Fantasy Football: Five Quick Draft Tips

Jack BenderCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2009

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - JULY 31:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball after a reception in the team training camp at Northern Arizona University on July 31, 2009 in Flagstaff, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Fantasy drafts are similar to the old saying about the Thursday of a Major golf tournament.  You cannot win your Fantasy League on draft night, but you might draft so badly that you are never a factor in your Fantasy League. 

Players are going to get injured or benched, and you are going to have to make trades or waiver wire pickups in order to make the playoffs and win your league.  However, a draft with value players sets you up for a great start to the season. 

For reference, I play in a couple of different 12-team leagues with a 16-round draft.  We do not use flex players or Individual Defensive Players, so those are not covered in this article.  Here are five quick draft tips that I use in my Fantasy Draft preparation. 

1.   Check out the Average Draft Positions for your main player targets.  If you are like me, you do not have time to research all kinds of statistics before your draft.  I usually spend about two or three hours actually making draft lists. 

ADP, Average Draft Position, is the best indicator of where players are going all over the country.  You see the value that many other people are putting on each player. 

In 2008 Fantasy drafts, Kurt Warner probably was not drafted in many leagues, but you might have had a gut feeling he was going to start for the Arizona Cardinals.  It would have been a bad pick to draft Warner high, but if you knew you wanted him in round-14 as your backup quarterback, you could wait and fill out your roster with better players at the other positions. 

ADP is available on nearly all quality Fantasy Football web sites.  If you only look at a couple statistics (touchdowns scored last year, total yards, etc.), ADP definitely needs to be one of them.

2.  Make your own player Sleeper list with a concentration on some rookies.  Everyone knows the best players, but you have to separate yourself by getting value in the later rounds.  I make myself a list of 20 players that I know will be available in the later rounds. 

Every year there are rookies that make a big impact on Fantasy Football.  Last year, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans was a major contributor.  Matt Forte, the Chicago Bears’ running back, was a Sleeper pick that helped someone win their league. 

One guy I really like this year is Jeremy Macklin of the Philadelphia Eagles.  On offense, the Eagles spread the football around to all of their skill players, so Macklin is going to get some touches in the Red Zone.

3.  Do a mock draft by positions like RB, QB, or TE.  You really cannot do a mock draft by player because of the unpredictability of other people in your Fantasy league.  Someone may take a kicker in the first-round!  I saw that happen once. 

Plus, time is a factor.  Very few people have the time to do an entire mock draft for Fantasy Football, but you quickly can do a round-by-round player position draft. This gives you a simple draft strategy to follow.

You should think unconventionally with your position order.  Running backs are very important, but quarterbacks have led my leagues in scoring the past few seasons.  If you have a middle pick in the first-round, I'd definitely consider taking Tom Brady or Drew Brees

If you have bookend picks at the end of the first and beginning of the second round, you might take the best two running backs available or throw in one of the best wide receivers.  Getting your top four draft selections correct is vital to having a winning Fantasy team.

For example, figure out in which round you want to take a QB, RB, or Wide Receiver.  You may think that the wide receiver position is deeper than running back.  If so, you might want to draft four running backs in the first six rounds of the draft.  Make a list for all 12 rounds and try to stick to it. 

In later rounds, you can have RB/WR.  Save your kicker for last, but I like to draft my starting defense in an earlier round because I just take one defense.  I know they are going to play each weekno chance of injury!  This will help you focus and fill out your roster with quality players at ever position.

4.  Know the Vultures and Handcuffs of your starting running backs.  Handcuffs are backup running backs that can step right in for an NFL team, start, and produce Fantasy points.  Vultures are other running backs on the same team as your starter that steal touchdowns away from your player.  Running backs with known Vultures might lose some of their Fantasy impact.

The Carolina Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart is a big time Vulture.  The Titans' Lendale White is a touchdown Vulture.  Teams that go with a bigger goal line running back are dangerous to your starter.  Michael Bush of the Oakland Raiders is sure to steal some TDs from Darren McFadden.  You might remember Jerome Bettis as the ultimate touchdown stealer for the Steelers a few seasons ago.

If you have the first pick and draft Adrian Peterson, you should look to draft Chester Taylor as Peterson’s handcuff in a later round.  Peterson is going to miss a few games with injury. 

Another running back whose backup will earn a bunch of touches is the Colts’ Joseph Addai.  If you draft Addai and are expecting to start him every Sunday, you need to know who his backup is.  You might have to take the handcuff running back earlier than you want to, but it will be worth it.

5.  Pay attention to the Offensive Coordinators and their reputations.  Everyone knows that the Saints are going to throw a bunch and score a ton of points.   For that reason, the Saints’ skill players have more value than say the Chicago Bears with Ron Turner calling the plays.  The Bears’ conservative offense makes Jay Cutler’s Fantasy value much lower this year. 

Another example is New England.  The Patriots have a new O-Coordinator this year.  Will the Patriots throw for touchdowns in the Red Zone like the past few years, or will they run the ball more for touchdowns? 

Their offense should be more potent with QB Tom Brady back, but there is some doubt there.  Some teams whose players are more valuable based on their coaching philosophy are the Saints, Patriots, Cardinals, Falcons, Eagles, Cowboys, and believe it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs.