Fantasy Football Draft Strategy – The 12 Spot


The 12th Man

There are many things you can control in a redraft league during the draft, and here the the two biggest factors you own:

  1. You control your level of preparation with regard to draft strategies and player information.
  2. You control what players to avoid and how aggressive you want to be in terms of drafting risky players.

There is one thing you cannot control in a normal re-draft league, and that is draft position.

For me personally, I love drafting from the 4-6 spots. You usually get a high-impact player with that first pick and are able to react to any positional runs that may happen in the middle rounds. In one of my 2QB leagues last season, I lucked out with the usually coveted first overall pick of the draft. I had mixed feelings because (while it was great getting to draft Adrian “AP” Peterson), it also meant waiting a painfully long 22 picks before drafting again.

Where did I get hurt the most?  I opted for value and took three running backs with my first three picks.  When the QB run started in round three I was left with a 2QB team run by Joe Flacco and Jake Locker.  This wasn’t exactly an ideal situation (even with a very strong core of running backs.) In the same league one year later and as luck would have it,  I am drafting from the twelve spot, and drafting from the bookends of any draft requires careful planning and very deliberate strategy for success.  In this article, I’m going to share my 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy for drafting from this position.

Step 1: Face Reality – You’re not getting AP

The first reality of drafting from the last spot of the first round is simple – you are not going to get a superstar. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and LeSean McCoy will certainly not be options for you. Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy will also only be hopes and dreams from the twelve spot. Calvin Johnson? Not unless your fellow drafters really de-value wide receivers. Truthfully in some drafts (while not encouraged) Peyton Manning and/or Aaron Rodgers won’t even be on the board when you’re on the clock. This is another reason why you need a good strategy for drafting late in the first round. Odds are you may not have a top 5 overall superstar to rely on week in/week out like your fellow drafters who were luckier with their draft slots. For this reason (and many others) you need to make sure all of your picks count.

Step 2: The Running Back Options

In my personal draft strategy I always value running backs over wide receivers earlier in drafts. I believe I can find plenty of starting caliber wide receivers in the later rounds while there are only so many lead running backs left in the current structure of the NFL. With more and more teams shifting to the “running back by committee” approach, even players such as Doug Martin and Zac Stacy are scaring me away.  How can you use one of your first fantasy picks on a player who isn’t even on the field every time the offense is? What’s even scarier is these are early round running backs who can’t be relied on. If you can’t rely on an early round running back, how can you expect to find one in the fifth or sixth round that can lead you to victory on Sunday?

I took  mock drafts this offseason in order to see which running backs would be available at the end of the first round. Averaging all the mocks I did over the past week, below are the most common running back options available after the first eleven picks of a standard draft (1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1 FLEX).

  • DeMarco Murray
  • Zac Stacy
  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Montee Ball

Not even Doug Martin was slipping towards the second round and DeMarco Murray was already selected in one of the drafts before my turn was up. (Be sure to check out and for additional ADP data.) Looking at the above guys, my first choice is Murray when he’s available. The injury history is definitely a concern, but truthfully there are no safe picks at this spot in the draft. When healthy, the talent is clearly there. In only 14 games last season, Murray racked up over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns with an impressive 5.2 yard per carry average. If he is able to stay healthy, he has the potential to be just as good as some of the top running backs in this year’s fantasy draft. My second option from the above pool has to be Montee Ball. As I explained in an article earlier this season, I believe Ball has the potential to be a top five running back this year.  I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the first round if Murray is no longer available.

Step 3: The Wide Receiver Options

The one advantage to most people favoring running backs in the first round is the wide receiver crop is very strong once you get to the twelve spot. With only Megatron off the board in most rounds, the options are much more appealing in this category:

  • A.J. Green
  • Dez Bryant
  • Demaryius Thomas
  • Julio Jones

While I am personally a big fan of A.J. Green, you really can’t go wrong with any of the above players. Assuming Julio Jones comes back from his injury with no lasting side effects, all four of these players should be consistent contributors every week of your fantasy season.

Step 4: The Strategy

As I mentioned earlier, picking from this slot is all about strategy. With so many picks between turns, you are unable to read the flow of the draft as easily as from a middle slot, so it is imperative to plan ahead and have a strategy for how you are going to approach your draft. This isn’t just about knowing who you want to draft first overall; this places a bigger focus on what you are going to do later in the draft. While it may be worthwhile to go after wide receivers with your first pick due to the more talented option availability, if you go this route you need to be aware of what options are left at running back at your next turn. Here are the most widely available RBs and WRs available by the time your 3rd and 4th picks arrive:

Running Backs

  • Ryan Mathews
  • C.J. Spiller
  • Frank Gore
  • Ray Rice
  • Trent Richardson

Wide Receivers

  • Pierre Garcon
  • DeSean Jackson
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Percy Harvin
  • Victor Cruz

This is where you need to start asking yourself what makes you more comfortable: Ryan Mathews as your starting running back or Pierre Garcon as your starting receiver? Personally, I’m more afraid of the possibility of having a running back core of C.J. Spiller and Frank Gore than a wide receiver core of Pierre Garcon and Larry Fitzgerald.

Step 5: The results

After doing multiple drafts from the twelve spot, I started focusing on two main strategies:

1. Draft RB/RB with my first two picks

2. Draft WR/WR with my first two picks.

Below are my most common teams from each scenario.

Strategy 1. RB/RB

** (12) Cbus DE_aaron – DeMarco Murray RB
** (13) Cbus DE_aaron – Montee Ball RB
** (36) Cbus DE_aaron – Pierre Garcon WR
** (37) Cbus DE_aaron – Larry Fitzgerald WR
** (60) Cbus DE_aaron – Stevan Ridley RB
** (61) Cbus DE_aaron – Jeremy Maclin WR

Strategy 2. WR/WR

** (12) Team DE_aaron – Demaryius Thomas WR
** (13) Team DE_aaron – A.J. Green WR
** (36) Team DE_aaron – Ryan Mathews RB
** (37) Team DE_aaron – C.J. Spiller RB
** (60) Team DE_aaron – T.Y. Hilton WR
** (61) Team DE_aaron – Stevan Ridley RB

Even though I am passing on more impactful wide receivers in round one, I think I may have a stronger overall roster with my RB/RB strategy. There are still wide receiver options available in the later rounds like some possible impact rookies like Brandin Cooks and Jordan Matthews who are being drafted in the eighth and ninth rounds respectively.

The truth is there is no right or wrong strategy for this draft position, and what feels more comfortable to me may not be the one for you.  Picking from the twelfth spot requires some work and planning so that you aren’t caught off guard when your turn comes around and your star player is no longer on the board.

Follow me on twitter @DE_aaron for great fantasy football advice.  I can share how my draft goes next week as I take a shot from the twelve spot for the first time this season.


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