The start of the 2013 NFL season is less than a week away, which means that fantasy football season is nearly upon us as well. While many leagues have probably already drafted, there are plenty that like to wait until just before the season starts. For those of you who compete in the latter leagues, you're in luck, as this article will lay out a foolproof draft strategy that will lead to major success.
There are plenty of experts out there who give advice on how to win your league, but there is no hard and fast rule that will guarantee that happens. Injuries and other extenuating circumstances can throw a wrench into any plan, but laying out an effective draft strategy and executing it will increase your odds of winning significantly.
With that in mind, here are three golden rules that will give you an advantage over your opponents and give you the best chance to win your fantasy football league this season.
Disregard "Expert" Rankings
Having a list of rankings is a must when it comes to fantasy football drafts, as it allows you to remember who has and hasn't been taken. It also offers a loose guideline of when players should be selected. With that said, it shouldn't be followed as if it's the 10 Commandments. It's ultimately your team, so you should take the players that you feel strongly about rather than players that somebody else says will be good this year.
In order to better understand what I'm saying, imagine that you have the 12th pick in a 12-team league. After making your first pick, you decide that you want to nab a running back with your second pick. Guys like Steven Jackson, Stevan Ridley, Matt Forte and Alfred Morris are available and ranked higher than Chris Johnson on your cheat sheet, but you believe that CJ2K is in for a renaissance season due to the Tennessee Titans' reinforced offensive line. Rather than succumbing to the rankings, take Johnson, because there is no chance that he's making it back to you in the third round.
At the same time, if you feel very strongly that New York Jets running back Chris Ivory is going to have a great year, you can afford to wait. Ivory probably won't be taken until the sixth or seventh round at the earliest, so a second-round pick would be an obvious reach.
Rankings definitely help you gauge the value of certain players, but if you are firmly on a certain player's bandwagon, don't hesitate to take him a round earlier than usual, especially if you're at either end of the draft order.
Wait on Quarterbacks
There is no question that the NFL has developed into a passing league, and that has caused quarterback value to skyrocket in fantasy football. Many early picks were spent on top quarterbacks last season, and most of them thrived, including the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Anyone who took Matthew Stafford, however, probably had to endure a painful year, as he threw for just 20 touchdowns and was picked off 17 times.
There is definitely risk involved in taking quarterback early, especially with the amount of depth that there is at the position.
More passing means that quarterbacks are putting up better numbers than ever, but it also means that there are more fantasy-worthy starters than ever. There are 14 that are startable in fantasy from Week 1 moving forward, and it's entirely possible that more will emerge over the course of the season.
That means being the last person to fill your quarterback position can be a huge advantage in most leagues. Not only will you still get a signal-caller you can live with, but you can build depth at other positions in the process.
According to ESPN.com, Rodgers is being taken 10th overall on average as the top quarterback, while Dallas Cowboys gunslinger Tony Romo is the No. 12 quarterback and is being selected around No. 78. Romo has been excellent this preseason, as he put up big numbers during the Cowboys' dress rehearsal game, per Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:
While Rodgers is a significantly better quarterback in real terms, the fantasy gap isn't enough to warrant a 68-pick difference. Romo racked up nearly 5,000 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, and if he can improve upon that even a little bit in 2013, he will perform significantly better than your average seventh-rounder.
Stock Up on Running Backs Early and Often
Drafting running backs early was a tried-and-true fantasy football method for many years, but the focus shifted to quarterbacks and wide receivers a couple years ago due to the NFL's increase in passing statistics.
While quarterbacks and receivers are undoubtedly important in fantasy football, scarcity makes getting quality running backs an absolute must. The fact that passing is more prevalent than ever means that great running backs are harder to come by. With that in mind, coming out of the first three rounds of your draft with at least two running backs is the best course of action.
There are only 32 starting running backs in the NFL, and it can be argued that there are even less than that since several situations are uncertain. For comparison's sake, there are 64 starting wide receivers and 32 starting quarterbacks and tight ends. Since fantasy teams start only one quarterback and one tight end in most cases, there is plenty of depth. That simply isn't the case when it comes to running backs, which is why the first and second rounds of your draft are likely to be littered with running back selections.
Getting quality running backs is so important that you shouldn't hesitate to start your draft with three backs if you're in a league that utilizes the flex position. While your wide receiver depth will take a bit of a hit, it's far easier to find starting receivers on the waiver wire than it is to find running backs. Also, taking three backs early will hurt the depth of your opponents, and it might force him to reach for inferior talent.
In addition to that, having three good running backs could give you the upper hand in trade negotiations once the season starts.
Once you have your starting running backs in place, make sure you have plenty of depth. Getting at least three current starters is a must, and nabbing some top backups could pay dividends as well in case injuries strike over the course of the season. Passing is en vogue in the NFL right now, but running backs rule the day in fantasy.
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