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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Primer And Tight End Scouting Report

Fantasy Insider Scott Engel helps map out your ideal draft plan, plus a look at the tight end position.

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Scott Engel is beginning his 10th season as the official Fantasy writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. Scott is a 25-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. He is a four-time FSWA award winner and 10-time nominee, including being named a finalist for the 2020 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award. You can also find more of his Fantasy analysis on RotoBaller.com, SportsLine.com, the Athletic and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Scott won two Fantasy Football dynasty league titles in 2020, including one in the prestigious Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and he previously pulled off a three-peat in a highly competitive New York City league.

To get you fully prepared for the all-important first step on the path to a 2021 Fantasy Football championship, we supply the ultimate "map" to executing an ideal draft. The draft is a roller coaster ride, with exciting and challenging twists and turns, and we help you strap in and get ready for it with in-depth tips and advice on how to proceed and react at all points of the player selection process. Take in and absorb these recommended approaches and you will be able to construct the core of a very strong roster that is built for contention. We cover the nuances of the entire Fantasy Football draft process, from the first pick until the last round.

The First Round

Many Fantasy players devote a heavy amount of their pre-draft focus to determining their first round targets, and while this is the cornerstone pick to make, don't overthink it. Do not try to guess what will happen ahead of you, simply be ready to take the best available player when it is your turn, and that will likely be a running back. Wherever you pick, you should simply have the corresponding amount of players queued up for potential selection. If you pick eighth, you should have your Top 8 players queued up and then just pick the top player available from the remaining players in the queue when it is your turn to pick.

According to NFL.com Average Draft Positions, the first seven players and nine of the first 12 off the board are running backs. So you should be ready to get in on the run, with the one potential exception being Travis Kelce. As I indicated in this Fantasy Football experiment on RotoBaller.com., it is very possible to build a strong core around Kelce as your first pick. Kelce scored 312.8 Fantasy PPR points last season, which would have ranked fourth at wide receiver. The third-highest scoring tight ends last year tied for 176.6 points. Kelce averaged 20.9 Fantasy Points Per Game last season, almost five more than the third highest average and over eight points ahead of fourth.

Kelce is so dominant at such a thin position, it makes a lot of sense to pivot away from running backs to him in the middle to late portion of the first round as the only player you would make such a move on. You should then take the top-rated RB in the second round. If you are at the back end of the first round, you can take a prime WR with your first pick and then quickly go for one of the best RBs available early in the second round. Once the Top 10 or so RBs are taken, you can opt to nab one of the very elite wideouts, such as Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams.

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Building Out Your Early Core

After the first pick, Fantasy players often want to know in what specific order they should address their starting slots, mainly at running back and wide receiver. There is no set plan in which to select your players after the first round. Every draft is different and you have to go with the flow, let the draft come to you. There should be a loose, but not rigid approach to base your early to mid-round targets on.

If you take a running back in the first two rounds, you can build a nice starting duo by picking another in the second round, and you can afford to do so knowing that wide receiver is a deep position. Yet it is hard to pass on top-level wideouts such as DK Metcalf when they are available in the second round. You can still get good RBs in the third and fourth rounds. Players such as JK Dobbins and David Montgomery are frequently available after the second round of drafts. Refer to overall rankings to make the call on RB vs. WR in the second round. I have included my latest overall Top 25 for your usage at the end of this article.

Mock drafting on NFL.com can prepare you to play around with different early round approaches. Ultimately, though, it will be about adjusting to the draft on the run, and making decisions on the fly. If the Top 20 running backs are filtering towards the middle or end of the third round, and you want to grab a certain WR, there is a very good chance you could land Chris Carson in the fourth round.

The best recommendation we can make is to stick to a loose plan to grab two running backs and two wide receivers in the first four rounds. If you do pivot to an elite QB or TE, you will have to bump that approach back one round and make sure you have two RBs and WRs in the first five rounds.

The Middle Rounds

As we have indicated in our Fantasy QB primer, it is advisable to resist the temptation to take a top superstar QB in the early rounds while focusing on the skill positions. If your league requires three starting WRs and a flex player, you should mainly focus on getting two starting RBs, three WRs and either a projected flex starter or one of the better tight ends in the first six rounds. If you did take a TE or QB in the first six rounds, then the core of your starting lineup should be filled out by Round 7. You should take your top projected flex starter no later than the seventh round.

Of course, there will be exceptions to such a plan. Sometimes you may not be able to resist a good value falling to you. If Carson is still available in the fifth round and you already have two running backs, it may be hard to pass on him, and you will have to adjust your approach at WR and focus exclusively on the position in the sixth round or possibly the seventh.

If you do go with the patient approach at QB, there will be many quality starters available from the seventh to ninth round, and sometimes in the 10th, as outlined in the QB primer. If you did miss out on a TE in the range of 7-8 at the position, you can double up on upside plays such as Adam Trautman and Gerald Everett.

The Later Rounds

Once you have filled out the bulk of your projected starting lineup, then the draft becomes a fun exercise of picking off your favorite value plays while also building depth. If you have your starting QB in place by Round 9, you can spend most of the remainder of your time grabbing nifty picks at RB, WR and TE until the final two rounds. You can also land projected and direct NFL backups to your top running backs.

Do not focus heavily on bye weeks or playoff schedules. Your team may change a lot between draft day and those marked points on the calendar later in the season. You may not need to draft a backup QB in some leagues if many of your league mates do not. Your defense should be your next to last pick, and if you don't get an elite unit that you can start every week, keep in mind those are rare. You will likely stream defenses every week, so pick one based on good Week 1 matchups. The Seahawks have a good opening matchup for defensive Fantasy purposes in the season opener vs. Indianapolis. Do not gloss over your final pick of a kicker. The better ones can boost your team to a victory in any given week.

Tight End Rankings

We have covered drafting approaches to the TE position in detail, so here are our Top 20 for 2021 Fantasy Football drafts.

  1. Travis Kelce
  2. Darren Waller
  3. George Kittle
  4. Mark Andrews
  5. Kyle Pitts
  6. T.J. Hockenson
  7. Dallas Goedert
  8. Robert Tonyan
  9. T.J. Hockenson
  10. Adam Trautman
  11. Noah Fant
  12. Irv Smith Jr.
  13. Rob Gronkowski
  14. Tyler Higbee
  15. Jared Cook
  16. Mike Gesicki
  17. Hunter Henry
  18. Gerald Everett
  19. Anthony Firkser
  20. Jonnu Smith

Seahawks Fantasy Insider Scott Engel ranks the best fantasy tight ends to target for the 2021 season.

Top 25 Overall

For usage in making tight calls in the first and second round

  1. Christian McCaffery
  2. Dalvin Cook
  3. Derrick Henry
  4. Alvin Kamara
  5. Ezekiel Elliott
  6. Nick Chubb
  7. Austin Ekeler
  8. Travis Kelce
  9. Aaron Jones
  10. Jonathan Taylor
  11. Tyreek Hill
  12. Davante Adams
  13. Saquon Barkley
  14. Antonio Gibson
  15. Joe Mixon
  16. Stefon Diggs
  17. DeAndre Hopkins
  18. Calvin Ridley
  19. DK Metcalf
  20. Justin Jefferson
  21. Allen Robinson
  22. A.J. Brown
  23. Terry McLaurin
  24. Darren Waller
  25. J.K. Dobbins

Check out more of Scott Engel's 2021 Fantasy Football analysis and rankings at RotoBaller.com. Enter promo code "seahawks" at checkout for an additional discount on the RotoBaller Fantasy Football season pass. Also try out the new Mock Draft Assistant, where you can practice quick drafting against computer.

Seahawks Fantasy Insider Scott Engel ranks the best fantasy players to target in the early part of the draft as you prepare for the 2021 season.

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