Rob is an online sports writer who gives tips on how to win fantasy leagues. He's won four league championships playing fantasy sports.
Tips for Drafting Your Fantasy Football Team
As you prepare to begin another year of fantasy football, your hopes are set on that first league championship. Whether you are in it for money or just bragging rights, it is no easy task to win a fantasy football league. Each year, you enter the season with a similar idea and plan of attack, hoping that the draft will fall your way and your big players will finally come alive and come through this year. Have you struggled with the fine details of the game? Is your strategy good, but not great? While I can't solve all your fantasy football problems, I can open your eyes to some common misconceptions that have a tendency to really limit a participant's success.
No, this isn't a fantasy football self-help article or a from-rags-to-riches fantasy-team-builder type of deal, either. I'm simply going to lay out five common misconceptions that a lot of players have going into each year that really hold them back and prevent them from being great. While some might disagree with a couple of these, from my experience through winning four league championships over the course of 16 leagues, these hidden nuggets can get you an extra couple wins a year and give you a legitimate shot at contending for that league title.
Myth #1: You Should Draft the Player Who Will Score the Most Points on Your Team in the First Round
This is, more often than not, your quarterback, and this is not who you want to draft in the first round.
Who Should You Pick for the First Round?
You do, however, want to pick the player of best value here in this round. While wide receiver options span as far as the horizon, the most coveted position on a team can be a running back. It is true that wide receivers often can put up more points that running backs, but the amount of wide receivers who can put up big numbers is far from the number of running backs that can put up big numbers.
The drop off for running back value happens quickly, and there is usually only one running back handling primary duties per team. Your #1 running back will probably not score the most points on your team, but you will be way better off in the interest of your team as a whole and when considering playoffs if you nab a stud running back with your first pick. A top tier running back becomes exponentially harder to find as each round passes, and by about round 6 or 7, unless you are in a PPR (points per reception) league, there will not be much running back value left.
It Depends on What Number You Are in the Draft
Now, of course, this depends on where you draft in the first round. If you are the number one pick, getting that top running back is a click away. However, if you draft anywhere from picks 5-10 (or greater if you have more than a 10-man league) and cannot lay your hands on the number one or two running back, it can be smart to choose a receiver if you can still get the number one or two receiver left. This is a viable option as long as you commit to absolutely drafting a running back in the second round. It is safe to make sure your #1 running back is drafted for sure by round two. Otherwise, the points and value of your running backs may limit your team's success.
Fear not, there will be plenty of quarterbacks available in the middle rounds, and the depth at wide receiver is astounding, so don't be afraid to nab a top tier running back here. Doing so will ensure you have one of the most dominant ones at the position in the league which will set your team up for long term success.
Myth #2: You Want to Prioritize Getting the Best Player at Each Position for Your Team
This is referring to rankings wise, not necessarily best available on the boards in the later rounds.
While it would be nice to say you have the number one or two of every position on your team, this doesn't necessarily equal success. Remember how important depth and balance are. I will give an example. Let's say you have the #1 running back, the #1 quarterback, and the #1 tight end. While this looks incredible, these players could end up being part of a middle of the road team. How? Consider the depth of your #2 and #3 running backs, and also the depth of your wide receivers. In order to chase after the number one guys, you have to make a guess when they will go and most likely will draft some players far too early or far too late based on this. Chances are if your running back is ranked #1, your #2 running back would probably be ranked #20 or higher. Your wide receiving core would take a hit too since you would draft a quarterback and a tight end earlier than you should in this scenario. So the balance of your team and of your backups would make your team one-sided and shallow. This is not the proper combination for a winning football team. Your low end picks you make will have a greater effect on holding your team back than your one star player will have propelling it forward.
Drafting a kicker or a defensive unit in the single-digit rounds is not often a smart move either. Rely on the depth of your team. If you have the #3 running back and the #6 wide receiver, you will be much better off than having the #1 running back and the #13 wide receiver.
A big playmaker is important, but having a well-balanced team will save you in tight matches and in the long run of the season.
Myth #3: Don't Draft a Kicker or a Defense/Special Teams Unit Until the Last Few Rounds
Every year I see this one over and over again.
I know this might sound a little contradictory to the last myth I talked about, but I always want one of the top two kickers or defensive units.
Here though, I believe you can get them without giving up much depth to your overall line up. I usually like to draft my defense and kicker in the 11th and 12th rounds. By this time, you should have a minimum of three running backs and wide receivers, and at least four in one of those. You should also have your quarterback and tight end by this point too. The depth ensures you are covered for bye weeks, in case of injury, and for situational decisions.
Both can get you upwards of 130 points per season which can be the difference between a couple more wins or a couple more losses. The value for #5 and #6 wide outs and running backs that you would be drafting around this time is not guaranteed, so you are better off pegging a top kicker or defense in these spots. There is a good chance no one will have drafted either one of these at this point, and if they have, you will almost surely get the #2 which has equal value usually.
Myth #4: Avoid Drafting Suspended or Injured Players in the First Couple Rounds
Now, this is where some of these points might get controversial, but hear me out.
Fantasy football is a long season, playing a minimum of 13 weeks if you miss the playoffs and 17 weeks if you make it all the way to the end, depending on your playoff set up.
Let's start with suspensions. Most players who are suspended by the league will have a two to four-week suspension. This may sway you at first, but take a second look. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for three games. This leaves him 12-13 weeks to have an impact on your team. Even if your team starts 0-3, if you win the next 10 of 12, that will put you at 10-5. This is usually a playoff-contending record in most leagues.
Of course, this depends on how good the players are and have played in the past, but a player who would have gone in the 1st round otherwise should not be allowed to drop beyond round two. If you can have even a mediocre fill in for these first couple weeks, you are better off having the suspended player on your team. Now, if the suspension is longer than four games, I would void this statement. A player with an eight plus week suspension will likely not be drafted and can usually be claimed off of waivers on the free-agent list a few weeks in.
In regards to players that are injured, the same rule that applied for suspensions will apply here. If a player is out for one to four weeks, he is worth drafting, especially if he would have originally gone in the 1st round. However, if a player is set to be out longer than four weeks, he might be on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list or injured reserve, with an intent to return later in the season. Again, they will most likely at this point not be drafted and be available as a free agent later.
You must think long term in fantasy. I have seen many teams blow 4-0 starts to finish 6-7. Make sure your team is equipped to go the distance. Having a superstar who was injured in the first couple weeks but is now putting up double-digit performances late in the season will not look so foolish.
Myth #5: Starting Your Best Line Up Each Week Will Give You the Best Chance to Win
Yes, the hardest one of them all.
This is specifically based on match ups. Sometimes, one of your bench players has an incredibly favourable match up and one of your starters does not. If your top wide out is facing the #1 defense in pass and has not allowed a receiver more than 7 points in any week, but your bench receiver is facing the #30 defense in pass and is projected 15 points, this is swap I would make. I have learned this from stubborn experience. There were times that I would just refuse to switch one of my top position players and would just think "it will be different with him". Needless to say, my stud would be held to 5 points while my bench player got 12. Be sure to evaluate who each of your players is facing each week. Fantasy football is not all about having the best players, but having the best match ups.
Now, unless it is for a defense or a kicker, I wouldn't sign anyone else off of free agency to fill a spot where you have to cut a depth player to get. This emphasizes the importance of making sure that you draft for depth rather than chasing the top player at each position. If your top receiver goes down or has a bad match up, your bench receiver can fill in fairly nicely in this case.
Not evaluating to be sure I put out my line up that has the best match ups has cost me games, and I want you to learn from my mistakes. Yes, it takes some time to evaluate and you will have to put more effort in than you are probably used to, but especially in a tough league or a pricey league, it is well worth the trouble.
As You Go Forth In Confidence
Some of these have been fairly common sense, some have been debatable, and some have been just plain difficult to accept.
While I am no expert, these are things that I have learned the hard way through my own experience, and they have sometimes cost me playoff games and lots of money along with them. So learn from my experience. Take even a couple of these and use them to improve your upcoming or current season. I promise you that the payouts and bragging rights will make it worth it.