I say it every season, but there isn't a better time of year than this - the start of fantasy football season. Fantasy drafts are fast approaching, so it is time to get ready.
We have published a similar article in recent seasons for our Draft Guide but feel it is an important article that rings true nearly every season. So without further ado, here is some advice for the big day.
When preparing for your draft, there are countless strategies to use. You can draft the best available, take running backs with your first two picks, load up on receivers early, draft a quarterback with your first pick or use some other gimmick you came up with for the draft. Whatever you do, go with the plan and stick with it.
But there are some general rules to stand by no matter your strategy. So before you start preparing for your draft, here are some basic things you should keep in mind no matter what strategy you employ. Consider it your checklist for the big day:
1. Be wary of rookies and sleepers. Everyone loves to do it, but the owner that does it best usually wins the league. Your team needs a few wild cards but loading your roster with rookies and sleepers is a good way to ruin your draft. We aren't saying to stay completely away from rookies or sleepers, but be smart about it. More times than not, the owner that takes the occasional sleeper with proven players that have good track records finishes near the top of the standings.
Remember, most of the time, rookies and sleepers don't pan out. There are some impact players every season in these categories but just as many busts. So be somewhat conservative when it comes to rookies and sleepers. Take a couple, but don't go overboard. It always seems the guy that fills his roster with a bunch of rookies and sleepers finishes near the bottom of the standings.
2. Bye weeks. Please don't ignore bye weeks. There are many owners that ignore bye weeks come draft day. This can be a mistake that is easily avoidable. Make sure you are tracking the bye weeks of the players you are drafting. You don't want to stack your team with receivers that all have the same bye week. This will only cause you headaches down the road. Keep track of your byes! And we aren't saying ignore players that have the same byes as others on your roster, but use some discretion in this area.
3. Don’t be a homer. Being a homer is a good way to ruin your fantasy team. It isn't a bad thing to take a player or two from your favorite team, but getting seven or eight Dolphins will lead to disaster. And when taking a player from your favorite team, make sure you aren't reaching. Print out an average draft report to see where players are falling and draft accordingly. Clearly, you can take a player or two from your favorite team, but make sure they are picked in the right spot. Don't reach!
4. Injury updates. Keep an eye on the injured players from around the league. You see it every season. Some guy in your draft takes a player that is out for the year. That doesn't mean you have to be the one to do it. With all the fantasy information now available at your fingertips, keeping up with all the latest injuries is easier than ever. This doesn't mean you have to scour our notes every day (you really should, though - wink, wink), but check in at least once a week until the season starts to make sure you know who is hurt or coming back. It is never a good idea to waste a draft pick, especially on a player everyone else in your draft knows is hurt. Don't be "that" guy.
5. Know your league rules. You would be surprised. A lot of owners don't have a great feel for their scoring system. Every league is setup differently, so knowing all the ins and outs of your rules is very important towards having a successful draft and season. Use our "Top Players" report to get an idea of what positions scored well in your league last season. This is a great tool to figure out what the scoring in your league favors. The "Top Players" report is on your league home page. Again, get a feel for what scores well in your league and set your rankings accordingly. Every league is different.
6. Wait on a kicker. Don't overvalue kickers. It is never a good idea to reach for a kicker too soon during your draft. Sure, guys like Stephen Gostkowski or Justin Tucker are nice to have. But there will always be players like Robbie Gould and Harrison Butker that produce big seasons despite going undrafted in many leagues. So instead of wasting a middle-round pick on a kicker, get better depth at key positions. The top kickers and average kickers have little point deferential between them from week to week. You can always find a useful kicker at the end of the draft or even on the waiver wire.
7. Ranking is important. Some owners dread this and just use a ranking sheet from a magazine or website. But ranking your players for your league draft is the best way to prepare for draft day. It is a chance to put your stamp on your team. You are the GM of your team and your roster should reflect this. Even though we put a lot of time and effort into our rankings for this Draft Guide, don't use the rankings as the absolute truth. And this won't hurt my feelings. Use my rankings or any rankings you get as a guide to come up with your own rankings. Remember (as mentioned), every league has different rules so tailor your rankings to your league. The rankings you get from our site or any other publication aren't necessarily setup for your exact league.
8. Track your draft. This is where having a friend on hand to give a helping hand can come in handy. It can be a bit daunting, but tracking the entire draft as it goes can be a big help for fantasy teams. A lot of drafts are done online, which will track the draft for you, but if that isn't the case, making a chart of your draft as it happens is a good move. This way you have an idea of the positions taken around you. If you need a running back, but see that all the top guys are taken, you can wait to take a back a round or two later and maybe get a top-notch receiver instead. If you know what is going on around you, it can help make your next decision a little easier. Keep a close eye on everything going around you to give you a leg up on the competition.
9. Watch the runs. It happens every year. A run takes place at some point in your draft. Five tight ends will go in a round. But don't panic when a run on tight ends or kickers happen. Most instances, you are better off waiting and taking a player with more value rather than going with a mediocre player at a position that seems to be getting low. You likely will be able to get a similar player in a few rounds, so don’t reach because the elite guys are now gone. Don't overvalue positions because of runs. Following runs can lead to poor drafts. Sometimes you just have to stick to your guns. Runs also are a good reason to tier your rankings. If your tier at a position is getting low, that might be the time to follow the run. If not, go with value at another position.
10. Be yourself. If you have a player you really like and think will have a big season, go get him. Just going by the ranking sheet that everyone can print out is not going to differentiate you from other drafters. You need to do your research and get the players you think will fit your team best. You need to have an opinion. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and make that pick based on that. Being bold can set you apart from other drafters. You will see this all the time with the best drafters on our site. They will reach a round or several rounds early for a player they covet. Sometimes you have to be bold to take your team to new heights.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at [email protected] Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.