This column will visualize how many fantasy points we should expect to receive at each selection based on average draft position (ADP). The data covers the last six seasons, which is enough time to begin drawing conclusions. Should we wait to select a quarterback later in fantasy drafts? Is drafting a tight end early bad? Which range of running backs should we avoid? These types of questions can be answered looking at the four charts below.
How to read the charts:
On the left side, you’ll see the ADPs where “QB1” means the first quarterback drafted on average. The bottom of the chart is PPR fantasy points per game. The gray parts of the chart show the range of fantasy points players at that position in recent seasons, and the lines in the middle of them are the medians. I recommend looking for trends in the charts from top to bottom, but I’ll explain my takeaways under each one. Let’s dive in.
Compared to other positions, quarterbacks have a slimmer range of outcomes, as evidenced by how narrow the gray parts of the chart are. Most quarterbacks end up averaging 15 to 20 fantasy points regardless of where they are selected in drafts, and the drop-off from the highest drafted quarterbacks to the mid-range quarterbacks is marginal, meaning this chart is more evidence that waiting to draft a quarterback until the middle or late rounds is optimal. In fact the QB2, QB5, and QB6 have a higher median than the QB1 over this sample, and win rates based on where the first quarterback is taken suggest it’s best to wait until rounds 7-12 to select your QB1.
How to attack QB in 2020 fantasy drafts:
The only way I’m drafting Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson is if I have already drafted Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and/or Mark Andrews and it’s at least the fourth round. That means I’ll likely be underweight on the MVP frontrunners, even though I stan bets on Mahomes for MVP at +400 odds… The next tier of quarterbacks is more interesting -- Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and Russell Wilson. I don’t mind snagging one of these quarterbacks in the sixth, seventh, or eighth round if they are around and I have one of their pass-catchers on my roster… If these quarterbacks get scooped up before then, I’m not sweating. I like Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford in standard-sized leagues and Joe Burrow, Teddy Bridgewater, and Gardner Minshew in deep leagues.
Perhaps this data is skewed by the Rob Gronkowski era, but this chart is evidence that drafting one of the elite tight ends is a sound strategy. The top-three tight ends over the last six seasons have returned high-end production and have avoided completely busting whenever healthy. There’s something to drafting one of the premier tight ends in the second or third round if you think your in-depth research at running back and receiver is stronger than your leaguemates. Of course, most people think they are smarter than they actually are. The drop-off after that elite tier is very noticeable on the chart. The TE4 through the TE17 have produced very similar fantasy points, which suggests spending a fifth- or sixth-round pick on the position is sub-optimal. If you miss out on the top of the class, it’s probably best to just wait until the eighth-, ninth-, or tenth-round to grab your first tight end.
How to attack TE in 2020 fantasy drafts:
I think it’s almost necessary to spend at least one of your top-two round picks on a running back given the state of the position, but Travis Kelce is someone I’m targeting in the second round, even over receivers like Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and DeAndre Hopkins. One of my favorite roster constructions is RB-Kelce-WR-WR-WR… When I don’t go Kelce early (or George Kittle at the 2nd/3rd turn), then I’ll be waiting until way later in the draft, likely until at least the sixth- or seventh-round when I’ve been happy to select Tyler Higbee. If I even wait longer, then Hayden Hurst is my favorite target. Higbee and Hurst are underrated talents with huge volume potential.
Compared to quarterback and tight end, running backs are more boom/bust for fantasy football, as evidenced by the width of the gray density hills. The highest-drafted running backs have the most upside (duh), but they bust at relatively high rates. Figuring out which backs are landmines in the first and second round is a huge part of fantasy every season. My biggest takeaway, however, is how poor the running backs drafted in the RB15-RB24 range have done. They bust all the time and very rarely enter the elite mix. This is probably because we rank dusty running backs in bad offenses in this range just because they are expected to handle 200 carries. Volume certainly matters, but not all volume is equal. It appears best to avoid running backs in this tier all together and target wide receivers, which we’ll get to in just a second.
How to target RB in 2020 fantasy drafts:
It’s impossible to argue against Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara at the top of the list, but there is no consensus on RB6 to RB13. I particularly like Joe Mixon the best out of this group but am totally fine with Miles Sanders and Kenyan Drake whenever I have a later pick. If there are two running backs I like in the first two rounds, then I love to start drafts RB-RB, but I don’t mind going RB-Kelce or RB-Julio either… The Leonard Fournette through David Johnson range is one that I’m just avoiding. I’d rather have strong wide receivers and circle back to running back in the middle rounds… My biggest strategy this offseason has been to draft pure handcuffs in elite offenses (i.e. Chase Edmonds, Alexander Mattison, Darrynton Evans, etc.). If coronavirus testing causes more games missed, these backs could be league winners. There’s simply a better chance of Edmonds (RB52) turning into a league winner than Sony Michel (RB39) or Jordan Howard (RB40).
Over the last six seasons, the very highest-drafted receivers have been consistently good, but there hasn't been much of a difference between the WR6-12 range and the WR16-24 range. I expect this trend to continue with offenses passing the ball more than ever and teams using more three- and four-receivers sets more than ever. It’s possible that teams spread the ball around more instead of locking onto the alpha receiver. That would make the middle class healthy. Compared to running backs, receivers bust at lower rates relative to positional ADP, but the upside appears to be slightly lower.
How to attack WR in 2020 fantasy drafts:
Michael Thomas and Davante Adams are safe first-round picks, but I question if they have enough upside at their respective ADPs to challenge teams that feature Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, etc. at the top. I haven’t been drafting either of these receivers much, and the same can be said about Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and DeAndre Hopkins. The second-round running backs and Travis Kelce are higher-upside picks in my opinion, although I realize it lowers my teams’ floor… Because of this strategy, I’m absolutely hammering receivers in the third- through sixth-rounds. Receivers like Allen Robinson, Calvin Ridley, Robert Woods, and DK Metcalf are targets of mine with my goal being to draft my fourth WR by the seventh round at the latest (assuming I’m in a league with a flex).
Optimal Starts Through 10 Rounds
If I have a top-five pick:
If I have a late-round pick:
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