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Fantasy Football: How to Draft in All 16 Rounds to Build a League-Winning Team

Rob is an online sports writer who gives tips on how to win fantasy leagues. He's won four league championships playing fantasy sports.

Welcome to another year of fantasy football! Don't let this be another year of disappointment.

Welcome to another year of fantasy football! Don't let this be another year of disappointment.

It's that time of year again. Fantasy football is just around the corner, and you're still trying to recover from last year's disaster. You try year after year to build the right team, but you fall short of placing or receiving any cash rewards as a result of the season's play. Is there a superior way to build a winning fantasy football team? The truth is that every year is different. The depth at each of the positions makes it difficult to have a golden way to draft year in and year out. However, the most valuable resources you can tap into are people who have had consistent success in drafting a similar way each year. Though it changes slightly from year to year based on position depth, the position drafted in each round is usually the same. This is what I am here to offer you.

I am in no way calling myself an expert, but playing in 16 leagues over eight years throughout my fantasy career and winning four of them puts me at league champion in 25% of leagues I join, which is higher than many I have talked to. In this article, I will share my recommendations on how to draft in each of the 16 rounds of a standard fantasy football league. Since standard leagues are the most common, I am going to just address how I draft in standard leagues that adhere to standard rules. Yes, there are different ways to draft in different league styles, but that might be an article for another day.

In each round, I will provide what position I think you should draft in that round, and then a second option that will be based on depth and who is available at that time, as well as a short explanation of why. I intend this to be an article that can be read regardless of the year, so I won't make it very specific to one year and the players in each year. By the end, I hope this helps you strategically draft a winning fantasy football team and helps you compete for your league title this year!


Round 1: 1st Choice: RB, 2nd Choice: WR

This goes without saying, but this is your most important pick. Here you will select the centerpiece of your team.

It may seem like you would want to draft a player that will score the most points for your fantasy team. A quarterback is usually that player, but there is deeper reasoning as to why I recommend taking a running back in the first round. Running back is the most coveted position in fantasy football because there is usually only one primary back per team. This is also the case because even fewer of those backs will put up numbers worthy of drafting in the first round. There are usually less than 10 elite running backs in the league at a time, so sweeping one up while you can is essential. If you wait to draft a running back until the second or third round, you can miss out on top-tier talent and points, and this can be the difference between a playoff team and the league champion.

However, depending on what number you draft and who was taken in front of you, it is also wise to choose a wide receiver. Running backs will traditionally be chosen for 75% of the first five or six picks of the draft, so if you're left a choice between the fourth best running back, and the best or second-best wide receiver in the league, it would be wise to take a wide receiver. Wide receiver is arguably the deepest position in fantasy, which makes it not as pressing as a running back. Still, if the number one, two, and three running backs are gone when it gets to your pick, don't hesitate to take the number one or two receiver.

This can change from year to year. If the running back talent is not very deep at all, this makes selecting a running back that much more of a must. One can still get the third or fourth best wide receiver in the league in the second round in this case.

I would not recommend drafting outside of these two positions for the first round. Stick with a running back as your first priority, and then grab a wide receiver.

A wide receiver or running back is a vital pick.

A wide receiver or running back is a vital pick.

Round 2: 1st Choice: WR, 2nd Choice: RB

The second round is just as valuable as the first round, especially if you are in a snake draft and select one of the last few picks of the first round. You can now draft one of the first few for the second round.

Our priorities will shift a little bit here, but what you were looking for in round one is very similar here. In this round, I would recommend drafting a wide receiver, especially if you drafted a running back in the first round. Top wide receiver talent is usually still on the board at this point, and this is the prime time to pick your WR #1. Your WR #1 will probably be your second highest point scorer on your team besides your quarterback, so choose a big name on the board.

If you selected a wide receiver in the first round, you hands down want to draft a running back here. Tier-2 and 3 running backs are usually only available in the third round, so get your hands on at least a low-end tier-1 running back if you are in this spot.

While you can draft two running backs or two wide receiver, this is usually not wise to do as round three will almost surely be absent of tier-1 or top-tier talent at either of these positions. You will greatly risk labelling the position you did not draft at this point a weakness already. Drafting RB and WR or WR and RB will ensure that you have at least one top-tier player at each of these positions.

I would not usually recommend drafting outside of these two positions here, but if you find a tight end who is ranked to go in the first round and can get your hands on him here, I would at least consider it. Otherwise, let these two positions dominate this round.

Round 3: 1st Choice: RB, 2nd Choice: WR

No, it is not yet time to take a peek at the quarterbacks.

Since the running back value is so high, and all tier-one running backs are all but always gone at this point, you want to get your hands on a tier-2 running back here to be your RB #2. I recommend this regardless of how you drafted in the first and second rounds. This is usually the last call to get a running back that will put up formidable numbers, so don't miss out! From here on out, the best you will usually get is a low-end tier-2 back. You want to be sure that your regular two running backs you are going to start are established by the end of this round. It may be tempting to take a wide receiver here, but you can still get your hands on an upper-tier 2 wideout in round four, so hold out until then.

This is an important pick that has the potential to make or break your season, so choose wisely and do your research on last season's statistics and this year's projected numbers.

Round 4: 1st Choice: WR, 2nd Choice: RB

This pick will be pretty clear-cut.

In just about every situation, I would choose a wide receiver. In round four, a higher-end tier-2 receiver is usually still available because of the running back talent pool being drained in the last round. This is the perfect time to draft your WR #2, who will still put up a large number of points throughout the course of the season. You can still find a #1 wide receiver target on an NFL team during this round. Making sure your #1 and #2 spots at running back and wide receiver are filled at this point will help give you the best chance on an average year.

If there is a quarterback who was projected to go in round three, you can consider taking him in this round, but by drafting a quarterback here, you are missing out on a high-end tier-2 wide receiver and risk having to settle for low-end tier-2 or tier-3 wide receiver talent in round five. The drop-off in talent and points for wide receivers and running backs is much greater than for quarterbacks, so I would hold the reins until round five on this one.

You should consider a quarterback by the fifth round.

You should consider a quarterback by the fifth round.

Round 5: 1st Choice: QB, 2nd Choice: WR

This one is basically a toss-up based on your preference and how the league has drafted so far.

In round five, you can often select the first or second best-ranked quarterback. You can just about always choose from the number two or three quarterbacks. This is a solid place to select more top-tier talent. While selecting a quarterback is usually done at some point for most teams during rounds five through seven, by drafting a quarterback here, you assure the fact that you are getting a top of the line QB who will likely put up the most points over any other player on your team. You will also have your top two running back and wide receiver spots stocked with tier-1 and tier-2 talent, so adding a tier-1 quarterback to the mix gives your team a solidly stacked lineup at this point.

You can also justify selecting a wide receiver here. This is because you can still get your hands on the third, fourth, or fifth best quarterback during the sixth round, which is still pretty good. Here you would draft a receiver for the flex spot on your starting lineup. While I would slightly recommend going with the quarterback this round, if the wide receiver talent is not as deep as you have seen in previous years, this could be a good time to draft a flex player. You can still add a low-end tier-1 quarterback to your squad next round.

This one will come down to how the rest of the league has drafted at this point and what type of year it is. If the top QB is still on the board, you might be able to wait until next round and still get a top-tier one. However, if quarterbacks are going like flies, it would be a good idea to get your hands on one sooner than later. Use these factors to determine how to draft in round five.

Round 6: 1st Choice: WR, 2nd Choice: QB

If you don't have a quarterback, I would recommend drafting one in this round. Yes, you can still get a fairly decent QB in round seven, but why settle? Take a low-end tier-1 QB this round if you have not already. You don't want to wait too long to draft your point monster.

If you do have a quarterback, this is an ideal time to draft your flex player. This should almost always be a wide receiver because of the depth at the position. The running back depth is rarely deep enough to warrant drafting a flex-worthy running back over the wide receiver talent that is still available. This wide receiver you draft can also serve as a great fill-in during bye week for your primary slots, and it can fill spots in case of an injury to your top two. It is smart to have a low-end tier-2 wide receiver, or a high tier-3 one, and this is often your last chance to get dibs on a tier-2 wideout.

This pick is basically the flex player and can also be insurance for your top two wideouts. This player should put up decent points, and though they may not turn a ton of heads on a weekly basis, they have the potential to have a couple of breakout games throughout the season.

Round 7: 1st Choice: RB, 2nd Choice: TE

This is what I like to call my "running back sleeper pick."

At this point, you are through all the starting running backs on pretty much every NFL team. However, there are usually a couple of teams that have a split role in the backfield. This is the time to draft one of those players. A couple of teams will usually have two or three backs handling the duties as running back in a season. Sometimes, one of these backs will emerge as the favorite, or they will have a huge game and be named the starter and slowly be given more carries. This is where you hope to peg one of those backs. This pick, if selected well, can sometimes produce a low-end tier-2 running back that was originally a tier-4 or lower back at the start of the season. This running back will primarily serve as a fill-in during one of your primary backs' bye week.

It can also be valuable to select a receiving running back here used on screens and third down plays. Running backs that can both adequately rush and receive have exponentially greater value at this point. This back might get screens on third down or find the end-zone every couple of weeks on a passing play. To select a third down back is a far less riskier pick than trying to choose a back in a split carries role. The hope is that the one you choose ends up getting named the starter. However, there is often less potential for consistent contribution.

A tight end can also be nabbed here if you don't like the idea of drafting a running back. I would advise waiting until rounds eight or nine to do this, but if you can get a phenomenal receiving tight end, it might be worth the pick. However, rounds six through eight are usually where the split carries backs go, so waiting any longer than this leaves little value outside your starting RBs. This can leave you in a pickle when you need to fill a running back vacancy during a bye week. It can force you to look at the free agency roster.

Overall, unless you can get a tier-1 tight end, go running back here.

A tight end would be a strong choice by the eighth round.

A tight end would be a strong choice by the eighth round.

Round 8: 1st Choice: TE, 2nd Choice: RB

Round eight is usually the ideal time to draft the tight end for your team. Chances are that the top two or so are off the board, but you can still get dibs on a low-end tier-1 or a high-end tier-2 tight end here.

A good receiving tight end can get lots of red zone and end-zone looks, so getting your hands on a top five tight end is a great idea. Waiting much longer than this is risky, especially because a tight end can be a touchdown point scorer. Tight ends are often boom or bust in a lot of games, which is why you don't want to put too much stock into drafting them much earlier than round seven. There might be one tight end in a year that is an exception, but they are almost certainly off the board at this point. It is important to find a receiving tight end here. This may sound cliché, but sometimes the tight end that gets more playing time is not the receiving tight end. Tight ends are used a lot in blocking, and they will not get nearly as many looks as receivers. If a tight end is brought in only for receiving plays, you can be sure it is because he is always being considered as an option to throw to, unlike a blocking tight end.

If you do not have your running back "sleeper" pick in by this round, use it now. Rounds eight and nine are pretty much the last rounds you will find value in running backs who should even be considered to put into your starting lineup. Again, look for either a receiving running back or one who you think could emerge as the primary back from a split carries role.

Round 9: 1st Choice: WR, 2nd Choice: RB

You pretty much should have your starting lineup minus your defensive and special teams unit. This pick is another insurance pick.

Why not nab a defensive unit or a kicker in this round? The range of points scored between the best defensive unit and the worst is next to nothing compared to the difference for any other position. The same is true for kickers, minus up against defensive units.

There are still tier-3 wide receivers on the board at this point who can break out or develop the trust of their quarterbacks and put up double-digit numbers somewhat consistently. This is a good spot to pick a receiver to battle for the flex position and be a backup to your primary receivers. This can be a good spot to pick either a well-aged veteran or a rookie. A well-aged veteran will often not play like he used to, but they can still get targets because of his past performances and the trust he has developed with his quarterback. A rookie will likely not be very involved on most teams right away, but if proven, they can turn into a number two or three target for the QB if he continues to progress and gain his team's confidence.

This is also pretty much the last call for any running back of even serviceable value. If there are still good wide receivers on the board, consider selecting your RB #4 here. This way, you have two insurance policies at running back and can rest easy.

All things considered, a wide receiver is the smartest selection here.

Round 10: 1st Choice: WR, 2nd Choice: K

Similar to the last round, there can still be high and low-end tier-3 talent on the board for wide receivers since this is such a deep position in most years.

This pick is what I like to call my "wide receiver sleeper pick." After this round, the wide receiver talent will start to thin a bit, and others will start loading up on backups, so get one last wide receiver of value here. I usually like my pick to be a younger player who has shown flashes of potential in the past and has the potential to break out in the upcoming year. This is most likely going to be a boom or bust player. Take a chance here and see if it pays off. If it does, this pick can push your team from good to elite.

Though it would not be my recommendation to take one here, this is the round where I usually start to debate and look at the kickers. Having a kicker who will see plenty of action from a high-scoring asset can decide close matches in your league. If you are gutsy and think a receiver talent will still be decent in round 11, it wouldn't be the worst thing to take a kicker here.

The 11th round might be the time to snag a kicker.

The 11th round might be the time to snag a kicker.

Round 11: 1st Choice: K, 2nd Choice: D/ST

This is the round I like to snag my kicker in. It is a 50/50 shot in this round whether you will be the first one to draft a kicker, so if I can get the number one or two kicker here, I will always take a kicker with this pick.

A kicker can put up more points than you think, and a good kicker can put up eight or nine points a game on average. While this doesn't sound like a lot, kickers can decide close matches in your leagues. Everyone needs that clutch player to be a difference-maker on the team, and a kicker can sometimes play that role. Though a kicker's consistency is not the best, and experts may advise drafting them in rounds 13 and 14, I like to ensure that I have a top two kicker each year. The more top-tier players you have on your team at each position, the better chance you have to win your league. In some cases, like if the top two kickers are already off the board, I might wait until round 12, but no further than that. When chasing top talent, I don't mess around. I strongly advise going for a kicker here.

There is also the possibility of drafting a defensive unit here, especially if it is a unit that has been dominant. More often than not though, there is a decent chance no defensive units have been taken, and if the number one unit is gone by this point, the value of units two through four will be fairly equal. If you are trigger happy or if you fear defenses will start going like flies, you can take one here, but most times, you will still get an excellent defensive unit if you wait until round 12.

Round 12: 1st Choice: D/ST, 2nd Choice: K

This is the primetime spot to choose a defensive unit.

Yes, you could probably get a similar value unit in the next round, but you will want a top five unit, and that will be available for sure in this round. It can't be guaranteed that they will be available in the next round. At this point, any wide receiver or running back you can draft has little to no value to your starting roster, and you will be able to draft more of these if you desire the same value in the next couple of rounds.

While a defensive unit will be the lowest point scorer on your roster, they will be like your kicker in the sense that they can be the difference in close games. Don't be turned away by the low points they project. An excellent unit will have a handful of double-digit performances.

If you do not already have a kicker, you will want to select one here. You have a good shot at getting the number three or four kicker here, which is not bad at all if you are in this spot; you probably have the number one or two defensive unit. The value of any of the other positions is not very high at this point in the draft, so I advise being sure that your starting roster, from your quarterback to your kicker, is completely filled out by round 12. Use rounds 13 through 16 to select backups and insurance policies.

Round 13: 1st Choice: QB, 2nd Choice: WR

This is a nice spot to draft a backup quarterback for that bye week or if your quarterback is a bust part way through your season. Here you will likely only be able to find low-end tier-2 QBs, such as unproven middlemen and rookie quarterbacks. You can consider this to be your "quarterback sleeper pick." This ensures that you have a good backup plan for the top point scoring position on your team. In case of an injury or a draft pick bust, this will ensure you a better value than merely picking a low-end QB off of the free agent roster. There is still a bit of value in the quarterbacks that will be left. It's better to be safe than sorry.

If you are fine with picking a QB off of free agency and don't want to waste an extra roster spot on another quarterback, go for a wide receiver. The depth of the position will provide you with a tier-4 selection here, which isn't too good, but it's better than selecting a running back at this point. This is pretty much the last call for any wide receiver of any type of fair value at this point in the draft.

Round 14: 1st Choice: TE, 2nd Choice: RB

This is where you should draft your tight end insurance policy in case of an injury or a bust pick. Like with the quarterbacks, the value of drafting an extra tight end in the last few rounds of the draft will provide a little better value than picking one up off of free agency when needed. Since receiving tight ends are limited in the NFL, and because they get so many looks in the red zone, being prepared for a disaster at this position will ensure your team doesn't take too hard of a hit if this happens. Because tight ends can sometimes mimic a receiver's points on a big day, this makes a backup tight end more valuable than a backup kicker or defensive unit.

If you have other plans, you can draft a running back here, but he will basically be of little or no value at this point in the draft.

Round 15: 1st Choice: WR/RB, 2nd Choice: K/D/ST

Any wide receiver or running back you select here is basically a prayer or just to fill a roster spot. This pick can have a little bit of value if your team becomes riddled with injuries, but this isn't often the case.

If this sounds logical to you, you can consider drafting a defensive unit backup since the points the units put up on a week-to-week basis are somewhat similar. This extra unit can also be used if your original defensive unit is facing a high-powered offense and is projected to get slaughtered. A backup kicker can also be used with this pick in the case your kicker is a bust or because of injury.

Don't sweat too much over this pick. The last two picks often have next to no impact on the season.

Round 16: 1st Choice: K/D/ST 2nd Choice: WR/RB

Don't think too hard on this one. This pick will just be another insurance policy. Only in larger 14 and 16-man leagues will the 16th round have any chance of offering some value.

Do Your Homework and Be Competitive!

Don't undermine the importance of analyzing stats from last year and projections for the upcoming year. A little research can help you find you a good value pick that your buddies might miss in the middle to later rounds.

All the info here is just my opinion based on my experience and success drafting with this format. I hope that this guide can help you win your fantasy football league this year.

Good luck!


Eben on September 18, 2020:

Watching will be the best when we get it we're going to train him hard and have the best month's of winning

Isaiah on April 18, 2020:

been using this strategy you provided for mock drafts and earlier i got an A+ grade! this is extremely helpful