The only way to earn bragging rights (or whatever else you are playing for) in fantasy football is with a successful draft day. After all, you aren’t winning that mythical trophy without the right players on your roster.
The key is finding the perfect mix of superstars and sleepers while avoiding the busts, and it’s much easier said than done.
With that in mind, let’s dig into a few tips to keep in mind on draft day.
Focus on Positional Depth Early
Whether playing in an auction league or one that utilizes a snake draft, a basic economic principle is at stake—scarcity. You have a limited budget or number of picks, and there is only so much talent to go around during the draft.
That is why understanding which positions offer more value in the later rounds is so critical. If there are only five productive running backs in the entire NFL and 100 impressive wide receivers, it makes much more sense to take the runners early and focus on the pass-catchers later.
One of the deepest positions in 2014 happens to be quarterback. Yes, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are absolute fantasy weapons who will consistently put up big numbers every week, but there is value to be had later in the draft.
For instance, ESPN.com ranks Jay Cutler as the No. 15 quarterback in the NFL. Theoretically, he will be around deep into your draft, and landing someone who is entering his second year under Marc Trestman with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte as weapons six rounds after a fellow player drafted Nick Foles may not be a bad idea.
Cutler is far from the only sleeper available. The key is knowing which position is offering the most.
Don’t Scoff at Taking a Tight End in the First Round
Drafting a tight end in the first round may be considered outside the box, but it won’t be in 2014 if you take one in particular—Jimmy Graham.
Let Matthew Berry of ESPN.com break it down:
Graham is a stud and gives you an advantage almost every single week at tight end; he was a "stud" eight times last season, according to Tristan's consistency rankings. No other tight end managed that feat (which is finishing top-three at the position for the week) more than four times. If you combine that fact with the volatility of predictable good outcomes at the position, you can argue that no player gives you greater peace of mind at a position than Graham.
The Tristan consistency rankings is a formula Berry and Tristan H. Cockcroft formulated, and an in-depth explanation of how it takes factors such as position into account can be found here. However, the fact that no other tight end finished in the top three at the position for a week more than four times while Graham managed to do so eight times should catch your eye.
Graham tallied 1,215 receiving yards and an incredible 16 touchdowns a year ago. He lines up all over the field, and having him on your fantasy team is basically like having an extra wide receiver at your disposal. It's almost unfair.
What’s more, he seems ready to go in 2014 after putting his contract dispute behind him if his comments are any indication, via Mark Maske of The Washington Post:
I’m back to football. And, really, that’s been all my focus, is catching back up and making sure that I’ll be ready Week 1. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. I’m gonna be judged on each game from now on. So that’s not my concern at all.
Again, this harkens back to positional depth.
Rob Gronkowski is coming off a serious injury, Jordan Cameron’s quarterback situation is still up in the air and Vernon Davis is 30 years old and in a run-heavy offense. Julius Thomas may be worth some consideration with Manning throwing him passes, but Graham is the one tight end that could be worth a first-round pick.
Don’t Put Too Much Value in a Defense
It would be wise to wait until the last two rounds to take a defense or avoid spending more than a dollar or two in an auction draft.
The position is simply incredibly interchangeable. For instance, the Seattle Seahawks led the way in ESPN.com's standard league scoring last year with 195 points, but the St. Louis Rams finished seventh with 145 points. If that margin of 50 points is divided up on a per-week basis, it’s a fairly small difference.
What’s more, a mere 14 total points separated the ninth-place New England Patriots from the 18th-best Tennessee Titans.
Defense is so random from year to year because factors such as schedule, opposing injuries and even weather come into play. Use your early picks on quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers and hold off on defense until later.
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