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Best Fantasy Football Draft Strategy For 2023

By Jared Smola 2:18pm EDT 8/7/23

Draft Sharks Best Fantasy Football Strategy – The Draft 

The most common question we receive is, “What is the best strategy for drafting in fantasy football?” 

But there is no simple answer. We believe the best draft strategy can be broken into three pillars:

  1. Pursue Value Above All Else
  2. Don’t Draft From Rankings That Look Like Everyone Else’s
  3. Chase Upside Players In The Later Rounds

Here is an in-depth look into the three pillars for winning your draft ...

TIP

Looking for a round-by-round strategy for your 12-team PPR league? Our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Guide is perfect for you. 

1. Pursue Value Above All Else

Most fantasy football owners inherently understand value-based drafting.

Think about it.

Value-based drafting explains why only some managers take QBs in the 1st round of a 1-QB league. Even though QBs represent the highest-scoring position. 

The value doesn’t line up:

The production doesn’t fall off as sharply from QB1 to QB12 as from RB1 to RB24 (assuming you start two RBs in your league). So you know you can wait on a starting QB.

Taking stud RBs or WRs with your first few picks makes the most sense. But after that, things can get tricky … 

How Value Should Drive Your Draft Strategy

Value can unlock the season’s difference-making players. That will be your best fantasy football strategy.

Here’s an example for you:

It’s easy to point to Josh Jacobs in 2022 as a league-winning pick. But what made him so?

It’s a two-part answer:

  1. Obviously, how many points he scored factors in. 
  2. But you also have to consider where you were able to draft him. 

That’s how you decide on TRUE player value. 

Think back to last summer:

No one projected Josh Jacobs as the potential top fantasy RB. 

You could draft him as a reserve – and much later than the top few tiers of RBs.

That’s how getting “value” will turn your draft into a championship team! 

And drafting for value is your best fantasy football strategy to kick off a championship season.

Sniffing out value like a (Draft) Shark! 

“Value” doesn’t mean taking the highest potential scorer at each turn. 

It doesn’t mean you should ignore which positions you have already filled. 

And it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to wait on that QB.

Actual draft value means accounting for all of these factors (and more, as we’re about to discuss) as you draft. 

With the idea of value at the forefront, here are some other cornerstones of the Draft Sharks fantasy football draft strategy.

TIP

Identifying player value is crucial to your fantasy football draft strategy. You literally can't win without a strategy built around it. Our Draft War Room helps you identify the best values at each draft pick.

Pursuing value means staying flexible as you draft

When your opponents present you with value, be ready to pounce …

ZeroRB. HeroRB. Early QB. Bully TE.

You’ll hear other fantasy sites touting these specific draft strategies as the only way to win. It’s BS.

The truth is that you can win with any draft strategy. (So long as you’re focused on drafting for value). 

It all depends on the perceived player values in any given preseason – and the draft:

a) Perceived Preseason Player Value

The positions at which you allocate your early- and later-round picks will vary yearly. Depending primarily on where the pockets of value are at each position. It might make sense to target an elite RB for one season. The following year might present early WR/TE picks as the optimal path before you hammer later-round RBs.

b) The Draft

Every draft is different. If you find yourself in a league that loves snatching up WRs early, grabbing the falling RB will give you more of an advantage. Play in a league that loves waiting on QBs? Capitalize by grabbing an elite QB past his ADP. That’s the winning essence of drafting for value!

The key to a successful fantasy football strategy is a willingness and ability to stay flexible during your draft … so you can pounce on value.

Learn more about our ultimate value system: Dynamic Most Valuable Player

 

2. Don’t Draft From Rankings That Look Like Everyone Else’s

The worst fantasy football strategy starts by drafting like everyone else in your league.

Don’t clip your wings and make it impossible to gain an edge.

If your rankings look the same as the rest of your league, you tell everyone, “I’m just gonna be luckier than you.” 

If you want to be lucky, buy a lottery ticket. 

Luck should not be part of your fantasy football draft strategy.

How you can break from the herd

First, start with unique rankings to differentiate yourself from the herd. But it doesn’t end with your player rankings.

It’s about recognizing your situation and getting different in ways that can help you most.

That can be as simple as adjusting to league settings where your league mates fail to.

Ask yourself these crucial questions:

  • Do I have funky scoring at a specific position or two? 
  • Are my competitors overrating the impact of 6-point passing TDs on where you should target a QB?
  • Am I playing in an IDP league with 11 other people who ignore that area outside of draft day?

Or it could be any number of different circumstances.

Your chance of winning all ties back into value.

We’re not just talking about value in specific players.

There’s also value in finding the soft spots – in the format, the competition, even draft flow – and attacking.

Want more data when you are drafting? Check out our award-winning 3D Projections.

 

3. Chase Upside Players In The Later Rounds

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” - Ricky Bobby 

Here at Draft Sharks, we spend each offseason breaking down the fantasy outlook for every single relevant player:

  • Highlighting undervalued players
  • Warning you away from overvalued players
  • Identifying sleepers

It’s all essential.

But fantasy seasons often hinge on nailing the few true later-round league winners.

Think Josh Jacobs, Jamaal Williams, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram in 2022. James Conner and Leonard Fournette in 2021.

These guys scored so many fantasy points, especially relative to where they were drafted, that you HAD to have ‘em to win.

In most cases, you should have this league-winning upside in mind with every pick you make

Of course, we can’t know who the league winners will be before each season. But we can pinpoint the players more likely to be league winners than others at similar ADPs.

We identify them by looking at their prior performance, supporting cast, coaching tendencies, etc.

When you’re on the clock and deciding between two or more players, always ask yourself:

“Which of these guys is more likely to be the league-winning, had-to-have player?”

Then take that guy.

TIP

Nailing some sleeper picks is crucial to your winning fantasy football draft strategy. Check out our Fantasy Football Sleepers.

Let's Build a League-Winning Roster Together

We just covered our three pillars for a successful fantasy football draft strategy, and now we want to highlight how you can take them to the next level.

Draft War Room: The Sharpest Drafting Tool Ever Made

Sync your league to get a powerful, dynamic draft board with rankings and built-in strategy custom-fitting to your league format.

As you draft, 17 value indicators work behind the scenes to give you the optimal pick recommendation at every turn.

That’s hundreds of real-time calculations to deliver a Dynamic Most Valuable Player (DMVP) rating for every draftable player.

Learn more about how our Draft War Room tool can help you win your league.

3D Projections: True Dimension of Every Player's Potential

You’ll get deadly accurate projections from proven winners -- plus floor, ceiling, and consensus projections.

Accurate projections are a crucial first step in any draft tool. But that is still just one data point per player.

With 3D projections, we give you 3 more crucial data points:

  • A consensus projection from 38 other sites.
  • A floor projection for each player.
  • Plus a player’s ceiling, along with the likelihood he’ll hit that ceiling

Learn more about our 3D projections »

TIP

Finding the most accurate player rankings is critical to a winning draft strategy. According to FantasyPros, Draft Sharks has had the MOST ACCURATE draft rankings over the last three seasons.

 

More common Frequently asked questions 

What is the best order to draft in fantasy football?

Short Answer: 

  • 12-team PPR leagues - Best draft position is the number 7 pick 
  • 12-team half-PPR leagues - Best draft position is the number 1 pick 

Long answer: It depends. Jared dug into the math in his in-depth article about the best draft position in fantasy football. He compared our priority DMVP numbers against ADP to look for the strongest and weakest positions. 

What position should you draft first in fantasy football?

Short Answer: Most managers should draft a wide receiver with their first pick this season in fantasy football. 

6 of our top 12 players in our fantasy football rankings are wide receivers, 5 are running backs, and a single TE slipped into the top 12. But your draft position determines the best player available when it is your turn to select.

No matter what, you should not draft a quarterback as your first position in a 1-QB league.

How should the first round of fantasy football go?

You never really know how the first round of your fantasy football draft will go. But you can assume RBs and WRs will be the most valued positions. After that maybe Travis Kelce and a top-ranked QB or two. You should be flexible in figuring out your first-round pick.

Should you draft a QB or RB first in fantasy football? 

The question of whether you should draft a QB or RB first in fantasy football can only be answered definitively by understanding your league format and scoring rules. Though most times, the answer will be "RB over a QB." In a Superflex or 2-QB league, it might be the inverse. 

Should you draft an RB or WR first in fantasy football?

Depending on your league rules, you'll almost always draft a RB or WR first in fantasy football. In most cases, we've found the answer to "draft a WR first." But in non-PPR leagues, RBs can be a viable first-draft pick.

Should my first fantasy pick be a QB?

Rarely should your first fantasy pick be a QB. The exceptions would be if you play in a "superflex league." Or if your top-ranked QB falls to you very late in the second round. 

What is the best strategy to draft in fantasy football?

The best strategy to draft in fantasy football almost always comes down to using a flexible draft strategy. A lot will depend on your scoring rules, league format -- and ultimately, the draft strategy your opponents use will leave you with opportunities to outsmart them.

What is the best way to pick fantasy draft order?

The best or “fairest” way to pick your fantasy draft order is random. 

But there are a lot of ways to generate a random order:

  • Let the league platform generate the random order. As the commissioner, I will tell the chat I plan to hit random three times to ensure it is random. But if you don’t alert the chat first, they will think you are just doing it until you get your desired order. Get ahead of the problem! 
  • 100 Yard Rush is a fun way for a group to determine a random draft order. 
  • Some leagues will do a CPU Super Smash Bros tournament. Pick your avatar and get to battle! This also works with WWE Royal Rumble or an equivalent video game.
  • Deck of cards or just rolling dice to determine the random order. You feelin’ lucky?
  • Everyone picks a song. Hit shuffle and let Spotify decide who wins with some tunes.

Random is the “best” way, but it is not always the most fun. Some other fun ways to determine the draft order are: 

  • Participate in mock NFL combine drills. The winner gets to select their draft position first. Then second place chooses, and so on.
  • Mini-golf tournament 
  • Beer chugging contest. Or even beer olympics. 
  • Plan ahead of time and do a March Madness Bracket Challenge

What order should I draft positions in PPR fantasy football?

Short Answer: It depends. 

Long Answer: Fantasy football drafts are all different, and going into your draft with a set strategy is a good way to miss out on value. 

The best answer is to do mock drafts to get a feel for which positions you like to target. Make sure you are using the best fantasy football rankings in the industry.  

Advice that’s Actionable on Draft Day

These articles dig deep to explain how you should attack the specifics of this season ...

Breakout Player

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Comeback Player

Who’s set to rebound from a down year and return big fantasy value? You’ll be first to know.

Early-Round Bust

Don’t ruin your fantasy season by blowing your early pick. We’ll call out a big-name player set to disappoint fantasy owners.

The Perfect Draft Strategy

This round-by-round draft strategy guide will walk you through the positions and individual players to target in every round of your draft.

Draft Sharks Injury Predictor

Sick of three starters going on IR by midseason? Get the scientific predictions NFL teams use.

Our proprietary algorithm looks at historical injury data, a player’s own injury history, and his expected workload to determine his likelihood of missing time this season.

The result: You can avoid early-draft landmines and find those sleeper handcuff types behind risky starters.

See the Injury Predictor in action »

 

Your Winning Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

Other rankings are stale  before the 2nd round.

Draft using the best dynamic tool in the industry. Our fantasy player valuations (DMVP) change during your draft in response to...

  1. Exact league settings - direct sync
  2. Opponent and Team Needs
  3. Positional scarcity & available players
  4. Ceiling, injury risk, ADP, and more!

You need a dynamic cheat sheet that easily live-syncs with your draft board and adapts throughout your draft using 17 crucial indicators.

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