Pat Fitzmaurice’s perfect 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy, Advice and Goals

The perfect fantasy football draft is a lofty ideal, but doing so is a tricky business. It’s not just a matter of performing your routine without any slip-ups, sticking the landing and getting perfect 10s from all the judges – even the hard-to-please Eastern European judge.

A stinging variable often blocks the way to a perfect draft: other people.

You can do hour after hour with advance planning. You can make a lot of mock drafts (including ours, which is the best in the industry). You can stay ahead of all the NFL news. But once the draft starts, the actions of others will determine your path. As much as we want to be proactive with the management of our fantasy football teams, drafts are more about reaction than action.

There is no magic set of instructions for a perfect press with push buttons. Each draft is a unique organism. I can’t tell you what specific position to draft in each round because that would make for an inefficient draft. It is important to take advantage of the value. Draft value is a moving target that will present itself in different places depending on the decisions of your competitors.

Still, we can position ourselves to have a perfect draft by following two guiding principles and recognizing positional value.

Pat Fitzmaurice’s Perfect 2023 Fantasy Football Draft

Two guiding principles

Guiding Principle No. 1: Try not to divorce yourself from the realities of the regular season.

Let’s start by acknowledging the inevitability of injury. Football is a brutal game. The ship you build during the draft will almost certainly encounter rough seas at some point, mostly due to damage. Draft with the looming storm in mind. What would your starting lineup look like if you lost your top WR or RB to a long-term injury? Would you have enough left to weather the storm? Try to build a sturdy vessel that won’t capsize if you lose one of your best players.

Try to think about in-season management as you draft. Let’s use Jaylen Warren as an example. Many fantasy analysts trump Warren as a draft target because he was so effective as a rookie last year. But that was efficiency in small doses, and there’s little reason to believe we’ll get a significantly larger dose of Warren in 2023, barring an injury to Najee Harris. If you draft Warren, there’s a good chance you’ll drop him in the first two to three weeks of the season when a couple of your players get hurt and you have to replace them with guys who get playing time.

General Principle #2: Study your league settings and construct a draft strategy around them.

Roster settings, lineup settings, and scoring settings should all factor into your approach to the draft. For example, you have to decide whether to draft a backup quarterback. If you play in a 10-team league with 16 roster spots, it makes no sense to draft a backup QB because there will always be decent QBs available in the free-agent pool, and with few roster spots, it important to save these late round arrows to the RB position.

The most important league setting is the number of wide receivers you should start. If your league requires you to start two WRs each week, you don’t need to commit to either a WR-heavy or RB-heavy strategy. But if a league requires you to start three WRs every week, wide receiver becomes the most important position on your team.

If your league’s lineup configuration is one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE, one flex, 37.5% of your starters (excluding defenses and kickers) will be wide receivers. That number jumps to 50% if you start a receiver in your flex spot. If you’re going to start three WRs every week, attack the position early in your draft. Generally, four of your first seven picks should be WRs. Your goal should be to have a decisive advantage over your competition at wide receiver.

A plan for each position

Here is a basic plan for handling each of the four primary positions.

Quarterback: It used to be that drafting a QB early marked you as a tactical novice. Not anymore. Rushing production from the QB position is valuable, and the prevalence of running quarterbacks provides an incentive to get a top quarterback.

I want to land one of the top eight quarterbacks in my 1QB redraft leagues this year, but I don’t want to invest in a second rounder. I can’t bypass a high impact RB or WR in favor of taking Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts.

The sweet spot is the QB4-QB8 lineup: Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence. These five quarterbacks typically come off the board in the late third to late fifth rounds. The RBs and WRs coming off the board in that area aren’t nearly as appealing as the RBs and WRs in the second round.

Backflow: You should make your heaviest investments in stable assets rather than volatile assets. Running backs are volatile assets.

Aside from kickers and defense, RB is possibly the least predictable position in fantasy football. We routinely see running backs taken in the mid to late rounds of fantasy drafts emerge as impactful performers. It’s far less common to see wide receivers emerge from the middle and late rounds of fantasy drafts and make an impact.

Instead of banking on the RB position early in your draft, look for value and draft running backs opportunistically.

Wide Receiver: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the WR position is deep. Yes, many wide receivers get significant playing time. But in 2023, only 29 WRs played at least 10 games and averaged double-digit points in half a point per game. reception (PPR), only 32 WRs accounted for at least 100 targets, only 26 WRs scored more than five touchdowns, and only 21 receivers hit the 1,000-yard mark.

Wide receiver is a more predictable position than running back. In 2022, nine of the 12 wide receivers with ADPs in the WR1 range finished as WR1s in fantasy points per. game (half point PPR). Two of the other three — Mike Evans and Tee Higgins — finished 13th and 14th, respectively, in fantasy points per game. game among receivers who played at least nine games. The only receiver drafted in the WR1 series last year to finish outside the top 14 in fantasy points per game, was Deebo Samuel, who finished 25th in fantasy points per match.

The high reliability of early wide receivers is a good reason to invest heavily in the position.

Tight End: Be flexible with this annoying position. Landing a top tight end can give you a big competitive advantage, but there is an opportunity cost to drafting Travis Kelce in the first round or Mark Andrews in the second or third round. If you miss out on Kelce and Andrews, be willing to be patient at the position. Don’t miss out on a potential difference maker at running back or wide receiver to make a middling tight end.

If tight ends are flying off the board in your draft, you’re missing out on all the players from the top three or four levels. You can justify dumpster diving at TE if it means filling up with talent at the other positions. If you’re not happy with the tight end(s) you draft, you can work off waivers during the season, play matchups and hope to land a reliable TE option.

Approaching round 1

It’s no use talking generally about approaching the first round, as it depends on your draft spot. This is my draft for the first round:

  1. Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)
  2. Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)
  3. Christian McCaffrey (RB – SF)
  4. Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)
  5. Bijan Robinson (RB – ATL)
  6. Travis Kelce (TE – KC)
  7. Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
  8. CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
  9. Tyreek Hill (WR – MIA)
  10. Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)
  11. AJ Brown (WR – PHI)
  12. Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)

If I can’t get one of the top two wide receivers, but can get one of the top three running backs, I’ll go with a “Hero RB” approach, draft one of the top running backs and then ignore the position until intermediate rounds.

Approaching round 2

If I draft a running back in Round 2 (or if I draft TE Travis Kelce), I draft the best wide receiver available in Round 2. I don’t want to fall behind at the all-important WR position.

If I draft a wide receiver in Round 1, I will consider a running back in Round 2 if Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Najee Harris or Josh Jacobs are available. Chubb, Barkley and Henry probably won’t be, as they routinely come off the board in the first round. But if WR Garrett Wilson is available to me in Round 2, I’ll probably draft him over any of these RBs. Wilson had a 1,100-yard season as a rookie playing with many terrible QBs. He should thrive this year in a pairing with QB Aaron Rodgers.

Access to rounds 3-6

In principle, I think the Zero RB approach is viable and sane. In practice I’m not entirely comfortable with it and prefer a Hero RB approach. In other words, I want to get out of the first six rounds with at least one running back.

As mentioned earlier, I’d also like to land one of the top eight quarterbacks, and since I’m not willing to draft a QB in the first two rounds, I’ll probably draft someone from the QB4-QB8 range in this part of the draft .

But this part of the draft is fertile ground for wide receivers, so I would draft two to four in this area. This part of the draft is sometimes called the “RB Dead Zone” because the hit rate for running backs drafted in rounds 3-6 is notoriously poor. That’s another good reason to avoid RBs in this part of the draft and focus on other positions (especially WR).

My favorite WR targets in rounds 3-6 (relative to cost): Chris Olave, Drake London, Christian Watson, Amari Cooper, Michael Pittman.

Dead Zone RBs I’m willing to consider in Rounds 3-6: Rhamondre Stevenson, Breece Hall, Najee Harris, Cam Akers, Aaron Jones, Jahmyr Gibbs.

Access to rounds 7-10

If I don’t have a QB yet, I’ll get one in this draft section.

If I don’t have a TE yet, I will (probably) get one in this part of the draft.

Favorite targets in these rounds at their ADPs:

QBs: Deshaun Watson (76), Dak Prescott (83)

RBs: Antonio Gibson (98), Rashaad Penny (116), De’Von Achane (118)

WRs: Kadarius Toney (85). Jahan Dotson (86), Gabe Davis (89)

TEs – Pat Freiermuth (99)

Access to rounds 11-18

Ah, yes… the dart throwers. Here are my favorite darts to throw in each round.

Round 11: Zay Flowers (WR – BAL). Rookie wide receivers with first-round NFL Draft capital are pretty good bets in fantasy. We saw that with Chris Olave (ADP: WR44) and Garrett Wilson (WR49) last year. We saw it in 2021 with Ja’Marr Chase (WR26) and Jaylen Waddle (WR46) and in 2020 with CeeDee Lamb (WR38) and Justin Jefferson (WR49).

Round 12: Kendre Miller (RB – NO). Miller, a versatile rookie from TCU, could get a chance to join the Saints if Alvin Kamara, as expected, serves a suspension for an incident during the 2022 Pro Bowl weekend in Las Vegas that resulted in battery charges.

Round 13: Tank Bigsby (RB -JAC). Rookie RBs tend to be good draft values, and Bigsby could be the thunder in Jacksonville for Travis Etienne’s lightning.

Round 14: Alec Pierce (WR – IND). A 6-3 receiver with 4.41 speed, Pierce should fit well with rookie QB Anthony Richardson and his big arm.

Round 15: Mike Gesicki (TE – NE). My favorite late round TE target. After being marginalized in Miami last year, Gesicki should enjoy a reunion with his old head coach at Penn State, Bill O’Brien, who is now the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

Round 16: Chase Brown (RB – CIN). The tireless Brown averaged 27.3 and had one game last fall for the University of Illinois and could step into a workhorse role for the Bengals if something were to happen to Joe Mixon.

Round 17: Isaiah Hodgins (WR – NYG). The Giants have a lot of small receivers on the roster, but the 6-4, 210-pound Hodgins is a kingpin red-zone target who had four TD catches over a five-game stretch last December.

Round 18: Chase Claypool (WR – CHI). He hasn’t put it all together yet, now playing for the run-heavy Bears, but Claypool has a 6-4, 238-pound frame and 4.42 speed. All the tools and no toolbox? Maybe, but these compelling attributes make him worth a late-round flyer.

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