The MLB Trade Deadline has passed and NFL training camps have officially started, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for Fantasy Football baby! Well ok, maybe its not quite that time yet seeing as we’re still over a month away from the first games being played and the preseason games aren’t even underway yet, but it most definitely is Fantasy Football Prep Time.
That old saying, knowledge is power, its true for pretty much everything you do. Including Fantasy Football. And it’s never to early to start preparing for your draft, especially if this will be your first experience.
For example if you want to be a good employee, you learn more about the business and more about your boss. The more you know the better you can perform to their standards.
It’s Mother’s Day and you bring home roses thinking you’re going to score big only to realize that your wife’s favorite flowers are lilies; that’s an example of being un-educated. We’d like to avoid these situations in our Fantasy Football draft. If you want to be a better dad, learn what your son is into. You don’t bring out the dinosaur bucket when there seriously can’t be enough Batman action figures to play with.
And so the same goes for Fantasy Football. If you want to be a champion, educate yourself. We’re going to be focusing on a few simple steps that you can utilize before your Fantasy draft so when the time reads 0:00 and the first team is on the clock you won’t be wondering what’s going to happen, you’re going to know it. You’re not going to feel over anxious, you’re going to feel confident. If you want to dominate your Fantasy Football draft these are the quick and easy how-to steps that you need to be following.
Step One: Make Your Own Player Rankings
Most sites nowadays make this daunting exercise pretty easy but nonetheless, it’s absolutely essential. You want to be committed to your Fantasy team and it’s success. It’s more difficult to do that when you’ve used someone else’s opinion on all the players you’ve drafted.
I’m going to take it one step further that you shouldn’t just do a top 150 players ranking which gets you through about 12 rounds of a 12 team draft, but you should do a tier ranking system for each position. I suggest going 15 deep on your quarterbacks and tight ends and 30 deep on wide receiver and running back.
Now how you do this is completely up to you. I recommend using two ranking systems. One that generally coincides with your own personal opinion, but another one that leaves you scratching your head a bit. The reason being is Fantasy Football isn’t an exact science. You’re guaranteed to be wrong so getting an opinion that doesn’t exactly match yours will be crucial. This will help make sure you don’t fall too in love with a particular player or the flip side, end up hating on a guy maybe more than you should.
Step Two: Have a Plan and Stick To It, BUT Be Adaptable
Think about how much time NFL owners and coaches spend planning for the real draft. Now I’m not saying you need to put that same amount of time in because quite frankly that’s impossible. We’d lose our jobs and chances are, our significant others too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a plan of our own.
As important it is to have a plan you can’t feel overly committed to it either. You need to be able to adapt. Being able to adapt really should be a step all it’s own; it goes hand in hand with forming your plan. And here’s the thing about that, there’s no right or wrong answer. Some players are committed to getting one of the top quarterbacks while others want to wait until the later rounds. In the end it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is have an idea of how you want to form your team.
What I can guarantee you though is that someone is going to make a pick in the first or second round that seems to throw everything out of whack. You need to be prepared for that. If you’re sitting at the end of round one and your goal is to take a running back first to ensure you get one of the work-horse runners that’s ok, but if everyone in front of you felt the same way and now you’re stuck taking Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi, Carlos Hyde or ditching your plan all together and taking Mike Evans who is surprisingly still available you need to feel comfortable making that call.
Step Three: You Cannot Hold Grudges
This is so terribly hard at times. If you drafted DeAndre Hopkins last year in the first round don’t take out a personal vendetta against the player and swear that under no circumstances will you be drafting him because of what he did last season for you or maybe more accurately, what he didn’t do.
Each season is different. Just because you may have caught lightning in a bottle with Tyreek Hill or Isaiah Crowell doesn’t mean you should do whatever you need to to get them on your team again. We all have our favorite players, but if you’re serious about winning your Fantasy league, you need to have a short memory and remember the color of the player’s jersey doesn’t matter. That means if you’re a die hard Bears fan and Jordy Nelson somehow fell to the back end of round two and you’re on the clock, make the easy pick and embrace the green and gold. Well, at least for 14 weeks out of the season.
Remember each season is brand new and what happened last year won’t have any barring on what happens this year. Have a short memory and when DeAndre Hopkins is still sitting there in round three, jump all over that. You’ll be proud that you did.
Step 4: Know Each Position’s Depth
You need to have a general understanding of the depth at each position, most importantly wide receiver and running back. These are the two positions that compose the majority of your starting lineup. And this goes back to step one; if you’ve created a tier ranking for each position you’ll be able to say, “Ok, after tier four my running back options get super risky.” By having this knowledge before hand, when round five rolls around you may feel more comfortable taking one of those last tier four running backs despite there being better players available at a different position.
It’s a give and take. I’m not endorsing taking Matt Forte over Michael Crabtree for example, but if you have your own player rankings you’ll feel more comfortable taking a lesser talented player than some available if you absolutely need to fill a starting spot yet. Remember, the whole best player available may work in the NFL because they’re building teams that continue through year to year. You’re building a one year Championship team here. While the Rams can avoid drafting a wide receiver because of other positional needs, you don’t have that luxury. You need worthwhile starters.
Step Five: Focus on the Middle Rounds.
The rule of thumb is that your team should average over 92 points per week. If you can do that there’s a good chance your team will be making the playoffs. Your first three picks should net you around 45 points each week (each player averaging 15). If you’re able to do that you’re already half way to that magical, play-off number.
That’s the easy part though. Everybody knows the players in the top three rounds and as long as you avoid the long-term injury bug or Brock Osweiler as the quarterback to your number one receiver you should be alright in that regard. Still, how do we get those last 45 points or so? It’s all about rounds five through eight. That’s when there are a lot of good players on the board, but less decorated and known compared to the David Johnson’s, Julio Jones’ and Travis Kelce’s of the earlier rounds, who most Fantasy Football players will know.
Hitting on a couple of mid-round draft picks is crucial. It won’t be easy though since the middle rounds can turn into madness. Still, you can even be prepared for an organized crap shoot. When you’re going through your top 150 overall rankings pick out 10 players between 75 and 125 that you believe could have a big year or out-play their projected draft range and target these players.
Step 6: Do Mock Drafts and Use Their Results to Your Advantage.
Doing mock drafts can be so helpful. It can be even more helpful if in the league you’re preparing for let’s you know the draft order before the start of the draft. If they do, enter some mock drafts and position yourself in the spot you’ll be drafting for the real thing. This will take out some of the guess work out of who is going to be available and who is not.
I’d recommend doing three to five mock drafts and identify five players you really like from rounds 5-10 that were available at your draft slot. This will give you a better idea of what players could be selected in each round in accordance to your overall rankings. Once you’ve done that you might begin to realize that maybe it’s not absolutely crucial that you get a running back in round one because there were still several that you really liked in round five yet.
Step 7: Remember Your Bench. Have 2 Dependable Flex Players.
Drafting a dominating starting lineup is great, but your bench can be just as important. You should find a dependable back-up running back and wide receiver that you feel comfortable starting a couple of times throughout the year whether it’s for a bye or a short-term injury. Having these two players will ensure that once the bye weeks do start you’re not scrambling for a player to fill Dez Bryant’s spot in your lineup.
After you’ve got those two players though, you should be aiming high. Forget the dependable veterans that will just sit on your bench. Try to find that next big rookie who is going to make a splash. There’s always a handful of draft picks 12th or later that come storming onto the Fantasy scene. If you’ve got your starting lineup assembled and have two solid bench options, start swinging the bat for the fences. No more singles (Mike Wallace). We’re looking for home runs (Tyreek Hill or Taylor Gabriel) and the more swings you take, the better your chances.
Step Eight: No Kickers Until the End. Seriously.
This one should really be more of a rule because you should never break this. Do not draft a kicker until the last round and here’s why.
The difference between the first quarterback and the 15th quarterback last year was 122 points. Between the first and 15th running backs the difference was 162 points, wide receivers were 62 points, tight ends were 55 and defenses were 66. The difference for kickers was only 49 points, which is so minor that you shouldn’t go searching for those extra two points a week at the expense of adding another lottery ticket to your team. Even if the chances of that lottery ticket winning is slim.
A Fantasy Football draft can be stressful at times. If you’re prepared you’ll be able to manage the twists and turns that will inevitably happen. These how-to steps will help you prepare for your Fantasy draft in a way that will help your team be competitive year long.
There’s nothing worse than drafting a Fantasy Football team and knowing by week five that you have no realistic shot of making the playoffs. That’s the scenario this guide is trying to help you avoid. I’m not selling you on if you follow these guidelines you’ll always win, but if you stick to them you should find yourself fielding a playoff caliber team more often than not.
If you look at the real NFL Draft there are teams that consistently draft well. Teams like the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks instantly come to mind. They have a philosophy they do not deviate from no matter what and they’re always prepared. That’s the same mindset that you need to have with your Fantasy Football draft. These eight steps are the cornerstone of my philosophy. They have served me well and I am confident they’ll help you too.
In the end Fantasy Football is all about having fun, but winning always seems to help. So good luck, start doing your homework and happy drafting.
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