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Fantasy Football 2014: Key Tips for Draft Strategy and Cheat-Sheet Construction

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after a touchdown during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2014

As draft season heats up around the world of fantasy football, the most important thing to remember is that you must live with the team for the next four months. Entering the draft with a plan to get the players you like most is essential to success.

Too often owners will stick very close to a cheat sheet from one of the main fantasy outlets. By doing so, they are battling all of the other people in the league using the same rankings. That makes it extremely difficult to find good value, especially after the first handful of rounds.

With that in mind, let's check out some pretty straightforward tips to ensure owners leave the draft room with a roster they like. Otherwise, it's going to become a long season cheering for underperforming players you didn't want in the first place.

 

Create Your Own Rankings

2014 First-Round Draft Forecast
PickPlayerPositionTeam
1Adrian PetersonRBMIN
2LeSean McCoyRBPHI
3Jamaal CharlesRBKC
4Matt ForteRBCHI
5Peyton ManningQBDEN
6Calvin JohnsonWRDET
7Eddie LacyRBGB
8Marshawn LynchRBSEA
9Aaron RodgersQBGB
10Drew BreesQBNO
11Jimmy GrahamTENO
12Arian FosterRBHOU
Projection

As mentioned, relying on a basic set of rankings is an extra hurdle. Not only do you end up chasing the same players as a group of other owners in the draft, but that makes it difficult to predict when the coveted sleepers are going to start coming off the board.

A player may be ranked as the No. 24 running back or No. 38 wide receiver on the sheet. For awhile that gives off a false sense of security that they will stay on the board for awhile and then they get snagged slightly earlier than expected and you end up with a less desirable option.

Creating your own rankings eliminates that issue. Owners can then enter the draft knowing exactly where they would draft each player and it becomes easier to target specific players at certain times. You can see the draft through your projections rather than a standard listing.

It's not a guaranteed path to success because your research will need to correctly project who's going to break out and who will be a bust. The one thing it's going to do, however, is make sure the roster is one filled with players you have faith in.

 

Use Tier System

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 20:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos meet after the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won 39-33.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

One thing you will realize while making your rankings is the points where there's a clear drop-off at a certain position. The best example this season is quarterback. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are a clear step above the rest.

That's where a tiered-ranking system will come in handy. When there's an internal debate between two players, the tiebreaker will go to the player with less depth remaining at the position because there's a better chance somebody of value will be available the next time around at the other spot.

Matthew Berry of ESPN gave his thoughts on the idea of waiting for a quarterback this year. It's a popular theory, but not a surefire one:

The tier system also goes along with understanding the flow of the draft. If there have been six straight running backs drafted, it's probably a good time to explore another position rather than following the pack and ending up in the back of the run.

It all comes down to building the most well-rounded team possible.

 

Always Prioritize Personal Favorites

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 16:  C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills runs against the Seattle Seahawks at Rogers Centre on December 16, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

A key mistake owners tend to make is missing out on a player they really want by waiting too long. Then they spend all season watching the player dominate and wonder why they didn't take a chance on them one round earlier.

Don't let that happen. If you're on the clock and a certain player stands out at the best available, take them. Even if the general consensus at the time is that the pick is a reach, remain confident that it will pay off over the long haul.

One such player might be C.J. Spiller. Last year, the Buffalo Bills back was one of the most coveted players in all of fantasy football. His stock has dropped considerably and trade talk has surrounded him. The NFL provided his response to that speculation:

Whether he stays in Buffalo or goes elsewhere, Spiller has the potential to provide terrific value as a post-hype sleeper. Everybody will have their own group of players who belong in a similar category. Just make sure they don't slip away during the draft by passing on them one too many times.

Should the season end up not going according to plan, it's better to have lost with players you wanted than losing with others you were forced into because your top targets landed elsewhere.

 

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