1st off this is my first article for bleacher report. Ive been a huge fan of this site for a long time and I finally decided to sign up and write. In addition to this I also have my own blog which is entirely about football. Fantasy football, much like the stock market, can throw swings at you that you may never seen coming. I've been playing fantasy football from before I hit puberty and I have won multiple league championships. I take pride in my ability to build teams and work the waiver wire, but it all starts at the Draft. Here are some rules to ensure fantasy draft success and with that a realistic shot to win your league championship.
1. Be prepared: Nothing can ruin your fantasy draft quicker than going in without knowledge of the players, scoring system, and the format of the draft. Obviously, your first priority is to know the players. You need to know the types of systems your offensive players play in. For example, drafting a TE in a Mike Martz offense would be risky knowing he doesn’t have a history of using a TE as a featured weapon. Knowing your players’ systems can be vital to your team’s success. Being familiar with the system can also help gauge expectations. Knowing that your team is going to get 20-25 carries a game, you can then make an estimation based on the statistics on hand: career yards per carry, rushing yards per game, opponent’s defensive ranking, and many other factors. Along with knowing the system you need to know your leagues scoring system inside and out. If your league is a pass driven league where QB touchdown passes are worth 6 points, you should make sure you draft a QB early. For example Tony Romo threw 26 TD passes last year; on a standard 4 point scale he would have scored 104 fantasy points on TDs alone, but in a 6 point system he would’ve scored 156 points, which can easily win you a game or two. It can really change your draft board based on the scoring system. Players who may have had 4th or 5th round grades could jump as high as 2nd rounders or even 1st rounders. One final aspect to being prepared is knowing the draft format. You need to know how many picks there are in each round, if it’s an auction or snake style draft, and how much time you have per pick. These are all key factors to basic drafting success. I have seen countless drafters pick a player they had no intentions of selecting because they ran out of time. Now let us discuss some draft strategy.
2. DO NOT REACH: Here is a little scenario I want you to think about “Heat of the moment. Two picks before you finally make your selection. You have two players in mind. A stud RB for a playoff caliber team and a QB who airs it out with the best of them. But then the dooms day scenario happens: Stud back and high flying QB get drafted in the slots right before. What now? Your entire strategy got thrown into a loop with those two players being taken off the board. You know that a RB or QB is a need but you have a WR who rank just behind the other two players. Do you draft for need or value?” That’s the question folks. Do you draft a player you need to fill your depth chart or do you draft a player with proper value who could produce more than the players you could draft? I tend to believe the best option is to go for value; it can only help your team either through production or future trade value. Even if you have your starters set and the best player available will only be a back up, draft the guy. The one player is not only insurance to your starters, but you can get much better value on the trade market which can be worth more than that mediocre player you would’ve reached for. The big picture needs to be in mind.
3. Don’t draft based on your heart: As a Dallas Cowboy fan I have to avoid the temptation to make my roster mimic the Cowboys depth chart. I’m not saying you can’t draft players from your favorite team but do not draft every player from their roster. The basis for this is rather simple: if you draft the majority of players from one team you team becomes dependant on that team performing. If the entire offense goes into a funk your team could implode. Or if there is an injury to a key position it can throw the entire team into a downward spiral. For example if you draft Tony Romo, Roy Williams, Felix Jones, and say Jason Witten; if Romo goes down the fantasy value of all those players is greatly damaged and could truly send your team from contender to viewing the playoffs from the losers bracket.
4. Draft a mix of studs and potential: I know what you’re saying; it may sound something like “Duh,” but hear me out. People may always say, “Oh I’m going to draft for potential,” but honestly it’s easier said than done. I think a lot of drafters tend to focus on the brand names, the known established players. But fantasy football is more than that; it’s just like the NFL. In the NFL, teams draft rookies for potential alone and whether they reach that level of potential is key to NFL success. If you see a player who has breakout star potential you need to grab that player. For example, when Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson came out of college you could get either of them from the 6th round and on, those players have become the two best fantasy backs in football! You have to keep your eyes out for the next big thing while also grabbing established veterans to help move the ship forward. Any GM will say you need to find a balance between veterans and the potential of rookies; and fantasy football is no different.
5. Draft rookie Running Backs: this may not be the biggest secret when it comes to fantasy football but it is clearly my best strategy. This strategy has led me to multiple fantasy championships. The theory goes that running back is one of the easiest positions to translate from college to the pros. My strategy is to grab a stud back early and a decent number 2, then fill out my roster with other positions and wait for the run on backs to settle. If you play your cards right you have the potential to draft one of the top rookie backs. I was able to snag Chris Johnson in the 9th round when he came out, Matt Forte in the 5th round his rookie year, and even Steve Slaton in the 12th. If you hit on a rookie it gives you a chance to either: 1) Trade said rookie back for a premium or 2) Unload one of your veteran backs for positions of need. Fantasy football is about the big picture. You need to figure out not only the draft value of a position but what the value may be in week 5, week 7, or right before the trade deadline.
In conclusion, I hope these tips can help you all have a successful fantasy draft and also a potential championship season. These basic strategies have led me to multiple championships and have caused my friends to ask me for advice. But there is one more tip I would like to give you: have fun with it. Fantasy football’s ultimate goal is for the individual to have fun. It’s a chance for friends to get together and have a good time. It makes Football Sunday far more interesting and it helps garner interest in games that do not involve you favorite team. I hope it helps, and make it a great season everyone.