The great irony in sports: anything but “fantasy”, it’s a business far greater than you’d imagine. According to Sports Management Degree Hub, the market for fantasy football was worth $18.6 billion in 2015—$6 billion more than the NFL’s total revenue. We are still several weeks out from the beginnings of fantasy football drafts, but the post-draft, pre-training camp rendition of a fantasy football guide is a great way to get an early understanding of the year ahead.
KNOW YOUR SCORING: The very first thing I’d want to know when I join a league are how many points I’m receiving for the various aspects of fantasy football. Is it a PPR league? How much are rushing touchdowns worth? Passing touchdowns? Do individual defensive players get points? The varying rules by league impact the approach to the draft, thus, know thy scoring.
Running Backs Early: Last year’s draft saw an early run on receivers, and the consensus overall number one pick was Antonio Brown. Now, while the receiver position will still dominate fantasy drafts around the country, elite running backs are working their way back to the top of the draft board. If you’re picking in the top three, it would be wise to grab either Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, or Ezekiel Elliot, given that the running back position does not run as deep as the receiver position.
Hold off on QB: You may be tempted to jump at the chance to grab Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady when your turn rolls around in the second or third rounds: don’t do it. These may be the best QB’s in the game, but this year’s fantasy quarterback class is incredibly deep—utilize your early picks to build depth at the running back and wide receiver positions. A Derek Carr or Russell Wilson will be available in the middle rounds, and if you really want to wait on a quarterback, Matthew Stafford or Jameis Winston are viable late-round options.
No TE’s in first or second round: One of the great conundrums in fantasy football—is an elite tight end worth grabbing with one of your first two picks? The only one in the realm of possibility is Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best tight end to ever take the field—however, a total of nine surgeries since his last year at Arizona are a big red flag. He’s a dominant presence, but with a questionable future, he cannot be considered a better option than an elite running back or wide receiver early in the draft.
Please wait on Kickers: Yes, kickers are people too. But they are not as important for fantasy football. Last season, per ESPN’s standard scoring, there were two kickers that were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field—Atlanta’s Matt Bryant and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. The next 15 kickers were all within 20 points of each other. We had a guy in our fantasy league last season that drafted a kicker in the eighth round before he had even filled up his starting receiver spots, and ended up drafting TWO kickers. No one needs two kickers—it’s in your best interest to build depth at the running back and receiver positions, and if your kicker has a bye week, dump him and find a temporary replacement.
Rookies that will make immediate fantasy impact
Leonard Fournette- From day one, Fournette will be the go-to back for the Jaguars, and could easily find his way into the top ten fantasy backs by season’s end. As a team last season, Jacksonville finished 24th in team rushing attempts and only managed eight rushing touchdowns—look for those numbers to increase drastically with Fournette in the backfield.
O.J. Howard- The Buccaneers are slowly building one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, and Howard is the next piece in the puzzle. While we can’t call him the next Gronkowski yet, he certainly possesses the same frame and potential as Gronk. He’ll serve as a great threat for Winston down the middle of the field, and a borderline TE1/TE2 for your fantasy team.
Corey Davis- I love the Mariota/Davis tandem—the Titans are a team on the rise, and Corey Davis will soon emerge as the number one for Tennessee. He won’t serve as a WR1, but should sit nicely as a low-end WR2/high end WR3.
Christian McCaffrey- If you play in a PPR league, McCaffrey should be near the top of your draft radar. While he’ll find himself splitting with Jonathan Stewart, McCaffrey can be used anywhere on the offensive end, providing a multitude of scoring options for fantasy owners. His value depreciates in standard scoring leagues, but should still be a starter in fantasy leagues across the country.
Samaje Perine- The only non-first rounder on our list, Perine is not the undisputed starter on the Redskins—although we fully expect him to be at some point during the season. He’s a tank that will complement Kirk Cousins nicely, and is worth a mid-round pick in your draft.
If your draft day strategy consists of selecting players on a high-powered offense or sticking close to home by drafting only players from your favorite team, here’s the ten best offensive trios in the NFL.
Top 10 QB-RB-WR Trios
- Pittsburgh Steelers—QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown
Big Ben may not be the best fantasy option, but Bell and Brown are the top players at their positions.
- Atlanta Falcons—QB Matt Ryan, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Julio Jones
The Falcons have the NFL’s best offense, led by this outstanding trio. All worthy starting fantasy options in your league.
- Dallas Cowboys—QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliot, WR Dez Bryant
Dak will not be the first quarterback off the board, but the other two are enough to launch the Cowboys up our list.
- Green Bay Packers—QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ty Montgomery, WR Jordy Nelson
The best fantasy QB in the game + the league-leader in receiving touchdowns in 2016 + an up-and-coming receiver-turned-running-back? Thumbs up.
- Oakland Raiders—QB Derek Carr, RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Amari Cooper
A bit of a risk seeing that Lynch has never played as a Raider, but we know what he is capable of.
- New England Patriots—QB Tom Brady, RB James White, WR Brandin Cooks
The addition of Cooks vaults the defending champions up the list.
- New Orleans Saints—QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WR Michael Thomas
Now that Brandin Cooks is gone, Thomas will have free reign with an already-amazing fantasy quarterback in Drew Brees.
- Los Angeles Chargers—QB Phillip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen
Rivers is not an elite fantasy prospect, but Allen is back this season hungry to make up for lost time, while Gordon is ready to vault himself to the top tier.
- Arizona Cardinals—QB Carson Palmer, RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald
Johnson is a top-3 back, Fitzgerald is old reliable, and Carson Palmer is a suitable waiver wire pickup.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers—QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin, WR Mike Evans
Another up-and-coming offense that will look to thrive with the core of this trio.