It's the middle of August, and while every NFL fan is gearing up for the start of the regular season, fantasy football enthusiasts have another big affair forthcoming—their fantasy league drafts.
Preparation for fantasy drafts is of the utmost importance. After all, would you rather be the owner toting a current sheet of each player's average draft position or the one carrying an outdated fantasy magazine from a year ago?
Hopefully you chose the former.
Winning your fantasy draft entails much more than simply selecting your favorite analyst's highest-ranked available player when your turn rolls around. There's much more strategy involved.
To ensure you are as well prepared as possible for your league's draft, let's go over some of the most important draft strategies and overview a cheat sheet for this year's top flex rankings.
2014 Fantasy Football Top 50 Flex Rankings
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings
*Average draft position (ADP) based on 12-team leagues in standard format, via FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Obey the ADP
Chances are you'll be carrying a list—much like the one above—to your fantasy draft this year. Here's the question: Are players' average draft positions listed?
ADP is one of the most useful tools for fantasy drafts. Without knowing where each player is generally being selected, you run the risk of severely reaching or, even worse, missing out on your target entirely.
Experts such as NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Rotoworld's Evan Silva are already entrenched in ADP analysis:
That seems insane. RT @evansilva: Rashad Jennings' ADP up to 4.02.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 12, 2014
So, here's the tip: When you finalize your list of rankings, be sure to accompany each player with his corresponding ADP. That way, you'll have a much clearer strategy and a big step up on your competition.
Take Your Best Player Available
You have your rankings for a reason. It's an organized list of each player at every position from top to bottom. But for some reason, many fantasy owners deviate from these lists over the course of the draft.
Some owners believe taking two running backs early in the draft is a must because of the lack of depth at the position. While there is certainly truth to that, why pass up on Brandon Marshall in Round 2 only to reach for Alfred Morris in an attempt to fill that running back quota?
Another cause for this phenomenon is the dreaded positional run. In the fifth round, two fantasy owners suddenly take tight ends in back-to-back picks. This scares other owners into reaching for a tight end of their own—often with disastrous results. Don't take Greg Olsen in Round 5 due to a run on tight ends when DeSean Jackson is ripe for the picking.
A big-board approach is already being adapted by expert fantasy analysts:
Daps to @evansilva for pushing the “big board” approach to fantasy drafts. Mirror the good NFL teams & take BPA. Don’t reach to fill needs.— RumfordJohnny (@RumfordJohnny) June 10, 2014
Stick with your list.
Take a Kicker Last
It seems as though this wouldn't need to be mentioned; however, each year, many fantasy owners elect to take a "top-tier" kicker such as Stephen Gostkowski well before the draft's final round.
Please, don't do that.
While you may average an extra 1.5 points per week by reaching for a kicker early, you're passing on some very intriguing sleepers. Players with huge upsides could make or break a fantasy owner's season. This year, Markus Wheaton, Odell Beckham Jr. and Justin Hunter have strong potential to break out. Why take a kicker instead?
Do yourself a favor and wait to select a kicker in your draft's final round. Pick one with a favorable Week 1 matchup and hit the waiver wire over the course of the season to continue that trend. You won't regret it.
This final tip is simple: Practice your strategy by utilizing mock drafts in the days leading up to your league's live draft. This gives you a much better idea of which players are being selected far too early and which ones may be huge steals.
Make a note of these occurrences on your draft rankings guide, and you're ready to go crush your league's fantasy draft.