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Fantasy Football for dummies: Best picks for the first three rounds

If you are new to fantasy football or just can’t seem to get a hang of the draft, this information is for you. Don't rely on auto-draft to do it for you!


If you’d like to have a shot at winning your fantasy league this year, a solid draft is the first step. But where to start? Well, the first three to four draft picks are of utmost importance. If you’re in a 12-team league, it’s easy to forget about the players past the first pick. But the first three or four players will be the ones starting on your team nearly every week, so they are quite influential. Here, I will give you some tips on how to choose your top players based on where you are in the draft. This is based on a 12-team PPR (points-per-reception) league with a snake-style draft (the last to draft picks twice in a row and then goes backwards down the line).

Helpful hints for draft order by position

Tip (and rookie mistake) number one: Don’t use your first pick at the quarterback position. There’s plenty of depth there with several valuable QBs to choose from. So if you're higher up in the draft, use your first round to choose a running back. There is a major difference from one to the next so make sure you lock down a good one early on. You should be able to find a decent quarterback in the middle rounds. Likewise, there is a lot of value at the wide receiver position, so that can wait a bit as well. If you’re wondering about tight ends, if Travis Kelce and Darrern Waller have already been taken, you could hold off on drafting a TE until later and focus on getting good players at the other key positions, but this year does have a little more depth than usual at the TE position, so look carefully at your options.

Here are the top three positions to focus on for each slot in the draft:

First in the draft (1st, 24th, and 25th): Focus on getting two good running backs and one elite receiver.

Second in the draft (2nd, 23rd, and 26th): Focus on getting two good running backs and one elite receiver

Third in the draft (3rd, 22nd, and 27th): Focus on getting a good running back in the first, then either an elite tight end or elite receiver in the second depending on what’s available, and a running back in the third. If Travis Kelce or Darren Waller are available at tight end, they could get you a positional advantage. Waller spent 35 percent of his snaps last year as a slot receiver or wide out and his stats make him a valuable fantasy pick worth drafting ahead of a WR if possible at this point.

Fourth in the draft (4th, 21st, and 28th): Focus on getting three really strong running backs or possibly two RBs and a receiver in the third depending on who is still available. At fourth, you will likely see the top three running backs gone, leaving you with Ezekiel Elliott and Derick Henry. Most lists put Henry at the top, but it’s Elliott who’s had the most fantasy points in PPR leagues since his rookie year in 2016.

Fifth in the draft (5th, 20th, and 29th): Focus on getting two good running backs first, then either an elite tight end or an elite receiver for your third, depending on who is still available in the third round.

Sixth in the draft (6th, 19th, and 30th): This one depends on a lot, as it’s likely all of the best running backs are taken by now. I would advise to choose a top-tier player at their position, whether that is tight end or wide receiver. If you have (and you likely will) both Travis Kelce and Davante Adams available to you, go with Kelce, as his average of fantasy points last season was over 20 per game. Your second and third picks should be running backs as there should be plenty more receivers to choose from later.

Seventh in the draft (7th, 18th, and 31st): Focus on getting a decent running back, then a tight end, then another running back. Your first will likely be a tier-two RB, but lock it down first before seeing if you have Waller or Kittle available at TE in the second.

Eighth in the draft (8th, 17th, and 32nd): Here, you have some choices that really depend on what’s available. You should go with a running back in the first and second rounds, but in the third, you could choose among a receiver, another running back, or a tight end. You will have to have a look at each one to decide the best option.

Ninth in the draft (9th, 16th, and 33rd): At this point, go with two running backs in the first and second and either a running back or receiver in the third.

Tenth in the draft (10th, 15th, and 34th): Focus on getting a good receiver first, as the running backs will be slim-pickings. Focus on getting a decent running back in the second and third round, looking at the players in the second-round targets and deciding who can offer you the most value.

Eleventh in the draft (11th, 14th, and 35th): Focus on getting a good receiver first, and then a running back second and third. You could have Hill or Diggs available to you in the first, Najee Harris or Gibson in the second, and perhaps Myles Gaskin or Mike Davis in the third.

Twelfth in the draft (12th, 13th, and 36th): Focus on a decent running back first, then a receiver, then another RB or a quarterback. Being last in the draft can be a curse and a blessing. All the top picks will be gone, but you will have the choice of a decent back and receiver back-to-back. I don’t normally advocate for QBs this early on, but this far down the line, it could be a good option as your third-round pick.

Now, let’s look at the list of top 12 players at each position. Keep in mind that fantasy is not always the same as reality. A great quarterback in real life might only get you a few points in fantasy, depending on the method he uses.

Top 12 Running Backs to choose from:

1. Christian McCaffrey

2. Dalvin Cook

3. Alvin Kamara

4. Jonathan Taylor

5. Ezekiel Elliott

6. Derrick Henry

7. Saquon Barkley

8. Aaron Jones

9. Antonio Gibson

10. Austin Ekeler

11. Joe Mixon

12. Najee Harris

Note: after the first three to four, the line blurs a bit.

Top 12 Wide Receivers to choose from:

1. Davante Adams

2. Tyreek Hill

3. Stefon Diggs

4. Calvin Ridley

5. DK Metcalf

6. A.J. Brown

7. Justin Jefferson

8. DeAndre Hopkins

9. CeeDee Lamb

10. Keenan Allen

11. Allen Robinson II

12. Terry McLaurin

Top 12 Tight Ends to choose from:

1. Travis Kelce

2. Darren Waller

3. George Kittle

4. T.J. Hockenson

5. Mark Andrews

6. Kyle Pitts

7. Logan Thomas

8. Noah Fant

9. Jonnu Smith

10. Robert Tonyan

11. Tyler Higbee

12. Hunter Henry

Top 12 Quarterbacks to choose from:

1. Patrick Mahomes

2. Josh Allen

3. Kyler Murray

4. Dak Prescott

5. Russell Wilson

6. Lamar Jackson

7. Aaron Rodgers

8. Justin Herbert

9. Tom Brady

10. Ryan Tannehill

11. Matthew Stafford

12. Trevor Lawrence

Now, here is a breakdown of the top 12 picks for round 1:

1. Christian McCaffrey (RB)

2. Dalvin Cook (RB)

3. Alvin Kamara (RB)

4. Jonathan Taylor (RB)

5. Ezekiel Elliott (RB)

6. Davante Adams (WR)

7. Derrick Henry (RB)

8. Saquon Barkley (RB)

9. Aaron Jones (RB)

10. Tyreek Hill (WR)

11. Stefon Diggs (WR)

12. Antonio Gibson (RB)

But what about my kickers and my defense? Don’t worry. They will not be game changers, at least not every week. Have a look at the early schedule and see which are the best matchups that will get you points on defense, but save those picks for last and try to get some that aren’t the absolute worst, and you’ll be just fine.


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