Fantasy football provides for a number of different strategies, but 2011 provides new challenges that will favor those who follow two unique draft strategies.
One is the running back-heavy strategy
The other is the quarterback and tight end focused strategy.
Let's take a look at both strategies and dissect why they will give you an advantage this year.
This year, the running back position is as thin as ever, meaning that drafting running backs with your first two picks, especially if you can grab an elite one like Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, can provide an advantage for you over competitors.
In past years, there were far less time-shares in the NFL.
Now, it seems like every new head coach that is hired is looking for a second tailback to take the load off of his workhorse.
So, one great strategy for 2011 is to select running backs in the first and second round.
If you are attempting to pull of the "back-to-back running back" strategy, it is very simple.
You select running backs with your first two picks, hoping they will become your starters and remain there for the entire season.
This applies whether you are picking first or 12th.
Let's say you select Adrian Peterson first overall.
When your next set of back-to-back picks come, you need to grab a running back like Ahmad Bradshaw or hope that someone like Steven Jackson falls to you.
Then, with the third pick and so on, you can begin to fill out your needs at the other important positions as you wish.
If you are picking near the end of the first round, this strategy is prime. You can grab two of the highest ranked running backs before falling off the tier of the elite tailbacks.
In the "back-to-back running back" strategy, the thinking behind it is that you will be set on running backs for the season.
Once you draft your two stud tailbacks, you can worry about finding replacements at wide receiver when your late-round picks do not pan out.
Plus, it allows you to still grab an elite player at another position in the third round.
Rather than taking Andre Johnson (elite WR) in round one, Rashard Mendenhall in round two (elite RB) and Peyton Hillis (second-tier RB) in round three, you can grab Ray Rice (elite RB) in round one, Steven Jackson in round two (elite RB), and still have Larry Fitzgerald or Vincent Jackson (elite WRs) in round three.
Now, drafts can be surprising based on how your opponents like to go about drafting, so you must be ready to adapt.
Still, this strategy is fairly easy to follow and succeed—no matter what happens on draft day.
The Antonio Gates theory is more than just suggesting that you select Gates as your tight end.
It also favors a specific strategy on quarterbacks as well.
Instead of waiting on a quarterback and filling your team with mediocre running backs and wide receivers, this strategy asks you to grab one early.
You will have the greatest advantage at the two positions that have players that are far and away better than everyone else.
In the Antonio Gates strategy, you need to select a quarterback and Gates in the first three or four rounds, depending on the size of your league.
For example, let's say you're selecting sixth in an 12-team league.
This strategy would tell you to grab the best running back available with the first pick, the best quarterback available in the second round, and Gates with your third round pick.
This could allow you to end up with LeSean McCoy, Drew Brees and Gates with your first three picks.
If you know that a ton of people in your league love to draft quarterbacks in the first round, grab your favorite quarterback with your first round pick.
No matter how you do it, the goal is to finish the first three or four rounds with a running back or two, an elite quarterback and Gates.
There is a method to the madness of the Antonio Gates theory.
Every year, there are receivers and running backs that come out of nowhere to jump to the top of the leaderboard in points by the end of the season.
Then, there are the usual suspects that are expected to be at the top, and prove during the season why they had high expectations going into the season.
In the end, it is usually mixture at the top that includes about 65 percent of the latter and 35 percent of the former to make the top running back and receiver scorers in fantasy football.
Another thing to note is that at these two positions, the players are all bunched together at the top.
Last season, Arian Foster was a bit of an anomaly, going from late-round sleeper to top scorer in all of fantasy football. Aside from him, the second running back, Adrian Peterson, and the eleventh running back, Ray Rice, were separated by 33 points in ESPN's standard scoring leagues.
The first and tenth wide receivers were separated by a whopping 45 points, or 2.6 points per game.
So, at these positions you do not gain a huge advantage by selecting the elite early. It only allows you to hold serve.
Antonio Gates, however, is a near lock to dominate the class of tight ends.
He scored in double digits in every game he finished last season but one.
He finished just behind Jason Witten in scoring, and he only played 10 games.
So, having Gates provides a huge advantage at a single position.
Then, there are the quarterbacks.
You may not have an advantage over the team you are playing if they also own one of these quarterbacks.
But, this will only be about half of the league.
Thus, you will have an enormous advantage at quarterback every other week whether you have Brees going against Josh Freeman, Ben Roethlisberger or even Joe Flacco.
This strategy is beneficial because it provides you a specific advantage at two positions.
Grab Gates and a top quarterback, and thank me later.