There are many ways to enjoy fantasy football, but competing in a traditional season-long league is still one of the most rewarding.
It doesn't provide the instant gratification of daily fantasy and isn't quite as user-friendly as a best-ball league, but there's a unique and special feeling if you eventually come out on top.
It takes thought, strategy and persistence to win a season-long league, and of course, it all starts with your draft.
If you don't begin with a solid foundation, no amount of roster management and waiver-wire savvy is going to yield a championship team. So where do you begin? In the first round, of course.
It may seem like common sense, but the goal in Round 1 isn't necessarily to hit on the very best player—though that is ideal—it's to not miss. This is not where you want to gamble, as managers who drafted Le'Veon Bell last offseason will likely tell you.
Let's take a look at a first-round mock for some context.
2019 1st-Round Mock Draft
1.01: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
1.02: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
1.03: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
1.04: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
1.05: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
1.06: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
1.07: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
1.08: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1.09: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
1.10: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
1.11: Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets
1.12: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
In this mock, almost every player is a surefire Week 1 starter, and either an every-down running back or a top receiving target. These are the kinds of players you want to target in the first couple of rounds.
Workload is key here. If a player sees 25 touches or 15 targets per game, they're likely to produce for your fantasy team, even on off days.
The risk in the above group is Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He's a three-down player and an elite fantasy option, but he's also yet to report to his team. He wants a new contract, and until Dallas offers one he's comfortable with, he's not likely to see the field.
Until/unless Elliott does return, the Cowboys are prepared to play without him.
"Right now, we are going with the guys we have," head coach Jason Garrett said, per Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com. "When Zeke gets back here, we will get him integrated as quickly as we can, and he will be a big part of our team."
Elliott is less likely to skip the entire season than Bell was a year ago because missing the year gets him no closer to free agency. However, his holdout could last until midseason. This makes him a player you may want to avoid in the opening round. If you're the gambling type, you may still take a chance on him, but know he may not be available early in the season.
Moving past Round 1, the goal should be to continue adding skill players to your starting lineup—specifically running backs and receivers. These are the backbone positions of any good fantasy team, though elite tight ends such as Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle are also in the mix.
Unless you're going to be the one reaching for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it's best to wait on a quarterback until the middle rounds. You can still grab a Baker Mayfield, a Ben Roethlisberger or a Philip Rivers while first building a solid core of skill guys.
Prioritize pass-catchers a bit more in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues, but it's good to land two running backs and two receivers by the end of Round 4. With the exception of the aforementioned tight ends, it's best to wait on filling the TE slot as well.
A sound pick order should look something like the following:
Always wait until the very last round for your kicker, unless you're picking late in the second-to-last round and want to jump ahead of a couple players. This is the easiest position to replace via the waiver wire and should be prioritized as such.
If you want to reach for an elite defense like the Chicago Bears, that's fine. Do not, however, target a middling D/ST ahead of the second-to-last round.
Unless you're on the fence about your quarterback choice—or plan to stream two middle-tier signal-callers—there's little reason to take a second QB. Barring injury, you're only going to play a backup once, and you can add one from the free-agent list after the draft. Even if everyone else drafts two quarterbacks, there will be NFL starters still available.
It's better to load up on skill players during the draft and then cut your least-attractive option afterward to make room for a signal-caller.
Why continue taking backs and receivers late in the draft? There will be sleeper options available. Grab a rookie running back like Darwin Thompson or Justice Hill. If they aren't seeing regular work early in the season, they can then be dumped for a quarterback ahead of the bye. If they are, you may have stolen yourself a sleeper flex option.
Giving yourself options is the name of the game on draft day. It's going to take keen roster management to have continued success throughout the season, and you don't want to be scouring the waiver wire every week to fill a starting slot. You should have, at minimum, two backs and two receivers on your bench.
Do not, under any circumstances, draft three tight ends, three quarterbacks or two kickers.
By landing safe picks early in the draft and by giving yourself options in the later rounds, you'll give yourself a fair shot at winning each and every week. Setting the right lineups will still be up to you, but you'll be ahead of the curve and, hopefully, the competition.