When thinking of hard and fast rules for draft strategy the number one rule that trumps all of these so-called rules is that there are no hard and fast rules. If you don’t want to draft a QB early, but Mike Vick is available in the third round and you pass on him, you deserve to lose and lose in a humiliating way. Use some modicum of common sense. These are just a few guidelines that should help you draft a competitive team. Your ability to think on your feet and make informed decisions on the fly is what turns that competitive team into a championship team.
Draft A Whole Lotta RBs: Good 2nd and 3rd tier wide receivers are much easier to predict than running backs. They often stay healthier than RBs because RBs touch the ball more, which means they get hit a lot more. Productive waiver wire receivers are easier to find than running backs. The right late round running back is like having a fantasy football golden ticket, but without that crazy chocolate river boat ride. Would you rather have Delone Carter or Eddie Royal as a bench player? Both are going in the 13th round. Would you rather have Rashad Jennings or Donald Driver? Say MJD and Greg Jennings are injured on the same day and Rashad and Donald are on the waiver wire. Who do you put your claim on? Grab your starting receivers, then stock up on running backs.
Reach for the players you want: I learned this the hard way last season. I, like a lot of people, was pretty high on Arian Foster, but I always seemed to just miss out on him in my drafts. Don’t play it safe. Don’t worry about league mates deriding you until you cry. Pick the guy you want even if it’s through blurry, teared vision.
Don’t draft a quarterback in the first round: This is a rule that is old and being questioned often, but any position where you only start one player needs to be waited on. There are 32 teams and if you are in a 12 team league, you got it, there are only 12 starting QBs. Michael Vick makes this rule even more questionable this season since he pretty much counts as a hybrid QB/RB. But I still stick with this rule since I don’t trust Vick to hold up enough for a first round pick. His upside is worth it, but he still scares me that early.
Draft a backup quarterback: Quarterbacks are easily injured. It happens. I’m not usually a proponent of drafting backups with a high pick, but if you end up waiting on a QB like Josh Freeman then it’s a good idea to grab another high upside backup like Matthew Stafford. This gives you a little breathing room at quarterback and you don’t have to spend a high pick on a QB.
Don’t draft a tight end until you have all your starting RBs, WRs, and QB: Until we start seeing more 2 tight end leagues there is no reason to reach for a top tier tight end. Yes, Gates, Clark, and Finley have a ton of ability, but you will need to grab them in the 3rd through 5th rounds. There were 57 points separating the top 10 tight ends last season, whereas there were 113 points separating the top 10 running backs. Up your odds of grabbing that Arian Foster, Peyton Hillis, BenJarvus Green-Ellis or LeGarrette Blount of last season.
Don’t draft a backup tight end: The more tight ends are glorified as wide receivers the more the remaining tight ends on the waiver wire are easily inserted into your starting lineup during a bye or after an injury. And this is also why I think we might start seeing more 2 tight end leagues in the future.
Always fill a FLEX spot with a running back: Yes, there will be times during the season that you’ll have to throw a receiver or a tight end in there, but don’t draft with that as your goal. A running back with 15 touches will often rack up more points than a receiver with 5-10 targets. And if you follow the backup RB suggestion, you should have a decent back to fill that spot even on bye weeks.
Don’t draft according to bye weeks: Byes are always the easiest thing to forget while you are in the middle of the draft and that’s not the end of the world. Football hasn’t quite caught up with baseball, so we are stuck with head to head leagues so you do need to win as many weeks as possible, but if the value is there, draft the best guys and sort the rest out later.
Know ADP: No, not All Day Peterson, but if you do know him that’s pretty cool. I’m talking about Average Draft Position. You may have the inside scoop that Maurice Jones-Drew‘s knee is actually now the consistency of cornmeal mush and you are going to jump on Rashad Jennings, but when? Make sure you check out ADP, and especially the ADP from the site you are using if that’s possible. Right now Jennings is going in the 12th round. If you want him you can still reach for him, but in the 10th, not the 8th.
Use a cheat sheet: This can be one you’ve made or one from a site or expert you like, but be prepared. There’s nothing crappier than having that draft clock ticking down and you have absolutely no idea who to pick. I made up this tier sheet that I use for myself and keep updated. Be a boy scout and be prepared, but don’t be the last boy scout, that movie was just so-so.
Don’t draft a D or K until the last 2 rounds: But you can draft a dork. This is really a no brainer, but there are always those managers who reach for defense and sometimes even kickers. Fantasy defenses and kickers change so much from year to year that wasting a pick, even a round or two earlier is a for real waste! I sometimes don’t even take a kicker and sometimes even a defense, especially if the draft is before or during preseason games. If you can take a late round flier on a player that could win a position battle and be worth more than someone you picked earlier, you can be ahead of your league mates. Streaming kickers and defenses is entirely feasible.
Mock draft as much as you can: Many of your run of the mill fantasy leagues have very few bench spots because people have to mow their lawn or take the dog out to poop, and it is often difficult to make up for bad draft picks with late upside bench players. So you need to feel comfortable drafting from different positions. There are tons of places to find mock drafts, but don’t waste your time on mocks that don’t fill with real people. We play fake football, but not with fake people. Unless you are in a league with Kim Kardashian.
Don’t buy a fantasy football magazine: Yes, they have glossy pictures and your plane was delayed and you don’t want to read about the debt ceiling, but really, fantasy football magazines are out of date before they are printed. The internet is instantaneous.
And one more time; be flexible: If you have done enough research you should have a good idea of the players you want, so don’t be too rigid and don’t follow some dumb rules that some idiot puts on the internet! I mean really. The more you know, the easier it is to be flexible so check out our articles here and follow NFL and fantasy guys on Twitter and just soak in as much as you can.