The sizzling summer is winding down and if you’re like millions of other red-blooded human beings, you’re probably excited for the NFL season and have a fantasy draft coming up.
Success in fantasy football, much like hitting all green lights on the way to work, comes with some degree of luck. You have to hope your players stay healthy, you don’t fall prey to bad beats from your opponents, and you judiciously plug the right guys into your lineup and cast the lower scorers out to the pine.
But, while some of fantasy football is largely chance, there are countless little strategies you can employ to prevent your team from playing like Chris Weinke on Sundays and more like Tom Brady.
The draft is the most important day for any fantasy player. Unless you’re in a keeper league, you start from scratch and select, on average, 9-10 player from various positions and roughly seven players for your bench. While it’s rare that any draft goes perfectly, you can expect less maintenance throughout the season and more time watching the points pile up if you follow these guidelines.
Just a little footnote here, your team will always require a little maintenance, no matter how good it is. So keep that in mind.
On to the draft. With each pick you make, you must ask yourself the following questions:
What are the rules of your league?
I lead off with one of the biggest ones. Every league has different rules. Some are points per reception (PPR) where each receiver gets one point or more for each catch, a rule that drives up the value of wide receivers. Other leagues have 4 points per throwing touchdown from quarterbacks while some award 6. Some leagues give out bonus points for running backs that rush for more than 100 yards in a game. I could write a novel on the variety of rules in every league, but before you draft check the rules for your own league and adjust accordingly. If you don’t know them, ask your commissioner.
Is this guy healthy right now?
This is often the biggest conundrum fantasy football players face week in and week out during the regular season, and the same thing applies to the draft. There’s a reason a star like Robert Griffin III has an average draft position of 62 this season. If there is reasonable doubt a player may not be healthy because he either has or is recovering from a severe injury, you should dock him two-to-three rounds from where his original projected round. Also, get familiar red flag injuries known to derail a players’ season and thus derail your team. These include “torn ACLs,” “ruptured Achilles” “severe concussions” or a “broken legs.”
What is his role in the offense?
For example, the first running back you draft should be the focal point of the offense, sometimes called a ‘feature’ back. A feature back gets the majority of the carries (anywhere between 20-30 a game) and doesn’t split them with another RB. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is an example of a feature back.
Drafting a quality player isn’t just about talent since offensive coordinators sometimes marginalize players based on their offensive philosophy. C.J. Spiller was a good example of this in 2012, an elite back who ran the ball only 207 times. That’s a 12 carry per game average. In 2006, Tiki Barber was one of the leagues top rushers, yet had the majority of his touchdowns sniped by goal-line back Brandon Jacobs.
Who are the potentially big value guys in the later rounds?
This is another crucial point. You’re not going to win your league because you have the best player, you’ll win it because you have the best team. The first few rounds of the draft are always the most exciting because it’s when the best players go, but rounds 4-7 are where you need to find guys who are just as good if not better than those you drafted earlier. It’s where you find the most value.
Biggest mid-round steals
- QB Robert Griffin III (Average draft position: 67). Remember Peyton Manning last year? Well RG3 is this year’s Manning. He has more upside than any player in the draft but has injury questions. Even if you draft him at this round and he’s a bust, it was worth it.
- WR T.Y. Hilton (Average draft position: 72). An emerging star whose value may be slighted a bit due to his pedestrian role Indys offense. Either way, he should compile more catches than stone-handed Darius Heyward-Bey.
- TE Jordan Cameron (Average draft position 113): In a year filled with almost no guarantees at tight end beyond Jimmy Graham, Cameron is a great value at this spot. A basketball-type leaper with great hands makes for a perfect receiving tight end. You can find an article we wrote about him earlier in the year here
- RB Ryan Mathews (Average draft position 58): I know, he burned you last year and you’re still not over it. But he’s still a feature back and rushed for 1,091 yards just two seasons ago. Give him another chance if he’s available in round 5 or beyond.
- WR Josh Gordon (Averge draft position 88): You’ll have to keep him sidelined while he serves a two-game suspension, but there’s not a lot to dislike with this deep threat who proved he could burn good cornerbacks last season. Oh, and he’s in a Norv Turner vertical offense.