Let's set an all-too-familiar scene: You've just opened up your league's draft room on ESPN or have just arrived at your league's live draft table. The first order of business, as it is every year, is determining your draft order, either seeing it within the ESPN draft room (fortunately, you can do this as far in advance as one hour ahead) or drawing it live amongst your league mates.
Either way, draft-slot selection is one of the more stressful parts of the fantasy football league process, and if you've played this game for any length of time, surely you've fallen prey to that sinking feeling, "ARRRGGGH, I drew the eighth pick, but I REALLY had my heart set on -- and my plans based around -- the four!!!
One of these stresses centers on the minimal time you're afforded to adjust your strategy for your spur-of-the-moment draft slot. We spend countless hours perfecting our cheat sheets, then (in most cases) spend mere minutes adapting our plans to where we're picking. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
I don't expect anyone to formulate a draft plan based around all 10 possible draft slots; that's needless wasted time. Instead, I've done the work for you below, solving the proverbial puzzle of Rounds 1-2 from each slot: Breaking down the most likely candidates available at each draft slot in both rounds and identifying any later-round strategic angles you should be considering from each.
This examination is for a 10-team, ESPN standard PPR (Point Per Reception) league. If you're seeking draft-slot strategy for a 12-team PPR, you can read that here.
Draft slot 1
Round 1 (Pick 1 overall): Go RB, and it has to be Le'Veon Bell or Todd Gurley II, who are going more than two full picks, on average, ahead of Ezekiel Elliott or David Johnson (though a case can be made for Johnson, the 2016 No. 1 PPR scorer).
Round 2 (Pick 20): One of the reasons you need to go RB in Round 1 is that there's only a slim chance that any of the top 12 running backs will make it back here, with No. 12 (in ADP and my own rankings) Devonta Freeman the only one with a realistic chance. Most 1-slot teams will find WRs 7-9 (A.J. Green, Davante Adams or Mike Evans) available 20th (and 21st) overall or TE1 Rob Gronkowski, which isn't a bad place to be through two picks. Given that the No. 21 pick might come into your game plan and the resulting wait to 40/41 Rounds 3-4 swing picks, be aware that with the latter two, the running backs most commonly available have been Kenyan Drake, Alex Collins and Derrick Henry (RBs 17-19) and wide receivers available Golden Tate, Amari Cooper and Jarvis Landry (WRs 18-20). Teams from the 1-slot are likely to have at least two quality options at RB and WR and might have Gronkowski through Round 5.
Tristan's best start: Bell/Adams
Draft slot 2
Round 1 (Pick 2): Feast upon leftovers, from whichever of Bell or Gurley wasn't picked. Again, an RB it should be. If you feel particularly strongly about Elliott or Saquon Barkley, they're not untenable No. 2 picks, but I wouldn't -- not this soon.
Round 2 (Pick 19): Again, the reason for the RB in Round 1 is that Freeman, et al., probably won't make it back to pick 19, though the chances of that happening improve incrementally as we proceed through these draft slots. Resist the urge to reach for Gronkowski, knowing he has a chance to make it back to pick 22, instead getting your choice of the Green/Adams/Evans trio.
Tristan's best start: Gurley/Green
Draft slot 3
Round 1 (Pick 3): It's Johnson for me, but it can be Elliott for you if you have a strong preference, as I don't consider one decidedly "safer" than the other. WR1 Antonio Brown enters the equation, but be aware that selecting him this soon can corner you into lucking into Freeman falling, picking from the Round 3 LeSean McCoy/Jerick McKinnon/Joe Mixon tier or piecing the RB position together. Barkley also increases your prospects of a risk/reward-oriented roster.
Round 2 (Pick 18): Freeman has a legitimate chance to last until here, as does Christian McCaffrey, which is why Brown begins to be worth the first-round pick. The downside is that if the "big 12" RBs go in the first 17 picks, whichever of Michael Thomas/Keenan Allen remains on the board needs to be the pick here. There are worse spots to be than with Brown/Allen to open your draft.
Tristan's best start: Johnson/Thomas
Draft slot 4
Round 1 (Pick 4): Brown and Elliott are by far the strongest choices here, and taking the WR1 fourth makes a lot of sense in a 10-team league, considering the ever-increasing chances of getting your pick between McCaffrey/Freeman in Round 2. They're good enough that I'd take Brown.
Round 2 (Pick 17): It's no slight if Freeman is the only RB remaining here, but for those who went the Elliott route, you're almost assured of getting your pick between Thomas/Allen (I'd take the former).
Tristan's best start: Brown/Freeman
Draft slot 5
Round 1 (Pick 5): The 5-slot is a great place to be in 10-team leagues this season. It guarantees you leftovers from the Johnson/Brown/Elliott trio of the previous two picks, and if you don't want to go WR in Round 1, then Alvin Kamara and Barkley optimists can go in that direction. I've listed them in my preferred order, but Brown has been the one most commonly available here of the aforementioned trio.
Round 2 (Pick 16): Another reason this is a desirable slot is that 16th overall is the latest point in the draft where you'll have a realistic chance at a top-10 RB, good news for Brown's drafters. You'll have options here, whether RB or WR, but I like the idea of going young RB/young RB with McCaffrey.
Tristan's best start: Elliott/McCaffrey
Draft slot 6
Round 1 (Pick 6): Now it gets interesting. Whom do you like among the RBs, Kamara (my choice), Barkley or Kareem Hunt? Or, since Melvin Gordon has been known to slip to 15th overall on occasion, do you take WR2 DeAndre Hopkins? There are many choices, without a truly "incorrect" one.
Round 2 (Pick 15): Going RB/WR from the 6-slot probably maximizes the value of your first two picks, especially because this is the spot where an RB first-round pick might spawn a positional run, which gives a small chance that Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. remains on the board until here. If you went RB, the only corner in which you might find yourself is taking RB/WR from the same team -- New Orleans Saints -- a problem that can be rectified by selecting Allen.
Tristan's best start: Kamara/Allen
Draft slot 7
Round 1 (Pick 7): Another leftovers situation, this should almost assuredly be your preference among Kamara, Hopkins, Barkley and Hunt, with mine going in that order. Don't fear the WR, as the worst-case, second-round scenario for the 7 slot is probably Gordon at RB or Jones or Beckham at WR.
Round 2 (Pick 14): The main drawback to the 7-slot is that your Round 2 selection will probably be decided for you among the Dalvin Cook/Leonard Fournette/Gordon trio. Any one of them paired with Hopkins represents a great start.
Tristan's best start: Hopkins/Gordon
Draft slot 8
Round 1 (Pick 8): The leftovers are dwindling, but they're still plenty warm, and an argument can be made that the 7- and 8-slots are destined for nearly identical outcomes in 10-team formats. Hopkins most commonly is lasting until here, but Barkley has lingered in some drafts, and a Kamara/Barkley/Hunt consolation prize is fine.
Round 2 (Pick 13): The Hopkins 7-slot argument rings loudly here, where the odds of RB value only increase on the return. Fournette would be a great pick for those who land Hopkins, but he'd also give a strong RB/RB start if he lasts.
Tristan's best start: Barkley/Fournette
Draft slot 9
Round 1 (Pick 9): Leftovers (of the Pick 6 options) remain a wise direction from the 9-slot, but for the WR-heavy drafters willing to take the RB who remains in Round 2, Jones and Beckham enter the equation. One issue is that in leagues in which seven RBs are picked in the top eight, taking a RB from the Cook/Fournette/Gordon tier gives you your preference from a lower tier at the position while merely accepting what remains from the Hopkins/Jones/Beckham WR tier in Round 2 -- the reverse of how you'd want it. Hunt should be available and is my preferred pick.
Round 2 (Pick 12): There aren't many losing scenarios for teams picking from the 9 slot, except in the event that Hopkins was your Round 1 pick and Cook/Fournette go 10/11, and that's only a potential loss because Jones/Beckham would be the best values remaining here, and you could be forced to reach for a RB in Round 3. The odds are great that this pick will wind up Jones/Beckham leftovers.
Tristan's best start: Hunt/Beckham
Draft slot 10
Round 1 (Pick 10): Perhaps the toughest slot from which to draft in a 10-team league, the 10 slot grants you only a slim chance at a top-seven RB -- you'd have to luck into Hunt lasting -- and forces you to pick from touchdown-averse Jones or Beckham and his recovery from a broken ankle (which, granted, has gone fine so far). Going WR/WR will be extremely tempting when/if these two are the top names on the board, but it's the 30/31 Rounds 3-4 swing picks that illustrate the risk: RB value drops precipitously after No. 16 Jordan Howard, who has at best a 50/50 shot of remaining on the board, forcing you into a potential reach for the Drake/Collins/Henry trio (RBs 17-19) mentioned as options for the 1 slot at 40/41 overall. Take your preference between WRs 3 and 4 ...
Round 2 (Pick 11): ... then get yourself an RB, with the options here much less "reaches" than they'd be in 19-20 picks. Cook/Fournette/Gordon is a subjective debate. I prefer Cook, but most sources say the public prefers Fournette.
Tristan's best start: Jones/Cook