With the 2012 fantasy football season ready to explode, the final weekend before the regular-season openers is usually the time most fantasy leagues draft their squads.
If you fall into that category, we have the best guide for how to play the draft and how to make it reward you for doing it correctly.
This is not a cheatsheet or a list telling you who to pick; these are time-tested tricks that have led to a serious amount of wins in fantasy leagues over the past five years.
If you want a chance to win the grandest prize and want to be able to wave it in everyone’s face, you must follow these simple rules and beat the system.
Good luck, and you can thank me later!
While it would be worth taking a star tight end like the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski or New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham in the first two rounds (or the San Diego Chargers’ Antonio Gates in the third round) you should wait if you miss out.
This is an unusually deep draft in terms of tight ends and waiting to pick one up until the mid-rounds is a smart plan of attack. With stars like Tony Gonzalez, Jermichael Finley and Jason Witten falling in most drafts, you should be looking to steal one in the sixth or seventh round.
If you miss out on the second surge of tight ends, you will be forced to pick a high-upside player like Brandon Pettigrew or Jermaine Gresham. If you fall into this category, you should be watching the waiver wire closely in case a breakout star comes to fruition in 2012 and pick him up.
The same principle that you followed for the tight ends must be applied to the quarterbacks as well.
It is always a good idea to get one of the three elite quarterbacks in the NFL early in your fantasy draft; those players are Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
Whether scoring is four or six points per touchdown, these stars will pay off big time.
In the event that these players are already gone, it is imperative that you do not panic and shift into the mindset of waiting for a QB. I know it’s scary, but this year’s depth at quarterback is amazing for fantasy players.
As a fantasy fanatic, if I missed out on the top three, I would be aiming at the fifth or sixth round to grab a regular-season star like Matt Ryan, Eli Manning or Philip Rivers. While Michael Vick will be available around this time as well, stay clear of the injury-prone Eagle.
If you somehow miss out on that rush of QBs, you should be panicking a bit, but thankfully stars like Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco are being drafted at an average draft position of 90th or worse.
This concept is very simple.
Do not select a kicker or defense until the last two rounds of your draft.
There is always one guy who picks the top defense and top kicker way too early—let that happen. It will cause a mini-rush for both and will cause better talent at wide receiver and running back to fall to you.
Capitalize on that.
What you have to think about is the differences between the elite defenses and kickers. If you take away the top three of each, there is virtually no difference in the results of the remaining players and defensive units.
You are better off taking each in the last round and not falling in love with them. When the waiver wire offers a defense and kicker that no one expected to be great, drop yours and pick them up.
While this season will see plenty of rookies get a chance to play and start with the first team, do not buy into the hype around most rookies. There are always exceptions to the rule, but most do not accomplish great things in the fantasy football world.
This year’s biggest rookie names have been running backs Doug Martin and Trent Richardson and quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, but do not fall into these traps; they will be selected far too early because their true value is unknown.
As much as I believe Doug Martin could be a great running back in Tampa Bay, his average draft position of 42.6 is just too high for my taste. When I can get Michael Turner or Frank Gore at around the same spot, I'd rather take the veteran.
If you need your fill of rookies despite my warning, consider drafting stars like Tennessee Titans wideout Kendall Wright, Chicago Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery or New York Giants running back David Wilson in the waning rounds of your draft.
There is no way to play it safe and win your fantasy football league—it just doesn’t work like that.
While it is imperative that you play it safe with your first few picks to ensure a great base to your fantasy team, the rest of your picks should have a high upside. Your plan should be to take the mid-round players that will become 2013’s first-round fantasy picks.
First, consider the veterans that have been written off a bit by the mainstream fans. Stars like Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis (75.97 ADP) or Willis McGahee in Denver (62.82 ADP) will fall to the mid rounds. You should be picking them up here with hopes of them having an excellent season.
Second, your fear and concern over injuries should go down in every round. From the eighth round on, injury history should mean nothing to you. That’s when you start taking risks with guys like Kansas City running back Peyton Hillis (86.36 ADP) or Kenny Britt (91.4 ADP).
If you take the gamble on the high-risk/high-reward players in the middle rounds, you will inevitably stumble upon that hidden gem and win your league with it.
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