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Preparing for Your Fantasy Football Draft
by Hans Steiniger, Posted: June 30, 2010
The fantasy football draft is the single most important event of the year for serious players. This event separates the true challengers from the pretenders. Intimidating to some, drafting a successful team is actually a fairly easy skill to master. It begins like most things by doing your homework.
Start with a Plan
To begin the fantasy year, you obviously need a good, up to date draft tool that lists each of the offensive starters in the NFL, we typically call it a fantasy football cheatsheet. Cheat sheets can be obtained from a variety of sources including, fantasy football magazines, internet searches, or online gurus. Find one that features a format thatís comfortable for you to work off of or develop your own. Once youíve decided on a solid cheat sheet option, look at the league as a whole and assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each position. Break your position listings into tiers aligned by comparable statistics and soon a pattern will present itself. You might find after the first three running backs that the next ten or twelve are about equal statistically. You might find that thereís an overwhelming number of top tier quarterbacks which water down the effectiveness of the position or that thereís a steep drop off in talent at the wide receiver position after the first ten come off the board. Use this assessment to craft your draft strategy.
Know your League Scoring System
Scoring systems across different leagues can be completely different. Some leagues offer bonus points for reaching certain benchmark, like an extra five points if a quarterback throws for over 300 yards a game. Some leagues offer an extra point for every reception tallied by a player throughout the game. These point per reception (PPR) leagues make third down runners valuable or pass catching tight ends more valuable. Some leagues offer different point totals for touchdowns. Iíve seen leagues that allow only four point for each touchdown a quarterback throws. The point is that before entering a draft be sure youíre familiar with the scoring system and craft your draft strategy accordingly.
Understanding Draft Strategies
In my opinion, thereís really no one fail-safe strategy that guarantees fantasy football success. Iíve found that the best strategy is to let my draft position in each round dictate the strategy I choose to follow. The ultimate goal is to amass more solid point producers than the next guy, so I generally look to follow a strategy that maximizes the selection of talent thatís available when Iím on the clock.
There are several draft strategies that youíll see are touted by the fantasy experts. Again, all can be effective, in my opinion, if employed in line with the talent available when you select your player, but itís important to be aware of what they are.
RB-RB in the first two rounds
In the early days of fantasy football this was a given. Fantasy owners select a running back in the first round followed by another in the second. The idea here is that there are 32 teams in the NFL each with a running back. Apart from the quarterback, the running back touches the ball more than anyone on the field. They're the spark plug that kicks off an NFL offense and theyíre typically fed the ball by design. This means they're going to produce points each week. In the early days, the top fifteen backs were elite point-producers on offenses that featured them as every down runners. After those fifteen there was a steep drop off in talent level. Since most fantasy teams require that you start two running backs each week, if your league is twelve teams deep, the top twenty four-running backs are in play every week. If you could grab two or three of the top guys at this position, you could seriously cripple your competition in head to head match ups. As I said in the early days this was a given, but these days with the running back by committee strategy employed by today's NFL offenses, the running back position is not nearly as pivotal. If I can grab an elite back in the first round, I'll typically wait a few rounds to grab my second runner. Considering the limited number of three down backs in the NFL these days, unless you're fortunate enough to grab one of the 4 or 5 guys on top of the running back board, most of your late round picks will get comparable production.
First Round Quarterback Selection
There are lots of guys who love Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady, or Drew Brees and they have to have that guy on their team. As I said earlier, since the quarterback touches the ball just about every snap, the pass-happy offenses feature quarterbacks who can score more fantasy points than anyone else on your roster. Taking a quarterback in the first round, especially if you pick one who dominates defenses en route to a record breaking season can pay big dividends. However there are two main reasons that I would be weary of forcing this strategy. One, grabbing a quarterback in round one means that you will be forced to work with two mediocre running backs over the course of the year, since the elite guys at this position will most likely be gone. Two, with the rule changes the NFL has instituted in the last couple of years, protecting quarterbacks and wide receivers, scoring is up and there are several elite performers at the quarterback position to choose from. Last year ten quarterbacks threw for over 4000 yards and over 25 touchdowns, thatís an incredible amount of offensive firepower. This year, you can definitely wait to find a serviceable quarterback.
Offensive Triplet strategy
Many fantasy owners believe that the best strategy is to grab the top guy on the board at each of the three scoring positions (QB, RB, WR) in each of the three rounds Ö the offensive triplets. These days this can be an excellent strategy to employ. It means that you wonít be top heavy at any one position, so youíre fantasy team will be more balanced creating match up problems for your opponents. By drafting elite performers at each slot, rather than settling for the second tier guys that come off the board during the tail end of position runs, you might find yourself with the top three scorers in fantasy football. This strategy is most effective when used to grab players opposite of these position runs. If running backs are coming off the board, grab the top receiver. In your typical drafts, it always seems like fantasy owners like to play follow the leader. If the previous three guys grab running backs, the next guy follows suit. Be the one to buck the trend and capitalize on grabbing elite talent when your competition settles for mediocrity.
Best Player Available
Some owners favor the best player available philosophy. Each time theyíre on the clock, regardless of what anyone else is doing, they examine their board and take the best player there. These fantasy owners work independent of position runs, they donít worry about the bye weeks or how many of each position theyíve stockpiled. They just select whatís given to them as dictated by the round. This strategy can pay big dividends as owners avoid getting caught up in position runs, thereby maximizing the perceived value of the players theyíre adding to their roster. It can however, come back to bite you if you do not effectively fill each starting slot , so be wary of stockpiling too much of the same position on your fantasy roster.
Taking into consideration the ideas outlined above in advance of you draft can help focus your approach leading to a more well-crafted plan of attack. I typically like to look over the talent pool available at each position to assess where I can make moves. Be sure you're familiar with the depth of point producers at each position and attempt to maximize perceived value with each pick. Good Luck!
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