12:23 pm, August 24th, 2012
NFL kickoff is only 12 days away, meaning you’ll soon be drafting your fantasy football team. Make no mistake: Who you pick to be on your pretend football team will be the most important set of decisions you make this year.
We’ve already covered
players you should stay away from and players you should grab. Now, we’d like to present some tips for those of you who might be new to the fantasy football scene. It’s a growing industry that gains new players every year. And while the rules are simple, it’s difficult to pick up on some of the intricacies of a draft. So here are 10 tips to guide you through your 15 rounds.
1.1. There are three big quarterbacks, and then everyone else
Within the first round, or at the very least by mid-second, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees will come off the board. They are the big three of fantasy football quarterbacks, and in a group of their own. People will try to put Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and even Eli Manning in that group, but there's really only three guys. Meaning, if you don't get one of those three, you're better off waiting until a later round to pick a quarterback. You can easily get a guy like Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, or Joe Flacco with a later selection.
2.2. Running backs are your bread and butter
The running back is the most important position in fantasy football. It's a spot that's going to earn you the most fantasy points over the course of the season. My personal philosophy for many years was to draft two running backs with my first two picks, sometimes even first three. The point being, make sure you have two quality running backs, if not three, on your team.
3.3. Wait on wide receievers
Wide receivers are sort of like quarterbacks. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are going to be picked very quickly. After that, it's sort of a crap shoot. It's a position that's very difficult to predict. Last year, no one saw Victor Cruz putting up the numbers he did, and no one could have guessed DeSean Jackson would take such a step back. Receiver is another position you can wait on to draft. If you have a shot at snagging Megatron or Fitz, I'm not saying don't go for it. But just know that there will be quality wide receivers to pick come rounds 4 and 5, and there's no reason to rush into any decisions.
4.4. Check players' bye weeks during the draft
On sites like Yahoo! and ESPN, there's usually a column in an online draft that lists every player's bye week. This column, while generally the last and hardest to find, is one of the most important. If every one of your players is off week 7, well, you can just kiss week 7 goodbye. There's also really no point in drafting a backup player if he has the same bye week as your starter, seeing as that's the only week that player is valuable to you. If you can work around bye weeks effectively (spread them out across your team) it will give you a better chance of winning every week.
5.5. Your defense and kicker come last
Every draft I'm in, there's always someone who will take the Bears, Packers, or Ravens defense in like round 7, and Rob Bironas in round 8. This isn't philosophical people, it's mathematical; there's no reason to spend any other picks besides your last two on a kicker and defense. If you look at the point distribution at those two fantasy positions, you'll notice the least drop off of any position. Meaning, the difference between the highest scoring fantasy defense and kicker in the league is far less than the differences at other positions. Some drafts, I don't even take a kicker or a defense and I was just pick one up after the draft. Defenses can be swapped week-to-week depending on matchups. But make no mistake, don't waste any pick besides your final two drafting those positions. And for the love of God, don't draft more than one of either.
6.6. Create a rule about hometown biases
I'm a huge Giants fan. Because of that, I have difficulty rooting for any player on the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and a few other teams. So, when it comes time for my fantasy draft, there are some players I know that, if I draft, I will have trouble rooting for over the next 14 weeks. Here's the way I go about it: If I have a chance to grab a top-tier guy like LeSean McCoy or Tom Brady, I'm going to pick him. But beyond those guys, it's highly unlikely I'm not going to draft any player I'd root against. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to go about this, it all depends on what feels right for you. Just realize that a part of you will be rooting for these guys to do well, even when they're playing your favorite team. It can cause some very messed up and conflicting emotions that are difficult to handle for the novice fantasy player. So establish a formula, and stick to it, but know that what team you root for will affect fantasy emotions.
7.7. Do not use autodraft
In the age of modern technology, we've made many brilliant advances. But just as we haven't built a functioning hover car, we still don't have a great autodraft system. If you turn on autodraft, and leave, the computer will draft whatever position you're lacking on your roster, meaning by round 9 you could be selecting a kicker or defense. Do yourself a favor; if you think about autodrafting and going to the bathroom, or going to smell the flowers, or going to do whatever, just don't do it. Take your laptop in with you to the bathroom, stay indoors, and take the time to do the draft yourself. If your team stinks, at least let it be you that made it stink, not stupid autodraft.
8.8. Rob Gronkowsi and Jimmy Graham are by far the best tight ends
Tight ends sort of play out like wide receivers, only there's a much more pronounced falloff after the very best ones. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham put up some of the best numbers in the league for any guy catching passes, not just tight ends. They will go early, usually in the first three rounds. After they're selected, however, tight end is a position you can put on the back burner of your draft priorities. Someone will reach too early for Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, but really, sans Gronk and Graham, you're looking at a group of guys that are all virtually going to be putting up similar numbers, and will be on the board in the later rounds.
9.9. Don't reach for big names just because you recognize them
You might have had a Terrell Owens jersey when you were eight years old, but that doesn't make him a good wide receiver in 2012. In the later rounds, if you're an inexperienced fantasy player, your draft is going to be difficult. There are going to be guys you've never heard of, and a lot of uncertainty. But that doesn't mean you should just pick a guy like Owens or Randy Moss because you know the name. In the same respect, don't be surprised to see those guys sitting around in rounds 6, 7, or even the entire draft. They're not being picked for a reason. So while you might know Owens and Moss to be top wide receivers in the history of the NFL, don't just pick them because they're familiar, and
used to be superstars.
10.10. Don't draft anyone on the Cleveland Browns
Ok, maybe that's not quite the rule, but the general point is in there. There are some teams in the NFL that just plain stink. Trent Richardson is going in the top 2 rounds in most draft. While I'm not necessarily saying not to pick Richardson, the Browns are a very bad team, and there will be weeks when they're shut out and in full pants-shitting mode. There are also other important things to note, like they play in the AFC North, one of the stingiest divisions against the run in all of football. Some teams are bound to be train wrecks at one point or another this season. No matter how talented a player is, if the guys around him suck, it's going to be tough to put up fantasy points. So just know that while Richardson's Alabama squad was, well, a college team, they might be able to beat the Browns. Pick Browns at your peril.