Fantasy Football Draft Primer

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When one door closes, another opens. So as summer sadly but inevitably winds down, it becomes time to shift our collective focus toward the miraculous game that is fantasy football. If you’re like me, fantasy consumes your life from right about now until January. That’s a long time. And if you want that obsession to be at least somewhat “productive,” you want to win. It’s not about the money, but rather the reward of seven or so months basking in your victory glory, a pleasant period devoid of trash-talking from your friends.

But, in order to earn that glorious feeling of victory, you have to win, which is hard. And, in order to win, you need to have, at the very least, a solid draft. I’d say over half of your season’s success will come down to how well you execute your draft this August, and yet, it feels like much of this portion of the season is overlooked or ignored. DON’T DO THAT! Drafting might be the most important part of your season, and you should treat the process accordingly. I’d like to offer you some pointers on how to go about drafting this fantasy football season.

Author’s note: This is a good place to stop if you’re in any of my fantasy football leagues.

Have a Strategy

This is of utmost importance. Set aside some time to think before the draft and it should help you realize what assets you value most on a fantasy team. I can’t tell you which strategy is best; it’s different for everyone. Some prefer two running backs in the first two rounds to “ensure” reliability. Others go the “zero-RB” route and take a quarterback in the first round or load up on wide receivers. It’s really a matter of preference based on experience. Going with a running back in the first two rounds is probably the oldest and most trusted strategy, but every route has its flaws; this would have failed miserably last year by selecting Montee Ball.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Go with what you know and trust; just make sure that you actually follow through. Even though the first 7-8 rounds are the most important, it’s still a good idea to have some indication of what direction you want to go in the later rounds as well. For instance, if you’re in a keeper league, it’s not a bad idea to take a flyer on a rookie in a late round if you think they may have value going forward.

Be Flexible/Have a Backup Plan

This tip is essentially a subsection of the previous one, because unfortunately things often don’t go to plan. These things happen, so it’s best to prepare for the worst and be willing to change your strategy if things don’t go your way. For example, if you’re drafting 10th in a 12-team league and there isn’t any first round-worthy running back talent available, it could be beneficial to adapt and go for a more wide receiver-heavy strategy by snagging two top-ten wideouts. This can also apply to any situation in which a player falls further in the draft than you expected, and you change your plan a little to take the more valuable player.

Don’t Jump on a Kicker or Defense

DON’T JUMP ON A KICKER OR DEFENSE!!! Seriously! There is no reason not to save your defense and kicker selections until the last two rounds of the draft. They are by far the most volatile positions and don’t often tip the scale in the way that position players do. I picked up the Kansas City Chiefs defense after week one two seasons ago and never looked back; it happens year after year that several top-ten defenses slip through the cracks of the draft. Don’t waste a pick on a potential sleeper just so you can get the supposed best defense. Some people even prefer to pick a defense based on their week one matchup and just go from there based on future matchups.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

When I first started playing fantasy football, the draft was also something that snuck up on me out of nowhere. I was one of several league members scrambling the day of to read online rankings and scribbling last-minute notes on looseleaf. Don’t be that guy (or girl) anymore. Do some research before the draft about injuries, position battles, coaching changes and make sure you know what rosters look like after free agency.

I even write myself little notes based on the research I do. For example, I’ve amassed a sticky note on my computer that reminds me to do things like focus on PPR when targeting secondary running backs and it has several high-powered offenses that I want to have a stake in. It also tells me things to avoid, like drafting injury prone players or past their prime running backs. Doing research and then using it during the draft will help you to craft a solid strategy that you can still adapt from, and it will help remind you NOT TO JUMP ON A KICKER OR DEFENSE

Trust Yourself

Don’t overthink it and try not to second-guess yourself; going against your gut will usually end up being the pick you regret the most. It might seem contradictory for me to say here, but you don’t have to listen or agree with every ranking you read online. They’re just making educated guesses in the same way you are. Trust in yourself, trust in your research and trust in your strategy, and you just might be able to walk away a winner this season. Or do the opposite of everything I say and that might work too, because fantasy is fickle and full of luck. So most of all just have fun with it.

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