David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Joe Mixon
- For drafters with top-three picks, the turn of Rounds 2-3 is where fantasy leagues can be won or lost.
- While most people select running backs early in Round 1, a number of positional strategies exist for the next two rounds.
- While WR-TE, TE-RB, RB-WR and WR-WR approaches are viable, the RB-RB plan might be best at the turn.
Some weeks ago, I told my excellent and loyal Twitter followers that if they asked me some fantasy football draft strategy questions, I would answer them.
Here are some of the answers so far.
- The Round I’m Drafting a Fantasy Quarterback
- The 25 Best Fantasy Football Twitter Accounts to Follow
- The Best 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Position
Now I’m going to break down what to do at the turn of Rounds 2-3.
What Should I Do at the Turn of Rounds 2-3?
Although this question is particular to Pick No. 2, it generally applies to people who have a top-three pick, because they all have a truncated draft range in Rounds 2-3 and are likely to select running backs in Round 1.
The Best Strategy for Rounds 2-3
If you have a top-three pick, your draft pretty much starts in Rounds 2-3, because in Round 1 you should automatically take a top running back. (We have a “Daily Fantasy Flex” episode on The Action Network NFL Podcast dedicated to the top backs.)
While the prompting question named particular players for Rounds 2-3, I think what’s really being asked is something bigger: What’s the best positional strategy at the turn if a running back is taken in Round 1?
Five Key Strategies for the Turn
Based on the players mentioned in the question, these three positional pairings are clear.
- Wide receiver-tight end
- Tight end-running back
- Running back-wide receiver
Also, assuming that you wait at quarterback and opt against an early-round double-tight end approach, there are two more conceivable pairings.
- Wide receiver-wide receiver
- Running back-running back
While I have my own preferences for drafting, your approach should be dictated based on your analytical strengths and general team-building philosophy. Your strategy at the turn should be catered to you.
More Fantasy Football Content from The Action Network
- PPR Rankings: Top 200
- Standard Rankings: Top 200
- Player Projections: Every Position
- Printable Cheat Sheet: Download now!
- Player Profiles: Top 200
Wide Receiver-Tight End
I like this approach for a couple of reasons.
There are often several high-quality wideouts available in this range: A.J. Green, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill, for instance. All of them have the potential to finish as top-five fantasy receivers.
Also, drafting a tight end here ensures that you get a top-three option in Rob Gronkoswki, Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz. Streaming is a fine practice, but sometimes good waiver-wire tight ends are hard to find and/or acquire. If you want to lock in a high-end producer at this spot, you need to draft one now, because all of the top-tier options will be gone by Rounds 4-5.
If you want a balanced top of the roster and feel that it’s easier later in the draft for you to find contributing backs and receivers than tight ends, a WR-TE strategy in Rounds 2-3 is for you.
Tight End-Running Back
If you’re the type of fantasy player who can usually find playable wide receivers in the middle and late rounds, the TE-RB option might be best. In addition to locking in a top talent at tight end, you will almost certainly be able to draft one of these five backs.
- Devonta Freeman
- Joe Mixon
- Jordan Howard
- Jerick McKinnon
- LeSean McCoy
They all have top-five upside at the position and are solid secondary backs to roster. With two rushers and a tight end, you can aggressively address the wide receiver position starting in the middle rounds, where you’ve historically been able to find value.
And, as it happens, there are a number of good receivers available starting in Rounds 4-5.
Running Back-Wide Receiver
If you think that you can find production at the tight end position later in the draft — maybe you decide to target the high-upside Jordan Reed and handcuff him with backup Vernon Davis — then the RB-WR approach is probably what you’ll do. By the end of Round 3, the majority of teams usually have two backs and a receiver, and it’s hard to argue against that construction.
With your starting backfield locked in, you’ll be in a good position to round out your starting wide-receiver unit in Rounds 4-5. This is textbook drafting.
Wide Receiver-Wide Receiver
This is something of a go-against-the-grain strategy that can pay off if you’re able to find startable running backs in Rounds 4-5 and beyond. With a top-three back and two receivers with top-five upside, you will have the makings of a super roster — as long as you adequately address the backfield later.
This approach isn’t as leveraged as a pure Zero RB strategy, but it still requires that you find mid- and late-round backs who don’t sink your starting lineup. If you like the idea of a risk-seeking process, the WR-WR plan is in play.
Running Back-Running Back
Exactly five years ago to the day — and I didn’t know that when I started writing this piece, so it’s a happy coincidence — I advocated for an RBx5 approach to fantasy drafts. That’s right.
- Round 1: Running back
- Round 2: Running back
- Round 3: Running back
- Round 4: Running back
- Round 5: Running back
So starting a draft with three running backs — while it might seem extreme — is really nothing to me.
RBx5 Is Still Alive
The idea behind RBx5 is twofold.
- Running backs are important and yet fragile, so you want to be robust at the position by having as many potential starters as possible.
- You can afford to take five straight running backs because you can find value-adding and viable wide receivers in the middle rounds and quarterbacks and tight ends in the late rounds.
These basic ideas very much apply to a RB-RB scheme in Rounds 2-3. You don’t need to go full RBx5 by addressing the position again in Rounds 4-5, but with three backs you will have a robust unit and probably be the first person in your league with the all-important flex spot filled.
And then you can proceed to draft wide receivers and eventually a quarterback and tight end.
The Double-Running Back Strategy in Rounds 2-3
Again, your strategy for the turn in Rounds 2-3 should be suited to your strengths and preferences — but I really like the RB-RB strategy. It requires you to be a sharp drafter, in that you’ll need to know where the value lies at the other positions. (Here’s a list of fantasy football sleepers to get you pointed in the right direction.)
Ultimately, there’s nothing — nothing — as good as leaving a draft with three locked-in lead backs as well as a supporting cast of upside receivers and tight ends you got on the cheap.
Even if I don’t have a top-three pick, the odds that I’ll draft running backs in Rounds 2-3 in any given draft are relatively high.