I received such a great response last week when I did a Fantasy Football related column I decided I will write at least one a week during the pre-season and perhaps throughout the 2013 season if it remains popular. If you haven’t had a chance to read the blog from last week you can read about my Anti-Adrian Peterson Theory later. Several of the owners in my current league have accused me of subterfuge by writing that piece. Whatever. Draft AP #1 and see what happens, it’s your life boss
This week I want to talk about draft strategy. Now by way of a disclaimer please know that what follows is based on playing in a PPR league. Starting roster looks like this: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 Flex, 1 TE, 1 K & 1DT/ST. We also allow for 1 point per reception for WR’s in addition to the other scoring typical for PPR.
Don’t Be a Homer
Are you a Packer fan who is convinced Jordy Nelson is the next Jerry Rice? Great. Are you a Giants fan who is convinced that David Wilson is going to threaten 2,000 yards this season? Awesome. Are you convinced that Carson Palmer is going to resurrect his career in the desert this season? Wonderful. Just don’t be an idiot about it. If you are even considering drafting any of these guys in the first round than I don’t think there is much anyone can do to help you. Wilson may be a 2nd round pick depending on your league size but even still he is a late 2nd round pick at best.
I know we love following our favorite team and favorite players from those teams but you have to stay focused. Why are you playing fantasy football? Hopefully the answer is to win championships. You need to pick players that give you the best chance to win week in and week out.
I understand the passion of wanting to not just follow your team but to have players on that team help you win a championship, just don’t reach for them simply because you like them. One of our owners (granted when he was in high school) used to try to snatch up all the Buffalo Bills players he could. You can imagine how well that worked out for him. He got so tired of “winning” our Shit Bowl that he managed to “lose” the trophy. We have yet to locate it.
To Running Back or Not to Running Back
The NFL has continued to protect its Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers in recent years and hence the value of QB’s and WR’s has continued to increase, especially in fantasy leagues. We now live in a world where it isn’t that unusual for a QB to throw for 5,000 yards and/or over 30 TD’s. Clearly QB’s have great value in fantasy. However, this has resulted in clouding of judgment of many fantasy owners over the years. There are only a few truly elite players at that position (Brees, Rodgers, Brady and of course Tony Romo…err sorry I mean Peyton Manning). This can leave an owner in a real quandary when he or she finds themselves in the middle of the first round and trying to choose between Trent Richardson or being the first owner to take a QB.
You know that by the time your second round pick comes all of those guys will be gone. Do you take a stud QB knowing you are also passing up on a stud or semi-stud RB? Sure the RB position is deeper than the QB’s from a talent and skill level and drafting Peterson, Spiller, or Charles isn’t a guarantee you will win your league but getting that high performing QB is pretty tempting.
One thing to keep in mind is how much more punishment running backs (and to a lesser extent wide receivers) take over the season, unless of course you are Jay Cutler. This means a greater chance of missing time or splitting time with another back. Thus it is important not to be thin at running back. Already in the pre-season we have seen major RB’s and WR’s go down with major and minor injuries and we haven’t even made it half way through August.
The one thing most attractive about running backs is guaranteed touches. A quarterback might be throwing the ball well but he still needs his players to catch the passes he throws. One or two bad deflections suddenly your QB is the star of the week in the Bad Quarterback League. Likewise, you might have Megatron on your roster but if Stafford doesn’t get time to throw, gets injured or in typical Lions fashion can’t generate any other offensive weapons then he might not have a consistent output week in and week out. A running back (unless injured or playing for the Saints) is likely going to touch the ball at least 20 times between hand-offs and catches out of the back field. Unless he plays with Mark Sanchez there is a high probability there isn’t going to be any issues with the exchange between QB and RB. Therefore, he not only will get more touches more often but the potential for points every time the ball is snapped is greater.
Don’t be stupid draft those running backs and let some other fool draft Aaron Rodgers.
The Dangers of Drafting Tight Ends
You will never, ever see or hear about me taking a Tight End sooner than the 7th round. Ever. It just won’t happen. I know there are some serious stud players at the position this year (a few less than in prior years thanks to some legal complications) but it doesn’t matter. For fantasy purposes I believe the tight end position is over valued and not worth drafting early on. You are better served getting depth at wide receiver or running back than throwing away a pick on Jimmy Graham or “The Douche Bag from New England” (i.e. Rob Gronkowski).
ESPN has Graham ranked as the 29th best player, Gronk 41st and Tony Gonzalez 57th. That means these guys will most likely be snatched up by the end of the fifth round. Why is this significant? This means if you are seriously considering any of these guys (or Witten – 61, Davis – 70) you are considering passing on a #2 RB, #2 WR, Flex position or starting QB. Don’t do it. Peer pressure was a problem in High School, how old are you now?
I am sure it has happened somewhere but no one in any league I have every played with who drafted a tight end early, rode that decision to a league championship. Most of the time a tight end’s performance is going to be up and down from week to week and totally unreliable. I would rather be confident that my tight end is going to comfortably score me 4 – 8 points from week to week versus 0 – 16 points. Again you need to make a decision that gives you the best chance to win and you do this by minimizing risk.
I can’t wait until one of the owners snaps up Jimmy Graham early in Round 2 and I am able to pounce on another stud running back or wide receiver. Sucker.
Be Cautious of the “QB Run”
There comes a time in every draft when a run at a certain position threatens to take over the draft. Typically this does not apply to the running back position because that tends to happen in the first round when 90% of the players taken will be running backs. It is most notorious for quarterbacks but I also have seen it with tight ends and to a lesser extent with wideouts.
What do I mean? It generally looks like this: at some point in a given round (typically rounds 3 – 5 for QB’s) Owner A will draft, for example, Tom Brady. However, Owner B who is picking right behind Owner A was really hoping Brady would fall into their lap. Owner B realizing if he doesn’t take a QB with this pick he/she will end up with Romo as their starter decides to draft RG III. Owner C (drafting after Owner B) completely panics and despite having legitimate needs at other positions (RB & WR) reaches and drafts Eli Manning three rounds too early. Before you know it Christian Ponder is being drafted #3 in the Round 6!
Resist the urge. There are 32 teams and 32 starting QB’s. Would it be great to have Brees, RG III or Newton running your team? Yes. Can you win without them? Also yes. Last year I lost in the playoffs and my starting quarterback was Russell Wilson. Wilson went undrafted in our league last year. For the majority of my season I went with the two-headed monster of Tony Romo and Carson Palmer (Yikes!) Had my RB’s not done so poorly come crunch time I might have won it all but it had NOTHING to do with my QB.
There are a lot of quality QB’s currently being projected to go later than Round 6. Try and resist the temptation of the QB run in Round 3 and stay true to your draft strategy. Cooler heads must prevail. Something similar will happen in Round 6, 7 or 8 with tight ends. Relax. It will be okay.
Drafting Defenses/Special Team
There is always one owner who takes a Defense WAY TOO early in the draft. It never fails. It always gets a lot of chuckles and gives the other owners a chance to pile on for the next 15 minutes straight. Don’t get me wrong, every so often a defense is so nasty and tough that taking the risk is sometimes worth it, but not in Round 7. Come on, really? This position on a fantasy roster has to be the most difficult to predict from one year to the next. Team schedules, injuries, surprise contributions and a whole host of other unpredictable factors go into the top 10 defenses every year.
The chances that an owner is going to celebrate a championship on the back of his or her DT/ST selection is about as likely as the Cubs ever winning another World Series. I prefer to use one of my last three selections for my DT/ST position. You figure even in a league of 12 or 14 owners more than half the teams will still be available on the waiver wire if your draft selection doesn’t pan out. Building depth at just about any other position (even TE) is a better choice than taking the Vikings D in the 9th round.
Last But Not Least…
Develop a draft strategy and stick to it no matter what. Prior to the draft you should be confident in what you are hoping to accomplish. Don’t key in on one particular player that you “just have to have.” If you do that and he gets drafted you are going to panic and end up taking a kicker in Round 4. Keep your head on straight. If a player you wanted almost falls to you but is chosen right before you could snatch him, take a deep breath and draft the next best player (based on need) and don’t sweat it.
It can be difficult to watch your top three QB’s get taken right before you were going to draft your flex position or second wide receiver. Don’t go insane! There are more QB’s on the board, stick to what you knew was the best path for success when the draft started and don’t deviate. That is why they invented trades!
Best of luck and make it a better day!