Fantasy Football Pick 1 Strategy: How to Draft From the 1st Spot in 2024 (2024)

Landing the first overall pick in your fantasy football draft can bring some mixed emotions. Assuming you're in a typical "snake draft" league (meaning your first pick in Round 1 means you pick last in Round 2), the chance to pick first doesn't necessarily excite you — especially if you don't think there's a clear "1.01" in this year's draft.

Picking first also means you'll be picking "at the turn" — making back-to-back selections every time starting in Round 2/3. That leaves 22 players going off the board between your picks, which can be daunting and makes predicting who will fall to your next pick incredibly challenging.

But don't let these challenges scare you too much. There's lots to like about picking No. 1. Being the first player to select in half of the rounds is going to bring you a ton of talent. That's especially true early in the draft, when there's a pretty steep decline in talent and players don't typically fall much beyond their average draft position (ADP).

To help you with the strategy of picking from the 1 spot in your 2024 fantasy football draft, let's walk through each phase of the draft to see how things can play out.

Click to jump ahead to a round:

  1. Round 1: One Decision
  2. Round 2/3 Turn: Committing to a Strategy
  3. Round 4/5 Turn: Time to Go Quarterback?
  4. Round 6/7 Turn: Do You Need a Full Starting Lineup?
  5. Later Rounds: Filling Out the Roster

The first overall pick is both very simple and very complicated. It's simple because you can start preparing the second you know you hold the pick. No surprises will change who is available for you to select. The complication is that this isn't a year with a no-doubt top player.

It's not exactly a crowded field, though. As our own Michael Fabiano has highlighted, the decision really comes down to Christian McCaffrey or CeeDee Lamb. That linked story provides some nice context around the decision (and especially why the decision comes down to only those two players), and ultimately it largely becomes a matter of personal preference when picking at the top.

The best fantasy option in a vacuum is McCaffrey. He's the best producer, and he does it at a position that has become increasingly thin as far as top fantasy producers go.

But some drafters are philosophically opposed to going running back this early. The higher injury rates are scary. The allure of a "Zero RB" draft can pull you in another direction. If that's you, it's hard to say that taking Lamb would be a mistake.

You can't go too far wrong either way, so as I walk through further rounds in this guide I'll consider both the McCaffrey and Lamb rosters.

Round 2/3 Turn: Committing to a Strategy

The wait since selecting your first player, and you probably just watched a couple of guys you hoped would fall to you get scooped up in the late second round. Using FantasyPros' average draft position (ADP) data, you can see who's likely going to be on the board when you pick.

If one of the top 21 or so players falls into your lap, that's probably a value you won't want to pass up. If they're a running back or a wide receiver, that becomes doubly true.

But beyond that, it's now time for another philosophical decision.

Going by ADP, most of your likely best available players will be wide receivers. None of Nico Collins (23rd off the board on average), Drake London (24), Deebo Samuel (27) Michael Pittman (28) or Brandon Aiyuk (29) would be a true reach here.

Options at the other position in this neighborhood are really limited to Sam LaPorta (22), Derrick Henry (25) and Jalen Hurts (26).

You shouldn't really be going quarterback this early, so even with a big run potentially taking most of the top options off the board before you're back up in Round 4, Hurts is a pass. Personally I don't have enough faith in LaPorta to pull the trigger this early, but that's not someone I'd fault you for taking. If you take LaPorta your strategy won't be all that different than if you go wide receiver.

So now, do we draft a running back or not?

I wouldn't.

Even if I took Lamb in Round 1, approaching this turn without a running back falling would lock me into a Zero RB draft (which does make LaPorta a little more interesting than I would usually find him).

If I went McCaffrey, LaPorta is off my radar and it's two WRs for sure.

There are probably five quarterbacks off the board now, and you're staring down an interesting decision. If you don't take one here, you're running the risk that you don't have a top-10 option and essentially end up streaming the position all year. That's something I'm generally comfortable with, and there's nothing wrong with making that gamble if you are too.

But the name available at QB6 could also be enough to change your mind. Anthony Richardson has an ADP of 51.0 (49th off the board on average), so there's a good chance he's right at the top of your "Available Players" list here.

I wouldn't draft just any ol' QB6 in this spot, but Richardson's ridiculous upside (just check out his per-game production in 2023) makes him something special. There's a ton of risk in drafting Richardson, of course, but if he hits then you could have yourself one of the top fantasy producers at the position every single week. Compare that to QB7 Joe Burrow, who may well have a great season but feels a lot less likely to finish top-three than Richardson.

The QB selection also plays very nicely into our Zero RB draft. If you took Lamb and LaPorta, you've now got both your 1-off skill positions (QB and TE) covered plus two great starting WRs (or you have three top starting WRs and a QB). If you went with McCaffrey you're not in all that different a situation.

If you didn't take LaPorta it can be tempting to go tight end here, but names like Mark Andrews and Dalton Kincaid just don't really move the needle with the first pick in Round 5. At this point I'm comfortable essentially punting the position and waiting for a good value to fall in my lap.

Unless you already have three wide receivers and a fourth would land on your bench, you can't go wrong going either RB or WR with the second pick at this turn. Kenneth Walker, Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, Amari Cooper or even Malik Nabers would all be strong picks (assuming nobody like DeVonta Smith or James Cook fell to you).

Round 6/7 Turn: Do You Need a Full Starting Lineup?

The temptation here is going to be to "fill out" your starting lineup – making sure you are set with 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE and 1 FLEX option after your first seven picks are in. Let me start by highlighting when you will be best served resisting that temptation.

if your holes are at QB and/or TE, the players available should seriously impact your decision. If there have been 10 or 11 QBs drafted so far, are you really so desperate to get Brock Purdy or Jared Goff that your leaguemate drafting one as a backup QB already would crush you? There's a big cluster of QBs with an ADP around 96 (where you will be picking at the next turn), and the ability to land Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert or Jayden Daniels there means you'd be wasting a pick by taking a QB now. At tight end it's not quite so clear-cut: Evan Engram or George Kittle would probably be fine picks here, but next round you'll have your choice of David Njoku, Jake Ferguson or Brock Bowers. Those aren't exciting names, but they're not that much less exciting than Kittle. Heck, is a team that loads up on RB/WR talent and foregoes TE until you're in the Dalton Schultz/Cole Kmet Range really in that much worse of a spot than one that takes Njoku?

If you've taken a quarterback and/or tight end so far, you probably do want to flesh out your RB/WR arsenal here though. Mid-round ADP will probably shift significantly between when I'm writing this (early July) and when you're drafting so I won't go too in-depth on which options will be on the board, but even a slight reach on someone like Zack Moss or Diontae Johnson is worthwhile to fill out a starting lineup at this point.

One strategy I will almost never waver from is that I'm drafting my kicker in the last round, and my defense is coming in with my penultimate pick. I'm going to be considering waiver wire options at both positions every week anyway. But before that there are still some key decisions to make.

If you haven't taken your QB or TE yet, the Round 8/9 turn is likely going to be where you do that. I wouldn't feel great not having a QB by that point, but it is negotiable at TE. If a good high-upside value is staring me in the face and it means that I'm rolling with a terrible TE situation I'm happy to do so.

As far as your RBs and WRs, a couple considerations:

If you went Zero RB, now is your time to load up on high-upside running backs. Because you are far from set with a strong starting rotation, you want to target guys who could become legit every-week options. You don't really care how low their potential downside is. This means a guy like Ezekiel Elliott (maybe he's washed? but he has no real competition for touches and if he plays well could be a huge steal) is more interesting than, say, Gus Edwards whose ceiling still involves being in a crowded committee.

You should also be swinging for home runs with your wide receiver picks here. A "safe" 8 fantasy points every single week isn't ever going to crack your starting lineup. What are the odds you ever start Jerry Jeudy? By the time bye weeks force you to consider it, you'll have already either dropped him or have found a better option as a waiver pickup. So instead look at rookies who could play their way into big roles if they impress early (Brian Thomas) or high-upside veterans going at a discount (Mike Williams).

With all said and done, you should probably be feeling pretty good about your roster at this point. Of course the production of your actual players is going to trump any strategy decisions you made in the draft, but your roster is now shaped to excel, and even to be able to weather the storm if you had a few busts. You took advantage of picking at the top of rounds to grab some major value and upside, and you mitigated any concerns about missing out on QB/TE runs by either locking up a top-end option (without overpaying) or by accepting a middling option and focusing on stocking up elsewhere rather than panicking to overdraft a weak option anyway.

Now all that's left is to manage the team you've drafted. And you already know that SI Fantasy will have you covered with that for every week of the season.

Fantasy Football Pick 1 Strategy: How to Draft From the 1st Spot in 2024 (2024)


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