This article was written by Jeb Gorham.
There is a skill that seasoned fantasy owners and those new to Fantasy Football must develop to have a shot at a successful season: honing a draft strategy. Every fantasy owner has their own approach to a draft, but some elements seem to stick as keys to a successful one.
Here are some myths and tips to remember as you are constructing your own strategy, with the basics in mind. But if you get creative and through trial and error, you will likely find a plan of attack that works best.
Myth: You Must Draft a Running Back in the First Round
If you are drafting outside of the top few picks and the top-tier running backs are off the board, don’t hesitate to take a top-tier wideout, quarterback or tight end who will assure you solid fantasy numbers on a weekly basis. Running backs are important, but you should concern yourself with drafting elite talent anywhere you can get it.
Myth: You Should Draft a Full Starting Lineup Before Drafting Your Bench
Grabbing a defense and a kicker early just to fill your starting lineup is a mistake often made by those new to fantasy drafts. Your bench is very important, and while others in your league rush to grab that premier defense or kicker, you can steal their handcuff running back, another solid receiver or a stellar backup to use as a bye week replacement or trade bait. Such players have much greater fantasy value than the top-ranked defense or kicker.
Myth: Directly Following Average Draft Position (ADP) and Expert Rankings Is Best
ADP and expert rankings are great places to start when formulating your list of draft targets. But the experts don’t share a consensus on every pick and neither should you. We all have hunches and gut feelings about a certain player, and you should follow your instincts. If you want to reach slightly for a player who is 3-5 spots down on your overall list, go for it and don’t think twice. Use our cheat sheets to build your own customized draft list.
Myth: Draft the Player at Each Position Who Will Score the Most Points in Any League
Your job on draft day is to fill your roster with a combination of players who will score the most collective fantasy points per week based upon your league’s scoring. Understand your settings and incorporate them into your draft strategy. If your league awards one point per reception, you better consider high-volume receivers. If your league offers points for return yardage, look for running backs and wideouts who have dual roles. Your strategy needs to hinge largely on your scoring format. Many new fantasy owners forget this important concept and while they may have great-looking rosters, they lose weekly matchups because of scoring deficiencies.
Myth: Drafting a Certain Number of Players at Each Position Will Help You Win
The roster composition of winning versus losing fantasy teams is nearly identical. Success is based on whom you draft, not how many players you draft from a position. Study the depth at each position and base your position numbers off of that depth. If you think there are many solid backup running backs but a lack of quality wideouts or tight ends, grab an elite receiver or tight end early and consider filling more roster spots with RB depth in the later rounds.
Myth: Your Mid- and Late-Round Picks are as Important as Your Early-Round Picks
To make it to playoffs, your team has to do well over the span of 13 or 14 weeks, and the players who carry you there will be the ones you draft in the first two or three rounds. Players selected in the fourth round and later have been shown to score significantly fewer fantasy points than those drafted before them. In fact, it has been shown that successful fantasy teams get about 45 percent of their weekly point total from players they drafted within the first three rounds. Therefore, your first three picks are tremendously important.
Myth: You Should Have a Single Draft Plan
Pigeonholing yourself with a single draft plan and kicking yourself for not getting exactly whom you wanted in the first three rounds will get you nowhere. Work through your plan and formulate at least two or three alternate picks for each round. If you have a secondary plan for when the player you wanted gets snatched up a couple of picks before he gets to you, you are less likely to be frustrated on draft day. It’s better to keep your options open rather than scrambling once your draft target becomes no longer available.
Myth: You Need to Draft Players from Winning Teams
Just because an NFL team wins does not mean that every player on that team should be on your fantasy radar. Some winning teams employ running back committees, which make their RBs less valuable in fantasy. Losing squads may hold a wide receiver or tight end who accumulates massive fantasy points. But do not draft your offensive players from just one team. Spread your fantasy wealth across teams and divisions. A team’s strength of schedule is something you can examine when you’re stuck deciding between two equal players during your draft.
1. Draft at least one stud running back. That means one of the top 12 guys at the position. Support your RB1 with four or five other backs who can serve as your RB2 or as a possible flex option.
2. Grab an elite wide receiver and then go for depth at the position with five or six reliable producers.
3. Pick one of the elite quarterbacks or go for two later-round QBs whom you can rotate in your lineup as needed.
4. There tend to be only a few elite tight ends. Grab one early or wait to take a few later on.
5. Wait to choose defense and kicker. Start picking up extra RBs and WRs when the top defenses and kickers begin coming off the board. It will pay dividends later.
6. You must be prepared. Even if you are a waiver wire magician, your draft must create a solid foundation for your team.
7. Understand that no matter how prepared you are for your draft, nothing goes completely as planned. Fantasy studs get injured, and guys from off the super-sleeper radar surprise everyone. Realize that even if you have the perfect roster, you can lose any week.