The smaller the league, the easier it is to game plan for picking eighth overall. And by game plan, I mean decide whether or not it's "right" to take a quarterback in Round 1.
If we're talking about a small league (10 or fewer teams), the odds are pretty good you'll get a Top 3 quarterback in Round 2. It'll happen if the picks before you aren't quarterbacks because you can wait a round and let the other owners after you take one (they won't take two). In larger leagues, like the one we'll preview below, the chance of a Top 3 quarterback in Round 2 shrink considerably. Deciding how important quarterbacks are to you is a major factor to your overall draft strategy and should be figured out long before your draft.
|No. 1 overall||No. 5 overall||No. 9 overall|
|No. 2 overall||No. 6 overall||No. 10 overall|
|No. 3 overall||No. 7 overall||No. 11 overall|
|No. 4 overall||No. 8 overall||No. 12 overall|
Another benefit of smaller leagues is mapping out your later picks based on what your rival owners' needs might be. For instance, when you pick in Round 3 you'll see what the owners of Picks 9 and 10 already have and can swipe a player at a position of need for them before they can get one. Naturally, this should be part of your arsenal in 12-plus team leagues also but it's harder to pinpoint glaring needs across three or more rivals. You might find yourself picking the best player available based on your own needs rather than your opponents -- which is fine of course -- but it might cost you stealing some talent.
But don't curse your luck for picking eighth -- if you figure that you're locked into getting one of five excellent running backs or three super-safe quarterbacks (or the most impactful wide receiver in years in PPR leagues), you at least know you're going to be set with your first choice. The poor blokes picking ninth or later don't even have that assurance before Draft Day.
Editor's note: The percentages listed are what position you should target based on that round for each pick.
If we're talking about a PPR format, you can be reasonably confident a quarterback will be available to you at a very good value later in the draft, so it's worth punting on quarterback for a talent with solid reception potential. I prefer a running back or Calvin Johnson with my first choice in reception-based leagues. The story is different in standard leagues where you're looking for a safe starter week in and week out. The top of the top running backs should be gone and the remaining runners will have plenty of potential but also a few question marks (that's why they're left). The quarterbacks, however, don't have any question marks and are essentially locks for 20-plus points per week (the Top 3 quarterbacks failed to score that much seven times combined; Rodgers had at least 20 points in every game he started). That's why I don't mind going with a stud passer in Round 1, even if it means seeing other quarterbacks available at great values later on. The plan is to take one now and potentially no other quarterbacks later because I would never sit the one I draft in Round 1. If a running back I'm not comfortable with isn't there, that's my move in standard leagues.
The picking doesn't get any easier here and personal tastes will come into play. You're going to find some dependable running backs and receivers here, and there's a shot a stud quarterback like Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford will be available. If we're looking for the same thing we did in Round 1 -- a dependable, sure-fire starter -- the quarterbacks will be tough to pass on. Otherwise, lean toward a running back if you can because that's the position that will get thin before receivers. Tight ends could be a consideration too in PPR leagues but it's tough to take one over whatever slips from the Top 10 rushers and Top 3 quarterbacks.
Plan on going with a receiver in Round 3, even if you took one already. The Top 5 quarterbacks, Top 15 running backs and Top 2 tight ends should be gone by now -- if they're not then you have to give them a look. The talent at receiver should really be peaking by this point and someone from the Top 10 should be in the mix. True, you will be able to find a receiver about as good in Round 4, but not quite as good. It's a certainty that the types of running backs that are available in Round 3 will be there when you pick again. If taking a receiver here means not having a quarterback or tight end on your roster through three picks, don't panic. I promise that there will be good players there to start for you later on. Now's not the time to reach for a Michael Vick or Antonio Gates.
So remember the advice I gave you about taking a receiver in Round 3? Wasn't it good? Let's go with it again in Round 4. Seriously, the receivers expected here are considered superior to what's left at the other positions and it won't necessarily be this way in Round 5 and beyond. By taking another receiver here, you lock into what should be two Top 20 wideouts in your starting lineup. Pretty awesome. But what if you already have two receivers? If it's a PPR flex league, don't be scared to go three-deep at the position. If it's a standard league, you might find yourself deciding between a good-but-not-great running back and a quarterback. If so, it's not wrong to go with a quarterback if you don't have one already.
Chances are the last two rounds were dominated by receivers. If there's still a stud wideout hanging out by pick 56 it's probably a major steal. But we're getting to the part in the draft where "good enough" running backs will start getting drafted, so you might want to find one. In fact, this should be the first of several running backs you'll take over the next few rounds as you pad depth with running backs that have some good value, considering we're already fairly deep into the draft.
Let's aim to solidify the roster here. Assuming you have at least two receivers locked up, the hunt should be on for running back depth unless an excellent quarterback is just hanging out. Round 6 is generally when we'll see the last of the Top 10 quarterbacks picked, and tight ends could start moving too. Go with what you think you need, but you won't like what's left at running back after this round so make sure you're comfortable with what you have if you opt for a different direction. I found a starter with 1,000-yard, seven-touchdown potential in both of my drafts.
If you're looking for a quality starting running back and wide receiver, you're not going to be happy. But if you're looking for a quality starting tight end or quarterback, you should be in good shape. There should be one or two Top 12 quarterbacks left and plenty of start-worthy tight ends. The guys available here might be reason enough to pass on a Graham or Gronkowski in Round 2 or 3. That's not to say passing on receivers and running backs in particular is a bad move as it's also a good time to build depth before the pickings get slim.
Players you can get here: Jermichael Finley, Peyton Manning, Mikel Leshoure, DeAngelo Williams, Anquan Boldin
My selection at No. 80 standard: DeAngelo Williams
My selection at No. 80 PPR: Jermichael Finley
We're almost 100 picks into the draft, so any rusher, receiver or tight end with 1,000-yard and seven-touchdown potential deserves a good look at this point. The running backs available won't be pretty but they're still nicer than what will be around in a round or two, so if you value having good backups now is a good time to take one. Don't discount the receivers out there -- No. 1 options in evolving offenses are candidates for your team and are also better than the receivers you'll find in a few rounds. The only other direction I'd point you in is quarterback, but only if you're without one. Round 9 is when other teams will start looking for a high-upside backup.
Three types of players will get picked in Round 9: Sleepers, low-end starters and handcuffs. If you've gone with some balance through eight picks you probably can take a shot on a sleeper. If you've got an open roster spot it's time to fill it. And if you spent an early-round pick on a running back with a history of getting hurt you should back him up the way his NFL team did. Here's a secret: I find pretty good value in handcuff running backs; this year Toby Gerhart and Mike Goodson stand out to me. Even if I don't have Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden, I'll take a stab at one of these rushers -- but I won't do it unless it's Round 10. Beat owners like me to the punch and save yourself some trouble by handcuffing your stud now if you think he'll be in high demand.
You hereby have permission to splurge on a sleeper if you haven't already. Even if you have, it's okay to take another one, but it's also a good time to keep hammering away on roster depth. If a good No. 2 quarterback has made it this far he's worth considering, but so are potential 60-catch receivers and part-time running backs.
The popular sleepers and handcuffs will be history, so you should be all about depth here. There is a shot at a decent No. 3 receiver or starting tight end making it this far, and if they're there then jump all over them. But for the most part expect role players at running back and some scraps at receiver. One talent pool that should still be deep: Quarterback. You could fish for a No. 2 option with little worry.
Taking a DST, or even worse a kicker, typically doesn't make sense with this pick. Most teams wait until their final two selections for those positions and that's a good move to make unless a top-of-the-top DST is hanging around. Going for value isn't even worth it here -- find a player with all sorts of upside based on his role and take him. You're only risking a late pick on someone who could develop into a factor for his team. It just so happened with my picks I took Rams receivers with 50-plus-catch potential. Can't argue with that this late in the game.
If you need to fill your DST and kicker spots, your choices are as follows: Aim for the best available or reach for a quality kicker before settling for a DST. Maybe you're in a league where kicking accuracy really pays off, and in that case the kicker is worth a little bit. But that's somewhat of a rarity. Unless there are five DSTs left that you'd be happy to use for the first few weeks of a season (and can wait for one in Round 14), take one now and leave the kicking to your last pick.
Players you can get here: Patriots DST, Jets DST, Bills DST
My selection at No. 152 standard: Patriots DST
My selection at No. 152 PPR: Patriots DST
It's the kicker round (assuming you must draft one). Look for kickers who either post consistent accuracy or play with a high-powered offense. If they have a good Week 1 matchup it's icing on the cake.
Here is a look at what the teams look like following the draft:
|QB||Tom Brady||QB||Drew Brees|
|RB||Steven Jackson||RB||Darren McFadden|
|RB||Reggie Bush||RB||Beanie Wells|
|WR||Julio Jones||WR||Hakeem Nicks|
|WR||Percy Harvin||WR||Jeremy Maclin|
|FLEX||Donald Brown||FLEX||Donald Brown|
|TE||Brent Celek||TE||Jermichael Finley|
|K||Jason Hanson||K||Jason Hanson|
|BENCH||DeAngelo Williams||BENCH||Greg Little|
|BENCH||Pierre Garcon||BENCH||Mike Goodson|
|BENCH||Bernard Scott||BENCH||Santonio Holmes|
|BENCH||Santonio Holmes||BENCH||Brent Celek|
|BENCH||Danny Amendola||BENCH||Brian QUick|