I have only been a hardcore NFL Fantasy player for a few years now and I’ve learnt a few things very quickly. The first thing is that fantasy football is a bunch of fun. No matter your experience level you should make a team ASAP. Secondly, it is the most frustrating battle to beat the other 11/13/whatever people in your league that it’ll drive you crazy. You need to commit to the entire football season if you expect to walk away a winner. Lucky for you, I’ve got the perfect ‘how to’ guide for drafting a fantasy football team this season.
All scoring numbers are provided based on ESPN fantasy leagues
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WHEN it comes time to draft your team the first thing you need to understand is what scoring system your league is using. If you are playing in a PPR (points per reception) league every time someone catches a pass they get an extra point. That makes a big difference over a 16-week season so wrap your head around your scoring system before the big dance. I prefer to use PPR scoring as it adds more value to RB’s and WR’s bringing their scores closer to QB’s, making them more valuable. Not sure which one you like? Then my advice is to try a few different scoring types and you’ll quickly find your favourite.
A Few Golden Rules
WHILE every draft and league is different these rules can be used as a tiebreaker in most scenarios. You want to have some idea/plan entering draft night and the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to let the draft come to you and taking the best guy available is always a smart option. Sounds easy, but believe me, things can go pear shaped quick.
Image from foxnews.com
1. Wait (ish) on a QB
A popular question that often gets asked in NFL Fantasy circles is when should I draft a quarterback? The answer is wherever you want. Let me explain. If your favourite player is Tom Brady and you want him on your fantasy team no matter what, then spending pick 40 on him might be your cup of tea. If Jimmy Garoppolo is your man, you might feel comfortable reaching and snagging him inside the top-100.
PERSONALLY I think that there are enough good quarterbacks out there that you can address the position in the later rounds. Now, does that mean if Aaron Rodgers is on the board and your drafting in Round 5 or 6 that you should pass on him? Absolutely not. Just be sure to stick to your strategy when everyone else starts panicking and either takes someone too early or gets stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
2. Take a D/ST and K with your last two picks
SIMILAR to the QB scenario there isn’t a huge advantage of taking a defense/special teams (D/ST) unit or a kicker (K) early when there is still talent on the board. By no means am I saying these positions are worthless, but with so much fluctuation in scoring on a week by week basis in the NFL, trying to choose the 4th and 8th best defense is a tricky task and kickers, you can afford to wait on with so much depth at the position. Now similar to the Aaron Rodgers scenario, if the dominant Jacksonville D/ST is on the board late and you’re on the clock then you don’t think twice. 99% of the time the wise option is to be patient and focus on adding depth to your team until the final few picks.
3. You have to nail your first two picks
THE fantasy season can’t be won on draft night, but it can be lost. Let me tell you a story. I never usually get high draft picks in my fantasy leagues (I’m cursed/blessed?). My fortunes changed last season and I managed to snag David Johnson with the 2nd overall pick, following his breakout 2016 season. Then miraculously with my next pick (19th overall), I landed the highlight reel WR that is Odell Beckham. Johnson played just 43 snaps in 2017, while Odell didn’t see the field after Week 6. Believe me, I understand the importance of getting two stars early.
SOMETIMES you are going to be bitten by the injury bug and my scenario last year was extreme. Still, it stressed the importance of getting two bonafide fantasy stars with pick 1 and 2. There’s no secret formula of WR/RB or WR/WR that works better than others. It’s important to get an anchor at both positions I think, hence the reason I usually target an RB and then a WR. Your starting draft position plays an important factor too. That being said…
5. And lastly, if in doubt take a running back
IN my opinion running backs are the most important position in fantasy. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, but some might tend to disagree. If you are playing in a PPR league than the top 7/8 running backs in the league gain a significant boost in value. If you aren’t using PPR then they are still crucial parts of your team and the depth charts on ESPN are always being visited to see who is receiving the majority of the snaps. With such a revolving door at the position, you are one Dalvin Cook ACL injury away from having Latavius Murray emerge from your bench (my 2017 season wasn’t all doom and gloom). Trust me the payoff for drafting a handcuff option might pay off big time and it’s worth that spot on your bench.
- Christian McCaffrey – Panthers, RB, ADP (average draft position): 17.4
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – Steelers, WR, ADP: 51.3
- Chris Hogan – Patriots, WR, ADP: 53.1
- George Kittle – 49ers, TE, ADP: 136.0
THERE is a reason a lot of coaches are taking Christian McCaffrey in the second round, with the sophomore RB set to feature a lot in the Panthers offense this year. If he can rush the ball like he did in the preseason then he will quickly become a fantasy favourite. Two receivers being taken in the 50’s are also a hot commodity for WR depth. Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chris Hogan should see a bunch more targets in 2018 and could emerge as WR 1 options if things fall their way. Finally, with San Fransisco still looking for competent pass-catchers expect Jimmy G to use his tight end George Kittle as a bailout option from time to time. He’s worth drafting ahead of his ADP.
- LeSean McCoy – Bills, RB, ADP: 26.0
- Jay Ajayi – Eagles, RB, ADP: 56.2
- Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers, QB, ADP: 86.9
I am a big fan of Shady McCoy as a footballer. He should be a lot of fun to watch on the Bills this season, but the questions is how many games exactly will he suit up for? With a midseason suspension looming over his head he could be the 2018 version of Ezekiel Elliot a season ago. Pass. Ajayi is another back I’m not too high on. His scores seem destined to fluctuate a lot as the Eagles will likely feed the hot hand out of the backfield, using a lot of different personnel packages. Lastly, the ticking time bomb that is Big Ben’s body is set to blow up any season now. I don’t want him anywhere near my team when he breaks down.
- Matt Ryan – Falcons, QB, ADP: 102.7
- David Njoku – Browns, TE, ADP: 115.4
- Paul Richardson – 49ers, WR, ADP: 133.3
I’M expecting big things from Atlanta this year. Another year removed from ‘that loss’ and with all their new toys on offense, it’s going to be hard to see a scenario where Matt Ryan doesn’t score well. Currently, he’s the 11th highest QB being drafted, but I have him much higher on my board. With the exception of Jarvis Landy, Cleveland’s receivers are questionable, giving David Njoku the opportunity to become a household name. If the off-field issues of Antonio Callaway and Josh Gordon rear their head then you can easily back in Njoku to be a top-10 TE in 2018. Another pass catcher in Paul Richardson is my final bargain after he switched NFC West teams in the offseason. The new Redskin wideout should build on his career year last season and will become an important part of Washington’s new-look offense.
I want to quickly address the whole ‘Le’Veon Bell’ saga. To be honest, by the time you read this Bell might have joined the Steelers but as it stands right now, Bell hasn’t signed his franchise tender and reported to the team just five days away from their first game against the Browns. All preseason I have said that Le’Veon Bell should be your first overall pick in fantasy drafts, but things might have changed.
WITH the opening weekend almost upon us, a lot of people are opting to take Todd Gurley first, which I get. That being said, in fantasy you need to think about the entire season and I’d almost take 14/15 healthy games from Bell over 16 from anyone else. No offense to Gurley, who is a lock for 2nd overall, but Bell is just too good to pass up in my eyes.
Image from thefantasyauthority.com
WITH that out of the way, if you want to do well in fantasy football, like anything you need to devote time to it. It can be tough to manage the waiver wire from a sport being played on the other side of the world, but if there’s a will there’s a way. The free agents, waiver wire, player pool, whatever you want to call it will be your friend throughout the season. Like I said before you are only one injury away from seeing a backups ownership spike out of control. When adding a player consider their ceiling to help maximise their potential value on your team and take bye week/upcoming schedule into account as well. Feel free to reach out throughout the season with any questions and let me know how your league is unfolding.
Good luck in Week 1 and season 2018!