We often get a lot of questions at this time of year regarding what someone’s draft strategy should be, who they should draft, whether their plan of drafting a certain position early makes sense or even, if their league lets them choose, what draft slot should they pick from.
The simple answer is there is no simple answer. Some people prefer to pick late. Some want pick one. Some like the middle and so on. And really, every year is different. The one constant truth is – you can win your league from any position because (and sorry to the longtime followers who’ve heard this a thousand times) you don’t win your league at the draft.
I have my own biases towards draft position, and we’ll get to the areas I like later, but since most leagues are run as 10 or 12 team leagues (in my experience), this article will mostly look at those formats and drafting from each position with those considerations. I’ll run a brief overview over larger leagues at the end.
Be sure to have a play around from different draft slots and see what teams you put together: https://mock.thedraftdoctors.com.au/home
And check out the 2022 Draft Kit: https://thedraftdoctors.com.au/2022/01/30/draft-doctors-2022-draft-kit/
Pick 1 – Numero Uno. The pressure is on. Everyone’s waiting on you to kick things off. You’re going to pick who you think is the best player available, wait for a while, then double up. Now, every year, when we rank, we’ll (as a rule) rank the highest scoring players from the season prior at the top. We see the high scores, how could they not repeat? Of course, the highest scorers frequently don’t repeat. And I would consider this – choose the player with the highest combination of ceiling and floor. Look at Jack Macrae. Each of the past four years he’s finished between the 2nd highest overall average and the 6th. Every player who finished above Macrae one year, finished below him in average the following year. That’s consistency you can take to the bank, a rare combo of ceiling and floor. Look for that. When your picks return, you’re hoping players you liked fell to you, but of course you need to be mindful of the long wait ahead and positional value. If you go mid early, you’ll be likely taking one non-mid on the double up. If you go a non-mid, it really forces your hand to at least take one midfielder.
Pick 2 – It’s much the same as pick one, only someone is off the table. Which kind of makes things easier, as you’ll have one less player from your top tier to decide from. Again, it’s a long wait between picks, so don’t get too cute. You’re looking to take your best guys. Whatever falls to you in rounds 2 and 3, that will shape your first half of the draft. You don’t have control over the picks your leaguemates make. Don’t sweat their picks – they were never available to you, just like the player taken at pick one.
Pick 3 – This is where things get interesting. I like the picks that are two away from the end for a simple reason. I believe they afford you the most control over the draft. Well, as much as you can (which isn’t much). You have information. You know what the people in draft slot one and two have picked. If they’ve taken a ruck. A forward, mids, etc. You pick your top guy first up, but then, and this is better intel after round three, you have a good idea what they’re likely to draft by what they already have in their teams. Say someone picks Grundy at pick 2 and then in round 3 the player in pick 1 chooses Sean Darcy. When it’s time to draft a ruck, you will never have to worry about them picking a ruck in the four picks between yours (unless you’re in a two ruck league and if you are, my goodness). This is really helpful when you get to rounds 4-10 which really shape your team. You’re still getting high end talent at this point, and you want to maximise getting as much value as you can. By having a better idea about what two of your leaguemates are likely to do, you’re getting big value.
Pick 4 – It’s kind of like pick three, but obviously there’s more variables behind you and you’re starting to get into the middle of the draft. You may be in a situation where you wanted to draft a midfielder but your top tier is already gone. Do you go for a tier 2 mid or a tier one non-mid in that situation? Well, you’re certainly supposed to go the non-mid, but sometimes league settings might mean you take the mid. Of course, if you had four top tier mids on your list and three are gone – easy days.
Pick 5 – I personally don’t really enjoy drafting in the middle for a simple reason – I find it tough to force my hand on the draft. As you’re not a long way from your next pick, I find it’s more a case of just sitting back and waiting for whatever value drops to me. If you’re in the middle, you tend to hear your league mates say the famous draft day line “I was gonna pick him.” It’s a sign you’re doing it right, being patient and just picking off targets when the opportunity presents itself. In the first round, you’re often going to find yourself without a top tier mid on the board, if that’s the case you’re picking your preferred non-mid from the shallowest of the top tiers.
Pick 6 – Basically the same as pick 5 but you’re even less likely to be looking at a top tier mid, depending on what’s happened before you. Stay patient, stick with your lists and just get through. No hero ball.
So in a 12 team league, picks 7 and 8 are extensions of the middle.
Pick 7 (10 team)/ Pick 9 (12 team) – Unless something funky has happened (or your tiers are mega wide) in the early stages of your draft, you’re damn unlikely to be picking from your top tier of midfielders. So, you’ll be choosing a non-mid. Here’s where tiering gets kind of funky. You’ll probably be looking at your draft list and seeing some tier one non-mids. You’re going to have to weigh your need for midfielders against taking positional value. I would say in most leagues you’re going to have to go the mid, in captains on leagues it’s almost a must.
Pick 8 (10 team)/ Pick 10 (12 team) – Much like pick 3, you’ve got a lot of opportunity after round 3 passes, and, as you’re at the end of the first round, it’s likely that picks 9 and 10 (or 11 and 12 in 12 team) will choose a non-mid at one of their picks. Now, of course, they could go double mid or even double non-mid. Whatever they do, you’ll maybe have a better idea of what they’ll do in rounds 3 onwards. If they’ve both got a mid and forward, maybe they want a defender so if you’re tossing up between a defender and a forward, there’s likely a better chance the forward makes it back. Not a guarantee, but you can hopefully see the logic. I’d always recommend grabbing one mid because whilst you might have some info, there’s no guarantee the rest of your league won’t just stack mids leaving you little to grab in round 3/4. It’s my favourite draft position.
Pick 9 (10 team)/ Pick 11 (12 team) – One thing I never do if I have a late pick in the first round is plan who I’m going to draft. I want a really open mind. You never know if a couple of your league mates pull a real smoky out and push someone you really like further along than you’d anticipated. Then you can be caught between this strategy or player you’d really locked in on and then had a curveball thrown at you. Like pick 2, you’ll have the info of what the last pick will likely do later on in the draft. Be open. Have your tiers. Know which non-mid position you value highest. Just be open and be able to adapt.
Pick 10 (10 team)/ Pick 12 (12 team) – The last pick. Again, like 11, be open. I’ll try to keep balanced as a general rule, but I also like doubling up. Two mids. Two non-mids. Force the issue. Make the rest of the league adapt. I’m not saying to sway from tiers, but you have a long wait until your next pick. If you double up, sometimes you can get people reaching tiers ahead so they don’t miss out on a position completely.
In 14 team or larger leagues, on field teams are going to make a big difference. Rucks are valued way higher than in 10 team leagues as there’s going to be at least four more on the field every week. You really need to have a good idea about how deep your on field players go, and how replaceable that position is. You’ll likely be streaming a bit in those mega deep leagues.