks right.

A lot of great players are available in a fantasy football draft, but — in most leagues, at any rate — you won’t be able to play them all. A team full of nothing but wide receivers is not legal in most fantasy football leagues. To field a full team each week, you’ll need to fill out a roster of certain positions. Getting the right fit for each position starts on draft day, so be smart! Here’s how to draft with positions in mind.

Remembering the roster slots

One of the most boneheaded mistakes you can make on draft day is to draft more players at a certain position than you can use. Remember which roster slots you actually have to fill — and when you’ll run out of room.

A typical fantasy football league will generally have nine starting slots and seven bench slots. You’ll have to field a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense, plus one “flex” player who can be a running back, wide receiver, or a tight end.

However, commissioners are free to change the default settings in many fantasy football clients. So make sure that you know exactly which positions you need to fill. While you’re at it, make sure that you know how many bench and IR spots you have, too.

Scarcity and relative value

Not all positions are the same. As you draft, you’ll want to think about which positions will be the toughest to fill with elite players.

Some seasons, more or fewer great players will be at one position than at another. If you find a scarcity of great wide receivers this year, you may want to prioritize snapping those over running backs. Other years, waiting to pick up running backs can be a huge mistake.

Look at player rankings and try to get a sense of which positions have lots of players loaded up near the top of the list. If the top 10 wide receivers are all pretty good players, but the fifth-best running back is way down the list, that means that running backs are a thinner position this year. Prioritize thin positions to make sure that you’re not left fielding some dud week after week.

Even the seemingly less important positions matter, though. You may be picking your kicker or defense last, but you still want to have your fantasy kicker rankings on hand to make sure that you choose the right one.

Tier lists

Within each position, it’s vital to know when the talent falls off. If you’re trying to decide which position to draft first, you’ll want to know which position will offer you a better consolation prize with your next pick. Maybe you can get a pretty similar quarterback next round, but this is your last chance to get an elite tight end; if that’s the case, you should target the tight end.

The quick and easy way to know this kind of stuff is to look at a tier list. Tier lists break up player rankings into tiers to give you an idea of which closely ranked players are similar and which closely ranked players are actually miles apart in terms of fantasy value. Knowing that you’re facing a major drop-off can help you know when to move on a position with a sense of urgency.

When to forget about positions

Positions are important, but they’re not everything. Especially early on in the draft, it often makes sense to pick the best player available. Fantasy value only matters when you can field the player, of course, so don’t pick more wide receivers than you can field. At the same time, don’t feel that you have to pick a wide receiver because you picked a running back first; it’s OK to pick two players in a row who share a position. Keep positions in mind as you draft, but don’t let them rule you.

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