Welcome in to year two of the Dream Draft series. Each August, I will highlight “my guys” for the upcoming season and explain how I plan to build my rosters across my fantasy leagues. DISCLAIMER: This is the strategy that I will be implementing in both my home league, as well as the various 10-12 team money leagues that I participate in. Knowing the rules and settings of your league is the most important factor in achieving success in season long fantasy football. I believe this to be the optimal strategy for such leagues for the 2023-24 season. Other league types, such as the big bestball tournaments with over 50K participants, would require different roster building strategies. With that being said, let’s dive into my favorite round-by-round targets…
Season-long fantasy football strategy changes yearly for me, and I think that being able to properly analyze ADP and where players are going is the biggest edge we have. Last year we had several “hits” on players in this article and it led to an overall profitable season for me. I was adamant on drafting Saquon Barkley in Round 2, which worked out with him finishing top-5 at the position and RB2 and RB7 in Week 15 and 16 respectively. This year, more than ever, I love the running backs available in the mid-to-late rounds and I’m looking to build a zero or hero-RB roster. Draft slot definitely changes some things, but overall going heavy WR early is viable for me from a top-end draft slot or at the bottom of round one. If you’re picking 1-4 I think getting Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill or Cooper Kupp would be my preferred strategy. Jefferson and Chase need no analysis, while Hill is coming off a career-best year for the Dolphins and should only improve in year two. If Tua remains healthy for the entire season, we could see an OPOY type season from Hill. Kupp is the oldest of the bunch, but it’s important to remember he was averaging almost 3 full fantasy points per game than Justin Jefferson before getting injured last season. I’m also not concerned about his injury. If I were to rank these WR’s — Jefferson, Chase, Kupp Hill but you can truly draft them in whatever order you want. They are all great picks and I would take all of them over Christian McCaffrey who averaged over 6 less fantasy points per game when Eli Mitchell was healthy last season…
There is one player that I believe can enter the “big-four” at WR this season, and I would consider drafting him as high as 1.04. His current FFPC ADP is 14.8 so it works out better if you have a later round one pick, but I want to take a firm stand here that he’s going to be my highest exposure player this season…that man is Amon-Ra St. Brown. “Sun God” is nearly impossible not to root for, one of the hardest workers in the NFL and coming off a season in which he finished as the WR7 despite missing one game, and being forced out of another early in the first half due to concussion protocol. People may think we’ve seen the ceiling from him, but I’m not so sure. He ranked eighth-overall in targets last season with 146, and I think that number can increase to 160+ this season. He also has back-to-back seasons of 90+ catches despite only 11 touchdowns over that span. He had only 6 TD’s last season, despite ranking top-10 in targets inside the 20. He also had to deal with TJ Hockenson hogging red-zone work for half the season, and the ultimate TD troll in Jamaal Williams. Williams scored 17 touchdowns last season that will now he up for grabs for St. Brown. After Hockenson was traded, St. Brown AVERAGED 10 targets per game and over 21 fantasy points. Bake that in with 244 vacated team targets, minimal target competition and expected TD regression and you can see why I’m so bullish on him this season. I have no issues reaching on him in my drafts, go out and get him.
I also want to put a note here on Travis Kelce who I think is a fine first round pick. In softer home leagues, it also may be possible to grab Kelce and get Amon-Ra on the way back if you have a later first-round pick. Kelce has been the TE1 in fantasy 6 of the last 7 years, with the outlier being a TE2 season in 2021 when Mark Andrews went nuts. The smaller your league is, the more valuable having that positional advantage is and I think he is a smash first round pick in 8 or 10 team leagues. If you trust yourself to out-draft opponents in the later rounds and win on waivers throughout the season, I have no issues drafting Kelce in the first and I would prefer him to a running back as well.
Round 1 Thoughts: Bijan Robinson- If you follow me on Twitter you know that I’ve talked down on drafting Robinson multiple times in the past few weeks. My stance on Robinson has nothing to do with the player himself, but more with the ADP. I will be referencing FFPC ADP throughout this article – where Robinson currently goes as the eighth overall player off the board. Spending a first round-pick on him over the likes of Cooper Kupp or ARSB feels insane to me. I don’t trust Arthur Smith for a second (see here), and I also don’t think this “elite pass-catching” skill-set can be utilized on a team that’s going to be bottom of the league in pass-rate. I have 0 faith in Desmond Ridder as a QB, it’s going to be a slow, gross offense. If playing in 3+ leagues I wouldn’t want a full fade on him – but if I’m OTC and ARSB, Cooper Kupp or Tyreek Hill are there over him I’m going to lean that way more times than not. After last night’s pre-season performance from him – his ADP is going to rise even further and it’s going to be really hard for me to get any of him. I usually play between 6 and 8 leagues – and I would be trying to get him on one or two of those eight just in case.
As noted above the majority of my teams are going to be zero or hero-RB so I will be looking at WR for the most part in this round. If you have a high first round pick, Chris Olave and DeVonta Smith are two of my favorite targets if you have one of the last picks in Round 2 (assuming a 12 team league).
If you have a mid to late first round pick, doubling up Amon-Ra with another WR is easy. Depending on the league-size and who you are drafting against you’ll likely have your pick of CeeDee Lamb, Davante Adams and Garrett Wilson — I would rank them in this order. Adams feels like such a smash in the middle of Round 2. People seem to be concerned about the QB situation, but this is the best pure WR in football we are talking about here. Adams had a 7-153-2 game with Jarrett Stidham last season…I am not worried about Jimmy Garoppolo.
Where the decision comes in for me is if I want to grab one RB here and the continue to pound WR after. There is one guy going in Round 2 that I love for this season — Tony Pollard. Without Zeke, and presumably only Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn behind him I’m not sure how we don’t get a truly nuclear season from Pollard if he stays healthy. He finished as the RB8 in PPR last season and will now be stepping into an even more full-time role. He’s going to be among the league-leaders in weighted opportunities and I would honestly rank him as my RB3 or 4 overall right now.
We also get an added bonus if drafting Pollard or Lamb in Round 2 after starting with Amon-Ra — with the Lions and Cowboys playing each other in Week 17!
There are two ways I want to go in Round 3 and it depends on if you start WR/WR or if you start WR/Pollard. I’ve pretty much never drafted a QB early in my fantasy drafts, but the game has changed and the time is now — especially in softer leagues — to lock in elite production at QB. Jalen Hurts is my QB1 overall this season, and it depends on the draft if he goes second or third round. He finished as the QB3 last season despite missing two games, and ranked second in the NFL behind only Jamaal Williams in rush attempts inside the 5. I think he is a great Round 3 pick in home league formats, especially if you’re able to pair him with Devonta Smith.
If I can’t get Jalen Hurts, drafting another WR is fine here as well with all of Tee Higgins, DK Metcalf and Calvin Ridley usually available.
There’s also one RB I’m on that goes in this round, and that’s Travis Etienne. Etienne is being talked down by the community due to the addition of Tank Bigbsy, but I think that this addition is being over-stated. Travis Etienne is still awesome, and could see more targets this season with how bad I expect the Jags O-line to be. I’m not discounting that the Jags brought in Bigsby for a reason, but this is till Travis Etienne we are talking about and he’s due for positive TD regression after last season. I don’t feel as good about him as I do Pollard, but he still has top-10 fantasy RB upside in his range of outcomes and you can draft him at the back-end of R3 or even some in the R4 which is great value in my opinion.
Round 4 will be contingent on what you accomplish in Round 3, if you miss out on Jalen Hurts you can look at Lamar Jackson or you can just default to WR regardless. Jerry Jeudy and Keenan Allen would be my main targets if going WR. This feels early for Jeudy, but over the final 6 weeks of last season he averaged over 18 fantasy points per game which was a top-8 WR. He should see a nice bump-up with Sean Payton taking over for Nathaniel Hackett and Jeudy is the exact type of player I like to bet on. He’s an elite route-runner and could be stepping into a breakout season in 2023.
There are three QB’s that I really want to prioritize this season. Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson. If you miss out on Hurts, you can grab Lamar here or you can grab Jeudy or Allen and wait for Herbert. All three guys have MVP-upside, but I’m really starting to come around on Herbert and this Chargers offense.
Note: I’ll also note that you can look at Kenneth Walker here if he’s available.
8/24 UPDATE: With Jerry Jeudy going down with what looks like a serious hamstring injury – I’m going to be more aggressive with my Keenan Allen targets and maybe even look him in the third round.
Round 5 is likely where you’ll have to get Herbert if that’s your QB plan.
If you already have Hurts or Lamar. My main target in R5 is going to be Brandon Aiyuk. San Francisco has an abundance of weapons, but I think this could be a monster year for Aiyuk. He was actually running more routes per game than Deebo to end last season, and fits the mold of a guy that’s coming into his own and ready to fully break out. R5 might be a round early, but I always trust my research and can win the later rounds to make up for it.
Round 6 on is there I start to love the RB’s available and it’s why I’m so dead set on pounding WR early this season. Rachaad White, Isaiah Pacheco and Alvin Kamara are all available starting in this round along with Cam Akers. I want to leave my draft with at least two of them, if not three. If I grab Pollard in R2 then two of them will suffice, if I don’t have a RB yet then trying to get three becomes possible along with David Montgomery — depending on league-size. Overall, I love them all at their ADP but would probably rank them Pacheco, White, Kamara, Akers, Monty but it’s super close. I firmly believe in Pacheco as the starting RB for the best offense in football and he flashed his pass catching ability in the playoffs last season. White is on a bad offense, but is one of the only RB’s in football you can point to for a legit three-down role with pass catching upside. Kamara looks rejuvenated at camp, and will only miss three games instead of 4-6 like initially expected. He will benefit from the better QB play Derek Carr brings.
R7 is easy for me, I’m looking to take another of the RB’s I listed above — but I will note that you can typically get George Pickens in this round if it’s a 10 team draft instead of 12. He looks primed for a massive season. If you already have two RB’s – Pickens enters the fold as a potential pick.
R8 is the same as R7 for me — if one of those RB’s are still lingering I’ll grab them – if not I will be looking at Elijah Moore and Skyy Moore. Both have a legit chance to be the number one option on their offense and are set-up for breakout seasons. I love them at their current cost.
Doubling up on the Moore’s is definitely in play for me – but I’ll use this round to put a note about the TE position.
If I miss out on Travis Kelce, I’ll likely wait on TE a bit. I don’t hate Darren Waller in R5 — but he could get steamed up a bit after his usage in their last preseason game. I’m actually on Waller over Hockenson as the TE3 this year, so reaching for him in R4 or R5 is fine – it all depends on your preference.
If you choose to wait, I would just grab two of David Njoku, Chig Okonkwo (with Burks hurt) and Dalton Kincaid. Tyler Higbee fits the mold as a late round pick also, and I’m bullish on Luke Musgrave for deeper leagues.
I’ll also put a note on QB: If you miss out on Hurts/Lamar/Herbert don’t panic – the contingency plan would be to draft Anthony Richardson a bit later on and pair him with Geno Smith on your bench.
If implementing the zero or hero-RB draft, Round 10 is a great spot to look at running back. You can usually get all three of Jaylen Warren, AJ Dillon or Brian Robinson in this round and they’re all valuable players. Of the three, Warren is my clear favorite and I think in the best position to potentially take on a larger role this season. We know that Dillon is, I think he’s good but he’s never going to truly pass Aaron Jones as long as Jones is healthy. He still has value in this round and as a fantasy player, but I think Warren has the highest ceiling of the trio and I would rank them Warren, Dillon, Gibson in order of preference.
Later Round Targets
I don’t buy the rumors that Gainwell is the Eagles RB1 but I think he will definitely have a role on this offense and be valuable if there are injuries.
Roschon was metrically as good or better than Bijan Robinson at Texas and I don’t think it will be long until he carves out a big role in this Bears offense. Khalil Herbert is a fine pick where he goes as well, but I think Johnson has too much juice to be contained for long. I’m not buying the hype that Justin Fields is going to throw significantly more this season — and Johnson is one of my favorite RB targets in the later rounds.
Few players impressed me as much as Chandler did in their first action of the preseason. I believe he has pretty much iced rookie DeWayne McBride for the back-up running back role behind Alexander Mattison — someone that has dealt with plenty of injuries throughout his career. Chandler doesn’t have a ton of size, but is a plus in pass protection and has homerun hitter upside with 4.38 speed. He can catch passes as well, and would be an absolute smash if anything happens to Mattison. One of my favorite zero RB targets.
Hubbard is another great zero RB target, coming off a pretty solid season for the Panthers in which he displayed his improved pass catching ability. Miles Sanders has had durability issues throughout his career – and is already banged up ahead of the start of the season.
White looked great against the 49ers last weekend and there’s no doubts he would have a valuable role if Josh Jacobs hold out was to continue into the regular season. Picking him in the last round of your draft is a fine strategy right now, and you can always drop him if Jacobs reports. He really isn’t being drafted in a lot of leagues so grab him late and see what happens over the next few weeks.
Favorite Late Round WRs: Tank Dell, Jayden Reed, Michael Wilson
8/21 UPDATE” After this weekend, I am adding James Cook and Kendre Miller to RB’s I will be targeting in the mid to later rounds.