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Perfect 2024 fantasy football draft strategy, round by round for 12-team leagues

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Perfect 2024 fantasy football draft strategy, round by round for 12-team leagues


• Wide receiver is the right first-round pick outside of 1.01: Christian McCaffrey is the right pick at 1.01, but at any other pick in the first round, a wide receiver is the right way to go.

• Find a top-six quarterback and tight end: Picking one of the elite quarterbacks and tight ends was a winning strategy last season and should be again this year.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF’s fantasy football mock draft simulator to find the right draft strategy for your specific pick number and league settings.

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

The perfect draft series combines current ADPs from expert and casual drafts to see who should be available at each pick and make the best picks given that information. This draft is designed for 12-team PPR leagues.

FantasyMDS

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Monday, July 8

Round 1, Picks 1-12: Draft a wide receiver

Anyone with the top overall pick should take McCaffrey with little hesitation. He scored over 100 more PPR points than any other running back last season and has the perfect combination of talent, opportunity and situation. Anyone missing out needs to pivot to a wide receiver. No quarterback or tight end is worth a first-round pick this year. Bijan Robinson and Breece Hall are both worthy of being selected in the first round, but both also have slightly higher ADPs than they should given the talent at wide receiver. That means if you pick anywhere from second to 12th, wide receiver is the best option.

Top Target: CeeDee Lamb

Lamb noticeably improved each season and now, he’s at the top of the position. He finished last season as the top wide receiver and has less competition for targets this season after Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup‘s departure. The only notable addition is sixth-round receiver Ryan Flournoy, which will have no impact on Lamb’s target share.

In contrast, Justin Jefferson has a new quarterback, Ja’Marr Chase’s quarterback is coming back from injury, and Tyreek Hill is 30 years old, adding a little risk to each of the other top wide receiver options.

Possible Targets: Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, A.J. Brown

Round 2, Picks 13-24: Draft a quarterback, running back or Drake London

Last season, the perfect pick in the second round was often a quarter. Patrick Mahomes ADP was a bit high, but either Jalen Hurts or Josh Allen was typically the best pick. Those two quarterbacks also happened to be the quarterbacks most frequently on ESPN championship game teams last season. While Hurts lost Jason Kelce and Allen lost Stefon Diggs, they are both still worthy of second-round picks.

Hurts’ ADP varies significantly from one site to another, as he often falls to the mid-to-late third round on some sites. Depending on the site, you could gamble and wait until the second round and hope Hurts falls. In that case, the best option is often a running back.

Top Target: Saquon Barkley

Barkley finished last year at RB9 thanks to his volume. He finished fourth in touches per game but finished below 4.0 yards per carry. He received little help from the New York Giants offensive line, which ranked third-worst in team run-blocking grade last season at 41.1. Nine offensive linemen played at least 250 snaps, and none had a run-blocking grade above 70.0. Now Barkley is with the Eagles, who have the second-best offensive line despite losing Jason Kelce.

Saquon Barkley 08 ol depth chart

Possible Targets: Kyren Williams, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Drake London, Derrick Henry

Round 3, Picks 25-36: Draft a wide receiver or Jalen Hurts

As mentioned in Round 2, the hope is for Hurts to fall to this pick to get a top-two fantasy quarterback at a value. If a quarterback was selected in Round 2, or if both Allen and Hurts are off the board, then wide receiver is the clear choice in Round 3. There are several players who are the clear top wide receiver on their team with a long history of fantasy production to pick from.

Top Target: Jalen Hurts

Hurts has averaged at least 21.0 fantasy points per start in every season of his career. While his tush push touchdowns have certainly helped his fantasy value, he’s one of just four quarterbacks with at least 2,200 rushing yards over the last three seasons while no one else is above 1,300. Considering one of those four is a backup and the other two are at an age where we stop seeing as much rushing production from quarterbacks, Hurts could be the best rushing quarterback this season. He is also surrounded by a top-three receiving corp and offensive line so even if his rushing touchdown total recedes, his fantasy production should remain high.

Possible Targets: Brandon Aiyuk, Mike Evans, D.K. Metcalf, Michael Pittman Jr., Deebo Samuel Sr.

Round 4, Picks 37-48: Draft a running back or wide receiver

The choice in this round largely depends on how the first three rounds went. There usually isn’t a quarterback of value in this round, and while a few tight ends could be considered, there are even better values at tight end in Round 5. This leaves wide receiver and running back as the values here. If you missed out on Christian McCaffrey in Round 1 and running back in Round 2, then it might be time to pick a running back for the first time. If not, then it’s time for another wide receiver.

Top Target: D.K. Metcalf

Metcalf has been a top-16 fantasy wide receiver in three of the last four seasons. The one exception was last season where he had a slow start but was a top-10 fantasy wide receiver from Week 8 until the end of the season. There is reason for optimism this season with Ryan Grubb as offensive coordinator. The Seahawks should be passing the ball a lot given Grubb’s history at Washington, and most importantly, they should run more plays. The Seattle Seahawks have run the fewest offensive plays in two of the last three seasons and have consistently been below average. A faster pace should help the fantasy production of everyone in the offense.

D.K. Metcalf 03 production by situation

Possible Targets: Rachaad White, Alvin Kamara, Stefon Diggs, James Cook, DeVonta Smith

Round 5, Picks 49-60: Draft a tight end

Round 5’s start is a sweet spot for adding a star tight end, which is why that position was ignored at the end of Round 2. The top tight ends available at this spot have either finished as top-six fantasy tight ends each of the last two seasons with the same quarterback and offensive play-caller or are a young tight end with a great opportunity to have a career year.

Top Target: Dalton Kincaid

Kincaid posted one of the best rookie seasons by a tight end of all time, including the fourth-most receptions, but Sam LaPorta’s success overshadowed it. Typically, tight ends improve in their second season, and there are a lot of vacated targets in Buffalo after Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis departure. Given Kincaid’s quarterback and situation with the Buffalo Bills, Kincaid should be a top-three fantasy tight end this season. The only thing holding him back is his unproven talent compared to other tight ends who are more proven.

Possible Targets: George Kittle, Kyle Pitts, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Jake Ferguson

Round 6, Picks 61-72: Draft a running back

The running backs, at this point of the draft, are favorites to start when healthy but are facing significant competition. While these running backs aren’t necessarily the most exciting names, only so many are expected to be clear starters on their team even if they are on the older side. It’s good to have someone you can put in your starting lineup on a weekly basis as long as they aren’t injured.

Top Target: Aaron Jones

Jones is tied for fifth in PFF offensive grade over the last three seasons at 90.7, but he’s been held back by the Green Bay Packers running back committee. Jones only has eight rushing touchdowns over the last three years compared to the bigger A.J. Dillon‘s 14. He played over 60% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps in half of games in 2021 and 2022, but that fell to just the final game of 2023 thanks to an injury-filled season.

In Minnesota, he will have minimal competition for snaps and touches compared to other running backs. Given how successful he’s been regardless of the situation, he is worth the risk at this point of the draft given he will be 30 by the end of the season and his recent injury history.

Aaron Jones 03 production by situation

Possible Targets: Rhamondre Stevenson, James Conner, Zamir White, Jonathon Brooks, D’Andre Swift

Round 7, Picks 73-84: Draft a wide receiver or James Conner

With a top-six quarterback and tight end secured, the next several picks will be some combination of running back and wide receiver. When you have a top-six quarterback or tight end, you’re not benching them because a backup has a better matchup. That means a backup is only necessary in case of injuries, so you can draft more running backs and wide receivers before making lineup decisions based on matchups and who breaks out.

In this case, a wide receiver is best to pick because several proven players are in new situations this year. Ideally, the new situation allows them to outperform their ADP. If it doesn’t, then hopefully one of the several sleeper wide receivers picked later ends up breaking out.

Top Target: Hollywood Brown

Brown was a top-21 fantasy wide receiver in PPR points per game in 2021 and 2022, but his 2023 role changed after the Arizona Cardinals moved on from DeAndre Hopkins. That and the quarterback situation resulted in a lack of production in 2023, but he has an opportunity for a huge season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brown is consistently near the top of our separation metrics, which could make him a perfect pairing for Patrick Mahomes. Considering how slowly the Chiefs have brought on rookie wide receivers in the past as well as Rashee Rice’s legal situation, Brown could be Mahomes’ top wide receiver this season.

Possible Targets: James Conner, Diontae Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Rashee Rice, Ladd McConkey

Round 8, Picks 85-96: Draft a running back or Ladd McConkey

At this point, this team should already have two running backs, but it’s time to pick up a third. There are a few running backs in two-player committees where either one has a chance to have a breakout season given their and their team’s talent. The eighth round is the perfect time to pick up one of these running backs because once they are gone, any other running back is much more of a gamble.

Top Target: Tony Pollard

Pollard has the fourth-highest offensive grade for a running back over the last four seasons at 91.3, behind only Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. Expectations were high last season after the Dallas Cowboys let go of Ezekiel Elliott. Unfortunately, it took time for him to recover from his leg injuries from the 2022 divisional playoff round. By Week 11, he was back to his former self. He was the highest-graded rusher from that point on, finishing as RB13. He was finally receiving the playing time he deserved but wasn’t getting the ball enough when he was on the field.

Now, he’s with the Tennessee Titans and competing for playing time with Tyjae Spears. The sophomore running back is also very talented, but given Pollard’s past production, he has a chance to be the lead back in the Joe Mixon role in Brian Callahan’s offense.

Tony Pollard 04 utilization

Possible Targets: Jaylen Warren, Ladd McConkey, Zack Moss, Javonte Williams, Devin Singletary

Round 9, Picks 97-108: Draft a wide receiver or Javonte Williams

Wide receiver is the best option here, but there is still an important decision to make. You can draft a proven veteran or one of the younger wide receivers in the league. Someone like Tyler Lockett or Courtland Sutton is very likely to beat their ADPs if they stay healthy, but they are unlikely to finish among the top 24 without some touchdown luck. The younger wide receivers are less likely to beat their ADP, but they have a higher chance of being an elite wide receiver this season. The right decision likely depends on how risky the previous wide receivers picked have been.

Top Target: Courtland Sutton

Sutton has finished over 60% of his games as a top-36 fantasy wide receiver each of the last two seasons but has rarely finished among the top 12. Sutton is the clear top wide receiver on the Denver Broncos depth chart after trading away his main competition Jerry Jeudy. If Sutton reports to training camp despite his contract situation or if he receives a new contract, he’s a perfect complementary piece to a team drafting many wide receivers.

Possible Targets: Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Javonte Williams, Brian Thomas Jr., Keon Coleman

Round 10, Picks 109-120: Draft a wide receiver

The next four rounds are mostly about picking your guys. If your favorite sleeper quarterback or tight end is available, it’s OK to pick them, but I’d advise stocking up on even more running backs and wide receivers. A running back or wide receiver who somewhat exceeds expectations here would be in your starting lineup in a good matchup but even a quarterback or tight end who is picked here and has a good season won’t start over the star quarterback and tight end selected, regardless of the matchup. 

Top Target: Tyler Lockett

Lockett had been a consistent fantasy asset with four straight 1,000-yard and eight-plus touchdown seasons, but he gained fewer yards and caught fewer touchdowns last season at 31 years old. His decline was only in his statistics, as his PFF receiving grade was very consistent. He’s finished between 77-83 in each of the last six seasons. The Seahawks have a new offensive coordinator in Ryan Grubb. While everyone is excited for Jaxon Smith-Njigba, ideally, Grubb will be able to take advantage of Lockett’s talent to keep him fantasy-relevant.

Tyler Lockett 09 fantasy production

Possible Targets: Keon Coleman, Mike Williams, Jameson Williams, Jakobi Meyers, Curtis Samuel

Round 11, Picks 121-132: Draft a running back or wide receiver

Top Target: Mike Williams

Williams finished last season with the 10th-most fantasy points per game at wide receiver, albeit on three games played. He caught 15 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in his last two games but then tore his ACL. His injury history is extensive, and he might not be ready to start the season. Williams signed with the New York Jets in free agency, and his new head coach Robert Saleh compared his timeline to Breece Hall’s last year. Williams might not be a fantasy starter in September or October, but if the Jets offense is playing well, Williams could be a steal over the second half of the season.

Possible Targets: Jakobi Meyers, Curtis Samuel, Zach Charbonnet, Chuba Hubbard, Rico Dowdle

Round 12, Picks 133-144: Draft a running back or wide receiver

Top Target: Rico Dowdle

Dowdle hasn’t been given many opportunities in the NFL with less than 100 rushing attempts in his four-year NFL career. The only reason he’s worth considering is because of the Cowboys backfield. Given Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons‘ contract situations, the Cowboys’ only noteworthy investment at running back was bringing back Ezekiel Elliott. The future Cowboys Ring of Honor member already has over 2,000 career rushing attempts, ranking in the top 40 all-time. Unless Dallas brings in another running back or someone lower on the depth chart breaks out in training camp, Dowdle will have significant volume at some point this season. In fantasy football, volume is more important than talent.

Rico Dowdle 05 depth chart

Possible Targets: Chuba Hubbard, Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy, Antonio Gibson, Gabe Davis

Round 13, Picks 145-156: Draft a running back or wide receiver

Top Target: Chuba Hubbard

Hubbard was used in a variety of situations over his first two seasons, and his role increased significantly for the 2023 season, playing at least 64% of his team’s offensive snaps in each of his last seven games. He finished at least RB28 or better in each of those games including two weeks as a top-12 running back.

The Panthers added Jonathon Brooks in the draft as the first running back selected, but he is coming off a torn ACL. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Brooks still has a ways to go in his recovery and will likely be eased into training camp. Hubbard has a decent chance to be the starter at least early in the season, and the Panthers shouldn’t rush Brooks. Hubbard is a great gamble this late in the draft as someone capable of being a feature back.

Possible Targets: Gabe Davis, Jaleel McLaughlin, Adam Thielen, Darnell Mooney, Khalil Herbert

Round 14-18: Fill Depth 

Use any additional picks to pick a kicker and team defense if your league plays with them and forces you to draft them. If not, stock up on more running backs and wide receivers.





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