When to draft what position in fantasy football [2019 update]

Asking when to draft what position in fantasy football is sort of a ritual.

Is there really a proper time to draft a quarterback? Do you actually need to wait until a certain round to select a kicker? Is there a reason why some positions are taken before others?

The answer to all the above questions is yes!

That is, if you want a championship game plan.

Today, I’m going to go through position by position and give you advice on when to draft what.

When to draft a quarterback in fantasy football

Short answer: Round 9 or later.

The NFL was a different type of game when fantasy football first began. Quarterbacks were at a premium because offenses were more committed to the running game.

For example, Warren Moon was the only quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in 1990. Compare that to last year, when 12 quarterbacks did it — and two of those threw for more than 5,000.

How about touchdown passes? Just nine quarterbacks in 1990 threw for more than 20 touchdowns. Last year? 20 did it. And 9 of those threw for more than 30, with Patrick Mahomes topping 50.

Bottom line, it’s a passing league and there are plenty of good quarterbacks to go around.

You should not draft a quarterback until the mid-to-late rounds. If you select one any higher than that, you are not getting good value or bang for your buck.

When to draft a running back in fantasy football

Short answer: Rounds 1 through 8.

Running backs are where championships are won and lost. Depending on your league’s scoring system and roster requirements, they are likely the most valuable assets on your team.

The reason for this is simple. And twofold.

First, more and more NFL teams these days are going with a committee approach. They deploy multiple backs who serve very specific roles. This means fewer teams have “workhorses” or “three-down” backs who hardly ever leave the field.

Second, running backs also catch more passes in today’s NFL, so they serve as receivers, too. The three-down backs are on the field in both running and passing situations.

These workhorses are the backs that you should target immediately, beginning with your first pick and concluding only when you have sufficient depth at the position. About four should do it. Five if you have deeper rosters.

When to draft a wide receiver in fantasy football

Short answer: Rounds 1 through 8.

Wide receivers, like running backs, are among the most valuable assets your fantasy football team can have. If you’re in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues they are even more valuable.

The reason they are somewhat less valuable than running backs (again, depending on your league’s scoring system and roster requirements) is because there are more of them.

The best wide receivers are the ones who draw a lot of their team’s targets. A target is any time a quarterback throws to a receiver. Obviously the more targets a receiver draws, the more chances he has at racking up points.

Slot receivers are awfully valuable in PPR leagues if they operate in pass-heavy offenses. One of these types of receivers can get a handful of points simply by catching passes near the line of scrimmage.

You should start drafting wide receivers immediately, just like running backs. And don’t stop until you have sufficient depth.

When to draft a tight end in fantasy football

Short answer: Round 3 (the exception), or Round 9 and after (the rule).

Tight ends generally are more valuable in PPR leagues than they are in standard scoring ones. This is because not many of them are as fast and nimble as wide receivers. They’re bigger guys and are going to be running shorter routes.

There are exceptions, though. Some tight ends are fast enough to beat linebackers and big enough to out-jump defensive backs. These tight ends are capable of scoring numbers similar to receivers. If you can draft one of these, it’s okay to select them in Round 3.

However, if the few top options are off the board, you’re better off waiting until Rounds 9 and later because there’s not much difference between the next batch of them. Hence, you won’t get much value in taking the fifth-best tight end in Round 5.

When to draft a kicker in fantasy football

Short answer: The very very very last round … with one exception.

As a rule (with one exception that I’ll note in just a moment), you are to never draft a kicker before the last round.

Never.

Just don’t do it.

It’s stupid.

Did I mention not to do it before the last round?

Kickers are a dime a dozen. They all score relatively close to one another. They rarely finish the season in the same order as they did the year before. And few of them score the same amount of points on a consistent, weekly basis.

If you think you’re being smart and savvy by selecting “the best one” before anybody else gets his hands on one, you’re not.

You’re wasting a pick.

* The one exception: As I noted, there is one exception to the rule that you should wait until the final round to select a kicker. And it is this:

If you have one of the last picks of the last round, go ahead and select one with your second-to-last pick. This way, you will jump ahead of all the other owners waiting to take one in the final round.

But even then, it’s not worth it. It’s just not as egregious an error.

When to draft a defense in fantasy football

Short answer: Round 12 and later.

Defenses are a lot like quarterbacks and kickers in that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the best one and the 12th-best one.

Meaning: You’re not going to get good value in trying to pick the best one in Round 7.

You will get much better value drafting your third and fourth running backs and wide receivers before selecting your starting defense.

Defenses do carry more value than kickers, though, so I’d recommend drafting a defense before your kicker.

But I wouldn’t draft a defense until you at least have your running back and receiver depth chart filled out, and your starting quarterback in place.