Welcome back to football. As the preseason continues, veterans of the fantasy football community know that leagues should begin drafting between the last two weeks of August. If your league drafted already, I hope none of your selected players get hurt, traded, or dropped before the start of the regular season. That is always a concern when drafting your fantasy football team before the preseason. It is understandable, though. The best part of the year is the draft, and sometimes waiting is not an option. However, it is a risk worth avoiding.
This article reaches out to the fantasy managers that are prepping for their upcoming drafts. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a rookie in fantasy, I am going to layout draft day strategies that are agreeable, tried and tested.
Do your Research
You need to arm yourself with knowledge. Who is hurt? What are the offensive line rankings? What team’s defense is lacking so bad, their offensive will probably play from behind more often? What players are pending criminal charges or league suspensions? What players are holding out due to contract disputes?
All of the answers to these questions and more are invaluable. Just ask anyone unfortunate enough to draft Le’Veon Bell in the first round last year. Another example is that RB Ezekiel Elliot (Dallas) will not play without a new contract, and WR Antonio Brown (Oakland) will not play unless he can wear his old helmet.
Historical data and statistics are your friends. If a running back (RB) averaged 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) during the past three years, that statistic is significant. If a wide receiver (WR) continuously finishes in the top-5 among all WRs in fantasy, that statistic is also substantial. Dig deep into the data that matters.
If a team has a new head coach or offensive coordinator (OC), what type of offense does that coach typically run? That matters. If an OC statically passes on 65% of his plays, those starting WRs tend to get more targets than WRs on a team that keeps the ball on the ground more.
The First Five
The first five refers to your first five picks. In default formats, standard or Points Per Reception (PPR) scoring, your first five players should be your healthiest, more reliable scorers in your line up. Mostly, you want to secure elite RBs and WRs. You need to draft RBs that are proven, multifaceted workhorses that run behind a decent line. Your early drafted WRs are those who are elite, regardless of the quarterback (QB).
There is room for debate regarding your first five. Leagues that are not in the default formats (e.g., two QB leagues, higher-scoring formats, super-flex leagues) might require you to jump at a high-end QB within your first five picks. However, for the sake of this article, let’s stick with the basics and the more standard leagues. Your first five picks need to be a mixture of high-end RBs and WRs. Your draft position and the players that fall to you determine that mix.
Draft Position Matters
A lot of people love having the very first draft pick. I am not one of those people. Sure, you get any player you want, but by the time you get your second and third pick (snake draft formats), 23 of the top players are off the board. Some argue being in the middle (picks five through seven) are the best spots. To each their own.
If you are drafting first through fourth, grab a high-end RB that touches the rock (ground and air) around 20 times per game (e.g., Saquon Barkley, Christain McCaffery, Alvin Kamara, etc.). If you are picking fifth through 12th, grab the best RB or WR available that falls to you. After the first round, continue to draft the best RB or WR available. Continue this strategy for the first five picks. Granted, sometimes a high-end TE or QB will fall to you during round four or five. Depending on the scoring format, go with your gut. Maybe, just maybe grabbing Patrick Mahomes at pick five is worth it. More than likely, someone used their first two picks to secure him. That is a good thing. That means more top-tier RBs or WRs are available for you. If you see someone draft a QB or TE in the first two rounds, smile.
Wait for a QB
Very debatable advise. However, take a look at the years when fantasy managers grabbed QB Aaron Rodgers (GB) or TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) in the first round. It rarely paid dividends for them. When was the last time either of them finished first at the position in fantasy? Your early picks are players you hope will finish within the top-5 at their respective positions. Elite RBs and WRs are not nearly as plentiful as fantasy-relevant QBs.
This year’s consensus rankings don’t even list the top QB, Patrick Mahomes (KC) until 36th overall. If you are sitting at the 12th spot, taking Mahomes at the turn with your fourth pick is viable if passing touchdowns (TD) are worth the same amount of points as rushing and receiving TDs. Other than that odd turnout, wait on your QB. There is considerable value within the top-20 QBs.
Stay the Course
You must remain aware of every draft pick. Sometimes, you might notice a trend or a ‘run,’ meaning everyone is drafting the same position in back to back picks. That matters. If you have a game plan or a cheat sheet, you’ll need to stay up to date with players drafted off the board. However, stay your course. You have a plan. Stick to it. You will make minor adjustments as the draft progresses, but that is just part of the fun.
Remember, though the draft is probably the best part of the year, it is only one day. There are 16-17 weeks in a fantasy football season. Success for the rest of the season starts after week one. Of course, this refers to the waiver wire. More to follow with that. Until then, the number one rule in fantasy football, including the draft, is to have fun.