It is that time of year again when die-hard football fans start studying lists of available players and start preparing for their fantasy football draft. As someone who has finished at or near the top of most leagues he has competed in, I thought I might share my process in preparation for my fantasy football draft, with the hope that anyone who reads this may enjoy the same success.
Tip 1: Leave Your Allegiance at the Door
I can’t tell you how many times I have been involved in a fantasy football draft that sooner or later you can figure the favorite team of a few of the guys as they just start drafting that roster. Like most leagues, the current league I am in changes one or two guys every year and nothing is funnier than watching someone who is new to a league start just drafting players from one team over and over again. The best is after selecting Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester they say I like the Bears. No kidding. I would have never guessed. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with drafting one or two guys from your favorite team. You are most familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. But for my blood it is way too risky to load up on one team.
Tip 2: Have a Plan
There is nothing worse to watch than someone go through the draft process with apparently no real plan on what they are doing or how fantasy football works. Most leagues set up the first round order in advance and often simply reverse it for each round thereafter so you can get a good idea of what group of players you can pick from in the first couple rounds. An example, if you get a premiere quarterback such as Brees, Brady or Rodgers, don’t bother to take another quarterback until all other starting spots have been filled. A classic error is the guy that drafts Tom Brady follows it up with Eli Manning two rounds later and then sees him start Scott Chandler at tight end because they passed on Jimmy Graham or Jason Witten to land Manning. If you get a top tier QB you don’t need to worry about a back-up until much later or at least until you fill in your other starting positions.
Tip 3: Pay Attention to Runs
I know I just got done saying to have a plan, but also you need to be aware of a run at a certain position as you need to be flexible to rework your target list on the fly. An example of that is: If you going into a draft and want one of the top six defenses according to the list you are following, you may want to start thinking defense in round seven or eight. Suddenly at the top of round six, someone takes a defense. Then the next person selects a defense, and then two picks later another defense goes. This is called a run, and if you still want that top defense you may need to tweak your selection process and grab one a little earlier than expected or be stuck with a bottom feeder defense for the year.
Tip 4: Pay Attention But Don’t be Consumed by Bye Weeks
It’s a fact of life going into any fantasy football draft that you have to take bye weeks into account when selecting players. My advice is if one player is clearly better but happens to have the same bye week as another running back or wide receiver, select them. Make moves to accommodate that bye week later. If you have to chose between DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker and one has a different bye week than Calvin Johnson but the other has the same, then pick the guy who has the different bye week. If you have to pick between DeSean Jackson and Devon Bess, then pick DeSean and don’t worry about the bye weeks.
Tip 5: Learn About Rookies but Don’t Become a Preschool
Ever year there are a few rookies that explode on the NFL scene, but remember the phrase "rookie wall" did not come out of thin air. My advice is no more than 10 to 15 percent of your fantasy football roster should be occupied by rookies. Grabbing a rookie wide receiver as a rotational part of your starting lineup works, but having a rookie running back and a rookie wide receiver entrenched as starters from day one is rather risky.
Tip 6: Draft One Defense and One Kicker
Another event I often see happen is someone finish the draft with a second kicker and a second defense. Why? If you have a kicker and defense you really like then simply pick up a defense or a kicker for their bye week and drop them the following week. If you have two middle of the road defenses, you know the team you don’t start will always have the better week and it will drive you crazy. The same goes with kickers. My philosophy has always been to draft one defense and one kicker and save those other two roster spots for depth and flexibility.
Tip 7: Time To Pick Up Back-Ups
Another move that has worked well in the past is adding a back-up to a star player during the season. Since I saved two roster spots by only selecting one kicker and one defense, I often fill in a spot or two with the back-ups to my top players. That way I have protection should a superstar go down. The perfect example transpired when I settled on Drew Bledsoe as my starting QB when he was with the Cowboys. I knew the Cowboys offensive line was rather weak and my back-up QB on my roster was serviceable but nothing spectacular. There wasn’t any other quarterback I wanted to add, so I selected Bledsoe’s back-up who happened to be Tony Romo. We all know the year Romo had and I didn’t fear fighting with anyone for a waiver claim to add him. It also worked well for me last year after selecting LeSean McCoy in round 2, who had been banged up some the previous year, so I grabbed Ronnie Brown with my last selection. As the year moved along, I was able to use the Ronnie Brown slot as my drop/add place and was able to add my fill-in defense for the bye week and for my kicker for a week.
Tip 8: Avoid Most Trades
If someone approaches you for a trade that has a worse record than you my advice is to be very careful as they are looking to likely dump garage for gold. A favorite move I have seen is the guy that offers you four players for two and says same point totals have been produced by those four that have been produced by your two. The idea of fantasy football is to get the most points from each player. What good is trading two guys for four guys in hopes to get those points? Any trade that is imbalanced more than one player is a bad move. Don’t get me wrong, some trades are fair and help each team, but the guy who starts trading week two should be avoided.
Tip 9: Stay Involved or Stay Home
Probably my biggest pet peeve is the guy who is in a league and starts off 0-3 and stops paying attention to his roster and gives up. Fantasy football is supposed to be for fun but should be taken seriously enough to remain active for the season. If you can’t commit for a full season then don’t join a league.
Tip 10: Take it Seriously But Not Too Seriously
Remember that everyone in your league has a life, a job, a family and other interests so there is no reason to harass someone with 42 trades, starting fights over waiver wire moves and causing any animosity over the league. I have seen friendships end over fantasy football and that to me is sad. Like my father used to say, “You still have to get up on Monday and go to work, win or lose.”
Well, I hope these fantasy football tips help make your season more successful and more enjoyable. If you have any more please post them and follow on twitter at @ftballdialogue.