Real talk time. Everyone’s going to love their team after their fifth-round pick but I firmly believe your draft is won or lost in the mid-rounds. One of my favorite things to hear in a live draft, usually near Round 8, is “I don’t like any of these players. I’ll take the Bears DST.” With this article, we’ll review some of the strategies we can use in the middle rounds and highlight players to target to better prepare you to dominate your upcoming drafts.
I will preface this with I’m a late-round quarterback guy so that at least gives you an idea of why I’m not going after Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson in the sixth round. The goal of the middle rounds of your draft is to add as much depth to your roster as you can. The type of depth you want to target will be affected a little by what you did in the first five rounds, but we’ll go through that, along with specific players that fit our strategy in a little bit.
Before we start, let’s establish my basic outline for how I want my draft to go. The obvious one is defense and kickers are reserved for the final few rounds. Next, my goal is to only have one quarterback on your roster by round ten. This changes sometimes if I double-tap the position in rounds nine and ten, but this year, just like last, quarterback is really deep. If we take an early tight-end, I’ll wait until after the tenth round to take a second, if at all. This is flexible if tight-ends have premium scoring in your league. If you’re electing to wait until the middle rounds to take a tight-end, I’m okay with having two by the tenth round. Now that we have our ground rules, let’s get into strategies based on how your first five rounds went.
Mid-Round Running Back Strategy
Based on ADP, once you get to the sixth round, the top 29 running backs have already come off the board. For the most part, the running backs available in the middle rounds are wild cards that need something to go right in order for them to succeed. There are a handful of boring guys like Lamar Miller (76.2), Jordan Howard (87.8), and LeSean McCoy (100.0) that could provide a middling floor, but lack the upside that the rest of these guys have. If you’ve started your draft with two or three running backs in the first five rounds, I’d look to swing for the fences and grab guys like Derrius Guice (63.4), Miles Sanders (75.8), Rashaad Penny (81.6), Darrell Henderson (81.8), Kareem Hunt (97.8), Ronald Jones II (100.2), or Royce Freeman (103.8). If you decided to go with a “Zero-RB” or “Modified Zero-RB” strategy (where you take a top-end running back in round one and then wait until later to draft the rest of your running backs), I’d look to mix and match some of the boring, middling floor guys with the home run upside guys. The important thing to keep in mind if you’re following those game plans is to hammer the running back position in the middle rounds, as it gets ugly the deeper you go.
Mid-Round Wide Receiver Strategy
Like running back, the wide receivers available according to ADP are a mixture of boring floor guys and big-time upside guys. If the early rounds have gone as planned, you have at least two wide receivers from the first five rounds to build off of. The type of wide receivers you go after in the middle rounds will just depend on who you grabbed early on. If you started off your team with DeAndre Hopkins (6.2) and Adan Thielen (25.6), feel free to go for the upside plays like Mike Williams (65.4), Dante Pettis (82.0), Corey Davis (84.8), Courtland Sutton (101.0), N’Keal Harry (104.6), or Dede Westbrook (105.6). However, if you waited until the fourth round to grab your first wide-out and ended up with Kenny Golladay (44.8) and Calvin Ridley (54.0), you’d want to mix in some safer picks like Jarvis Landry (63.0), Tyler Boyd (63.2), Alshon Jeffery (67.4), Allen Robinson (73.0), Sterling Shepard (87.8), Larry Fitzgerald (101.6), or Golden Tate (102.8). If you went running back heavy and threw a tight-end in there, this would be the time to hammer the wide receiver position.
Mid-Round Tight-End Strategy
This assumes you took some combination of five running backs and wide receivers to start the draft. Unless I’m in a league where tight-ends get premium scoring, this is my ideal start to a draft. According to FantasyPros PPR ADP, there are only seven tight-ends being drafted between rounds six and ten: Evan Engram (60.6), Hunter Henry (65.0), Eric Ebron (77.6), Jared Cook (79.8), David Njoku (88.4), Vance McDonald (97.6), and Austin Hooper (117.6). Everyone in this range has upside with warts, whether it’s injury concerns (Engram, Henry), touchdown regression (Ebron), or new situation (Cook). Other than Austin Hooper, I’m comfortable with any of these as my TE1 coming out of the draft, which reinforces waiting on tight-end in the early rounds of your draft.
Mid-Round Quarterback Strategy
I saved this for last because, in my opinion, it’s the least important of the positions. For example, Matt Ryan (71.4) and Jared Goff (101.2) have similar projections, despite being taken three rounds apart. According to FantasyPro’s player page, Matt Ryan is projected to score 302.5 fantasy points versus Goff’s 287.1. Over the course of 16 games, that’s an average of less than a point per week. So, my recommendation at quarterback is to wait as long as you’re comfortable with waiting.
Summing It Up
The overall goal of the middle rounds of your draft is to add depth while giving you a well-rounded roster. An entire team of high-risk, high-upside players is rarely going to win your league. Nor is an entire team of safe, low-upside, high-floor players. You need to find that balance in your draft to set yourself up for success this coming season.
(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)