Fantasy football leagues with eight teams are easy. Fantasy football leagues with 14+ teams can be a nightmare. Ten and 12 team leagues? That’s the sweet spot. If you’re feeling uneasy about your upcoming 10 or 12-team league draft, you shouldn’t. You just need a sound strategy, pick up value when it’s staring you in the face and make sure you stay balanced.
Simple advice for a simple game, folks. But sometimes it’s not easy to follow, or you just don’t want to. Taking Aaron Rodgers right away is more fun. Or splurging for Rob Gronkowski feels like it gives you that huge advantage at one position every week. Maybe, but tell that to the many teams that owned The Gronk and still came up short in 2014. It happens, because one guy, a team does not make.
Click here or my look at 12-team fantasy football leagues (mind the slight staleness), and read on as I draft from every spot in 10-team leagues to show you how to build a winner.
Note: Everything here is standard scoring, non PPR, with a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1Flex, 1K, 1DEF and 6 Bench spots.
Team 1 – Pick 1
Just click the box below and you should be able to easily see the final roster I got, my reaches, sleepers, grade and all that jazz. I got rated poorly for my starting unit, but as you can see, that may not always be an appropriate grading. Arian Foster was drafted at value and if he can return at full strength in a month, he’s obviously going to be starting over Carlos Hyde. That opens up that Flex spot to be occupied by Hyde, one of my many strong wide receivers, or perhaps Ivory, Mason or Run DMC.
My big thing is depth and balance. Have a top shelf quarterback and back him up with a steady guy that can possibly be a QB1. I did that with Tannehill and Bridgewater. The biggest thing, of course, is getting at least one top flight rusher and regardless, get 4-5 quality running backs that can potentially help carry your team. Charles qualifies as the first as my #1 pick, while Hyde and Ivory could both be very strong RB2s. Mason and McFadden are risky picks, but both do have some upside, as well. Wide receiver is killer on this team, as Green and Cobb could both be WR1s and so could Hopkins, who resides in my Flex to start the year (him or Ivory). Zach Ertz was grabbed way late and since he’s my 9th favorite tight end in fantasy football this year, that’s money in the bank. 10-team leagues are probably the best leagues to wait on kicker and defense. I got the exact defense I covet in the Ravens and got the best kicker in the game.
Draft Analyzer Grade: 2nd Overall, 8th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 2 – Pick 2
I’m really not into just one guy at the top spot, but my top pick is indeed Jamaal Charles. That being said, the mock draft simulator had Antonio Brown going first and I think that’s just crazy. I’m not paying that price for a wide receiver to have back-to-back-to-back career years. It just doesn’t happen. I’ll skip Charles since I just drafted him in the past mock, and will take Adrian Peterson to get the ball rolling. Check out the results below and I’ll analyze a little further below.
Megatron in round two? Yes, please. All of the other stud wide receivers are gone but I’d consider taking him anyways. Dude was a first rounder the past few years and now I can get him and Peterson together? These guys aren’t just aging big names. They’re not Larry Fitzgerald. They’re really freaking good and I’m elated to pair them anytime I can. My next pick I was torn between a solid RB2 in Lamar Miller or a second elite WR1 in A.J. Green. I could go either way, but Green seems more enticing, especially since I’m not so sure there is a big gap between Miller and the next RB I can get my hands on.
I drafted Drew Brees in round five because I really don’t think he’s going to drop off much this year. A potential top-3 fantasy passer in the fifth round is probably the only time I’m reaching at quarterback this year. I’ll generally wait if he’s not there come round five, though.
I’m starting to like Doug Martin a lot this year, while I’m getting shares of Arian Foster anytime that makes sense after round six. Round 8 is a steal for a guy that could still be a weekly RB1 in about a month. Allen Robinson and Steve Smith may only start once all year for me, but these guys are amazing depth adds in 10-team leagues. I love both of them at their value in 2015.
Grade: 1st Overall, 2nd Starters, 1st Bench
Team 3 – Pick 3
Back to Charles to kick off this mock, as he’s a no-brainer if Bell and Peterson are gone. Eddie Lacy and Marshawn Lynch deserve consideration, but Charles is my top back so I’m obviously going to take him at the three spot in scenarios like this. Pick two I went with LeSean McCoy over Megatron just to switch things up. I love Megatron this year but getting a second potential RB1 is tough to pass on. The story is much the same here through round five. I have my top RB and WR picks and Brees is staring me down. I love him at this value. Again, if he’s not here, I’m waiting until round 8 or later in 10-team leagues.
From this point on (and this is possibly the case in my other mocks, too) you have to refrain from thinking strictly based off of “who do I like more” or just working 100% off of rankings. ADP and value really needs to be considered here, as I can take someone like Ameer Abdullah here and STILL get Arian Foster, or at wide receiver I can try to get DeSean Jackson and then hope Jeremy Maclin also falls into my hands – even though I have those guys ranked in reverse order. It’s a dice roll, but sometimes that’s how you get those killer value picks. I actually tried both but Maclin got snagged. I was able to secure Foster in round 8, though. Martavis Bryant is a disgusting value in round 11. I don’t think you’ll be able to get him that late against human drafters, so be prepared to pounce on him a lot sooner. He’s only out 4 games and was a menace last year despite playing just 10 games.
One other thing, I like Tyler Eifert a lot. I also like Kyle Rudolph, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and getting the reliable Antonio Gates. You can get them all in round 13 or even later. If they don’t work out to your liking, I’m totally fine with streaming the position in 2015. If you can’t get Gronkowski, I’d rather just stock up at other positions.
The Miami Dolphins are probably the top sleeper defense. If the Ravens are gone, I’m looking for them. Ndamukong Suh was what made the Lions hum last year and the Fins were a solid enough unit even before they got him. They’re going to be nasty.
Grade: 1st Overall, 6th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 4 – Pick 4
Okay, so usually you can expect the top three consensus running backs (Peterson, Charles, Bell) to be gone at this point. If they are, I’m fine with either Eddie Lacy or Marshawn Lynch. I slightly prefer Lacy just because he carries a little more upside and he may be used even more with Jordy Nelson going down. Beast Mode is no consolation prize, however. Also, this might be the point you start considering the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Antonio Brown, but that’s never part of my strategy. I’m sure you can win doing that, but I think it’s far too bold. The real trick at the four spot is going to be your decision-making come round two, where I had the luxury of picking between a stud wide receiver or Jeremy Hill. I will always value having two potential top-10 rushers over one top-10 wide receiver. The balance of having an Odell or Julio is certainly tempting and sometimes I’ll do it, but that’s usually because Hill isn’t still available. I get my two stud backs and then next pick I land Mike Evans, who absolutely can be a top-5 guy. That right there tells me I made the right call.
I’m shooting for Arian Foster again (which is why I took The Muscle Hamster), but last time I rolled the dice on not getting Maclin and I opted to not take that chance. I love him as a strong WR2 or possibly better, so having him as a Flex or WR3 is just awesome to me. I still get Foster one pick later and the true beauty of all this is I really like Jarvis Landry. Instead of reaching for him two picks earlier, I nabbed Maclin and Foster AND got a guy I’m high on. Booyah!
When you’re in position to take stabs at insane upside, you have to do it. Duke Johnson looks like a bust right now, but he’s easily Cleveland’s most talented rusher. Plenty of upside to take a gamble on him in round 10. Doing so had me missing out on an awesome backup QB in Matthew Stafford, but I still got Teddy Bridgewater so it ultimately may have been worth it.
Grade: 2nd Overall, 5th Starters, 2nd Bench
Team 5 – Pick 5
This mock was pretty straight forward to start, but another example of where you have to incorporate your own value is when I took Davante Adams. I actually like Jeremy Maclin more, but I can see the rankings don’t (this gets even worse depending on which website you use for your draft). Exploiting these ranks and your competitor’s needs/interests can be key. I do that and it gets me both Maclin and Adams. Addin Alshon Jeffery and I don’t mind at all that I passed up ODB do draft LeSean McCoy. I didn’t mind, anyways, but this only helps my case.
As you can see, I decided to pass on Brees this time around and waited until round 10 to get my starting quarterback. I probably should have gone one round earlier and taken Matthew Stafford, but I have Tannehill ranked just two spots down. I’m more than comfortable with him as my QB1, and because I got him so late I’ll just refrain from adding a backup. That’s what the waiver wire is for, anyways.
Grade: 1st Overall, 6th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 6 – Pick 6
My first real dilemma in these mocks came in round two, where I had to decide between DeMarco Murray or Julio Jones. I love Murray actually and in round two I see last year’s #1 running back as a monster value. However, Julio is my #1 wide receiver this year. I could really go either way and there isn’t a wrong pick, but I tend to prefer that elite RB pairing. If Murray was gone, it’d be Julio all the way. The big reason why I’m OK with passing on Jones, ODB, the like, is because a couple elite receivers are leaking into round three. I snatched up Mike Evans, while I’m also really into Brandin Cooks and DeAndre Hopkins.
Okay, now I can get Brees in round six, too? Dirty. He’s my #3 quarterback, so I’m not passing on value like that. I swing around and get two guys I’m all about – Davante Adams and Arian Foster. Sick of the Foster repetition? Don’t be. In the draft range he falls in, there just doesn’t seem like a better risk worth taking. C.J. Spiller is just as injury prone and less valuable, LeGarrette Blount is suspended a game and on a team that loves to use numerous running backs, Tevin Coleman is a rookie with a shaky role, Isaiah Crowell hasn’t proven anything and Ryan Mathews is a backup. I’d much rather roll the dice on Foster.
Vincent Jackson in round nine is disturbing. I refrain slightly because Jameis Winston has been shaky and I now have two Buccaneers wide receivers on my team, but the value is too good too pass up. I think this is the second time I took Tre Mason. Sure, Todd Gurley is the future of the Rams, but he’s out the first couple of weeks and may not be ready or healthy enough to take over a full load. Mason is super talented and should have a role all year. That’s good enough for me in round 10. At my next pick I’m eyeing Steve Smith, but I also like the upside of Charles Johnson in Norv Turner’s vertical scheme. I could really go either way, and neither is a bad value.
Grade: 2nd Overall, 4th Starters, 2nd Bench
Team 7 – Pick 7
I could give in and take Rob Gronkowski with some of the top guys off the board, or even go to a stud wide receiver. But what we’ve learned is that I really like running backs with elite potential AND you can still get really solid wide receivers deep into fantasy football drafts. That has me going for C.J. Anderson, who easily could be a top-five running back, yet I get at the 7th pick. Nothing is really “value” in round one, as it’s a first round pick you’re spending. But it’s close.
And THIS is the fun in fantasy drafts. It’s just a mock and it may not happen in your league, but Rob Gronkowski falls to me in my second pick in round two. It’s not a pick I’m normally making, but that’s really solid value so I’ll take my chances in this mock. From there, I still land two elite WRs in Alshon Jeffery and Brandin Cooks with my next two picks. Now it’s all about running backs and filling this roster out.
I was able to pick up Doug Martin, T.J. Yeldon and Arian Foster, while also getting a tremendous value in Matthew Stafford in round 9. I even picked up Brandon Marshall, who I don’t necessarily like more than Jeremy Maclin and some other guys this year, but he was the highest rated and would soon be gone. Again, play rankings and your opponents, not just your own rankings and value assessment.
I haven’t looked yet, but I would guess this is my poorest rated team. It could be because my running backs, which overall might be a little weak. That has everything to do with taking The Gronk in round two, something I’d normally never do. I think the team is still strong and he obviously is a part of that, but most times I’m going to prefer a second strong running back or a stud wide receiver in that spot. I was right, as my overall dropped to 3rd – the lowest of this mock breakdown. This is still a strong, balanced (and likely playoff) team. Passing on Gronk to be even deeper is probably the way to go, however.
Grade: 3rd Overall, 6th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 8 – Pick 8
I took nothing but running backs and wide receivers in my first nine picks, which is precisely what I’m bound to do usually when I pick past the seventh spot. I still got Stafford at QB (Cutler backing him up), Ertz at TE, plus the Ravens D and Matt Bryant at kicker. The last four are fantastic values and I didn’t have to sacrifice anything to get them.
Grade: 3rd Overall, 8th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 9 – Pick 9
If my strategy bores you, I don’t blame you. I draft a lot of the same players because they represent value, while living a fantasy season without a Gronkowski or ODB on your team may feel like torture. You can still draft those guys and luck out with awesome sleeper picks, but it’s much riskier. I prefer to play it safe and piece together a team I know can pass the eye test and gives me a shot to get into the playoffs. Everyone will know about the hot waiver wire adds later in the year, so if you can get 1-2 of them and add them to your balanced roster, you’ll have as good a shot as anyone.
Grade: 1st Overall, 7th Starters, 1st Bench
Team 10 – Pick 10
I typically like to grab two running backs early, if you hadn’t noticed. I’m not against going WR/RB, I just like the value at wide receiver more than at running back and feel you can make up for passing on the elites in the latter’s position. Starting with Murray/Hill gives me a strong pairing of elite running backs, and I can still go get two guys I am really high on my next time around in Hopkins and Cooks. How you feel about that next tier of WRs you can get (Evans, Hopkins, Jeffery, Cobb, Cooks, etc) is what may help you best decide which way to go. But I’d prefer to take a chance on those guys, as opposed to guys like Alfred Morris, Mark Ingram, Carlos Hyde, etc at the running back position.
Grade: 5th Overall, 7th Starters, 1st Bench
This team got the worst grade, which is only natural with me picking later and getting players that are ranked lower. However, I’m not drafting to cater to the Draft Analyzer. I’m showing you my style, my favorite value picks and sleepers, and how/when/where to get them. But even mocking from every spot in a 10-team league one time doesn’t get it done. You have to do that yourself, study ADP and assign your own value for players. The RB/WR strategy is just fine and I use that, too. I’m not even completely opposed to a WR/WR start. But getting those two reliable RBs early sets the tone for your draft and wide receiver is deep enough to make up for passing on the elite options.
Hopefully you feel a little better about your 10-team league now. Got a specific question? Feel free to comment below or hit me up on Twitter @BreakingKevin.