Your first three picks define your fantasy football team. Aside from taking productive players, each pick is critical because the player pool is ever-shrinking. You could build entirely different teams based on what positions you take and in what order. Respecting how drafts typically raid positions improves your chance to build an optimal team. The difference between a 12-team and a 10-team league is that with more fantasy relevant available in a smaller league, the more important to get difference-makers in as many positions as possible. Everyone has a “good” team.
To follow are sample three-round drafts for 10-team fantasy football leagues. They use either standard performance scoring, performance plus a point per reception, or “2QB/Super Flex” leagues where you can start two of any position. Those three formats cover almost all leagues.
The names are less important than the positions because each draft slot has its own unique situation. Just as important are your future picks and what you need after three rounds. Rankings can change daily so these may not exactly match rankings.
Performance scoring league
Performance scoring without reception points means that running backs are a premium and quarterbacks are a bit more valuable as well. Wide receivers and tight ends are devalued but are still usually four starters in a fantasy football league. Almost all teams will look to get two running backs in their first three picks and it’s hard to argue against the logic.
Team 1: RB Christian McCaffrey, TE Travis Kelce, RB Chris Carson
After the obvious first pick, opted for the best tight end for some advantage though less in this scoring format. The No. 13 running back became his RB2 for a safe feel. With 18 picks before he goes again, will need to strongly consider quarterback and wide receiver at the 4.12/5.01 turn.
Team 2: RB Ezekiel Elliott, QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Josh Jacobs
A solid start with elite running back and then a top quarterback as well. That made running back feel like a need pick in the third round but sets the team up to go for any position from Round 4 onward. This most honors the scoring scenario. Waiting on a wideout hurts less in this scoring format.
Team 3: RB Saquon Barkley, WR Kenny Golladay, RB Leonard Fournette
Like Team No. 2, opted for that second-round non-running back. Going with the No. 5 wideout is an advantage but less so without the reception point. Picking up the running back in the third completed the backfield, but Barkley is still the only difference maker each week. Has to consider wideout and quarterback soon, while seeding in the occasional running back for depth.
Team 4: RB Derrick Henry, RB Nick Chubb, WR Mike Evans
Went with RB-RB to start and owns one of the better backfields in the league. Still reached the No. 6 wideout in the third so controlling which running back made more sense than worrying about a wideout. Solid start means picking the best player available from here on out.
Team 5: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Julio Jones, RB Austin Ekeler
Continuing the run on running backs, went with an advantage with the No. 4 wideout and then selected his RB2 in the third round for a solid start. While the best advantage is in a lower scoring position with no reception points, this is a solid start and should consider going with more upside picks starting in the fourth round since can go anywhere.
Team 6: WR Michael Thomas, RB Aaron Jones, WR Allen Robinson II
After five straight running backs, went for the best wideout and then had to go with running back before the position would become a big liability. Opting for the No. 6 wideout isn’t nearly as advantageous in this scoring, but can leave that position alone while filling up on running backs, a quarterback, and maybe even a tight end before worrying about his WR3. A lack of reception points devalues receivers, but they still count as starters and this team can milk more points from the position than most while running backs last longer in smaller leagues.
Team 7: RB Miles Sanders, QB Lamar Jackson, WR A.J. Brown
Starting with a running back was safe and then grabbing the best quarterback will yield an advantage. Opted for WR1 with the No. 8 wideout which certainly gives a balanced beginning and running backs are deeper in a ten-team league. Likely would have been a better net effect with taking a second running back but has a huge advantage at quarterback.
Team 8: RB Kenyan Drake, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB Melvin Gordon III
Someone always takes this tact which makes sense only if there is a flex position that allows for three running backs to start. Starting it this late in the first round means that there are no elite players on the roster without getting lucky and landing sleepers. This is better when there are no reception points and it always feels great to have a top backfield. But in a ten-team league, everyone has a good team so the lack of apparent difference-makers will be hard to compensate.
Team 9: WR Tyreek Hill, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Chris Godwin
Opening with the second-best wideout makes sense this late in the first round even without reception points. Reaching the No. 9 running back prevents a liability there but grabbing the No. 9 wideout loads up on a position with lower-scoring due to the lack of reception point. Goes again in two picks so should consider running back there.
Team 10: WR Davante Adams, RB Joe Mixon, RB James Conner
This is standard for the final pick in a ten-team draft. Ending up with two running backs and a wideout is always solid and gains some advantage with No. 3 wideout than the No. 8 running back in the first but then next pick gets the running back anyway. Also has the next pick up in this league at the 4.01 and can consider any position that stands out and another wideout is likely the biggest value but that third running back is an option if there is a flex position.
This style of scoring boosts the value of wide receivers and elite tight ends but devalues quarterbacks relative to other positions. Running backs are going to be popular in any scoring scenario but the added reception point means the position becomes deeper with third-down backs able to offer “start-able” fantasy value.
With a reception point and only ten teams, your roster should look very strong after three picks. All positions are deep in this format.
Team 1: RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Austin Ekeler, TE George Kittle
Opened with RB-RB and added the No. 2 tight end for elite players in two positions and a solid backfield. A great start leaves the rest of the way for the best available. This is never a bad path though a smaller league means RB2 quality still exists for another round or so and passed on the No. 6 wideout for the No. 12 running back. Safe pick at the worst.
Team 2:RB Saquon Barkley, QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Nick Chubb
This could happen in a ten-man league and the path yielded great results with elite players in the two highest-scoring positions. Adding the No. 13 running back also skipped what could have been a difference-making wideout but that position is deep anyway.
Team 3: RB Ezekiel Elliott, RB Joe Mixon, WR Allen Robinson II
Solid start with two running backs which leaves the rest of the draft to address other positions. By this point, the top tight ends and quarterbacks are likely gone, so taking a wideout gives good bang for the buck at WR1 even in the third round. Could look to add a Top-4 tight end in the fourth to bolster the positions or at least take another wide receiver.
Team 4: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Kenny Golladay, RB Chris Carson
Standard approach that works well at this slot. The No. 4 running back is followed by the No. 5 wide receiver and then back to running back to complete the backfield. This plan hasn’t yet looked like a top team, but it is not a liability either. A solid start that needs to be followed by strategic choices for the rest of the starters and with an eye for sleeper types.
Team 5: WR Michael Thomas, RB Aaron Jones, WR Mike Evans
Finally, a team stepped outside running back with an obvious choice and then went with the No. 10 running back for his RB1 to prevent liability and then opted to go back and pick up the No. 7 wideout. Strong start for the wide receivers and probably has to consider running back for at least two of the next three rounds but can skip WR3 for many rounds knowing they only need one more starter quality player.
Team 6: RB Alvin Kamara, TE Travis Kelce, RB Leonard Fournette
While they started with yet another running back, was able to land the best tight end for a nice advantage there, and then went the safe route with the No. 15 running back for RB2. The next few rounds should be chasing wideouts with maybe a third running back mixed in along the way.
Team 7: RB Derrick Henry, QB Lamar Jackson, WR DeAndre Hopkins
Yet another running back pick but followed that up with the best quarterback and instead of dipping back into running back like most drafters, opted for the No. 8 wideout instead of the No. 16 rusher. While RB1 isn’t an advantage, he is not a liability either, and taking the quarterback addresses the highest scoring position. For the next many rounds, has to consider wideout and running back and lean more heavily on the rushers before the quality is gone there.
Team 8: RB Miles Sanders, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, WR Chris Godwin
This team looks better than it the plan of RB-RB may work out in this format and league size since both players are high-upside picks. This can work out and adding the No. 9 wideout prevents a hole in the starters. This is a safe route to take and filling it with high upside picks is riskier but the payoff can significant and makes more sense the deeper into the draft they go. Free to pick from any position for the next several rounds.
Team 9: WR Davante Adams, RB Kenyan Drake, WR DJ Moore
Going into the end of the first round, it was a better idea to control their wideout in the first round than to just repeat another running back and let Team 10 take the better receiver. Still reached the No. 8 running back and then opted to fill the core wideouts with No. 10 player knowing that they go again in two picks and will likely address their RB2 then. Just like their first pick, they have to evaluate what Team 10 is likely to do in order to optimize the position they take.
Team 10: WR Julio Jones, WR Tyreek Hill, RB Le’ Veon Bell
Have to love the WR-WR plan at the end of the first round, even more so with reception points that yield a major advantage at wideouts. Going with a running back is needed as well as the 4.01 pick to be prudent. This plan is always a way to counteract the strong showings of early-round drafters by taking the best point producers on the board. Can wait on wideouts a long time with just one more starter needed.
This sort of league will seed in quarterbacks in varying measures depending on how and why quarterbacks are so valuable. The most common is the ability to start two quarterbacks which change drafts significantly. It will extend the quality of running backs and wideouts deeper into the draft since quarterbacks will go far earlier than the mid-draft that is common in other sorts of leagues. This run-through assumes two quarterbacks and that well over half of the starters are taken by the third round.
Viewing the previous year’s results are best for this sort of starting rule because quarterbacks can go slower – or much faster – than what this draft assumes. Keep up with the other picks in the league to make sure you don’t get stuck at the end of a run on quarterbacks.
Team 1: RB Christian McCaffrey, QB Russell Wilson, TE George Kittle
This is a masterful start and one that is why people hate the first pick teams. Best running back and then the No. 5 quarterback. Instead of a safer pick of running back or wideout, went with the No. 2 tight end for difference-makers in all three selections. Has to chase running backs and wideouts for at least the next five rounds, but has a great core to build upon.
Team 2: RB Saquon Barkley, WR Kenny Golladay, RB Aaron Jones
Started with the elite running back and then grabbed the No. 5 wideout for a great WR1. Opted to play it safe with the No. 10 running back but it gives a good base for a team that can seek to add any position for the next several rounds.
Team 3: RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Tyreek Hill, QB Deshaun Watson
Another strong start that honors the format and scoring rules. Elite running back was followed by the No. 4 wideout as WR1 and still reached the No. 6 quarterback in the upper tier. Has to address running backs in at least two of the next three rounds but a balanced start to a formidable team.
Team 4: QB Lamar Jackson, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB Joe Mixon
In this format, taking the No. 1 quarterback at any point is a good pick. That left the team feeling like they had to take running backs to avoid a hole in their starters. This is the most common plan for taking a quarterback first and a reasonable way to build a team in the order of higher scoring positions.
Team 5: RB Dalvin Cook, QB Kyler Murray, RB Austin Ekeler
Sandwiching the No. 4 quarterback between running backs is a safe and effective start even if both backs are likely to be average scorers for their RB1 and RB2 positions as starters. This page homage to the format with that quarterback. The next three rounds have to lean towards wideouts and possibly a tight end.
Team 6: QB Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, RB Nick Chubb
This would be hard to pull off in a larger league but can happen in the ten-man league size. Started with big advantage at quarterback, then went with the best tight end on the board (or in the world, to be realistic). That left the Round 3 pick a need for running back and two of the next three or four rounds should grab more rushers with a wideout or two added in as well. But owning top players in two positions is always an advantage and even more so with tight end since the quality plummets so quickly.
Team 7: WR Michael Thomas, RB Kenyan Drake, QB Matthew Stafford
Finally, the first wideout comes off the board and yields more value than just following the running back or quarterback run. Was able to land the No. 8 running back just to be safe and then took the No. 7 quarterback. This is a balanced start for this format and will need to address running back in the next few rounds. But an even start that leaves the team able to go for best available players.
Team 8: RB Alvin Kamara, WR Julio Jones, WR Allen Robinson II
Opted to start with running back knowing that between two and four will be taken before the 2.03 pick rolls back to them. Then went with the No. 3 and No. 6 wideouts that pay off with receptions points. Strong start for this deep in the first round but now has to use the next three or four rounds for only running backs and quarterbacks. Will need to look more for upside to make up ground in the non-running back positions.
Team 9: RB Derrick Henry, WR Davante Adams, WR Mike Evans
Followed the same path as Team 8 with the same results. Great set of wideouts and a serviceable to good RB1. Team success depends on what they do with the next running backs and a quarterback.
Team 10: QB Dak Prescott, RB Miles Sanders, WR DeAndre Hopkins
For the final pick of the first round, taking a quarterback in this format makes a lot of sense, and opting for a running back just ensures no hole in the starting roster for RB1. That third pick is the defining one and went with the No. 8 wideout. Balanced start and the team owns the next pick that should lean towards running back or could be the No. 9 wideout.