Basic Draft Strategy

Brush up on basic draft strategy and you’ll be dominating in no time. If you are looking for something more advanced then you can find some league-specific help here. Getting fully prepared for your draft is not just about ranking and scouting players but knowing the value of players that you are selecting. With each pick, you must be able to adjust and weigh the needs of your team vs the value of the players that are available. The best way to leave feeling happy is to learn about some draft strategies before your draft. You can’t win your league on draft day (except in best-ball leagues) but you can make it easier to put yourself in a good position with a solid foundation. A bad draft? Well, you aren’t out of it completely, but you are going to need to get help in season.

There are as many strategies to tackle your draft as there are people in the world. Over the years, fantasy players have adopted a few tried-and-tested draft strategies that I’m going to introduce and cover in the section. You can choose to apply nothing that you see here, and completely adapt your own but knowing about them will help understand what your league mates might be doing.

Basic Draft Strategy 1- RB-Heavy (Zero-WR)

This draft strategy hinges on the simple premise of putting heavy value on the RB position- no matter who is on the board. It will, of course, mean that you are likely to miss out on elite talent at other positions including. However, it can be a truly effective strategy especially if you have an early pick in the draft. Some reasons to consider the strategy are:

The RB position is the most important

The reasoning being that RBs are the most important position in fantasy football (especially the upper workhorses) and that the best talent will fly off the board. By drafting two solid RBs early, you are giving yourself a bigger chance of getting an elite player for the season (and if both pan out you are well on your way to getting a title).

RB depth is incredibly valuable

Having options at the RB position is huge for your success in your league. Being able to avoid poor matchups and survive injury issues are going to mean that you aren’t scrambling for a waiver wire selection.

When to use

The best time to use this strategy is when you have an early first round pick, as you are going to get one of the elite RBs with your early pick and then still have a number of good options once your pick circles back. Equally in larger leagues, this strategy is a lot more effective, due to RB scarcity.

Basic Draft Strategy 2- Taking WRs early (Zero-RB)

This strategy is the opposite of the RB-heavy approach above. Here instead of opting for elite RB talent, you go for WR talent (normally this is forced due to elite options being taken already). That’s not to say that you just completely punt the RB position, you are simply trying to fix your WR talent and then fill up your roster with effective backups who can have a big role if the player in front of them on the depth chart is injured. Here are some reasons you should consider the Zero-RB strategy:

You may have more starting WRs in your line-up

You need production from all your positions (including RB), but if your league requires a number of WRs to start, then WRs become more valuable with the increased scarcity.

You’ll have fewer opportunities to pick up good WRs in-season

RB depth charts are volatile, mainly due to injuries, meaning that there are going to be some opportunities through the season to pick up a viable option. However, fantasy teams don’t often change their WR depth chart, so there are less opportunities for a new (effective) player to be picked up from free agency.

Elite WRs are more reliable than others

A top WR might not produce as many fantasy points as his equivalent RB, but they are far more predictable and reliable than other receivers. Good WRs tend to have a far more settled role, with the same QB and offensive strategy. In a normal season, elite WRs tend to finish at the top of the position scoring, but in a different order.

When to use

If the top RBs have been snapped up, then you don’t need to just grasp at the next best! Scoop up the available WR talent to give yourself a positional advantage there and focus on getting a number of RBs later in the draft. In smaller leagues, the Zero-WR theory is less risky because there is more depth at the RB position. But, I have to say, generally I don’t like this strategy

Basic Draft Strategy 3- Best Value (Best Available Player Theory)

You probably just read that and thought “obviously I want the best talent on my team”. This strategy, however, is all about the talent available regardless of the position of them. You don’t value RBs over WRs, QBs or TEs- they are all the same. The strategy is all about finding value. This theory is about getting the best-available-player on your roster, regardless of position scarcity or value. Typically, I revert to this strategy in the later rounds, where I have filled out a lot of my roster already

However, the logic still holds true wherever your pick happens to be. For example, you have a late first-round pick, by the time you come to make your pick all of the elite RBs are likely to be snapped up. So, you might lean towards taking one of the best at the WR position instead. The reason that this strategy makes sense to many owners:


When choosing between a second-tier RB and the best player on the board (most likely a WR), consider the injury factor. RBs typically miss more time than other positions due to the pounding that they get at the position. Whereas WRs are more likely to be available for the full season. Using this method will balance the risk of injury against the production of the player.

Proven fantasy players vs risky RBs

When the top-five picks (usually RBs) have been rostered, you have to weigh need vs value. At that point, sticking to the stud-RB theory is likely to damage your team as you are passing up on talent elsewhere. Pushing the decision on your RB to the third or fourth round will give you a player that still has question marks over their situation, but you’ve managed to roster a top WR talent.

Balanced line-up

Each week your entire team faces off against your opponent. Fantasy production can come from anywhere- it could be your QB who blitzes a team through the air on the way to a 30-point week, or a defense that shuts a team out and scores a touchdown. If you have a balanced line-up then you should be able to weather the storm of injuries/ lack of form that your players will suffer through the season.

Hopefully that’s helped you understand a little of what your leaguemates are doing! Don’t forget to check out our other content in our draft kit!

Image Credit: Ron Chenoy – USA TODAY Sports