Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 2013: Early-Round Tactics to Ensure Success

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 31, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 15: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears smiles at a teammate on the sidelines during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on August 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Chargers 33-28. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Preparing for a fantasy football draft is key to success. Zooming through expert opinions, numerous magazines and tuning into television analysis can be helpful, but having a proper strategy while actually on the clock often makes or breaks the depth of a lineup.

In order to land the proper amount of star power while still having a balanced roster, the type of league is a factor, but the priority on personnel is important.

Check out some useful tactics below that will help you build an ideal fantasy team regardless of the league's format, with some player suggestions woven in throughout.

Top-Flight Running Backs as Primary Focus

Landing No. 1 rushers is essential to fantasy football success, especially those who not only shoulder the majority of carries but also have a decent workload as receivers out of the backfield.

That's not always the case—see: Adrian Peterson—but the more touches, obviously the better. A big-time breakout star to watch for could be Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte, whose abilities haven't been fully capitalized on recent years.

With the addition of new head coach Marc Trestman and a West Coast offense, Forte has all the makings of having his best season to date in 2013.

The same goes for Jamaal Charles in Kansas City. He came off a torn ACL last season and was overshadowed by Peterson' magnificent year, but he ran for 1509 yards and five touchdowns—despite the worst passing game in the league.

Under the watch of Andy Reid, the Chiefs' speedy playmaker should only get more opportunities to prove his worth. Dave Richard of CBS Sports seems to agree:

It is players like Forte and Charles who should be picked up as swiftly as possible, but running backs who have mobile QBs to complement them—think Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and Chris Johnson—are also bound to have explosive plays.

The crop of running backs is deep for this season, so pounce on as many as possible in the first few rounds.

Hold Off on Quarterbacks

Taking a signal-caller too early simply isn't worth it. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the fifth one selected at the end of Round 4 in ESPN's panel of experts' mock draft.

By the time Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan was chosen next, there had been 26 running backs and 22 wide receivers off the board.

There are plenty of chances to snag a quarterback in the later rounds. Reliable pocket passers like Brady, Ryan, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are always wise choices, but to increase the upside of your team, having a dual-threat option is a wise move to make.

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers has run for over 700 yards in each of his first two seasons while averaging 7.9 yards per attempt through the air. Thanks to his 245-pound frame, he has the muscle to absorb punishment.

Other riskier options include Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, who are electric with their feet but  aren't quite as thick.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers is athletic, but will only run when absolutely necessary. That makes him the likely No. 1 quarterback in most drafts despite a shaky offensive line that allowed him to be sacked a league-high 51 times last year.

The ESPN draft didn't take Colin Kaepernick until Round 7. Even though it's his first full season as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback, he has arguably the most upside of the new breed of athletic QBs.

Don't Be Shy to Take Tight Ends Higher Up

The increasing prominence of the NFL passing game is making tight ends far more valuable than in the past, and the players at the position in many instances have unprecedented skill sets.

Many of the best pass-catching tight ends are extremely tall and strong, thus serving as ideal red-zone targets that can rack up touchdowns in a hurry.

There aren't many truly elite commodities at the tight end spot, but taking a flier on one early isn't a bad idea. Bear in mind that five of the 21 players who had eight or more touchdown grabs last year were tight ends.

Finding the end zone is the ultimate goal, and if you're in a 10-team standard draft, grabbing a tight end instead of a second receiver after you've gotten a true top wideout may be just as valuable.

Tight ends can also be deployed at flex positions in many cases, so building up depth at that position while having one of the game's best in tow early increases the lineup flexibility a team can have.

Rob Gronkowski has been hurt, but stowing a tight end of his caliber away is a wise move. Sleepers to watch for include Scott Chandler of the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns' freak athlete Jordan Cameron and newly acquired St. Louis Ram Jared Cook.

Granted, this isn't the most widely recommended strategy to deploy, but depending on where the cards fall in your draft, it could be an unconventional, out-of-the-box approach that pays dividends.