Thank goodness we have an NFL season! I’d hate to keep this post on ice for a whole year. It’s time for me to impart my wisdom about Draft Day. I played fantasy football for eight years, and consulted for another three years, and every team I’ve been associated with have finished no worse than 4th place. My favorite part of fantasy football was Draft Day. The easiest path to winning your league at the end is to win in your draft in the beginning. I am now retired as both as an active participant and as a consultant. There is no need to hold back my wisdom. I will share my Top Eleven Fantasy Football Draft Day strategy tips with you, the reader. (As well as tips about fantasy football in general).
- Never go with your heart. Unless your favorite NFL team is a historical offensive juggernaut, try to stay away from that team’s players. You are going to overrate them on your draft board, thus possibly overlooking potential sleeper picks from other teams.
- The real draft begins in the 4thRound. I don’t care which cheat sheet you use, the top 30 to 40 will more or less be the same players with very little variation on the rankings. The first three rounds are no-brainers. It is after Round 4 where you see which of your rivals have done their homework, and which ones were lazy.
- Stock up on Running Backs (RBs). Considering how many teams have gone away from one featured RB to Running Back By Committee (RBBC), and how many RBs get injured throughout the regular season (no real surprise), backs have become even more of a premium. I don’t care about your league’s scoring rules. It doesn’t matter if it is weighted towards Quarterbacks (QBs), Wide Receivers (WRs), or God forbid, Place Kickers (PKs) or Individual Defensive Players (IDPs), you are going to need a large stable of RBs on your roster. On the other hand…
- Know your league’s scoring rules.Does your league have a Flex position? Do Tight Ends (TEs) count as WRs? Does your league include punt and kick return yardage? How many players can you start at each position? Who is more valuable: the 10th best QB, or the 10th best WR? The answer depends on the your scoring system, and how many players at each position your league starts.
- If given a choice, pick last in your Draft. This assumes you have a serpentine draft, i.e.: the person who picks last in Round 1, picks first in Round 2. If your league doesn’t have a serpentine daft, you better be in an auction league. (I have not played in an auction league, so I have no tips for that. Sorry.) I have found that there is an advantage in being at the end of the draft order in the early rounds (e.g.: having picks 12 & 13 in a 12 team league), than picking early and waiting nearly two whole rounds until your next pick. It is possible that it was just coincidence, but the winners in all of my leagues were the ones who were positioned at the bottom of the draft order.
- Don’t worry so much about the player’s bye week. Many people will try not to draft players in the same position with the same bye week. I would not put any stock in the bye week. By the time the bye weeks begin in the NFL, there will be so many roster transactions, that you will probably won’t have to worry about having no one to start at a certain position. You could be pro-active and make a trade weeks in advance of the bye. Otherwise, there is bound to be someone on the waiver wire that “came out of nowhere” to become a FFB star.
- If you didn’t pick a top 3 or 4 QB in the first two rounds, you can get a Top 10 QB in Rounds 5 and 6. Since everyone (including yourself, I hope) is stockpiling RBs (see Tip #3 above), some very productive QBs (fantasy wise) will fall to the middle rounds. Using the same reasoning, some very productive QBs can be had as backups as late as Rounds 10 or 11. Rivals that pick a QB early seem to feel too content, and wait until the very end before they think about taking a second QB.
- Don’t fall victim to a cascade. I’ve seen it all the time. At some point, there will be four or more picks in a row of the same position. It could be QB, TE, PK, or team Defenses – everyone gets the same notion that a certain position must be picked at that particular round, and BOOM, you have a cascade. I exclude WRs or RBs, since most leagues will have you start more of those position players than the others, so more of them will be picked overall anyway. Don’t go with the collective mentality. If four or five TEs have been taken consecutively, then pick another position player. The value of the sixth or seventh TE (or any other position) is probably much lower than your current draft position. Some sheets will list an Average Draft Position (ADP). You will see that there are varying gaps between the rankings of a particular position. Example: you will not the ADP of the top 5 TEs as: 5.5; 5.6; 5.7; 5.8; and 5.9. Don’t let fear hijack your draft strategy.
- Pick your PKs last. I can’t stress this enough. I promise you this: no matter what league you are in, there will be atop 10 PK available in the final round. One reason is that projecting PKs is the hardest thing to predict in fantasy football. Do you take a PK from a Super Bowl contender because you expect that team to score many points? Or do you take a PK from a mediocre team because you expect that team’s offense to struggle in the Red Zone, and settle for more Field Goals? The turnover rate of top ten fantasy point leaders are higher in the PK position than it is in any other position. At least it used to be when I was actively playing. And the difference between the #1 PK and #10 PK is marginal. Fantasy teams do not win just because they have the #1 PK. It is much more important to have the #1 QB, RB, or WR instead. Unless you have really bizarre scoring rules. I’ll get back to that later on.
- It’s OK to laugh and point. If a rival makes a stupid pick, e.g.; they take a player who is retired, injured, or really buried on the team’s depth chart, it is acceptable to mock that selection. I call those people Skeebos for 2 reasons. (You have to look it up yourselves). A typical Skeebo will try to pick a player that has already been taken. Thankfully online drafts prevent that sort of thing. I love playing against Skeebos. They also tend to start players during their bye week.
- Most importantly, subscribe to Draftsharks.com. I swear by these guys. I believe in their ideology, and they are the biggest reason why I have been successful in fantasy football year after year. I can not endorse these guys enough. They explain in great detail the reasoning behind some of my tips. That is why I did not. It is their ideas, and they phrase it so much better than I ever could. Those who followed my referrals and used Draftsharks ended up finishing in the top 3 of their league that year.
As a bonus I have three more tips on Fantasy Football.
- If you are new to this, don’t go customizing your scoring system. I’m not a big fan of the online leagues at espn and Yahoo, but at least I know they have hired experts who know what they are doing to run their websites. Their scoring systems may appear bland, but there are solid reasons behind their methodology. Just be careful before you customize your league. You can throw the competitive balance all out of whack. You should not have PKs and IDPs become more valuable than RBs and QBs. You could end up sacrificing all of the fun for the sake of inflated scores, and/or scores with long decimals (ex: a score of 298.775 to 297.533)
- The winner of any fantasy trade os the one who gets the best player. In this case, it parallels real sports. Although in real sports, draft picks are usually involved – something that is hard to do in fantasy sports, even in keeper leagues.
- Never trade Quality for Quantity. Every year, at least one Skeebo tries to propose a four-for-one trade – my best player for his backups. When I was commissioner or co-commissioner, I would have voided any of these potential trades on the grounds of collusion. At first, I would counter with a reverse four-for-one of my own, followed by a straight up one-for-one. These Skeebos would not even consider the latter, despite being quite reasonable. My advise is to ignore these Skeebos completely. If you are dealing with a worthy rival, then you can make a two-for-one deal, or a three-for-two. The point is to not make a deal where the difference in players changing rosters is greater than 1. Quality always wins.