A great deal of luck will be necessary for your team to finish #1. Luck, and I don’t mean Andrew, is only half the story. A draft strategy is much like a game plan for a head coach. You never know precisely what is going to happen, but you can bet your team is going to be prepared. Though much like a head coach, your draft strategy should be representative of your competition. So let’s look into this years draft class so each and every one of you can be more prepared.
Round 1 – Running down a dream
No matter what your draft position the first round only 1 player should be drafted (Calvin Johnson). The first round is your chance at drafting an elite RB that will have over 300 carries, for most 40 catches, and more often than not, over 8 TDs. AP, Rice, and Lynch, are hands down the best, but after that it becomes a little cloudy. For instance, do you think Doug Martin is worth the 4th pick? Or would you prefer Charles, McCoy or Spiller? Each of the four mentioned are predicted to have a heavy workload and the potential for a standout season. But unlike Rice, AP and Lynch, they have questions attached to each of them. Example: Can Spiller handle over 300 carries? Will McCoy loose goal line carries to Bryce Brown in Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense? Was Martins’ season a fluke? None of the questions should scare fantasy owners from drafting these guys, but if you do, make sure you have some depth at the RB position when the draft is done.
Round 2 – Choose Wisely
Depending upon the league host (ESPN, NFL.com, etc.) the second round will be filled with QBs, a few WR, and more RBs. Your choice here will probably predict how well your team does the entire year. Just about every team will make a good choice in Round 1. After that it’s where your personal opinion and research that will drive your choices. Some leagues like PPR leagues or head to head will push fantasy owners to their choice. The point is that no matter who you choose here, you’re choosing the strength of your team. If you decided to take 2 RBs early, you should feel confident that you won’t be picking up any back off the wire early in the season. If you choose to go QB, you’re probably going to have a top 10 QB for the entire season. If you decide to take a skill player like WR Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham, your team will have strength at a position of need all season. Either way, every choice is critical.
Look for Trends
After two rounds you can start to see the other teams’ plan of attack. Use it to your advantage. Assess what trends are beginning to emerge. How many elite QBs are left? Did I get a solid RB? What teams are stacking particular positions? Based on the answers to these questions you should start to make a plan. Let me go through a few of the trends I have noticed thru my research this year
• QB’s aplenty – Unlike years past there is a plethora of options at QB this year. It is NOT a position that requires a very high draft pick this year. There are fantasy relevant QBs through the first 75 picks no matter who is hosting your league. If you decide not to draft a QB early, no big deal. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the trends. If it’s round 6 and suddenly 5 QBs disappear, don’t get caught picking someone out of nervousness. Have a plan. Find a QB in every 15 picks that you are comfortable with and when the time comes, get your guy. Same can be said for elite WRs.
• Let it Flow – Few teams will have 2 studs at any position, mainly because of the scarcity of talent. Again, if you don’t want to be picking up the cast always, then make sure you choose a guy you’re comfortable with in a round that makes sense for both your team and their draft position. In other words, if you love T.Y. Hilton like I do, go get him, just don’t do it in Round 4 where you can be possibly grabbing more high risk but just as rewarding talents at another position. I never draft a player out of the top 20 players available. It’s a good rule. But if you really hate the guys on the top of the board, don’t take them just because they’re available. Let someone else take guys like DeAngelo Williams, or Hakeem Nicks. Especially when the person you want is just outside the top 15 players available.
• Risk/Reward – Certain players have such upside, but you know ahead of drafting them that the risk of wasting a pick is real. Instead of noting what players they are, I would prefer to leave you with a thought when to draft players like that. DO NOT draft a risky player early, and when I say early I mean in the first 3 rounds. Let the core of your team be dependable, barring any injuries of course. Risk/Reward players will litter the draft board, and it will be up to your previous and future picks that actually determine just how risky that player will be to draft. In other words If I have acquired a solid core of players already, then why not go big or go home on a player like DeMarco Murray, or Greg Jennings. Both have question marks attached to them. Each of them could be a savior, but only if they put up the numbers that we have grown to expect from years past. That questionable potential can either sink your team or win you a playoff berth. Each one of us drafting will have at least one of these players on our roster. Make sure you understand the ups and downs of their situation before taking the chance.
• Other Options – Late in the draft teams will begin to choose depth over need. Obviously there is no rule for situations like this and it should really be based on feel and the research you have done pre-draft. If you don’t feel confident in the 2 WRs you chose, then instead of picking a defense go take a WR and give yourself an opportunity to make a good decision based on matchups all year long. Same goes for the rest of the skill positions. The one position I feel you should always have a good backup is the QB. Nothing can sink your chances of forfeiting a season like a bad QB. Each of you should grab a legitimate back up QB because god forbid you are in a situation where he will have to play for you for multiple weeks, that’s preferable to waiver wire players like Mark sanchez, Ryan Tannehill, or Jake Locker who have a better chance of hurting your team than helping it.
• Handcuffs – Typically in fantasy, a handcuff can either save your season, or be a total waste of a roster spot. In today’s version of the NFL, most teams run quite a bit. The fast pace of some offenses or just the brutal punishment most running backs have to endure is reason enough to make sure you scoop up the backup to the stud RB on your team. The question is when? To be honest most handcuffs will probably go undrafted, but there are a few that deserve a roster spot. My rule for this is simple. If you spent a high draft pick on the RB ahead of them, then you want to make sure you grab his handcuff. I for one am high on drafting Bryce Brown (LeSean McCoy’s handcuff), Bernard Pierce (Ray Rice’s handcuff) and Christine Michael (Marshawn Lynch’s handcuff). Beyond these three, none of the other handcuffs would be worth drafting. Not to say that they aren’t worth owning, but my guess is Roy Helu, Fred Jackson and players like them will be available on the wire when the draft is complete.
These are just a few things to keep in mind on draft day, and hopefully the suggestions will be valuable for each and every one of you. Good luck this season and remember to trust your preparation. Information and understanding who you’re looking at cannot be overlooked. This concludes our pre-draft fantasy football articles. We will continue to keep you updated after week 1 games end. Thanks for reading and we’ll see ya all season long!