Fantasy Football has grown into one of America’s favorite past times the past decade. Many newcomers don’t know what basics to follow when either walking into the draft room or sitting at their PC in an online draft. Either way, it is very important to realize the three golden rules of drafting a solid fantasy football squad.
I have been in a fantasy football league since 1994 and have learned so much from my own personal experience, especially since I have been a commissioner for most of this time. I have watched many mistakes and many changes of the tides as far as play trending and overall football evolution. I hope that those who are new to this will feel less intimidated and a little more prepared for your draft day. For those who are seasoned as I am; I hope you agree and add your two cents worth for the newbies out there.
Rule #1 – Draft with your head, not your heart
You are in the 5thround of your draft and you are a Minnesota Vikings fan; you see that Christian Ponder is still on the board. You know deep down it would be too early to take him, but you know the guy picking six spots away is a Vikings fan too, and what if he snags him!? Even though you see that Jay Cutler and Eli Manning are still available, you figure that Ponder is in his 3rd year and Greg Jennings is a Viking now… what the heck! Then you draft Ponder anyway.
In my league, I have seen guys take the same players year after year too early because they are on their favorite team. Don’t fall in that trap. Just because your team’s website said John Doe should be productive this year, it doesn’t mean that every other team has the same type of guy on their team; you have just researched your own team to death. Remember that this is “Fantasy Football.” You are trying to draft your own little dream team to win your league. It can be hard a times, I have felt myself rooting for a player on the team I hate just so I can get four more points to beat the defending champion to make it to the playoffs. I get it.
Just remember that if you draft with your heart, it will just be broken as you end up in your league’s Toilet Bowl in week #16.
Rule # 2 – Have a new plan every year
I have fallen victim to this myself so learn from my mistakes. I always have drafted a Running Back first no matter what! This is the plan that was developed in 1997; draft a running back then the best player on the board. Quarterbacks are a dime a dozen and don’t take one until the 5thround, always take defenses last. Well, back in 1997, this plan worked pretty well and it continued to do well for me the next 10 years. But last year that plan blew up in my face.
Times have changed, leagues have changed and my league changed to PPR league four years ago, but I didn’t really change my style of drafting, and it became obvious very quickly. I have watched Brady and Rodgers put up mammoth numbers and realize now that a Quarterback is much more important than it used to be based on NFL league trends. Defenses are worth a lot more than they used to be as leagues have historically started giving more credit to them as each year passes.
Running Backs are mainly a committee these days and finding the one guy that totes the rock every other play is harder to do these days. It’s kind of like a pitch count in baseball. No one used to care about that, a guy came in and pitched eight innings, a closer came in, done! Now the pitch count is on scoreboards all over the country. Fresh arms, fresh legs are the new theme in sports.
The same goes with Wide Receivers, the ball is spread around so much more than it used to be and what has become important is the “Yards after Catch” stat. It is something to pay attention too.
Finally, Tight Ends are more than blockers now, they are a huge part of the offense. We have seen that the past two years with Gronkowski, Witten and Graham. Adapt to the trends, read into the stats a little more, but don’t concentrate on how players do against each team as teams change year to year and it is a fresh slate each season.
Focus on the averages of a player, where they play and who is throwing or handing the ball off to them. If you take the time to plan without “over analyzing” you will find your team contending for the championship this year.
Rule #3 – Make sure your plan is flexible
If you walk into your draft thinking; “Quarterback first, then a Running Back, two wide receivers..etc etc” be ready to switch that plan. Flexibility is key, so, make sure your plan is not set in stone. The vibe of the draft is what you need to follow. Maybe everyone decides to grab a Running Back the first round and the next thing you know it is your turn and that Quarterback pick doesn’t looks so good right now because by the time you get your 2ndpick, you will be drafting Darren Sproles as your #1 RB.
Go with the flow, keep your plan in mind but be ready to change strategy quickly. How do you prepare for that? Well, if you have time, try a couple mock drafts online or chit chat with the other owners in your league to see where their mind is at. Just remember that no matter what, if you are questioning your next move, take the best guy on the board that suits your position need at that time.
In conclusion; there are many strategies, rules or tricks you may have up your sleeve, but if you stick to these three simple rules, you can build a great team around your position needs and league rules. If you are drinking a lot of beer, prepare a beer strategy and take a lot of notes so you don’t try to draft someone who is already off the board, like trying to draft Tom Brady in round #11 or trying to draft a player that retired in 2011. Any seasoned league will never let you live it down!