Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: 10 Tips to Guide You to a Fantasy Title
Just like in the NFL, the most well-prepared or diligent fantasy owner doesn’t always lead his team to championships. There are factors beyond an owner’s control that can ruin a fantasy season. Injuries, untimely matchups and plain bad luck can befall any fantasy squad. So getting it right on the factors that you can control as an owner is key in giving your team a shot at the title.
Here are 10 tips for success that have been divided into three categories: draft strategy, managing lineups and trades/waiver-wire. Some of the tips are more basic than others, but used together they could guide you to a fantasy title.
I’m not here to offer the one ultimate draft strategy; each year creates new hierarchies of positions and tiers as they fluctuate in talent and depth. Also, each league will have a different draft dynamic, with 10 or more personalities with their own strategies and level of competitiveness.
Ultimately, being cognizant of the trends and strategies being used in your draft will be the most important thing, but there are some generally applicable tips and rules to live by when approaching and participating in your 2012 fantasy draft.
Tip No. 1: Know the League Settings
The first thing you need to do before the draft is familiarize yourself with the league settings.
Standard scoring for offense (ESPN) looks like this:
- TD Pass = 4pts
- Every 25 passing yards = 1pts
- 2pt Passing Conversion = 2pts
- Interceptions Thrown = -2pts
- TD Rush = 6pts
- Every 10 rushing yards = 1pt
- 2pt Rushing Conversion = 2pts
- TD Reception = 6pts
- Every 10 receiving yards = 1pt
- 2pt Receiving Conversion = 2pts
- Kickoff Return TD = 6pts
- Punt Return TD = 6pts
- Fumble Recovered for TD = 6pts
- Each Fumble Lost = -2
Most ranking systems, big boards and draft guides are set to these settings unless otherwise noted. A deviation from standard scoring should change your draft board and strategy.
Some leagues award six points for pass TDs instead of four, placing a premium on the top TD-throwing QBs. This makes selecting a QB in Round 1 more reasonable. In the B/R Writers’ Mock Draft, I selected Tom Brady with the 10th pick overall as the league awarded six points for passing TDs.
Tip No. 2: Stay Ahead of Position Runs
A way to maintain a competitive advantage from any draft position is to stay ahead of strings of picks at one position. By position runs I mean a block of picks that includes a strong majority of players at the same position such as 4-of-5, 5-of-7 or 6-of-8.
As a majority of owners fill spots at the same position, they are less likely double up on that position the next time around—meaning you can wait to fill that spot on your roster and get ahead by going in a different direction.
The one exception: It is advisable to end a string of picks with the last player in a tier at his position.
Tip No. 3: Depth at RB Is Key in 2012
There are few proven stud RBs this season that don’t come with question marks. The best of the group (Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy) will probably be the first three off the board. A number of players coming off injuries (Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson) or rookies (Trent Richardson, Doug Martin) will be starters on fantasy squads.
The best way to fight the question marks is to have three or more RBs who are starters or potential starters on their NFL teams.
There is a lot of young talent at WR right now, and there are easily 25 guys who could finish in the top 10 for WR fantasy scoring, grabbing a backup RB before filling up your starting WR spots wouldn’t be a bad move.
Also, if you fail to land an elite QB, you can fill your roster with three or four RBs before selecting your starting QB.
Tip No. 4: Draft Players You Like Watching
If you hate the players on your team, you’re probably not going to have much fun tracking your fantasy team. That’s why you should create a short list of two to four players that you will reach for. If you like your team, you are more likely to pay attention to the details in your fantasy management as well.
Also, if you’re in a league with the same people every year, figure out what players they target or have targeted in the past. This can help you project how your draft might unfold, especially in the early rounds.
Tip No. 5: Keep in Mind Other Teams’ Needs
As the draft progresses, teams will fill their positional needs at different rates. Looking over each team’s needs before your pick will give you a good idea what distribution of positions will be selected before your pick in the following round.
Tip No. 6: Set A Preliminary Lineup Monday Night
A preliminary lineup for the next week should be set Monday night after the final NFL matchup of the week. This allows you to see which players have bye weeks and provides a look at favorable and unfavorable matchups. It will also highlight areas of on the waiver wire for an injury fill-in or bye-week sub.
And if for some reason you are unable (or forget) to get to your roster before Sunday morning, at least your lineup will include players that actually have games that week.
Tip No. 7: Pay Attention to Injury Reports
Keeping up with injury reports and team updates allows owners to put the best team for that week against the competition. Players who are listed as “Doubtful” and “Out” obviously need to be replaced in the starting lineup, but players at “Questionable” and “Probable” can be just as troublesome.
Sometimes it’s best to look at other options even when one of your stars is “Probable.” RBs and WRs with even minor leg injuries can be far less effective. NFL teams can still benefit by having their stars on the field at less than 100 percent, but often it would be better for fantasy owners if they were not tempted to start their banged-up stars.
Arian Foster and Julio Jones both suited up in games in 2011 when they were not 100 percent (hamstring issues) and they failed to live up to their expected fantasy production.
Tip No. 8: Double-Check Your Roster Before the 1st Game of the Weekend
From the NFL website:
Final injury designations are made on game days, where players are listed as either Active (eligible to play) or Inactive (will not play) for the game.
The difference between a fantasy victory or defeat can be one player, so making a Sunday morning (and Thursday evening) check could pay dividends for your fantasy squad.
Trades and the Waiver Wire
Tip No. 9: Trade with Caution
There are a few well-known strategies for trading in fantasy leagues: One is to never trade one great player for two good ones and the other is to be wary of trading a player who has already had his bye week for one who has not. But since these strategies are pretty well known, they can be hard to pull off in your favor.
There are instances when both types of trades can be mutually beneficial, but proposing a two-for-one or trying the bye-week switcharoo can backfire if the opposing owner is then unwilling to listen to other reasonable trade offers.
Tip No. 10: Protect Yourself
If a player on your roster is losing or has lost his starting job, targets, carries or is out due to injury, then you need to be the first to get the emerging player who has taken his place.
Since you will probably be tracking your players anyway, you should have an advantage in snatching their replacement before anyone else. Even if the new player will sit on your bench, you don’t want to “lose twice” in a situation where your guy is replaced or has diminishing production and a rival owner is reaping the benefits with the player’s replacement.