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Fantasy Football Draft Strategies 2023

Frank AmmiranteSenior Sports Writer
@FAmmiranteTFJ
Last Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Fantasy football leagues are won in the draft room. While making waiver pickups and savvy trades can be helpful, a strong draft is the best way to outlast your competitors. Whether you’re playing redraft, dynasty, or best ball, the importance of the draft cannot be overstated.

There are several strategies to incorporate into your draft process, such as Zero RB, which is where you take your first running back in the middle rounds, or Hero RB, where you take one early running back to anchor the position before addressing it again later in the draft.

On this page, you’ll find a thorough breakdown of draft strategies in redraft (including IDP, Superflex, TE Premium, and Guillotine), dynasty (including keeper and devy), and best ball formats. After reading, you’ll have the pieces in place for a successful draft to build a contending team.

Redraft League Draft Strategy

Redraft leagues are where you draft an entirely new team for the upcoming season. Your main goal is to find players in a good position for strong production. You don’t need to think about the big picture here, as you would in dynasty leagues.

With that in mind, let’s look at some strategies you can incorporate into your redraft process.

Zero RB

Zero RB is where you wait until the sixth round or later to take your first running back. The goal is to strengthen your wide receivers while adding an elite quarterback or tight end.

Running back is the most volatile position, where players with projectable volume can lose their role due to poor performance (such as Cam Akers). There’s also a higher injury risk, where you can lose your top pick for a prolonged period (like Jonathan Taylor).

The strategy can work because you can address the position with high upside backups in the later rounds (such as Kenneth Walker). You can also pick up players with short-term bumps in value after they’re forced into larger roles due to injury (like Samaje Perine).

Hero RB

Hero RB involves selecting your RB1 in the first or second round and then waiting until much later in the draft to address the position. This allows you to stack your roster with wide receivers along with a high-end quarterback or tight end.

This bakes in running back volatility like Zero RB but ensures that you have one player who can finish in the upper tier of the position. It’s difficult to find a truly elite running back in the later rounds, but it’s much more likely that you can find Top-24 production there.

That makes Hero RB the preferred approach to redraft league strategies. For example, you can take Christian McCaffrey to anchor your running backs while also adding studs like Jaylen Waddle, Calvin Ridley, and Lamar Jackson to beef up your other positions.

Robust RB

Robust RB is a strategy where you use at least two of your first three picks on running backs. The idea is to secure the position with two or more workhorses projected to get heavy volume. This strategy is used best in half-PPR or standard leagues, where pass-catching is less valuable.

Emphasizing running backs in the early rounds was beneficial when there were more bell cows in the league, back in the LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes days. But now, with more teams utilizing committees, it’s a risky approach.

However, the market has shifted towards wide receivers in recent years. More fantasy players are opting to go with a Hero RB or Zero RB approach. This could allow you to find value in running backs in the second and third rounds, like Rhamondre Stevenson. If you use this strategy, prioritize wide receivers later in your draft.

Auction Draft Strategy

Auction drafts are great because you can bid on your preferred players without worrying about them falling to your pick. The best way to attack this format is to use a “stars and scrubs" approach.

That means having a top-heavy roster, where a large percentage of your bids are on a small group of players with elite upside. This could involve investing the majority of your budget on two wideouts and one running back to anchor your roster, such as Ja’Marr Chase, Calvin Ridley, and Tony Pollard.

From there, you can be more cost-effective with your quarterback and tight end, looking for players who come at lower prices. I would also recommend spending as little as possible on your RB2 instead of making dart throws on runners in ambiguous situations, like Khalil Herbert and Jeff Wilson Jr.

Superflex & 2QB Strategy

Superflex & 2QB leagues completely shake up the draft because quarterbacks are selected much earlier due to their enhanced value. You’ll often find the first round filled with eight or more quarterbacks in your superflex drafts. Be sure to use your superflex only on quarterbacks (unless there’s an injury).

My favorite way to attack this format is to take a Top-8 quarterback and start attacking wide receivers along with a top-tier tight end. From there, you can wait until the fifth or sixth round to get your QB2. I would target undervalued veterans for your QB2 (like Matthew Stafford) while also targeting an upside young player for QB3 (such as C.J. Stroud).

Be sure to have three starting quarterbacks on your roster because you will need them on bye weeks or as injury replacements. This is even more important in 2QB since you cannot start only one QB as in superflex.

TE Premium Draft Strategy

TE Premium is a format where tight ends are awarded 1.5 points per reception instead of only one. As such, this makes them much more valuable, pushing elite tight ends like Travis Kelce to as high as the top three in the first round.

You must get one of the top-seven tight ends in this format. This includes Kelce, Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Dallas Goedert, and Kyle Pitts. You don’t want to lag behind in this position because of the inflated scoring.

That means you will have to take one of these tight ends earlier than you would in conventional scoring formats, so get ready to use your third-rounder on players like Darren Waller.

IDP Draft Strategy

IDP leagues add defensive players into the mix, adding another wrinkle to your draft strategy. The best advice for this format is to pay close attention to the defensive side of the ball here.

  • We’ve got you covered with our IDP rankings if you’re new to this format.

Newcomers to IDP may prioritize offense because that’s what they’re used to in conventional fantasy leagues. You should try to create as balanced of a team as you can.

So you want to mix in some elite defensive producers into your group of offensive players. Be sure to address your defensive positions before the later rounds.

Survivor & Guillotine Draft Strategy

Survivor & Guillotine leagues are where the lowest-scoring team each week is removed from the league. Their players are sent to the waiver wire, where the remaining teams can pick them up.

So you’ll need to look closely at the Week 1 schedule when building your team. You want to ensure that most of your players have good to great matchups in the first week since you don’t have to avoid being the lowest-scoring team.

You’ll be able to strengthen your roster through waiver pickups from eliminated teams, so don’t worry as much about that during your draft. The bottom line is to prioritize your Week 1 matchups.

Dynasty League Draft Strategy

Dynasty leagues are where you draft your full team in your startup draft and then keep your entire roster each season. You need to keep the big picture in mind when choosing your players, adding much greater importance on a player’s age.

You need to put more weight on wide receivers and quarterbacks in dynasty leagues because they have more longevity than running backs.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some strategies to implement into your dynasty prep.

Year 1 Tank

Some dynasty players like to tank in Year 1, opting to prioritize younger players in the hopes of building a super-team in the second year and beyond.

When you draft with this strategy, you need to be prepared to make several trades throughout the year as you try to stockpile picks for the next rookie draft.

It’s also a good idea to simply avoid running backs until late in the draft in a Year 1 tank. You can take backups with some standalone value to use as your starters. This will allow you to focus on taking the best young player available without worrying about your team needs.

Win Now

Taking a win-now approach involves targeting several players who are undervalued due to their advanced age. You can load up on studs like Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, and Travis Kelce with this strategy.

When going with a win now draft approach in your startup, you need to be ready to trade your rookie picks to address team needs (within reason, don’t be overpay).

You must go all-in if you’re using this strategy, so taking the best players regardless of age is the way to go. Refrain from mixing and matching with short and long-term if you want to be a win-now team. Remember, this strategy carries many risks, as your championship hopes could be shattered through injury.

Balanced Approach

Taking a balanced approach is my preferred way to play dynasty. You should prioritize youth while also mixing in some veterans who may have slipped in your draft.

Using this strategy keeps your championship window open in Year 1 while also ensuring that you’ll remain competitive in Year 2 and beyond.

Anything can happen in the fantasy playoffs, so ensuring that you’re in a position to qualify each year gives you a chance to emerge victorious in your league.

Rookie Draft Strategy

The best way to approach your rookie draft is to prioritize the best player available instead of going with your team needs. This allows you to get as much value as possible with each of your selections.

Remember, you can always fill a hole on your roster with a trade. You don’t have to do that in the rookie draft. Instead, be sure to focus on taking the best player available.

For example, if I have Travis Kelce at tight end but Dalton Kincaid is available and he’s fallen past his usual ADP, I’m not going to pass on him in that situation because of the positive expected value.

Keeper Leagues

Keeper leagues are similar to dynasty formats in that some of your players stay on your roster. The difference here is that instead of keeping your entire team, only a few of the players remain (usually at least four).

The best way to approach the draft in your keeper league is to envision your first few picks as your potential keepers after the season. Be sure to incorporate age in your process, as well as position.

Since quarterbacks and wideouts have more longevity, I’d recommend attacking your first few rounds on these positions. You can start off with something like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Garrett Wilson, Justin Herbert, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. This would give you youth and production at quarterback and wide receiver.

Devy Leagues

Devy leagues add another element to dynasty in that you can also select players who are still in college. The best way to approach this format is to draft as if it were a regular dynasty league. Take a balanced approach by prioritizing youth while mixing in some veterans.

You want to make sure you also take some of the elite prospects available, such as quarterback Caleb Williams of USC. The Trojans’ star is considered a generational prospect, so you’ll have to use a higher pick on him.

I wouldn’t go overboard with the devy prospects because their value can fluctuate throughout the years. One player that may have been considered a first-rounder could end up going later in the NFL draft. Having said that, if it’s a player who looks like a sure-fire prospect.

Best Ball and Draft Only Draft Strategy

Best Ball is similar to redraft in that you choose an entirely new roster each season. The difference with this format is that you only draft your team.

There’s no need to worry about making trades or pickups. You also don’t set your lineup. It takes your best score each week at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end automatically.

Let’s take a closer look at Best Ball strategy.

Stacking Teams

The most important strategy in Best Ball is to stack your quarterback with several of their pass-catchers. So if you took Tyreek Hill in the first round, you should try to also get Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa to make a Dolphins stack.

When you combine your quarterback with several pass-catchers, you increase the probability of your team hitting their ceiling at the same time, since there’s a strong correlation between these positions.

Just think about if you had Tua, Tyreek, and Waddle in their shootout win over the Ravens last season. Your Best Ball team would have scored a lot of points that week.

Secure ADP Value

While stacking is most important, you don’t want to jump ADP by several rounds to ensure that you get your desired combination of quarterbacks and pass-catchers.

For example, let’s say that you took Amon-Ra St. Brown in the second round. That doesn’t mean that you need to reach on Jared Goff one or two rounds ahead of ADP just to pair St. Brown with his quarterback.

This also means that if you see a player who has fallen one or two rounds past their ADP, you should definitely take them, even if they don’t fit any of your stacks. Securing ADP value is a good way to optimize your roster.

Roster Construction

When drafting your Best Ball team, you want to make sure to have 2-3 quarterbacks, 4-6 running backs, and 7-10 wide receivers. Wideouts are most important because they can be stacked to your quarterbacks and they also tend to have higher weekly ceilings.

If you took a quarterback in the early rounds like Patrick Mahomes, so you only need one backup, and it should wait until late in the draft.

If you used three of your first five picks on running backs, you only need to roster four or five. Since you’ve devoted a lot of draft capital to the position, you don’t want to go overboard here because the rest of your roster will be weak in that case.

Since wide receivers also have a wide range of outcomes, where even the best players could have down weeks, I would recommend prioritizing this position, especially in the early rounds. It’s good to have about five wideouts after eight rounds.

Author

Frank Ammirante

Frank Ammirante is a Senior Sports Writer at The Game Day. Previously, he wrote for 4for4 Football and RotoBaller. Frank is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer's Association while maintaining an active presence within the community. He has competed in industry contests like the Scott Fish Bowl, The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and more. Frank will be making his debut in Tout Wars this year. He's got a diverse sporting background, but specializes in football and baseball.

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