The biggest fantasy football draft-day questions of 2024

How long can I wait until drafting a running back? Should I invest in a rookie quarterback late in a draft? What second-tier wide receiver could make a difference this season? When should I draft my defense? These are just some of the tough decisions fantasy football players will have to make on draft day.

To help fantasy football players prepare, we asked our team of fantasy football analysts about their biggest draft concerns and the difficult decisions that they’ll face when they sit down for their drafts.

Knowing the right round to pick your running backs and wide receivers could be just as important as who you take. To prepare for all the different draft scenarios you might face, check out how our experts have planned below, and try your own free mock drafts today.

Tyler Fulghum: Which ambiguous backfields should I be targeting before preseason action starts?

The three I like the most are: 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Tennessee and 3. Denver. The Steelers ran the ball 487 times in 2023. Arthur Smith’s Falcons ran the ball 522 times last year, good for third in the league. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren BOTH have paths to exceeding their average draft position (ADP).

In PPR leagues, Tennessee’s Tony Pollard and Tyjae Spears both have excellent receiving chops in Brian Callahan’s new offense, and his dad, Bill Callahan, is one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of the league.

Sean Payton has always coordinated offenses that are ripe for backfield fantasy production, and the Broncos’ pair of Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin are very attainable targets for zero RB builds.

Liz Loza: Which second-tier rookie WR should I target?

From Marvin Harrison Jr. to Ricky Pearsall, there are 10 rookie wideouts being drafted inside the top 70 fantasy prospects at the position. Nearly half of this grouping is coming off boards in the 10th round of 12-team exercises and presenting with an overall ADP between 112 and 117. The list includes Ladd McConkey (LAC), Keon Coleman (BUF), Rome Odunze (CHI) and Xavier Worthy (KC).

Each rookie projects to draw a similar number of looks (90-100), and all but Coleman present with a top-10 strength of schedule. With so much being equal, talent serves as the necessary tiebreaker, providing Odunze with the highest floor. A former track standout with a catch radius in the 97th percentile, the Washington product offers the highest draft pedigree (ninth overall) and elite testing numbers. He figures to round out the Bears’ receiving corps, working opposite DJ Moore and as a complement to Keenan Allen in the slot, offering managers top-40 positional fantasy appeal.

Fulghum: Should I spend the early-third-round capital on Sam LaPorta or Travis Kelce at TE?

I don’t think it’s necessary at all. Tight end is no longer the barren wasteland it once was. Dalton Kincaid could be the most targeted pass-catcher in Joe Brady’s offense, while Evan Engram is averaging 93.5 receptions per year since joining the Jaguars. Kyle Pitts FINALLY has a real QB … and a healthy knee. Jake Ferguson and Trey McBride had breakout sophomore campaigns. If Brock Bowers pans out, then there might be a usable starter for every manager in a 12-team league.

Take advantage of this talent-dense market and grab a TE that slips past his ADP. If that’s LaPorta or Kelce, then great. But don’t force it with those two, because you have plenty of viable options in Rounds 4-8.

Eric Karabell: Could investing in top rookie quarterbacks make me really sad before October?

I almost always avoid first-year passers in redraft formats, but as I continue with my potentially ill-conceived plan to avoid all quarterbacks until a double-digit round or so, and then double-up on the position, the choices tend to be old stand-by types, such as Aaron Rodgers/Kirk Cousins, versus hotshot upside rookies, like Caleb Williams or Jayden Daniels. And the rookies boast completely healthy Achilles tendons.

We must be open to taking some chances, even at quarterback. Eh, perhaps I should just go with Justin Herbert and hope receivers emerge in Los Angeles.

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Field Yates can’t hide his excitement for Malik Nabers

Field Yates is confident that Giants rookie Malik Nabers is going to smash his ADP for fantasy managers.

Tristan H. Cockcroft: How long can I realistically wait before selecting my first running back?

The zero RB strategy is an increasingly legitimate one, but in shallower leagues such as ESPN’s 10-team standard (or even smaller), waiting too long at the position can be precarious. Addressing the wide receiver position early is my priority in drafts this season, but it won’t come at the expense of letting a running back slip too far in the draft. Always be flexible!

Jahmyr Gibbs sometimes slips outside the top 15 picks, Isiah Pacheco outside the top 20, and Joe Mixon, De’Von Achane and Rachaad White often last longer in public drafts than in our own staff mocks. Kenneth Walker III, typically a fifth-rounder, is about where I draw the positional line for the talent levels dropping off significantly. If anyone within that group looks like a good value, pounce.

If not? By all means zero RB it! It’s a good year to do it, especially as Fulghum points out with the Denver, Pittsburgh and Tennessee backfields, and I’ll also list Brian Robinson Jr., Zack Moss and the Cleveland Browns duo as strong selections for people following this strategy.

Karabell: If I invest in all of my late-round running back hopefuls in nearly every draft, aren’t I setting myself up for disappointment?

Fantasy managers with more than a few teams — or several dozen — participate in enough drafts to know which players they like. Taking the same player over and over and over again, however, can be dangerous if the player fails to provide fantasy value, or gets hurt. I rostered Cousins everywhere last season, enjoyed it for a while, and then at exactly the same time, I needed a new quarterback everywhere. Fun week!

For example, I believe Ezekiel Elliott and Nick Chubb will be relevant fantasy options. I keep investing. Others disagree, clearly. Perhaps more late-round individualized balance is warranted.

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Mike Clay: With quality values at quarterback and tight end, when is the right time to make my move?

Though I’ve been good about ensuring I grab one of the top eight or nine options, I’ve selected quarterbacks at various points throughout the draft. I don’t regret pouncing on the likes of Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen when the board calls for it, but it’s often tough to take a passer and then watch Joe Burrow plummet to the seventh round (a steal!).

It’s a similar story at tight end. It’s tempting to snatch up Mark Andrews (fifth round) or grab a youngster like McBride (sixth) or Kincaid (sixth), but why do that when Engram (seventh) and David Njoku (nine) can be had later? Aggressively attacking RB and WR while walking the line to figure out when to pounce on QB and TE has been a tricky (but fun!) process.

Field Yates: When is it too early to start the QB or TE run?

While in prior years we knew Kelce would be the first TE taken and it would occur within the first 12 or so picks, this year presents a different dynamic at the position that has some similarities at QB. While I’m not hellbent on beginning a positional run, it can be tantalizing to take the top-ranked player at that position (Allen at QB, Kelce at TE, in my eyes), for obvious reasons.

But when? Given the depth at tight end this year and the fact that there is a healthy debate around whether LaPorta should be taken ahead of Kelce, I’m finding patience for a better TE strategy. As for QB, while I am willing to start the run with Allen in the mid-to-late third round, snatching up another RB or WR and “settling” for C.J. Stroud a few rounds later is far from a consolation prize.

Eric Moody: How can I balance my rosters between consistent performers, sleepers and breakout candidates?

Balancing your roster is crucial for success. It’s on my mind during every draft. Think about last season: Players such as Rachaad White, Brandon Aiyuk, LaPorta and Kincaid had great success, while others being touted in the summer, such as Alexander Mattison, Christian Watson and Dameon Pierce, did not.

This year, I’m aggressively targeting players such as Drake London, Zamir White, Jonathon Brooks, Keon Coleman and Tyjae Spears. However, I’m also balancing them out with players who have a history of success so that I’ll have a well-rounded team.

Matt Bowen: Should I target Amon-Ra St. Brown or Justin Jefferson in the second half of Round 1?

Based on our mocks, holding a pick in the second half of Round 1 creates some dilemmas when targeting a WR as it pertains to St. Brown and Jefferson, who both carry a current overall ADP of 7.5. In terms of route traits and explosive play ability, my pick there is Jefferson, who averaged 20.2 points in 10 games played last season. But with a quarterback camp battle looming in Minnesota between Sam Darnold and rookie J.J. McCarthy, there’s a real argument to be made for St. Brown.

Last season, in a Lions passing game that set up Brown with consistent volume, isolation matchups and schemed windows, he logged 20.7 points per game, including four games with 27 or more. Brown has been my target of choice this summer, but the breakout game potential and overall talent of Jefferson makes this a tough decision when they are both on the board.

Fulghum: Which defenses and kickers should I be targeting?

I prefer to stream defenses, so I wait until the last round to make a selection. Because I am streaming — selecting a new defense every week off waivers based on matchup — I’ve identified a few defenses that look appealing for the first week of the 2024 season because their matchup features a low total: Saints-Panthers (40.5), Vikings-Giants (41.5) and Buccaneers-Commanders (41.5). I also like Chargers-Raiders (43.5) to be very low scoring because of both head coaches’ desire to run the football.

As far as kickers are concerned, I like to stream them from teams that are playing indoors and in high-scoring environments. For Week 1, that includes Texans-Colts (48.5) and Rams-Lions (51).

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