Fantasy football can be a rough game. It falls somewhere in between "playing checkers" and "surviving the zombie apocalypse." Don't worry though; we veterans know what it's like to be a lonely rookie in a league of experts. Your best ally in this game of treachery and betrayal is preparation.
Here is what will happen: You will be laughed at during the draft at least once. You will make at least one bad start. You will forget about the Thursday night game. Your friends and colleagues will refer to you as "rookie" all season long.
It can be a humbling experience to say the least, but if you prepare yourself and follow these basic rules, you're guaranteed to have a competitive team.
The very first question you should ask when joining a league for the first time (other than how much it is to enter) is what the scoring system is. Is it standard scoring? PPR? TD only? YMCA? TLDR? Vintage?
Note: Some of those I just made up. If you don't know which ones, it's time to do some research.
Different scoring rules affect the way you draft. Drafting in a standard scoring league is completely different than drafting in a PPR (point-per-reception) league. Players who catch a lot of balls are instantly upgraded in a PPR league, especially when it comes to running backs. It makes RBs like Arian Foster, Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy more valuable than traditional backs. Ball-hog wide receivers like Wes Welker and Roddy White become just as valuable as Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson.
Look, taking Michael Vick in the first round is beyond tempting, but let's look at the numbers here. Let's assume that your league lets you start one QB, two RBs and a flex player, and you have 12 teams in your league (standard for most leagues). Would you agree that there are 12 QBs (a starter for every team in your league) in the NFL that put up at least decent numbers? Are there at least 24 good RBs?
Good running backs are at a premium in any fantasy league. Why draft Aaron Rodgers in the first round when you could get LeSean McCoy in the first and Tony Romo in the fourth or fifth (after you've already taken your elite players)? Last year, the combo of Adrian Peterson (Round 1) and Matt Forte (Round 2) carried me into the playoffs with ease. You won't regret taking a RB early.
Many people (including myself) passed on Arian Foster last year because of an injury suffered in the preseason. Sure, he missed a few games, but when he came back he was an unstoppable monster. The person in my league who took the risk on him ended up winning the championship. This year, the same might be said about Adrian Peterson (typical fantasy uber-stud).
This rule obviously has its limits (don't take anyone with a recent serious injury), however, you're likely to get a steal in later rounds due to your opponent's fear of losing a star player. If it's your first year, what do you have to lose anyway?
For anyone unfamiliar with the term, "vulturing" is when you draft or claim off waivers an opponent's backup, especially if it's a RB who splits time. If someone were to draft Carolina's DeAngelo Williams, it might be a smart idea to take Jonathan Stewart if he falls to the late rounds. "Vultures" can be a good flex start and may be worth the risk if their tag-team partner goes down to injury.
"Vulturing" can be a viable defensive move as well. If your next week opponent's RB gets injured and you can claim their backup to prevent them from fielding a good team against you, do it. Some people frown on this, but only because they didn't think of it first.
You'll just have to trust me on this one. They are fantasy kryptonite.
Despite the lies that your league mates will tell you, take your defense after your starting lineup and some backups are picked. Unless you have a top-three defense, you'll probably end up replacing them anyway.
Defenses from the NFC North and South are bad news. Why? Those two divisions each have three elite offenses (Saints, Falcons and Panthers in the South; Lions, Packers and Bears in the North). As an added bonus, they also have to play each other twice. Avoid them like the plague.
This same rule applies to kickers as well. If you take a kicker before the 12th round, you deserve all the ridicule you will get. Kickers are a dime a dozen.
At the risk of being too specific, this has disaster written all over it. They're a defense-first team with two diva quarterbacks who should both be backups, a wide receiving corps that consists of a felon and a quitter, a RB with just a handful of good games under his belt and a head coach with a foot fetish.
Need I say more?
Apply the "Kardashian Rule" here and keep away. There's just too much uncertainty for a game that requires consistency.
This might be the hardest rule to stick to. Santonio Holmes in the 4th round looks so good. Vincent Jackson might look even better. However, I would like to quote Mad Men's Bert Cooper here, "They're lemons!"
When it comes to WRs who are not in that "elite" class, you must look at the teams they play for and the QBs that throw to them. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay's No. 2 reciever, will put up better numbers than most team's No. 1. Why? Because Aaron Rodgers is going to throw for 10,000 yards and 85 TDs (approximate). Josh Freeman and Mark Sanchez might be benched come week 4.
*Note: This rule does not apply to the Saints. Drew Brees spreads the ball around too much to his tight end and RBs for consistent play from Saints WRs. Don't depend on them to be anything higher than a No. 2 WR for you. And don't draft more than one.
Great, you just claimed a WR that you don't really need and didn't vulture. Now you're at the bottom of the waiver order when this year's Victor Cruz emerges. Good job.
Remember this: If the claim you're about to make doesn't immediately benefit you, don't make it. You'll be glad when you cash it in on the next big star and he takes you to the championship.
Look, Ben Roethlisberger is a great fantasy QB. But what are you going to do when he gets suspended six games for having a little too much fun in Las Vegas? Picked Michael Vick No. 1? What happens if he accidentally violates his probation and misses the rest of the season? Boy, that Brandon Marshall in Round 2 looks like a good pick. Oops, he just punched someone in the face in New York.
Catch my drift yet? This rule doesn't say not to draft them, just don't place all your hopes and dreams in their hands. Especially Brandon Marshall's hands. He might punch you in the face with them.