Many fantasy owners, especially inexperienced ones, make the mistake of thinking they already know who all the good players are and that they are the only ones who know of certain players. However, the biggest mistake of all, in my opinion, is failing to know the scoring rules of your league.
For instance, if your league has a scoring system that only awards 4 points for a passing touchdown, or 1 point for every 40-50 yards passing, obviously Peyton Manning or any QB is greatly devalued. In such a system, Manning would only post 22 points for 300 yards through the air and 4 scores, whereas a running back could equal that output with 100 yards and 2 TD’s.
Thus, the 1st Commandment of fantasy football is: read the scoring rules carefully before the draft and choose your players accordingly.
The 2nd Commandment: have a plan, but also know that most of the players high on your list are going to be coveted by other players as well. Find out as early as possible what position you’re drafting from. While you can’t predict what opponents will do, I’ve seen some pretty strange picks in the 1st round, expect the owners ahead of you to take your highest ranked player available. If they do, you’re covered, if not you get a nice little bonus.
Example: last season, I was assigned the 3rd pick of the draft, therefore I knew that one of the trio of Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, or LaDainian Tomlinson would be there. I knew that I would have a stud RB to build my team around, so I focused on getting the best QB or WR available in the 2nd round with the 18th overall pick. Fortunately, Alexander was off the board when my turn came and LJ went second, so I had the record holder for most TD’s in a season dropped in my lap. Hey, I admit it, it takes a little luck to win the title.
I didn’t think there was any way P. Manning would be there at 18, but after everyone was scrambling for RB’s and a few for the top wideouts, there he was. Since I knew the rules and am not bound by any formula of “don’t take a Quarterback before the 3rd or 4th round”, Mr. Manning was snapped up ASAP. Peyton will outscore any #2 RB on the market nearly every week. Remember this thing is not about balance from every position, it’s about total points.
With those two locked into my team, the rest was pretty easy. As a bonus, I wound up picking up Maurice Jones-Drew and his 16 touchdowns from the waiver wire in Week 2 for my #3 RB. Robbie Gould was picked up early also and I rode these guys all the way to the championship dominating the league in the process. Todd Heap was my TE, providing steady production, but I don’t even remember who my WR’s were. Does that tell you anything?. Oh yeah, some guy who goes by his initials was there in the 4th round.
Of course, if you’re choosing in the last part of the 1st round, the plan must change completely. One year, I drafted 10th in a 10 team league, but having the 10th and 11th picks is not a bad place to be. I went with the top rated RB on the my board and Randy Moss in his first year in silver and black. That’s the main thing that broke me from taking a WR that early, but I still made the championship game, losing a close one.
Whatever position you’re drafting from, know that unlike the NFL draft, if you do pick late in the 1st round, you will pick early in the 2nd, so keep in mind that it all that evens out and invariably there will be good players undrafted to fill in any holes.
I don’t put a lot of stock in formulas such as “never draft a QB before the 4th round”, only draft RB’s in the first few rounds, etc. Again, if Peyton Manning is there in the 2nd round, unless you’re in a league that devalues touchdown passes and yardage, it would be foolish not to take him, in my opinion. If you are in such a league, by all means, load up on running backs because they are much more valuable and consistent than wide receivers, tight ends and kickers. I don’t normally play in such leagues. If any player puts up numbers exception for his position, he should be rewarded accordingly and 300 yard passing games are nothing to sneeze at. I certainly don’t get the 4 points for a TD thing either. All touchdowns are created equal in real football, thus it should be the same for fantasy football.
To summarize, check out your league scoring system before the draft and customize your team to that system. Don’t use any preseason magazine, online or otherwise, as your bible in prepping for the draft. Get several rankings either from print or online publications and kind of use them as a starting point and make your own rankings. If you follow the game closely enough to keep up with free agency and the real NFL draft, your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.
Of course, you should seek other input such as www.fantasyfootballstar.com, the site I write for. It is a new site and as of this writing is not quite ready yet, but should be by the time this is published.
Lastly, as you draft have your 2nd and third choices lined up as you get ready to choose in case they are chosen right before your turn. Nothing is worse in a live draft (other than getting booted offline) than having your player picked right before your turn and being unprepared. So, always have a backup player lined up, even if it’s at another position. As I alluded to earlier, unless you’re in a league with more than 12 teams or with more than 14-15 players, there will always be productive players who get overlooked in the draft or develop after the season starts. Maurice Jones-Drew last year is a prime example.
One more thing. Check the bye weeks and don’t draft too many players with the same week off. If you do you’re likely to get drilled when that week comes around and that one give away loss could keep you out of the playoffs in a competitive league. What other kind of league would you want to be in? I don’t enjoy competing against a bunch of slappys with Jake Plummer or Aaron Brooks as their starting QB, a little challenge never hurt anyone.