The Fantasy Football season is right around the corner and if you’re going to have any chance of brining home a fantasy championship in 2013, then it’s time you get started on some research. Fantasy Football is not just some fun game between friends – it’s all out war and to the victor go the spoils – mainly bragging rights, prize money and of course the championship trophy.
To win a war you need to be prepared. So in order to help you dominate your point-per-reception league this year, I came up with five easy tips to help you draft a championship caliber team (No need to thank me just keep reading).
I came up with these tips because outside of the weekly management of your team, nothing is more essential to your championship hopes then having a successful draft. Sure, there will be players that emerge that can be acquired via the waiver wire but most true impact players – the players that win fantasy championships are going to be acquired on draft day and this guide will tell you how to get as many of those players as possible.
Tip 1: Wait on Drafting a Quarterback
Yes this has been a growing draft tip over the past few years but it applies more in 2013 than it ever has before. Consider that according to the ADP data from MyFantasyLeague.com, Aaron Rodgers average draft position is 21.42, ranking him 19th in terms of ADP.
You may be asking yourself how can Rodgers be ranked so low after leading PPR league in fantasy points scored in 2012? Well the answer is that the draft is all about value and with the quarterback position being deeper than its ever been, there’s just not much value in spending a first round pick on Rodgers or any quarterback. In fact, only Rodgers, Drew Brees and Cam Newton have an ADP in the fourth round or above, which is why smart fantasy owners will wait until at least round 5 to start looking at a quarterback.
With young talents such as Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and RG3 taking fantasy by storm, the quarterback position is so loaded that I’m projecting at least 13 solid fantasy starters in this group, which is why you need to wait as a long as possible before drafting one in order to maximize value.
Tip 2: Load up on Running Backs
While the quarterback position is stacked with talent, the running back position is the exact opposite. Sure, there are lots of talented running backs in the National Football League but with the running back by committee approach becoming more and more prominent, stud running backs are getting harder and harder to come by.
Obviously being in a PPR league helps because it adds value to runners who catch the football such as Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy and even Danny Woodhead. Yet, while it gives more low-end options, it still doesn’t change the fact that there are very few, reliable elite running backs. So while other owners make the mistake of picking a quarterback early on, you need to use your picks loading up on RB’s because that position is the hardest to fill, meaning you will a higher return in terms of value for your early round draft picks.
Tip 3: Draft for Value Not for Need
It seems simple enough but you’d be amazed how many times fantasy owners violate this simple principle. As a fantasy owner, you need to approach your draft much like an NFL team would, meaning you need to look for value and not worry so much about need.
Draft picks are probably the most valuable resource you will have in terms of building a championship caliber team, therefore you need to use them wisely. Now if you draft a player in the first round when you could’ve gotten him in the second or third good value or wise drafting? No it isn’t and if you make that mistake too many times it will kill your fantasy team.
What you need to focus on is drafting difference makers. But even more important than that is drafting them in the right spot. Rodgers did lead all players in points scored in 2012 but most owners had to use a first round pick to get him. Newton on the other hand was taken generally somewhere between the second and third rounds and averaged 20.6 points per game compared to Rodgers 21.9, is that difference of 1.3 points per game really worth drafting Rodgers two or even three rounds earlier? That’s for you to decide but in my opinion its not. I’d rather roll with Newton and a top-flight running back because the difference between a first round running back and a third-round running is much bigger than the difference between Rodgers and Newton.
Tip 4: Be Aware of Injuries
This may seem self-explanatory but as in real football, fantasy football owners have to always take the injury factor into account when acquiring players via the draft, free agency or trades. Now I am not saying to stay away from injury prone players altogether because you can actually get some great value on players returning from injury, just look at Adrian Peterson last season, he was not even a first-round pick in most leagues last season and he dominated the running back position.
The point of this tip is not to build your team around a bunch of injured players. For instance, Darren McFadden and Ryan Mathews are two running backs that have a history of being injury prone. Now both are immensely talented and have the ability to be top-flight fantasy backs, yet neither has shown the ability to stay healthy for an entire 16-game season. So while it would still be worth drafting one of these guys for your roster because they can be had a bit cheaper in the draft but still have great upside, you want to avoid drafting both. One or two injury prone guys is ok but if you find yourself saying, “If player a, b, c and d can stay healthy my team will dominate” or something to that effect, then you’re team is in trouble.
Tip 5: Create a Pre-Draft Plan and Stick to it
One of the biggest mistakes I see in terms of fantasy drafting is abandoning draft strategy based on what others in the league are doing. It happens all the time, some guy takes a defense in the round 7, then defenses start flying off the board. Same things happen with tight ends, kickers and really every other position. Here’s one piece of advice, NEVER and I mean NEVER, take a kicker or defense before he 13th round. If you’re in the last four rounds, then ok it’s not a bad time, earlier than that and you are just wasting value. A great example of this was last season when the 49ers defense, whose ADP was 83rd, which equates to a seventh round pick.
Fantasy owners selected them so highly cause they thought they would repeated their tremendous fantasy production of 2012. Well guess what, they didn’t repeat their success and finished the season ranked 22nd among defenses in terms of fantasy points scored. So essentially, they were not even good enough to start on a weekly basis and owners used a mid-round pick on them. Meanwhile, the Patriots who finished in the top 5 among defenses in fantasy points had an ADP in the mid 150’s.
So the moral of the story should be with defenses and kickers wait till the last four rounds then go crazy.
Just be mindful of creating a draft board and sticking to it. Much like an NFL team would, target certain players beforehand and determine about what round you will need to take them in or assign them a round value and if they get taken earlier than when you were willing to take them, so be it. It’s always better to wait and ensure you’re getting good value than panic and reach for someone.
So again, don’t worry about what the other owners in your league are doing. If they are stupid enough to draft their defense in round 7, then that’s their problem. Simply chuckle to yourself and look forward to defeating them twice during the season because as long as you stick to your plan, your draft board, stay disciplined and follow these simple tips your team will have championship aspirations.