Preparing For Your 2020 NFL Fantasy Football Draft: Here’s How It Will Go

Fantasy football is nearly upon us and preparing for your draft wouldn’t be complete without participating in an excessive amount of mock drafts. I myself have done far more than I care to admit. Combining my mock drafts with ones that are publically available, I have amassed the results from 75 different drafts and summarized the results. Below you’ll see a graph with six bumps, or “waves,” indicating where high concentrations of positions are typically being drafted. In this article, we’ll work our way through each of the six waves and use results from 2019 as a parallel reference.

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Wave One: Rounds One and Two

Wave one will take place over the first two rounds or so. The top running back and wide receiver options will go in addition to a few elite quarterbacks and tight ends. Ten of our top 20 and 13 of our top 24 ranked players heading into 2020 are running backs. The top 24 also has Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle. If you want one of those four players, I’d recommend not waiting (none of them will likely be available after round three). Here are a few tidbits from last year’s top 24 players in terms of Average Draft Position (ADP) heading into the 2019 drafts:

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10 of the 12 running backs above finished as an RB2 or better. Seven of those running backs finished as an RB1 (in 12-team leagues). Three of them finished inside the top 24 overall. Of the ten wide receivers, five of them finished as a WR2 or better, and four of them finished as a WR1. Albeit it’s a small sample size, you were more likely in 2019 to end up with a top 24 positionally ranked player taking a running back in the first two rounds than you were with a receiver. Lastly, let’s take a look at those 24 players in terms of their final points per game.

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Nine of the 12 running backs were above the RB1 baseline of 13 points per game (James Conner just short at 12.9). Seven of the ten receivers finished above the WR1 baseline (one of them being Antonio Brown if that even counts).

Wave Two: Rounds Three Through Seven

Next comes a wide receiver heavy wave two. Everyone that prioritized running backs early, or took one of the top tight ends or quarterbacks, will be looking to fill out their wide receiver and flex depth chart. It’s during wave two that you’ll also see any last remnants of attractive running back options go off the board. Players with the zero-running-back-early approach will be snatching up players such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mark Ingram, Melvin Gordon, and David Johnson. Warning: Running back options beyond this point are scarce. Here are some results from last year’s wave two:

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Last year there was more balance between the running backs and wide receivers in wave two than this year’s ADP list suggests there will be. There are 21 running backs and 20 wide receivers in the wave two graphs above. Of the 21 running backs, 12 finished as an RB2 or better. Three finished top 24 overall, and seven of them were above the RB1 baseline of 13 points per game. Of the 20 wide receivers, 12 were a WR2 or better. None of them finished inside the top 24 overall, and nine of them finished above the WR1 baseline of 12.45. Wave two is pivotal to a strong draft. Those that chose Josh Jacobs and Kenny Golladay over Kerryon Johnson and Tyler Boyd had much stronger teams.

Wave Three: Rounds Six Through Nine

Many teams will then find their quarterback and tight end in wave three. Looking at the graph at the top, quarterbacks and tight ends in wave three represents the most concentrated part of the draft. It will start with players such as Mark Andrews and Deshaun Watson, and then the dominos will begin to fall with remaining options. Ignoring Lamar Jackson, the drop-off rate in points was fairly consistent between quarterbacks and tight ends in 2019. This suggests that taking a quarterback and then a tight end wasn’t monumentally different than going the other way around:

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Wave Four: Rounds Eight Through Eleven

Wave four will be dominated by another crop of wide receivers and running backs. Think Sterling Shepard and Kareem Hunt. It’s also around this time that you’re likely to see the top defenses go. There will be somebody in your league that will snatch up San Francisco or New England as soon as the rest of their roster is filled out and a small wave of top defense options will follow shortly after.

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Notice the gradual decline in wide receiver points per game relative to the running back position and its more drastic reduction early in the draft. There’s more wide receiver depth in the NFL, and you’re therefore more likely to find a startable fantasy asset at the wide receiver position in this portion of the draft. The RB3s and RB4s had a range of approximately 70 points in 2019 compared to a range of roughly 45 for wide receivers.

Wave Five: Rounds Eleven through Fourteen

Wave five will see another group of quarterbacks get taken. These will be your Matthew Stafford and Jared Goffs of the world. Many people believe you’re just as likely to snag a top quarterback late in the draft as you are in the middle rounds. The graph below supports the argument. Some teams are also drafting a second quarterback here as well. It’s during this wave that you’ll likely also see a large wave of sleepers get drafted. The following players are currently all going around the 100 to 130 range: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

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Wave Six: Rounds Fourteen and Fifteen

Lastly, wave six. Between waves five and six, you’ll see your kickers come off the board. Additionally, more sleepers will come off the board. It’s in wave six where you’ll also see a handful of teams draft their starting or backup tight end. Much like quarterbacks, many people feel that if they miss one of the top two or three options that they might as well wait. You’ll see players such as Jonnu Smith and Austin Hooper get drafted in wave six. Here’s a look at the end what the end of the draft looked like in 2019:

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The end of the draft is all over the place. Four of the ten tight ends taken in this range had higher points per game than the TE1 baseline. Six of the 21 wide receivers finished above the WR2 baseline, and only one of the 14 running backs finished above the RB2 baseline. This graph also suggests that late in the draft you’re more likely to find a startable fantasy asset at the quarterback or tight end position than you are at the wide receiver or running back position.

Best of luck drafting this season!

Zach Boeder is a high school math teacher that has a passion for sports and data journalism. He has played fantasy football and baseball for more than ten years and loves how it keeps him connected to his friends. Despite loyal allegiances to the Vikings, Zach will forever love Patrick Mahomes for bringing him a fantasy championship in 2018.

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