A Fantasy Football Minimalist Draft Approach

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A Fantasy Football Minimalist Draft Approach
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

"Minimalist approach?" you might be asking.

What I mean by that is you leave one position weak and go 'use' a shotgun to find that stud.  By eliminating a position from drafting early, you can focus on the remaining positions. I also recommend not addressing the backup positions. You don't need a bye-week player immediately, so worry about that later via free agency or waiver wire.

And hypothetically, if the position you choose for the shotgun approach yields more success than you need, you can trade one of the hot players for a player better than what's in FA for that bye-week.

This method will completely upset owners who are all about Value Drafting or Best Player Available. But this is a philosophical method in building a squad not based on value, but the idea of having a strong core in all but one position and playing the odds.

Playing the odds is the main point with this method.

For example, in a keeper league that I'm in, I can keep four and am keeping:

  • Philip Rivers
  • Marion Barber
  • Kevin Smith
  • Pierre Thomas


Start 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 1WR/TE, 1PK, 1DEF, 8 bench

Going into the draft, I'm set at QB and RB and will draft a TE early. I won't draft a backup QB, TE, PK, or DEF leaving me with 10 spots JUST for WRs.  As mentioned, bye weeks will be addressed from trades or FA.

Assuming I go TE with my "first" pick, that means I won't be drafting my first WR until the 6th round.  I figure I'll go safe with the first few picks with guys like Holt, Driver, any No. 1 WR on any team that's available, then swing for the fences on high-risk/reward WRs.

Figuring three 'safer' WR choices leaves me with seven chances at getting a guy or two who has a breakout year.

I'll "handcuff" the "safer" WR with guys that have that breakout potential. Like if I get Driver, I'll probably take both James Jones and Jordy Nelson.


DEFENSE and KICKER

I recommend taking them earlier than most advise with this approach, which is about top "players" at all positions but one (RB or WR).  By securing a top DEF—and there is a difference between a top DEF and lower ones—you can rest assured at not having to play matchups.

Everyone believes that there is no difference between kickers, and that may be true for the most part, but take a surefire one (e.g., Jason Elam) who plays at least half of his games in a dome on an offense that will move the ball.

You may be "reaching" for a DEF and PK by taking them before the last few rounds, but the odds between that weak position home-run player you take in round 12 isn't that different than the one you'll take at the end of the draft...so secure that top DEF and K.


SAME APPROACH, DIFFERENT POSITION

Hypothetical league setup of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 1PK, 1DEF, 9 BENCH

In re-draft leagues, try leaving the RB position weak.  Again, the idea is to draft top QBs, TEs and WRs exclusively and only for the starting positions.  No backups.

In the first five rounds, you've taken all your starters for QB, WR, and TE.  The QB and TE should easily be what most would call a Top Five guy.  By taking WRs early, you'll probably land a top three, 10, and 20 WR, making for a solid group.

And again, I recommend playing it "safe" with the first couple of RBs, say Willie Parker (grab Mendenhall in the next few rounds as a "handcuff"), Cedric Benson, Jamal Lewis, and Julius Jones.  Guys who'll start the season with a low (rounds 6-8) ADP (average draft position).

Or take a slight risk and grab guys like Chris "Beanie" Wells (ARI) in the sixth, Ray Rice (BAL) in the seventh and grab their teammates (Hightower, McGahee) in the next two rounds.  Even take Cedric Peerman (BAL) in the last round.

Then, via the shotgun approach, take home run hitters who might not even see the field, but who might put up huge numbers.

According to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, some of those RBs aren't even listed in the top 13 rounds (58 RBs).  Players like Bernard Scott (CIN, off-field issues), James Davis (could be the future RB for Cleveland), Mike Goodson (CAR), Justin Forsett or Devin Moore (SEA), Rashad Jennings (JAC), Anthony Aldridge (WAS) and a dozen more guys along these lines.

By taking only the best starters and starters only for all but the RB position, you free up 11 spots (in this scenario) to find two studs to go with the rest of your top-tier team.  Since two or three of your RBs will come in the middle rounds, there's a decent enough chance that you'll get lucky and hit on several hot RBs you can pair one with your top 20 WR to upgrade your WRs.

Good luck in your draft, have fun, and don't drink too much beer or you'll be drafting Shawn Alexander again.

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