Drafting your fantasy team in 20/20 hindsight

Hours removed from my third fantasy football draft this week, I offer a few pointers for those of you drafting in the near future–and some tips several of my league members learned the hard way.

  • Know how many players you start at each position- If your league starts three receivers, you probably shouldn’t wait until the fifth round to take one. Even the fourth round is pushing it. By round 5, I like to have a quarterback, two running backs and two receivers. If someone falls to you and you want to load up on one position early, that’s ok, but make sure make up for it in the next round. A tight end can wait, I’d make sure you are set on your core positions first.
  • Take a QB early- My tier of quarterbacks are: Brees, Rodgers, Manning, Schaub, Brady, and Romo (more here). After that, they start to drop off. Once you get into Favre-Flacco-Rivers-Kolb-Eli Manning-Cutler territory, you’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Plus, if you grab an elite signal caller, they should be your starter every week. You won’t need to worry about a backup until the late rounds, and you can focus on rounding out the rest of your team.
  • This is the year people actually wait on picking Bills- Every year, there has always been the one guy who goes way out of his way to pick a Bills player that he could’ve waited a good three rounds on. Last year it was the all-star who picked T.O. as his first receiver. But this year, morale is so low about the Bills that people are completely looking past them. With the injuries to both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, you might even be able to grab C.J. Spiller on a bargain. That being said, Spiller is a second RB at best, and Evans probably won’t be more than a good third receiver. Picking the Bills D/ST is pushing it, and Trent Edwards is reach even in 2 quarterback leagues. Your best bet may be Ryan Lindell, but that’s assuming the Bills can get into field goal range.
  • Watch for runs-These usually happen when people start picking tight ends or defenses. We expect a lot of running backs in the first round. That’s not a trend to be careful of. What you need to watch for is when six people in a row take their second receiver or wipe out the top-tier of defenses. When this happens, you have two choices to make: go with the flow and get someone at that position so you don’t miss out, or pick someone else and hope for the best. Picking someone else can often work to your advantage though– if most people already have a one-start position covered (TE, D/ST, K, etc… varies by league), they won’t be picking another player at that position any time soon, and you can wait on it.
  • Wondering if your guy will fall to you? Know what the people around you have- Say you waited on a quarterback. Now you want to know if you should take Joe Flacco with your upcoming pick or wait on him until your turn comes back around. Look at the teams drafting after you. If they already have a QB, you are probably safe and you can take another RB. If not, you might want to snag your QB now before someone else does. This happened to me in my first draft– DeAngelo Williams fell to me in the second round, and while it would have been awesome to have two top-10 running backs, I passed on him for Matt Schaub because several QBs had already gone and nobody after me had a QB yet. I later asked the guy who took Williams about the situation, and he said he was hoping Schaub would have come to him, and I would have been out of luck. (Have I mentioned I’m high on Schaub this year?)
  • Go with your gut- Nowadays everyone uses nearly the same rankings. How many people showed up at your draft with the same cheat sheet from ESPN.com? So if everyone has the same information, you’re going to need a little bit of talent (luck) to win. Just because the “experts” at ESPN say you should draft a certain player at a certain spot does not mean you have to draft him. Think Devin Aromashodu is due for a breakout year? LeSean McCoy? Take them earlier. Asking yourself why the likes of Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best are ranked so high? Skip them. Don’t get crazy on me with Antonio Gates in the third round or anything, but snagging guys who have breakout years is how you win your league (and it’s great bragging material).
  • It’s okay to laugh at the guy who drafts injured players- There’s always one idiot who doesn’t come prepared for the draft and picks a bunch of guys who probably won’t see the football field this year. Suspensions and injuries are the most likely culprits. Guy who thought he was cool buying his magazine in April but hasn’t touched it since will tell you Ben Tate is going to be comparable with Rashard Mendenhall this year, and will proclaim his eminent run to fantasy glory after Antonio Bryant “fell” to him in the 13th round. Hey bud, I hear that David Carr guy could be a steal, too. Just laugh at these people, and by all means do not let them repick. They deserve it.
  • Know your bye weeks- I feel this should go without saying, but some people still don’t realize that they need to be careful of players’ bye weeks when drafting them. Be especially careful of weeks 8 and 9, where six teams are off instead of the usual four. Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Hakeem Nicks, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are all people I’d sign up for, just not together. They all have week 8 off, and if you draft them, so will your fantasy team. Also be weary of taking players on the same team. Taking a QB and his top receiver can be an effective strategy when deployed correctly, but don’t take two receivers from the same offensive. I like Jeremy Maclin this year, but if you already have DeSean Jackson, that’s enough Eagles at wideout. The only combo I think this would be interesting is if you had both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They could both go over 100 yards a game. Could get interesting.
  • That’s about all I have. If you read this far down the page you deserve a reward, though- Someone I feel is an emerging sleeper pick this year is Bernard Berrian, receiver from Minnesota. Sidney Rice has not been on the field yet due to a hip injury, and Percy Harvin can’t seem to keep enough blood in his head to stand up (wonder where it is…?). Brett will need to throw to someone other than Visanthe Shiancoe, and Berrian could be the guy. Not sure why more people aren’t picking up on this, but hey, that’s their problem.

Oh, and if you want to add an extra round in your draft for everyone to take a total reach pick, that could be a fun idea. I’d go with James Starks, Stevie Johnson, Tim Tebow, etc. Could be your only shot at drafting a Bill and not regretting it later.

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