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How to draft from 1st place in 2024
How to draft from 1st place in 2024

Landing the first pick in your fantasy football draft can bring up mixed feelings. Assuming you’re in a typical “snake draft” league (meaning your first pick in Round 1 means you’ll go last in Round 2), the chance to go first doesn’t necessarily excite you – especially if you don’t believe there’s a clear “1.01” in this year’s draft.

Choosing first also means you’re choosing “on the turn” – you make consecutive selections starting on turn 2/3 each time. This means that between your selections, 22 players will go off the board, which can be daunting and makes it incredibly difficult to predict who will be chosen next.

But don’t let these challenges scare you too much. There are plenty of good reasons to go No. 1. If you’re selected first in half the rounds, you have a ton of talent. That’s especially true early in the draft, when talent drops off pretty sharply and players typically don’t fall much above their average draft position (ADP).

To help you strategize on selecting the No. 1 player in your 2024 fantasy football draft, we’ll go through each stage of the draft to see how things can turn out.

The first overall pick is both very simple and very complicated. It’s simple because you can start preparing as soon as you know you have the pick. There are no surprises that will change who is up for selection for you. The complication is that this is not a year with a hands-down top player.

However, the field isn’t exactly crowded. As our own Michael Fabiano pointed out, the decision ultimately comes down to Christian McCaffrey or CeeDee Lamb. The linked story provides some nice context to the decision (and specifically why the decision falls on just those two players), and ultimately it becomes largely a matter of personal preference when picking at the top.

The best fantasy option in a vacuum is McCaffrey. He’s the best producer at a position that’s getting thin on top fantasy producers.

However, some drafters are against taking a running back so early for philosophical reasons. The higher injury rates are scary. The lure of a “zero RB” draft may pull you in a different direction. If that’s you, it’s hard to say taking Lamb would be a mistake.

You can’t go far wrong either way, so I’ll consider both McCaffrey and Lamb’s lineups throughout the rest of this guide.

The wait since selecting your first player, and you probably just watched a few guys you were hoping would come your way get snatched up in the late second round. Using FantasyPros’ Average Draft Position (ADP) data, you can see who’s likely to be on the board when you make your pick.

If a top 21 player falls into your lap, it’s probably a value you don’t want to pass up. If it’s a running back or a wide receiver, that goes double.

But beyond that, it is now time for another philosophical decision.

Going by ADP, most of your best available players will likely be wide receivers. None of Nico Collins (23rd average), Drake London (24), Deebo Samuel (27), Michael Pittman (28) or Brandon Aiyuk (29) would really be too high a guess here.

The options at the other positions in this quarter are really limited to Sam LaPorta (22), Derrick Henry (25) and Jalen Hurts (26).

You really shouldn’t go for the quarterback this early, so Hurts is a deal breaker, even if you might take most of the top options off the board by making a big run before you get back to work in Round 4. Personally, I don’t have enough confidence in LaPorta to go this early, but I wouldn’t blame you if you take him. If you take LaPorta, your strategy won’t be much different than if you go for the wide receiver.

So, do we draft a running back or not?

I would not do it.

Even if I had taken Lamb in round 1, a draft with zero running backs would force me into a round with no running backs (which makes LaPorta a little more interesting than I would normally find him).

If I go with McCaffrey, LaPorta is off my radar and it’s two WRs for sure.

There are probably five quarterbacks off the board now and you’re faced with an interesting decision. If you don’t take one here, you run the risk of not having a top-10 option and basically playing at that position all year. I’m generally comfortable with that and there’s nothing wrong with taking that risk if you are too.

But even the name of the available QB6 might be enough to change your mind. Anthony Richardson has an ADP of 51.0 (49th on average), so there’s a good chance he’ll be at the top of your “Available Players” list here.

I wouldn’t draft just any QB6 at this point, but Richardson’s incredible potential (just look at his per game production in 2023) makes him special. Of course, drafting Richardson is a high-risk proposition, but if he hits, you could have one of the best fantasy producers at the position every week. Compare that to QB7 Joe Burrow, who could have a great season but has much less chance of finishing in the top three than Richardson.

The QB pick also fits in very well with our zero RB draft. If you took Lamb and LaPorta, your two 1-off skill positions (QB and TE) are now covered, plus two great starting WRs (or you have three top starting WRs and a QB). If you chose McCaffrey, the situation isn’t much different.

If you didn’t take LaPorta, it can be tempting to take tight end here, but names like Mark Andrews and Dalton Kincaid just don’t bring much with the first pick in Round 5. At this point, I’m content to essentially give up on the position and wait for some good value to fall into my lap.

Unless you already have three wide receivers and a fourth ends up on the bench, you can’t go wrong with the second pick in this round if you’re going for RB or WR. Kenneth Walker, Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, Amari Cooper, or even Malik Nabers would all be good picks (assuming no one like DeVonta Smith or James Cook falls to you).

The temptation is to “complete” your starting lineup – to make sure you’re equipped with 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 FLEX option after your first seven picks. First, let me highlight when it’s best to resist that temptation.

If your gaps are at QB and/or TE, the available players should seriously influence your decision. If 10 or 11 QBs have been drafted so far, are you really so desperate to get Brock Purdy or Jared Goff that it would ruin you if your league mate already drafted one as a backup QB? There is a large group of QBs with an ADP around 96 (where you will pick in the next round), and the possibility of landing Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert or Jayden Daniels there means you would waste a pick if you took a QB now. At tight end, it’s not quite as clear-cut: Evan Engram or George Kittle would probably be good picks here, but in the next round, you have the choice of David Njoku, Jake Ferguson or Brock Bowers. Those aren’t exciting names, but they’re not The much less exciting than Kittle. Is a team that stocks up on RB/WR talent and foregoes TE until they’re in the Dalton Schultz/Cole Kmet range really in that much worse a position than one that takes Njoku?

If you’ve taken a quarterback and/or tight end so far, this is probably where you’ll want to add to your RB/WR arsenal. The mid-round ADP will likely change significantly between the time I write this (early July) and the time you draft, so I won’t go into too much detail about what options will be on the board, but even a small grab for someone like Zack Moss or Diontae Johnson is worthwhile at this point to complete a starting lineup.

One strategy I will almost never deviate from is to draft my kicker in the last round and have my defense come with my second to last pick. I will be considering waiver wire options for both positions every week anyway. But there are some important decisions to be made before that.

If you haven’t taken your QB or TE yet, it will probably be in the 8/9 round. I wouldn’t feel good if I didn’t have a QB at that point, but it Is negotiable at TE. If I see a good value with high upside potential and that means I’m in a terrible TE situation, I’m happy to do it.

A few considerations for your RBs and WRs:

If you’ve chosen zero RB, now is the time to stock up on high-potential running backs. Since you’re nowhere near set up with a strong starting rotation, you want to target guys who could become real every-week options. You don’t really care how low their potential risk is. That means a guy like Ezekiel Elliott (maybe he’s washed up? But he has no real competition for touches and, if he plays well, could be a huge steal) is more interesting than, say, Gus Edwards, whose potential still lies in being on a crowded committee.

You should also go for home runs with your wide receiver picks here. A “safe” 8 fantasy points each week will never get you into your starting lineup. What are the chances you ever get Jerry Jeudy into the starting lineup? By the time you’re forced to think about it during off weeks, you’ve either already dropped him or found a better option as a waiver pickup. So instead, look at rookies who could play themselves into big roles if they impress early (Brian Thomas) or veterans with big potential who come at a cheaper price (Mike Williams).

All in all, you should probably be pretty happy with your roster at this point. Of course, the performance of your actual players will trump any strategic decisions you made in the draft, but your roster is now set up to excel and even weather the storm if you had a few flops. You took advantage of the opportunity to pick early in the rounds to gain some big upside and advantages, and you mitigated any concerns about missing out on QB/TE runs by either securing a top option (without overpaying) or by accepting a mediocre option and focusing on stocking up elsewhere rather than panicking and overdrafting a weak option anyway.

Now all you have to do is manage the team you’ve put together, and you already know that SI Fantasy will help you do that every week of the season.