This is part one of a four part series where I offer my advice on who should be targeted at certain draft positions up until the 7th round since ADP usually starts to go out the window around that point. The advice given is for the most popular league style, 12 team, 1QB, PPR, average roster size. The other columns will address picking from the 1 or 2 spot, the 6 or 7 spot, and the last column will be all of the guys I like in the 7th round and later who I’m targeting regardless of draft position. Last bit of housekeeping, all ADPs being used are from Sleeper, which is the number seen next to all of the names listed.
Maybe you’ve known since the end of last season or perhaps you recently found out the soul crushing news but either way, you are picking dead last (or next to it) in your snake draft. (Side note: convince your league mates to do an auction draft. It’s way better.)
Picking at the end of round one definitely puts you at a disadvantage since you are certain to miss out on the top tier of running backs and, almost as certain, the second tier of running backs. As bad as this sounds it’s no reason for despair. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, go to the store and get vodka and seltzer. (Whispering off to the side… That’s not the saying!? Well it should be!)
I’ve always viewed picking from the 12 spot, and even the 11, differently than the other spots in a draft. Instead of having a pick in every round, I have two picks every other round starting at the top of round 2. Having this point of view allows me to walk the tightrope between drafting for value according to ADP while also being aggressive and getting a player who I believe will have a great season. When picking at the turn, there is a hidden luxury of stealing the guy who fell through the cracks but also the additional luxury of living your best life and going after players you think will be great even if ADP is 5, 10, or even 15 spots lower than your current pick. YOLO right? When there are more than 20 picks between picks, being aggressive and reaching for the guy you know in your gut will be awesome this year can pay off. Who might those players be? Without further ado, here are the guys I’m targeting when drafting at the end of my snake draft later this summer.
Round 1 and 2 (Picks 11/14 or 12/13):
Nightmare has come true and the league has not gone off-script. It’s all gone pretty much straight chalk and all of the following guys are gone: CMC, Cook, Barkley, Henry, Kamara, Taylor, Chubb, Elliot, Adams, and Hill. Don’t panic, there are still a handful of guys on the board who have top 5 (or higher) upside still on the board.
Travis Kelce (ADP of 12) : I did say picking here was walking a tightrope between drafting for value and being aggressive. If a guy falls that can give your team the ultimate leg up on the rest of the competition for the entire season, you should grab him and there’s no better way to do it than by taking the guy who is in a tier all by himself. Sure, he’s getting long in the tooth and his reign as the league’s best tight end will surely end in the next couple of years but I’m banking on him being able to sustain a high level of production for at least another year or two.
Austin Ekeler (15): I highly recommend leaving the first two rounds of the draft with a running back on your roster. Better yet, why not get a player with top 5 PPR upside and Ekeler certainly fits the bill. I get it; last year’s injury was rough and his smaller build lends him to being on the less durable side but when he is on the field his production is outstanding. I also believe the new coaching staff is seeking ways to make him a devastating weapon to the offense while also protecting him from overuse. I don’t think he routinely gets 20 plus touches per game but I do think the touches he does get will be super efficient.
Antonio Gibson (18): Maybe you can land Gibson and Ekeler, maybe you can’t, but either way you are leaving the first two rounds with a top running back with high upside. Gibson already has a top 10 season under his belt after a rookie season where he suffered an extremely painful turf toe injury, his team had a rotating carousel of well below average QB play (All due respect to Alex Smith but statistically he wasn’t good), and lastly, the coaching staff never took the training wheels off and he yielded touches to J.D. McKissic. All of that is water under the bridge though. Fitzmagic is now in town and Gibson is fully healthy. Sure, McKissic might vulture a touchdown or two but I think we are going to see a breakout year from Gibson. Top 3 upside is within the realm of possibilities.
Stephon Diggs (10): If the Ekeler/Gibson combo or drafting a tight end in the first two rounds isn’t your thing, then going back to the chalk pays off by drafting one of the last two in the top tier of receivers. The Bills have an explosive pass-heavy offense which Diggs is the leader of. They didn’t draft a new running back and they have a quarterback who can throw it to the moon. Drafting Diggs and one of the other guys listed above can be done with extreme confidence.
A.J. Brown (14): My advice on Diggs applies here as well in that Brown has top 3 upside within the realm of possible outcomes. The knocks against him make some sense (quarterback isn’t highly talented, on a run first team, and they just added Julio). I’m not buying any of that though. Sure Tannehill isn’t super talented but his efficiency and accuracy are all that is needed to get the most from A.J. Will Derrick Henry score a lot of touchdowns? Definitely. But my suspicion is that the team doesn’t lean as heavily on the run as they did in the past so that they can conserve Henry for a playoff run. He had over 370 carries last season and the stats for running backs following a season with that high of a workload aren’t pretty. I think the Titans know this and have a more balanced approach. As for the addition of Julio I think he only helps, not hurts, Brown’s production. Teams won’t be able to roll double and triple coverage Brown’s way all of the time and that will free him up to do very big things.
Round 3 and 4 (Picks 35/38 or 36/37):
Now the long wait begins before getting to the next two most crucial picks in the draft and we all know the waiting is the hardest part. “Everyday you get one more yard. You take it on faith, you take it to the…” Sorry but it’s such a good song! And now you’ll be singing it to yourself for the rest of the day. You’re welcome!
I won’t list all of the guys who will come off the board from this point forward since the variance is way too high so let’s jump into the guys who I’m hoping will be there for you.
Najee Harris (33): Admittedly, Harris being here is likely a pipe dream but with an ADP of 33 it’s not impossible. If the league lets Harris fall, do not hesitate to run to the draft board even if you went Ekeler/Gibson with 1/2 turn. Yes, the Pittsburgh O-line isn’t good and Big Ben is almost 40 but volume truly is king in fantasy football. Harris might not be the most efficient running back this year (he won’t be) but his volume will be through the roof.
Robert Woods (40): Matthew Stafford was already going to lift the Rams’ wideouts to have their best seasons of the McVay era, but with Akers going down, I’m especially all in on the Rams’ wideouts. Kupp’s ADP, as of this writing, is in the mid 50’s and if you miss on Woods you should feel good about grabbing Kupp later but I’m targeting Woods here. A top 12 season is well within the spectrum of possibilities.
D.J. Moore (42): Last season Moore had almost 1,200 receiving yards on 66 catches with only 4 touchdowns. For those of you not good at math, having only 4 touchdowns on that many catches and yards is very difficult to do. Positive regression to the mean is on its way folks. Also, he was able to do all of that with Teddy ‘2 Gloves’ Bridgewater. The Panthers were so thrilled with what Teddy did they are paying him $7 million to be Drew Lock’s back up in Denver. Is it possible Sam Darnold makes the Panthers worse? Yeah, anything is possible. But the stigma of an Adam Gase offense is very real, as Ryan Tannehill can tell you, and with the Panthers picking up Darnold’s 5th year option. Not to mention the return of a healthy CMC. I’m very much in on a great season for Moore.
Ceedee Lamb (45): But wait, Amari Cooper is still available and he’s the number one passing option for the Cowboys. So, shouldn’t I take him? Not so fast, grasshopper. Yes, Cooper is considered the number one passing option on the team but that means he will be taking on the top corner of the opposing defense each week and that schedule for him this year is brutal. This means Lamb will be the main beneficiary and I predict a breakout year for him. Besides, what’s life without a little bit of risk?
Darren Waller (41): Waller had another huge year last year and what did the Raiders do to make sure that happens again? They shipped out most of their offensive line so their run game will be worse and now Derek Carr will have less time to throw. Where will he go with the ball when he has to get rid of it fast? His security blanket, Darren Waller, that’s who.
Rounds 5 and 6 (picks 59/62 or 60/61)
These are the rounds to fill out the rest of the starting roster minus either a flex spot or tight end. If you draft Kelce or Waller in the first few rounds, my advice is to wait on tight end. The value at this point in the draft just isn’t there. Also, hopefully by this point running back wasn’t neglected and there is at least one on your roster. This means at this point the target is to nab the best players available regardless of position.
Dak Prescott (60): At this point, you’ve almost certainly missed out on the top end QB run of Mahomes, Allen, Kyler, and Lamar. If your league mates didn’t go full out QB panic mode, hopefully they left Prescott this is another chance where you should run, not walk, to the draft board to pick Prescott. Prior to his injury last year, he was on pace to have a record breaking season and all reports seem to indicate that Dak is fully healthy heading into the season. The Cowboys took steps in the draft to improve their defense and, while I don’t think it will be quite as bad as last year, I also don’t think it will be very good and I expect the Cowboys to be involved in a lot of shootouts.
Russell Wilson (66): Wilson represents the last of the top end QB’s worth taking in the top 6 rounds of your draft and after him there’s a pretty steep fall off. Sure he doesn’t run the way he used to a few years ago but in a very similar fashion to Aaron Rodgers he doesn’t have to in order to be a consistent threat to break into the top 5 at the position on a weekly basis. The key difference between him and Rodgers though is that the Seahawks were smart enough to do a lot of things in the offseason to make him happy enough to stay in Seattle. He got a very nice upgrade at tight end in Gerald Everett and while I’m not the biggest fan of D’Wayne Eskridge I think they drafted the speedster to be a threat to pull the top off a defense and open up the field for everyone else. Oh and they brought back the most underrated running back in the league in Chris Carson pretty much solely because Wilson pulled a Teddy KGB and said, “Pay dat man his money.” Two more quick hitters (I know I’m rambling, just enjoy the ride). They have a new OC who will still look for them to run the ball since that is what Pete Carroll wants but I think they find a more balanced approach that will allow Russ to cook up some delicious fantasy points. Also, I don’t think their defense will be very good allowing for potential for shootouts to occur.
Raheem Mostert (62): Raheem F#@&ING Mostert is on this list?? Seriously??? Yes and before you leave, hear me out. While I’m not a huge fan of having to add him with a 6th round pick (I would much rather it be a late 7 or early 8) there is no way I am leaving my drafts without the San Francisco backfield on my roster (Spoiler alert: Trey Sermon is on the list of guys I like after round 6). I have a few reasons as to why I’m doing this. First and foremost the 49ers schedule on paper at the beginning of this season is far and away the easiest of all 32 teams. The 49ers have one of the best o-lines in the league and I expect the 49ers to be in many games with a positive script calling for them to run, run, and then run some more. Second, in the one and only season where Jimmy G stayed healthy, Kyle Shanahan guided them to the freakin Superbowl. So what tactic will Kyle employ to make sure Jimmy stays upright and doesn’t get hurt? He’s gonna tell Jimmy to hand the ball to a running back and get the heck out of the way. Third and lastly, in the high likelihood that Jimmy goes down with an injury, the 49ers paid a king’s ransom to secure their quarterback of the future. They will have Lance prepped and ready to take over. While I’m high on Trey Lance, he will still be a rookie and what’s a rookie quarterback’s best friend? You guessed it, a strong running game. I expect the 49ers to lead the league in rushing this year so I want every part of that on my squad this year.
Tee Higgins (63): I’ve been a little long winded (understatement!) about a lot of players, so far. So I’ll try to keep this short as I wrap up this article (In unrelated news, the road to hell is paved with good intentions). As far as Higgins goes my interest comes down to two things. First I expect Joe Burrow to be back and better than ever. Unlike Saquon, or any running back for that matter, an ACL injury for a QB is a much different injury to overcome. All reports indicate Burrow will be ready to go for the season which leads nicely into the second reason. The Bengals defense is bad. Like really, really bad. It’s worse than Disney’s decision to let JJ Abrams direct and produce the new Star Wars trilogy. It may even be worse than your decision to read this article all the way to the end! Either way, it’s a really bad defense and I expect a lot of negative game scripts which will lead to Joe picking up where he left off last season by throwing and then, throwing some more. Give me any of the Cincinnati wideouts this year who may benefit from all those passes.
That’s it! Those are all of the players I’m targeting when picking from the last position in my redraft leagues that still do snake drafts. Stay tuned for the other parts in this four part series which will also cover drafting in the 1 or 2 position, the 6 or 7 position, and then all of the players I like after the 6th round.