Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (2024)

Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts

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    Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (1)

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    Of all the pre-draft preparation tools available to fantasy football managers, mock drafts might be the most beneficial.

    But that's only true if they're utilized correctly.

    Just like with your real draft, you want to go into a mock with some strategy in mind. That could be as specific as seeking individual players or a might be a more broad plan to want a certain number of position groups in the first few rounds. You also don't want to make any off-the-wall selections, as that will distort the results for you and your fellow mock-drafters.

    That's the general aim, but we can get more specific with the advice by highlighting the best player to take from each selection spot in the first round of a 12-team mock.

Picks 1-4

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    Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (2)

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    1. Justin Jefferson, WR Minnesota Vikings

    2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers

    3. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

    4. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    Eager to impress your mock draft room with the amount of research you've done in advance of the 2023 NFL season? There is a time and place to target those breakouts and sleepers you're convinced will help lead to a league title.

    This isn't the time for that.

    Keep things smart and simple at the top, both to start your roster in a good place and to ensure the mock results can be trusted. You can arrange these four names however you see fit on your personal draft board, but be careful about reaching for someone outside of this quartet if you land a top-four selection.

    Jefferson offers the best combination of floor and ceiling, since he has consistently delivered elite production but still has room to grow as a 24-year-old. That's essentially the same selling points to make with Chase, though the fact he missed four games last season makes him slightly less reliable than Jefferson.

    As for McCaffrey and Ekeler, they might be approaching worrisome ages for running backs at 27 and 28, respectively, but pay more attention to the fact neither has shown signs of slowing down. McCaffrey paired 1,880 scrimmage yards with 13 scores last season, while Ekeler has tallied 38 touchdowns over the past two campaigns combined.

Picks 5-8

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    Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (3)

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    5. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

    6. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

    7. Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

    8. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

    There isn't quite as much security with this foursome, so personal preference could come into play here. Because three positions are included among the four picks, you could differ slightly on the order if you have a specific way you want to build your roster.

    But this is why we'd go in this order.

    Kupp is virtually assured of huge stats so long as he stays healthy. He battled injuries a bit last season and could encounter them more as he enters his 30s, but his combination of role and opportunity is too great to ignore. He needed just nine games last season to tally 98 targets, which he converted into 75 receptions for 812 yards and six scores.

    Kelce and Robinson raise slight concerns for opposite reasons—the former is approaching his 34th birthday, the latter is an unproven rookie—but they're still in tremendous spots. Kelce is the preferred pass-catcher of the league's most dynamic quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and Robinson should have a super-majority of the carries and catches available in an Atlanta backfield that could be called upon early and often to ease the burden on second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder.

    While Hill is the most explosive player in this group, he has occasionally had trouble staying on the field. His quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is an even greater injury risk. That's concerning enough to bump Hill down to the No. 8 spot, but don't let arguably the league's biggest home-run threat slide any further.

Picks 9-12

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    Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (4)

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    9. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    10. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    11. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    12. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

    This might be underselling Barkley's potential, but you have to account for the risk factor with someone who has played more than 13 games in two of his five NFL seasons. If he just stays on the field, though, he could be the best player in fantasy. His two seasons that featured 16 appearances saw him post a combined 3,678 scrimmage yards and 25 touchdowns.

    Lamb feels the shakiest of players in our top 10, as he's essentially had two good-to-really good years and one great one. But he's also a 24-year-old who's trending up, delivering a slew of career-highs (107 receptions, 1,359 receiving yards, nine scores) in a 2023 season that saw Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott lead the league in interceptions. If Lamb can be this productive when Prescott is that erratic, imagine what could happen if Prescott bounces back.

    Henry's lack of involvement in the passing game hurts him in point-per-reception leagues, but letting him fall out of the first round feels overly cautious. He's had double-digit touchdowns in each of the last five seasons—including 2021, when he only played eight games—and could be called upon as often as ever with Ryan Tannehill aging and both of his backups, Malik Willis and Will Levis, lacking experience.

    With the 12th and final pick of the first round, you could be tempted to gamble on someone like Garrett Wilson or Jonathan Taylor. We'd opt for Stefon Diggs' security instead and lock in one of the league's most consistent producers at the position. He's had more than 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in four of the past five campaigns, totaling 38 touchdowns in those seasons.

Fantasy Football 2023: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts (2024)

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