Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 2015: Cheatsheet and Tips for Nailing Every Pick

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2015

Sep 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) warms up prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Are you ready to get slapped in the face with so much fantasy knowledge you'll take off an imaginary glove and challenge me to a duel?


I don't blame you. That would be weird. So instead, just enjoy this fantasy football advice that I'll softly, gently lay at your feet. Let's not fight, OK?


Top 100 Rankings

2015 Fantasy Rankings
1RBMarshawn LynchSeattle Seahawks
2RBAdrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings
3RBEddie LacyGreen Bay Packers
4RBJamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs
5RBDeMarco MurrayPhiladelphia Eagles
6RBLe'Veon BellPittsburgh Steelers
7RBMatt ForteChicago Bears
8RBLeSean McCoyBuffalo Bills
9WRAntonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers
10WRDemaryius ThomasDenver Broncos
11TERob GronkowskiNew England Patriots
12QBAndrew LuckIndianapolis Colts
13QBAaron RodgersGreen Bay Packers
14WRDez BryantDallas Cowboys
15RBC.J. AndersonDenver Broncos
16WROdell Beckham Jr.New York Giants
17WRJulio JonesAtlanta Falcons
18WRA.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals
19WRCalvin JohnsonDetroit Lions
20RBJeremy HillCincinnati Bengals
21RBAlfred MorrisWashington
22RBCarlos HydeSan Francisco 49ers
23RBLamar MillerMiami Dolphins
24WRRandall CobbGreen Bay Packers
25WRAlshon JefferyChicago Bears
26WRMike EvansTampa Bay Buccaneers
27WRT.Y. HiltonIndianapolis Colts
28QBRussell WilsonSeattle Seahawks
29RBMark IngramNew Orleans Saints
30RBMelvin GordonSan Diego Chargers
31RBJoique BellDetroit Lions
32TEJimmy GrahamSeattle Seahawks
33QBPeyton ManningDenver Broncos
34WREmmanuel SandersDenver Broncos
35WRDeAndre HopkinsHouston Texans
36RBFrank GoreIndianapolis Colts
37RBAndre EllingtonArizona Cardinals
38QBBen RoethlisbergerPittsburgh Steelers
39TEGreg OlsenCarolina Panthers
40WRJeremy MaclinKansas City Chiefs
41WRDeSean JacksonWashington
42QBCam NewtonCarolina Panthers
43RBJustin ForsettBaltimore Ravens
44RBJonathan StewartCarolina Panthers
45RBGiovani BernardCincinnati Bengals
46WRGolden TateDetroit Lions
47QBMatt RyanAtlanta Falcons
48WRBrandin CooksNew Orleans Saints
49WRJordan MatthewsPhiladelphia Eagles
50WRSammy WatkinsBuffalo Bills
51WRBrandon MarshallNew York Jets
52WRMike WallaceMinnesota Vikings
53WRKeenan AllenSan Diego Chargers
54TEMartellus BennettChicago Bears
55TETravis KelceKansas City Chiefs
56TEJulius ThomasJacksonville Jaguars
57QBDrew BreesNew Orleans Saints
58RBTodd GurleySt. Louis Rams
59RBT.J. YeldonJacksonville Jaguars
60WRJarvis LandryMiami Dolphins
61WRVincent JacksonTampa Bay Buccaneers
62WRBrandon LaFellNew England Patriots
63WRJulian EdelmanNew England Patriots
64WRAmari CooperOakland Raiders
65TEZach ErtzPhiladelphia Eagles
66RBJoseph RandleDallas Cowboys
67WRVictor CruzNew York Giants
68WRSteve SmithBaltimore Ravens
69WRTorrey SmithSan Francisco 49ers
70WRAndre JohnsonIndianapolis Colts
71TEJason WittenDallas Cowboys
72RBLatavius MurrayOakland Raiders
73RBC.J. SpillerNew Orleans Saints
74QBMatt StaffordDetroit Lions
75TEDwayne AllenIndianapolis Colts
76WRNelson AgholorPhiladelphia Eagles
77RBTevin ColemanAtlanta Falcons
78RBRashad JenningsNew York Giants
79TEJordan CameronMiami Dolphins
80TEDelanie WalkerTennessee Titans
81RBChris IvoryNew York Jets
82QBTom BradyNew England Patriots
83WRMichael FloydArizona Cardinals
84WRRoddy WhiteAtlanta Falcons
85WRAnquan BoldinSan Francisco 49ers
86TEOwen DanielsDenver Broncos
87TECoby FleenerIndianapolis Colts
88QBTony RomoDallas Cowboys
89WREric DeckerNew York Jets
90WRReggie WayneNew England Patriots
91WRAllen RobinsonJacksonville Jaguars
92RBLeGarrette BlountNew England Patriots
93RBAlfred BlueHouston Texans
94RBRyan MathewsPhiladelphia Eagles
95RBIsaiah CrowellCleveland Browns
96QBRyan TannehillMiami Dolphins
97RBAmeer AbdullahDetroit Lions
98WRDavante AdamsGreen Bay Packers
99WRMartavis BryantPittsburgh Steelers
100D/STN/ASeattle Seahawks

Matt Camp's Fantasy Advice

Fantasy Wisdom from Mohamed Sanu

Aug 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) in a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

"I couldn't get A.J. Green," Cincinnati Bengals wideout Mohamed Sanu told Sean Jensen of Bleacher Report, talking about his strategy of drafting his teammates. "Why not draft the people you got confidence in? There are other great players in the league, but you got to draft your boys!" 

It's a smart principle to draft by (though most of us don't have the option to draft a teammate). If you have players you trust, players who continue to produce or who you know very well, draft them again!

I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan, so I'm more tuned into that team than some of the other organizations in the league. I have a good feeling about most of their skill position players this year, including Sam Bradford, so you can bet at least one Eagle will be on most of my teams.

You Can Wait on a Quarterback

Here's a quick look at the average draft position for quarterbacks in ESPN leagues

ESPN Average Draft Position
RankPlayer, TeamADP
1Aaron Rodgers, GB12.1
2Andrew Luck, Ind12.7
3Russell Wilson, Sea28.3
4Peyton Manning, Den28.4
5Drew Brees, NO34.5
6Ben Roethlisberger, Pit49.8
7Matt Ryan, Atl66.1
8Tony Romo, Dal66.9
9Tom Brady, NE72.7
10Cam Newton, Car88.9
11Ryan Tannehill, Mia100.6
12Matthew Stafford, Det102.5
13Eli Manning, NYG105.8
14Sam Bradford, Phi106.1
15Philip Rivers, SD110.1
Source: ESPN

There are some really good players dropping well down the board at quarterback. Unless Aaron Rodgers falls into your lap in the third round, you can totally wait on the position.

Play it Safe in the Early Rounds

There is a time and place to take risks, and that is in the middle to later rounds. You need to crush your early picks, however. You can't win your league by nailing your early picks, but you can absolutely lose it by flubbing them. 

Go after guys in the early rounds with a reliable track record who you trust. If you are sitting at pick No. 10, you want a running back, and the available options are Matt Forte and C.J. Anderson, go with Forte. Maybe Anderson will be the better player, ultimately, but you know exactly what you are getting with Forte. Anderson's 2014 could have been a fluke, or he might end up in a platoon. 

Forte is going to eclipse 1,500 yards from scrimmage and score seven-to-10 touchdowns based on what he's traditionally done in his career, barring an injury. If fantasy is the art of minimizing your risk while maximizing value, there is no reason to get cute in the early rounds and go after high-risk, high-reward players when more reliable, productive players are available. 

Wide Receiver is the Deepest Position

Aug 28, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19) celebrates after scoring during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You can build a really good team without drafting a wideout in the first four or five rounds. While that's a risky strategy to employ, the position just has so many strong options into the middle rounds.

Yes, elite wide receivers are still very valuable because of the consistency they offer. Wideout generally is the most mercurial position, as a good wideout will get you 25 points one week and 20 points combined in the next three or four. The elite receivers, meanwhile, tend to get you double-digit points week in and week out, reducing the weekly droughts.

So yes, target a solid receiver in the first three rounds, but just know that it isn't the end of the world if the board falls funny for you and you don't take a wideout early. There will be plenty of nice options waiting for you and, if you play the matchups right throughout the season, you'll be just fine without an elite option.

Get an Elite Tight End or Draft One Late

If you don't get Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen, just wait on tight end until later in the draft. The difference between players in the middle tier of tight ends is likely to be pretty small, so there is really no reason to reach for a tight end in the middle rounds.

Draft a Defense and a Kicker with Your Last Two Picks

Streaming defenses is a really smart, viable strategy, so there is never a need to reach on a defense. The difference between the top kicker and the No. 10 kicker might be 1.5 points per week, meanwhile, so I've never understood taking a kicker before the final pick.

You should be using your late-round picks to nab sleepers, not to reach for a defense or kicker.

Have a Philosophy, but be Flexible!

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 22: Andrew Luck #12 and Andre Johnson #81 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrate after connecting on a two-point conversion in the first half of a preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 22, 2015 in I
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Coming into this year's draft, my philosophy is centered around taking running backs early and often. The top-end running backs are simply more valuable than the top-end players at other positions because the position thins out really quickly due to the growing trend of teams relying on their passing games and platoons in the backfield.

That said, if the board falls for me in such a way that I take a wide receiver and quarterback in the first two rounds, that's what I'll do. I'm not going to reach for players just because I have a template for a perfect draft I need to fill out. 

A good fantasy player is always prepared and has a strategy, yes, but a good fantasy player can also adjust that strategy on the fly and react to how the board is shaping. You don't want to wing your draft, but you also don't want to approach it rigidly. 

Don't Go Sleeper Crazy

I see it every year—a bunch of solid, unspectacular, veteran players fall down the board for me to bolster my bench because the folks in my league have gone sleeper crazy. They start reaching for rookies or nabbing that backup who has looked explosive in the preseason.

To a point, targeting sleepers is smart. One really good sleeper can vault you into the playoffs. But the odds of hitting a home run in the later rounds is also really low, so the wise bet is to identify a few players you love, affix a value on them so you don't reach for them and fill out your roster with less sexy but more reliable players if those sleepers aren't available for you where you've slotted them on your board. 

I've seen plenty of teams who have gone sleeper-heavy in the later rounds absolutely fall apart during the bye weeks when those players haven't panned out and the team is left with no real depth. 

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