2011 NFL Fantasy Football: Draft Strategies Are Changing

Derek CrouseContributor IIIAugust 9, 2011

Is Adrain Peterson worth the first pick in the draft?
Is Adrain Peterson worth the first pick in the draft?Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With the onslaught of free agency and sped-up preseason, teams are trying to fit the pieces in their franchise’s puzzle. The most popular fantasy game is just around the corner.

One reason that fantasy football is so popular is the game itself. The game is played weekly, which makes managing a team much easier than having to check lineups every day like baseball or basketball. Also, the game is played in the fall and winter, when people are at their homes, unlike the hustle and bustle of the spring and summer.

From the waiver wire to the sleeper pick, bragging rights between friends are also aspects that players look forward to. Some leagues have players who invest over $500 for team, hoping for the big payoff in Week 17, while others just play for free and enjoy the competition without a wager.

In years past, a good draft strategy was to build your team from the running back on down. Now that the NFL has changed its rules to help the offense (especially the passing game), players have had to adapt to the current NFL culture.

Many people now draft their quarterback first. The QB touches the ball on every snap, and teams that play the West Coast offense have a big advantage. The screen pass has become the running game on some teams, so the quarterback is scoring points with the little dumps and screens to the running back.

Some argue that drafting a quarterback first can ruin your chances of finding a quality starting running back. Furthermore, many say that a top-five quarterback will put up close numbers to a middle-tier QB.

Tight ends have also increased in value. In years past, the only tight ends with high value were the Tony Gonzalezes and Antonio Gateses of the NFL. Now with fields opening up more and more, tight ends are being used like the queen on a chessboard.

The versatility of the position can be a gamble though. While one week a tight end might put up double digit fantasy points, he could go cold for weeks, which could affect a team that overvalued its tight end in the draft.

A good strategy is to have some tight ends on your radar, but don’t fret if somebody else drafts him. Many times, a team defense will put up more points for your team collectively than a tight end, and you can sometimes find a midseason waiver wire standout.

Fantasy football gets real interesting when leagues incorporate defensive players.

While having defensive players isn’t the norm in standard leagues, many leagues are incorporating bigger rosters to increase the parity of their leagues. It is hard to pinpoint how to pick a defensive player unless you really are a stats guy. Drafting a linebacker in a 4-3 defense might increase your chances of points over getting a 3-4 linebacker, just due to the fact that he will have more tackles usually.

Having a shutdown cornerback might not be the best strategy either, because the offense will not look his way, which leads to lack of opportunities to score points. Go with your gut and remember the defenses that are on the field more have the ability to score more.

Watch out for overworked RBs, the Larry Johnson effect.
Watch out for overworked RBs, the Larry Johnson effect.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

A big mistake that many players make is not checking the age of their running backs, especially when they move to a new team. Running backs start to go on the downslope after the age of 30. There are exceptions to the rule, but when you are putting wagers up, do you want exceptions or consistency?

Many fantasy players buy into the free agent hype. If the player was traded or released due to salary, it is one thing, but you have to wonder why they would dump a superstar out of the blue.

Another factor to look at is the amount of carries a running back had the year before. If the running back hit the 300 mark, most likely unless he is a top-five back, he will not have the same type of season the next year, which has been proven over the years.

Everybody’s strategy is different, but the goal is the same…