There are a lot of questions that fantasy owners want answered before their turn comes during the first round of their league’s snake draft. One of the most frequently asked is, “What’s the best draft position in fantasy football in 2023?”
That’s a trick question. The answer is you can win from any spot in the order in any-sized league. Sure, having No. 1 is nice to land the top player on the board. Then again, when picking somewhere in the middle, good values can easily drop to you. At the bottom turn, you can double up on what’s like two fantasy first-rounders at picks Nos. 12 and 13.
Fantasy football owners have won championships picking anywhere and everywhere from year to year. The draft order comes most into play for the first round, but what you do in Round 2 and beyond matters most.
Considering half-point PPR leagues, the most popular scoring format in Yahoo leagues, here’s breaking down winning strategies from every spot in a 12-team league, as well as our pick for the best first-round draft slot in 2023.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2023 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
Best draft strategy for No. 1 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Lock in and don’t stress late
Justin Jefferson or Christian McCaffrey? There’s a case for either of the consensus top-two players to go first, and assuming they’re healthy, they won’t disappoint. However, it’s important not to save this decision until the last minute. Be confident in going one way or another once you know you’ve won your league’s draft lottery.
You might prefer Jefferson for the stability and the ease of getting two good RBs at picks Nos. 24 and 25 overall. You could also lean toward “hero RB” with McCaffrey and just go for the best players available at other positions on the comeback, including Patrick Mahomes. Commit to the first pick early and be prepared to execute the subsequent strategy attached to it.
Best draft strategy for No. 2 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Don’t second guess second-best
There’s a little less pressure when you’re picking second, especially when Jefferson and McCaffrey have separated into a tier by themselves on the overall board. So, if Jefferson is gone you can feel fine about McCaffrey. If McCaffrey has been taken, then you can be prepared to take Jefferson.
The advantage over No. 1 comes in the next round. You can beat them to the best player available with a better pick at No. 23. From there, anticipate the positions the No. 1 drafter will target on the turn and jump on the player there. By doing that, you’ll also have some control over who you can get at No. 26.
Just like with No. 1, you need to plan well ahead for five rounds as the core of your team because of the long wait between picks. If you draft a good mix of talent, you should take advantage of having 10 percent of the top 50 players.
Best draft strategy for No. 3 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Position yourself well early
Presuming Jefferson and McCaffrey go 1-2, then the first hard decision comes here because it also involves a third position, tight end. Are you going starting wideout with Ja’Marr Chase or banking on Austin Ekeler having one more year as an elite RB1? Now you’re also close enough to consider taking Travis Kelce. You could also have Tyreek Hill and Bijan Robinson among your viable WR or RB options.
There’s no bad pick from that group based on what we know now and recent production history. So, you need to be more comfortable with a position more so than a player.
If you take running back, you might be headed down the path of a heavy-RB team. If you take a wide receiver, you’re looking at what might more resemble a zero-RB team. If you take Kelce, you need to be OK with lesser WR and RB pop and realize you also might not have the luxury to take QB earlier than usual, too.
Best draft strategy for No. 4 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Don’t overthink
As you creep toward picking in the middle, you are more in “go with the flow” draft mode. Once a pick is made at No. 3 and it’s not Kelce, you have a wide range of non-quarterback options from which to choose. Get used to that for every round. Typically in this spot, waiting on a QB is smart so you can see how and when drafters Nos. 1 through 3 are addressing the position.
Have your board ready so you can jump on players you think are falling, and don’t worry so much about positions for a while until you have filled all the required starters in your league.
Best draft strategy for No. 5 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Get ready to pivot, pivot, pivot
The draft comes at you faster here. Surprises are happening all around you, from being sniped on sleepers and value picks to unexpected draft targets falling right into your lap. The bottom line is to be prepared and change gears from your rough original pre-draft plan once these curveballs are thrown. Just like in the game of life, those who can adjust and adapt to the process are best prepared to yield successful results.
Best draft strategy for No. 6 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Reach a little for who you want
It’s good to settle on the combination of expert rankings and a personal cheat sheet ahead of the draft as part of the preparation. However, in certain spots of the draft, you become less adherent to those lists because you know you won’t get certain players you really like thanks to being in the middle and needing to always wait out a pair of turns.
After a few rounds of doing this, it will balance out because players you really like will just fall to you a few times through a couple of drafters passing on them. There is some control lost with five drafters ahead of you and six drafters behind you. This is the way to get it back early.
Best draft strategy for No. 7 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Don’t force the issue at a position
The No. 6 drafting strategy also applies to No. 7 because they’re in the same boat in different rounds. Starting with the first round, this pick is even less position-attached and more tied to the best player available overall.
Best draft strategy for No. 8 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Think about Round 2, too
Pick No. 12 might seem like the only position where you need to think about two picks at once, but once you’re past the middle, you should also be planning ahead. Have some expectations of the player combination you’ll get as your first two starters, most likely some combination of RB-WR. Once that happens, you can repeat the exercise and see Rounds 3 and 4 as a package deal, and so on.
Best draft strategy for No. 9 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Don’t cry over lost tiers
You already might feel the well is drying up overall once the top eight picks are made, but don’t panic or worry about the fact you couldn’t land one of those studs. The good news here is you are set up to avoid some potential busts and be better positioned to steal sliding first-round values. There’s no crying in fantasy football drafting — only cold, calculated plans of attack.
Best draft strategy for No. 10 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Anticipate who won’t come back
Many of the same rules apply here as they do for No. 3, only in alternating rounds. Unlike No. 8, you have a little better picture of who should be available on the reversal. Still, draft who you want most but think about which of your top two choices has the better chance of being on the board at No. 15.
Best draft strategy for No. 11 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Treat your turn like the turn
Many of the same rules apply here as they do for No. 2, only in alternating rounds. The advantage here you’re set up early for players Nos. 11 and 14 on the board vs. Nos. 2 and 23.
Knowing there’s a chance No. 12 will reach at the turn, you can sandwich them with better values before and after the turn. If you have three players you are targeting most, there’s a great chance you’ll end up with two of them.
Best draft strategy for No. 12 pick in 2023 fantasy football drafts: Be quick, but don’t hurry
This is a very important opening decision, and you have no idea who will be the best two players on the board until everyone else has picked in the first round. Many drafters here like to make their two decisions quickly and not use allotted double time.
Instead, use every second you have to make the first pick while you’re considering the other, then use the second pick time to consider how the next turn might play out and factor that into your next pick.
What’s the best draft position in fantasy football 2023? Final verdict:
Although there’s a path to fantasy football league victory from any of the 12 draft positions, being near the ends but not at the turns seems most advantageous. That means either No. 2, where you are guaranteed to get either Jefferson or McCaffrey (likely the preferred option for most), or No. 11, where you can steal some great values in Rounds 1 and 2 and be set up best for a top QB later. It’s the best of both worlds: Having the benefit of two rapid picks while also being to manipulate the board well through all rounds.
John Wooden’s words of wisdom apply here and anywhere you draft. When you do prepare to dominate, you’ll be in the right space in every round, knowing what you’re doing with a particular pick and overall draft strategy in a methodical winning manner.