For me, the best part about fantasy football is draft night. If you don't do a live, offline draft where you and your buddies all get together, then I'm not sure why you play at all.
For some people, though, it's all about winning and the bragging rights that come with it (or whatever prize your league has). Winning is a close second on my list of favorite things (after draft night) and I have done more than my fair share of it in 13 years of playing fantasy football.
So as most fantasy leagues are preparing to kickoff, my gift to you is five underutilized tactics that could help you win your league.
I don't know about your league, but in almost all of the ones I have been involved with, no one drafts kickers. For the select few that occasionally will draft a kicker, they wait until the last round and then are usually mocked mercilessly for it.
Don't worry about getting made fun of (unless you take a kicker in the first few rounds, then you should be made fun of), just draft a very good kicker and laugh your way to a championship.
The truth about kickers is that (depending on how your league does scoring) they will earn you more points than all but the top handful of tight ends, and more than most second receivers. Kickers also tend to get hurt a lot less than players at other positions (for obvious reasons).
If you are in a league where people do draft kickers, wait until the first one gets taken and then select the best guy left on the board.
This is going to sound a lot like my argument for kickers, but it is still true. If you want to do well in your league it would be smart to listen.
The best defenses in the league (top three) should be drafted early, but most likely they will not be taken until people are drafting their second running backs or wide receivers.
Last year, the elite fantasy defenses produced similar point totals compared to first options at wide receiver and second options at running backs. Even average defenses stacked up favorably with second wide receivers and tight ends.
Everyone drafts the glory positions early, where and if you aren't fortunate in regards to your draft slot you can miss out on a lot, if not all of the best players at those positions. You can't make up those points by drafting the ninth best wide receiver available, you have to do something else.
This is an obvious tip for fantasy veterans, but anyone relatively new to the game may not be familiar with it.
Playing the match-ups is a great way to figure out who to start and who to sit on a week-to-week basis, especially if you are decided between players who have similar production.
It works like this: Say you have one spot available and it comes down Frank Gore or Michael Turner, who do you pick? Check to see what team each guy is going up against that week and see what their rush defenses look like. If Gore is playing Arizona, and Turner is playing Chicago, you should probably go with Gore.
Another thing to consider when playing the match-ups is the overall quality of each team. For instance, if Cleveland if playing Indianapolis it would seem as though Peyton Hillis would be a good play against the Colts' porous run defense.
However, since Indianapolis is much better than Cleveland, the Browns would likely be playing from behind all day and therefore it would limit the number of carries Hillis would receive.
In most leagues, the first round is dominated by running back selections. This makes sense, as running backs are major fantasy points producers and there is a limited number of elite backs available.
However, there are not enough elite running backs to go around in the first round, so if you're drafting in the back half of the round, you get stuck with a second-tier back. The problem is that second-tier running backs are a dime a dozen, and therefore you are no longer getting a good value for your pick.
The solution is to wait to take your running back, because there will be plenty of those solid yet unspectacular backs available later. Instead, take an elite quarterback with your first round selection. In general, quarterbacks are almost as productive as running backs and you will get a better value for your first round pick.
If your draft is in a snake format, you will be picking again very shortly and by that point you may have created a run on quarterbacks, leaving essentially the exact same running backs you would have gotten before, but now you are getting them a round later.
This is by far the riskiest tactic I will suggest, but it also carries the biggest reward. The strategy is fairly self-explanatory. Rather than using picks to try and cover all of your bases, you monopolize a position (you usually only need a couple of elite guys to do this), thus forcing other teams to trade with you to fill out their roster.
I used this strategy a few years ago with a large amount of success. I was picking at the end of the first round and decided to select Peyton Manning. When the draft snaked back around to me, I didn't like any of the running backs available at that point and so I drafted Tom Brady as well.
I proceeded drafting my second-string running back and two elite receivers. Before the draft was over I already had teams negotiating with me to get one of my quarterbacks, in exchange for a top of the line running back.
Instead of ending the night with Peyton Manning and some second-rate running back, I ended the night with Peyton Manning and Frank Gore on my roster.
Again, this is very high risk, but as you can see it is very high reward as well.