I wish when I was first encapsulated by the wonderful world of fantasy football, I had sat down and took a few minutes to look at some tips and tricks from veteran fantasy analysts. Now, I am certainly not suggesting I am a veteran by any stretch, but I like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to this anomalous yet elusive affiliation to the NFL. So I will offer you my opinions of how to compete competitively and let you in to some trade tricks and secrets that will hopefully steer you to victory and have the edge over your rivals!
1) Mock Drafting
A mock draft is where you will get the lie of the land of where players are being drafted in live practice drafts. Most fantasy football operators will have a mock draft system either on their app or on their websites. I prefer to use ESPN’s fantasy app and that certainly has a very good mock draft section but draftwizard, cbs, yahoo, NFL and fantasy football calculator also offer this service in the off season.
It is vital to mock draft all the way until you do your real draft. You will be able to use different draft positions in order to figure out where you think is the best place to draft from and which spots your specific targets are falling to. For example, if you really want to have Jordy Nelson on your team, you will find in most mocks at the moment he is being drafted in the first round between picks 6 and 9. From there you will then see what player falls to you in the second round and so forth. Keep swapping positions and do multiple drafts until you can find a constant where you are happy with the players you are drafting.
2) Find a draft strategy for you
Once you have done a few mock drafts and you have got your targets and know roughly where they are being drafted, get yourself a couple of systems to play with. I always try and get an even spread of talent throughout my team in all the positions. I tend to go with a system of using my first four picks as a mix of running backs and receivers and alternate those positions each round. So if I take a running back in the first round, I grab the best available receiver in the second round or vice versa. Or maybe you find yourself and your favoured position to grab RB, RB with your first two picks as you like a couple of later round picks as sleepers or flyers to fill in your receiving corps. Alternately you could like the zero RB strategy where you don’t pick a running back until the mid-rounds where you can get potential break out players like Joe Mixon or Bilal Powell. Again, this is why mock drafting is so important, you can play around with all these different strategies to see which one you like, but ALWAYS have a backup plan because, trust me, not all drafts fall how you want them to!
3) Research, ADP and Sleepers
ADP is short for Average Draft Position. This ADP of a player is based upon where he is being drafted in mock drafts during the off-season and real drafts once they start getting underway (usually from July onwards). It’s an indication for us, the players, to see where the general public are drafting players and where about they are in relation to other players around them. Basically it’s a public ranking system. I find the best website for this is fantasyfootballcalculator.com and is a pivotal tool for us analysts who write about fantasy but also a reliable source for you to plot out where you should be looking to draft the players you want in your team(s). This goes hand in hand with finding sleepers. It always pays to do research. Whether it is reading one of my articles, excuse the plug, or maybe listening to fantasy podcasts or other media outlets that provide good information, stats and opinions. This way you can build up a selection of players that you like and hopefully that will include sleepers who are drafted later on in drafts. One of my sleepers this year is John Brown from the Arizona Cardinals as an example. I love the opportunity he has and currently his ADP is 107.
4) Know your league format and points system
This might seem obvious, but you might find yourself in a few different leagues with differing rules. For example, you may be a part of a PPR (points per reception) league where players get extra points every time they make a catch. This will drive WRs, TEs and pass catching RB’s value up. Players like Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick are just two that come to mind as productive receiving backs and you might consider taking the top wide outs ahead of Ezekiel Elliot as another example. You could be in a dynasty league where younger players have more value than the veterans. Or the league you are in may offer bonus points for extraordinary games or long runs/catches so big play players such as Ted Ginn Jnr or DeSean Jackson who can break off a 90yard TD reception at any point in any game.
5) Drafting Quarterbacks
It’s easy to assume that QB’s are one of the first players off you’re draft boards. Well, that shouldn’t be the case. I have never drafted a QB before the 6th round and I will always continue that tradition. The reason for not picking a quarterback early is logical, in my opinion. Despite that position being the highest scoring in fantasy terms, usually your league will consist of a maximum of 16 players but most likely 10 or 12 and usually your league will only require you to start 1 QB. There are 32 in the league, obviously, so you’re more than likely going to get a top performing quarterback in the mid to late rounds. Unless you have an infatuation with either Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady as these two particularly are likely to go in the first few rounds, why not wait and get potential studs like Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston who are currently going in rounds 7 and 9 respectively. You could even wait until the later rounds where you will find potential top 10 QB’s in Marcus Mariota (round 9) or Philip Rivers (round 10).
Throughout the season, the points between these sorts of options and some of the higher ranked positional players won’t be that different, but the options down in the later rounds sometimes offer a lot more in terms of upside. In my opinion, it is not worth wasting an early round pick where you could use those spots to bolster up your running back corps or receiving options where you will be starting 2 or in some cases 3 of each of these positions.
6) The Tight End
I’m tempted to copy and paste a lot of what I’ve just said regarding quarterbacks. You only have to start 1 tight end in most fantasy leagues. Rob Gronkowski is in a league of his own and is a viable option within the first 3 rounds. Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed are likely to be the next two TE’s off the board and probably before round 6. But after these bigger names it’s a big pool of potential breakout seasons vs veterans who will consistently put up average points. So why not wait until you can get players like Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle or Hunter Henry who are all available later than the 10th round and again, fill up your roster with the power positions first.
7) Bulk up on Wide Receivers and Running Backs
So I have touched on this concept in the Quarterback and Tight End paragraphs. You are going to be drafting more WR’s and RB’s than any other position. In a standard setup this will be the case too. Even if you have filled your quota of starting positions, continue to look for talented players that you can plug in in case of injuries or if your selected player(s) bust. Trust me when I say, this is the most important thing to take into consideration when drafting. Not only does it bolster your team, you will also have trade bait later on in the season.
8) Pay attention to who others in your league have drafted
Again, this might sound obvious, but come draft day, it all goes by very quickly. It’s always worth using your allotted time when it’s your turn to have a quick flick through all of your rivals’ teams to see what pieces they have drafted and what needs they have. For example, if the next 3 teams after you in the draft order all need running backs, it may be worth considering grabbing the best available RB in case that triggers off a run and you are left with slim pickings come your next turn. On the other hand, if a lot of players have already filled a position, like a QB, you might want to wait another couple of rounds before taking your guy as it’s likely he will still be available. You could also be sneaky in the later rounds and snatch another players handcuff running back or receiver which will give you trade leverage if their main player goes down with a long term injury or is suspended.
9) Keep one eye on the Bye weeks
On most, if not all of the websites you are likely to be drafting on, somewhere on the info screen will tell you when a player is on their teams Bye week. This could affect your draft strategy because you might not realise a few of your players have coinciding Bye weeks and you don’t really want to have to drop your key players mid-season because you only have a couple of players eligible. It’s not the end of the world as you could just have that week as a loss week but it could be a tie-breaker if you have to choose between two similar players and you don’t ever want to go into a season knowing you’re definitely going to lose at least 1 week
10) Leave kickers and ST/Defence until last
If your new to fantasy you might not think how little special teams/defence and kickers affect your fantasy team. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but only a couple. You can draft Justin Tucker once you’re happy you have a good amount of depth, but certainly not before round 10.
Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski are also solid options, but certainly don’t pick them up round 12. Kickers usually fluctuate with their points and you’ll find that points wise throughout the season, the main bulk of decent kickers will score a similar amount of points throughout the season and will only average 5-8 points per game. As for Defence/Special Teams, don’t even bother drafting them until the last couple of rounds. Ok, a couple are likely to go off the board predictably Kansas City and Seattle, but throughout the season it’s usually beneficial to play the matchups from week to week and most of the time a favoured defence for that week will be available on the waiver wire.
Thanks for reading this article, if you are struggling with some of the technical words I’ve used in this article, don’t worry, coming next will be a jargon buster breaking down industry related words and phrases.
By Rob Grimwood @fantasypond