When I first started playing fantasy, it was just a given, your first two picks were always running backs.
Then the NFL changed the rules in favor of offenses, and all of a sudden quarterbacks started popping up in the first 2 rounds.
Not long after that, PPR leagues started to spring up, and a few years into that faze people realized that if you had one of the later picks in your draft, you could give yourself a definite edge by grabbing the two best receivers while everyone else was sorting through the running back rubble.
Now it doesn’t seem to matter at all. In recent years fantasy drafts have become a free for all. I’ve seen quarterbacks taken #1 overall and tight ends taken as high as 6th overall. Nobody seems to follow any kind of strategy anymore.
This is a perfect lead into my first tip.
1. ALWAYS! Ignore the auto draft suggestions.
Last year they told you to draft Eddie Lacy first overall. Having a bust like that, can not only get you off to a bad start and put a damper on your whole season, it can give your opponents a clear cut advantage.
My advice is to take some time to study and list your picks in order of importance. Make sure you know exactly who you want and when. Then you can cross them off as they are selected during the draft.
Not only does that allow you to look ahead while still keeping your place, but it makes it obvious when a value pick is about to fall into your lap.
Also keep a notebook and pen handy (unless you are drafting online) and write down every selection both you and every other manager takes. It sounds like a lot of work for an event that is supposed to be fun, but it will pay major dividends in alerting you how long you can wait on a “sleeper,” by whether or not the other teams are filled up at his position.
2. Running Back is the most vital position in the draft.
You will most likely need to start at least two running backs in most leagues. The bad news is there are increasingly less and less good ones every year.
Unless you pay very close attention to numbers, this stat might just blow your mind. In 2015 there were only seven running backs with over 1,000 yards. That’s down from 13 in 2014 and 2013, and 16 in 2012.
The top rusher in 2015 had 1,485 yards. That would have only been good enough for 5th place in 2012.
I’m not necessarily telling you to draft a running back in the first round. I’m just saying that if you get one of the good ones you give yourself a direct advantage, and if by some chance you get two, you should have no problem owning your league.
The hard part about that is, drafting a running back is far from an exact science. Over the last 3 years only one back appears in the top 5 more than once.
So it would be impossible to tell you who to draft but I can tell you who to avoid.
Avoid running backs who are prone to injury.
Avoid running backs who are prone to suspension.
By all means, avoid running backs who are prone to injury and suspension no matter how damn good he is.
The good news in this day and age is, that since running backs aren’t very durable or reliable, you have a good chance of finding a decent backup on the waiver wire as the season progresses.
So what do you do if you aren’t able to draft one of the elite running backs?
3. Tight ends are becoming a more viable option.
Surprisingly, there were quite a few decent pass catching tight ends last year, but still not enough for everyone in an 8 person league to have a legitimate starter. That’s what makes tight end the 2nd most important position in fantasy.
In recent past, most managers would wait til the late rounds and gamble on a sleeper. That can be an exciting strategy to employ, but if you miss, you leave yourself with a major liability at a position that you will be constantly trying to fill. You will find yourself using waiver wire choices that you could have been using on more important positions like running back.
If taking chances is something you enjoy, a more exciting strategy, with even higher reward, is drafting the top two tight ends.
Now that most leagues give you a flex option, you can start both on a weekly basis.
Plus, you won’t have a drop off in case of injury or during the bye week.
However, the biggest benefit is that you will leave the other managers with even fewer options. Imagine the frustration they will feel when you are rolling out the two best players at a position where they are constantly sifting through scrubs.
Drafting tight ends isn’t an exact science either but their are a few tips to follow that can help you out.
Draft players that have been good for awhile. Unlike the running back position, tight ends are usually very consistent.
Draft tight ends that play alongside top QBs. Think Brady-Gronk, Brees-Graham, Peyton-Thomas, Romo-Witten, Newton-Olsen. Tight ends thrive on touchdown numbers, so make sure your’s has a guy that can get him the ball when it matters most.
4. Quarterback is the Wild Card position.
Besides being awarded the first overall selection, there is no better feeling in fantasy than drafting that big named QB and feeling like you’ve already won the championship.
Yes, it is an unmatched feeling, and while it does seem to give you stability at the position with the most consistent chance at a high scoring week, there is a very apparent glitch in that line of thinking in this era of football.
Last year the highest passing TD total for a QB was 36. There were ten other players who threw for at least 31 TDs, and ten more who had at least 20.
Is it really worth burning a top pick on a +A player when you can wait until everyone else gets their starter and still get an A rated player?
I usually wait til everyone else has selected one or two QBs before I make my move, and still end up with two or three quality starters.
The only real exception I see, is a guy who can throw for 35 TDs and run for 10 more without his top receiver, who by the way, will be coming back next year. In that scenario I would definitely consider spending a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
5. You should never even think about touching a receiver before the 4th or 5th round!
Am I crazy?
Won’t the top playmakers definitely be gone by then?
The jury is still out on the first part…
But you have to remember “brains not names” are what is going to win you the trophy.
Consider this. In 2015, 23 receivers had over 1,000 yards.
That means if every pick (besides yours of course) in the first two rounds was spent on a WR, you would still have the ability to add five 1,000 yard pass catchers to your roster.
You’re right. Your guys may not be human highlight reels, but they won’t have cost you the prettiest penny either, and should give you a brilliant return on your investment.
Let the other guys waste their picks on splashy players. Spend yours on the guys who make sense.
6. Load up on running backs.
Because the position is so inconsistent and injury prone, you can never have enough ball carriers. I never carry any less than the league maximum.
In an era in which the NFL is ruled by running back committees, you never know who is going to get hot and when.
After the first few weeks everyone is looking to replace their guys who flopped, went down with an injury, or just flat out sucked.
If for some reason you have too many ball carriers, don’t panic, they make excellent trade bait.
7. Consistentcy is key.
Its always nice to have those game where 4 or 5 guys go off for 40+ points and you bury your opponent and have the best score of the week.
Just remember, whether it’s by 1 point or 150 points, a win is a win, and if the same player that went off this week drops a goose egg the next, he is a liability to your team.
I would rather have a guy that consistently averages 10-15 points then a guy who drops 30 this week and 0 the next.
As a matter of fact, I will cut the roller coaster kid in a heartbeat before letting him take me on a wild ride.
Let someone else deal with the headache.
8. Do not draft a Kicker or a Defense.
By the end of most drafts, managers are so tired of sifting through the spoils that they usually just grab a kicker or defense quick before they log off of their lap top, or start pounding beers with their buddies.
Chances are those selections won’t even be on your roster on opening day, and you will wish you had used the pick on one of those high potential rookies who was just drafted into a high power offense.
Unless you have one of the very elite defenses or Stephen Gostkowski, the value of most of those units are determined more by the opposing offenses depravity than by their own skill.
That is exactly why someone came up with the idea of “streaming.”
Once again, it takes a little bit of time and elbow grease but you will find it is well worth the extra effort.
9. The three year rule for receivers no longer applies.
With quarterbacks throwing the ball up with record setting numbers, receivers are settling in with unprecedented ease.
It is no longer irrational to take a flier on a rookie or even a sophomore receiver.
Just beware, because even though they can drop earth shattering numbers in a certain stretch of games, they are still inexperienced and can disappear for an equally baffling amount of time.
10. Always start your studs.
There is no worse feeling than watching your best player torch an opposing defense, and then remembering that he is sitting on your bench because the experts told you he was due for an off week.
If you aren’t confident that your top players can perform on a weekly basis, then maybe they aren’t truly a top player.
11. Relax, kick back, and trust your gut.
Off course fantasy season is going to be stressful. That’s what makes it so worth it when you finally put the trophy up on your mantle at the end of the year.
However, it can also be one of the most fun and exciting experiences of the season if you take a bit of time to prepare.
Just remember that the experts are wrong as often as they are right.
So after you scour through your fantasy magazine a couple of times.
Throw it away.
And delete this article as soon as you finish reading it.
Then put all your faith in the only person that can win next year’s league for you.