COMMENTARY | The new NFL season is upon us and soon fans will begin dusting off their tailgating gear and futilely trying to drink their way into believing their team actually has a chance to contend for Lord Lombardi’s shiny paperweight this season.
For millions of fans around the globe, the impending NFL season also brings with it the quest for some virtual hardware of their own. Fantasy Football drafts are just now starting to rev up, causing fans to flock to their computers in droves to come up with the wittiest double-entendre team names imaginable — I’m looking at you New York Jet’s fan with the name “Rex-y Butt-Fumblers.”
Those hoping to have any chance this season would be wise to heed these simple rules for Fantasy Football domination.
7. Do Not Take a Kicker Until the Very Last Pick!
There is no better indication that I will win my league than the sight of owners jumping up to take the best available kicker in round No. 8.
The difference between the best available kicker and the one that can be had after every other team has drafted is laughably minute. This season, Yahoo! has the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Bryant ranked as the league’s best leg swinger. In 2012, Bryant netted 161 fantasy points. If I wait and grab my kicker with my last pick, I can still end up with Lawrence Tynes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who racked up 154 fantasy points last season.
6. Stop Taking Bench Players Before Starters
So you scooped up Drew Brees in round No. 5 and suddenly want to brag about it. Great job, except for the fact you took Aaron Rodgers in round No. 3.
I does not matter if you pick the two best QBs on the board, or have a stable of six running backs. If you start drafting a bunch of players who will spend most of their time collecting dust on your bench, then the other positions are going to suffer. Your high draft picks all need to be starters who will play every week. Worry about backups after all starting skill positions are secure.
5. A Sleeper Is Only A Sleeper If You Take Him Late
Too many fantasy owners come into their draft prepared to show the rest of the league that they are smarter than everyone else. I’m sure you have a list of can’t miss sleeper picks ready to blow the other owners away. While that is all well and good, don’t be in such as rush to prove how smart you are.
A sleeper is not a sleeper it you have to take him before round No. 10. A sleeper is a player you take a flyer on because you think they might do better than expected. If your sleeper pick is taken too early, then it is not a sleeper, it is someone you will need to depend on to win games every week.
Target all the players your team needs before ever considering rolling the dice on a potential sleeper.
I’m sure this comes as a surprise, but football is a rough sport. If I were a betting man I would say that there will be some star players getting injured this season. Without necessary insurance, I could be left with a wasted high pick simply because I did not secure my most valued assets.
A prime example of this is the fact that owners who lost out when Buffalo Bills’ back Fred Jackson got hurt last year would not have skipped a beat if they had C.J. Spiller waiting in the wings. Particularly with players who have been known to get injured in the past, make sure you know who their backup will be.
This season, Bernard Pierce of the Baltimore Ravens and Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots could be the top handcuffs to consider at running back.
3. Understand Position Depth
Everyone thinks the No. 1 fantasy rule is that owners have to select two running backs with their first two picks if they have any hope of winning their league, but this rule actually changes depending on position depth. It does just so happen that the fantasy backfield is thin this season, so jump on RBs early and often, but other notorious early-round positions are a lot deeper than most owners realize.
The quarterback position is generally thought of as an early need that will separate playoff teams from consolation-round squads, but the 2013 season appears to be one of the strongest in recent memory for signal callers.
Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo are both being snagged very late in most drafts. Romo threw for 4,903 yards in what many considered to be a down year for the Dallas Cowboys’ QB, and Stafford is only one year removed from a 5,038 yard, 41 TD season of his own.
Tight end and running back appear to be the two weakest positions in terms of overall depth this season. Take that into consideration when drafting your team.
2. Fantasy Leagues Are Never Won During the Draft
Drafting well will get you going strong in the first few weeks of the season, but paying close attention to player development and team trends during the season is even more important. It is generally the owners who are able to add the unexpected gem off waivers that will end up on top when the season ends.
Victor Cruz, Arian Foster and Alfred Morris are all names of recent players who were once waiver wire pickups.
1. Have a Strategy in Mind
There is a place for picking with your gut or shooting from the hip during fantasy drafts, but it’s the owners who go in with a plan that usually end up with the best squad once the last pick has been announced. Owners need to arrive at their draft board 20 minutes early and then go through the list of players and highlight where your picks will come up at in each round.
I know if l have the No. 4 overall pick, that also means I will have the No. 21 pick, the No. 28 pick, and so forth. Before the draft ever starts, I go to each ranking and highlight the players who should be available when my turn comes around again. Understanding who will be there gives me a better chance to avoid being blindsided when a player I target gets taken early, forcing me to rush through the list and potentially make a terrible selection.