Fantasy football is entirely about selecting and
retaining players with high fantasy value. Before the
season, owners scour reports coming out of the training
camps to find players who are being overlooked. At
the draft, owners pick the players who they feel give
them the best value. During the season owners make
trade offers to increase the value of their team. The
draft demands the most from an owner because it requires
lots of decisions about the value of relative players
in a short amount of time.
Many owners defer to cheat
sheets to help them in the crunch, and that is a
mistake. While using a cheat sheet as a base of orientation
during a draft
can be a helpful tool, relying on the order presented on the sheet will not
net you a valuable squad. There are other strategies to use when it is your
turn to pick in order to consistently grab talent that will produce better
than the draft slot. Apply the strategies below at your draft and see the
they make for your team.
Too many owners get caught up in preparing for their
draft with a specific strategy in mind, and fail to
find value as often as they should because they refuse
to alter their plan once the drafting begins. Despite
the best projections and planning, drafts are dictated
by all of the owners selecting as a whole. You don’t
get to draft in a vacuum, so once the selecting starts,
be prepared to let go of your preparations when a great
player is suddenly available.
One way to gain value in a draft is to keep close
track of which slots your fellow owners are likely
to fill between your picks to determine whether you
can let a player you want fall to your second pick.
Suppose you are selecting with the tenth pick in the
third round and there are two players you really want
to select. The thing to do is figure out if one of
those players is at a position that no one between
you and your next pick will be likely to want to fill.
Perhaps you desire both Curtis Martin and Hines Ward.
You look at the owners after you who each have two
picks before you draft again in round four. They both
selected running backs in each of the first two rounds.
This sets you up for an opportunity to complete a successful
round skip. You decide to take a chance on Curtis Martin
dropping to your second pick, because the owners are
more likely to be looking at quarterbacks or wide receivers.
You take Hines Ward and still grab Curtis Martin in
the next round, on your way to a strong draft.
gamble does not always work. One of the other two
owners could have chosen to finish his tailback
slots by grabbing Martin in the third round, using
his first three picks on running backs. But this
type of gamble is what is often necessary to play the
properly. If you can successfully maneuver a round
skip, then you have grabbed a player lower in your
draft than the value you placed on him.
A position run is when a number of owners begin to
select players from a particular fantasy position all
at once. Picture everybody suddenly going after wide
receivers, or even kickers. Nearly every draft article
you read warns you never to take part in these positions
runs because you will be getting lesser players at
the targeted position and could find better value at
This advice is a real disservice for
a couple of reasons. First and foremost, you cannot
avoid a position run. The whole first two rounds
of any draft are essentially a position run on running
backs. Sometimes it is foolish not to participate
position runs, because there is a reason that owners
are drafting those players at that time. A great
drafter knows when to engage in a position run, much
great running back knows when to follow his lead
blockers, and when to cut back on his own.
If you can
start a position run, that is a better option, of
course. Try to anticipate when it is best
to select a tight end, for example, or when to
grab your backup quarterback or defense, and you can
ahead of your fellow owners by taking the top players
from those groups.
Try to fill your starting fantasy slots with the
very best at the respective positions. It is usually
better to have a few superstars on your team along
with some solid players rather than a whole team of
above-average talent. The superstars are sometimes
able to carry you to victory by themselves, and the
more of them you start each week the better your odds
of that happening.
For example, if you are drafting near the beginning
of the first round, you have a shot this year at
getting the top fantasy running back because there
are a number
of players who could become that back. A few rounds
later you could take the first tight end of the draft,
and follow that up after more rounds by tabbing the
first defense of your choice, say perhaps the Buccaneers
If you draft later in the first round,
you may instead choose to pick the top receiver in
and follow that up right away with your top quarterback.
Then, you still could draft a top tight end, or
decide when to take your favorite kicker.
you are able to go about it, actively pursuing the
best player at a specific position
is a good idea. Finding starters for your fantasy
is something to focus on during a draft because
barring injury and bye weeks they are the players
count on each week to win games. It may mean
you sometimes have to draft a particular player a round
you would like.
The idea behind handcuffing is to back up some of
your top stars at either QB or RB by selecting their
backups in your draft. This can be an effective technique
in an offense that is very strong or when you have
backups who are dynamite. For example, drafting Marc
Bulger this year after taking Kurt Warner earlier is
a good idea. Bulger was capable of winning with the
team last season when Warner was hurt or ineffective.
careful not to get carried away with this technique
however. More often it is better to attempt to select
other players who are already starters and may become
very productive. These starters can be moved into your
lineup if they prove valuable enough, or used as trade
material to improve weaker positions in your starting
lineup. When you handcuff too often, you are basing
a pick on the likelihood of major injury to a starter.
That isn’t going to help you win most of the
time. Even with a back like Jamal Lewis, who has had
major knee surgery twice, taking a chance on a potential
starter like Vikings rookie running back Onterrio Smith
or Redskins back Ladell Betts would be a smarter move
than selecting Musa Smith at the same point in a draft.
If you never go out on a limb in fantasy football,
you will never get the sweetest fruit. When you have
a hunch about a particular player having a much better
year than the majority of owners predict, do select
him. Owners who drafted Clinton Portis last year even
though he was at one time fourth on the depth chart
were handsomely rewarded for their foresight. The other
half of this plan is to avoid players who you just
do not like because of their injury history or their
unwarranted hype. Keyshawn Johnson is a big name every
year in fantasy football, but in my opinion he is always
drafted before he should be. Even last season, with
Gruden as his coach, Johnson’s production was
not as high as many receivers taken after him in drafts.
There is nothing worse than selecting a player you
don’t like and then watching him play poorly
If you use these techniques in a timely fashion, you
will be able to look over your entire draft and feel
good about the value you gained in each round. Against
quality competition, you may not have the best team
after the draft, but should be one of the top three
or four squads in your league, good enough to get you
moving toward the playoffs from the start.