This is easily the greatest time of the year. Sports, weather, life, football in the air… It doesn’t get any better than heading to the beach at the end of the summer, getting your fantasy football magazine, and researching the talent crop in search of dreams for another season of fantasy football dominance. Maybe it does get better than that – I sound just as pathetic as a Trekkie or some Comicon loser. But seriously, from a sports perspective, nothing tops it.
I have learned over my 18 years of playing fantasy football to take advice from all “magazine experts” with a grain of salt. I used to buy 4 magazines and analyze them all. Not anymore, I just stick with one. Very useful info, but not everything they say is gospel. Every year unknown players come out of nowhere to be fantasy studs. Look at this year’s first round crop (from my first draft, in order): Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Hillis (WHUT?!?), Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Drew Brees, Andre Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson. Before I get to the Hillis breakdown, two of those guys were virtual afterthoughts going into last year, and I’d say 4-5 of them weren’t thought of as 1st round material last year either, but most have been solid or great. This is a PPR league, hence the presence of 3 WRs in round 1. Point being, every year we are surprised, every year there are gems that you happened to draft in round 12, or plucked from the waiver wire… and that’s why we love this game.
On to some useful advice on approaching your draft. This is dangerous territory for me, putting my strategy out there for my opponents to see how I approach the draft. But I am OK with it, mainly because of…
Tip #1: The team you draft is not going to win you a championship. Ever. OK, in rare cases, you might hit the lottery and stand pat all season. But chances are you are going to drop, add, trade, have injuries… you need to be nimble and adjust to the ebbs & flows of the season. You can LOSE any shot at a championship if you draft a bunch of crappy players and have no way of competing, trading, etc… but if you can escape the draft with some solid talent at all 3 major positions (QB/RB/WR), you have a shot. Just enjoy the draft. It’s the highlight of the season.
Tip #2: Know what your opponents needs are. If you are doing a traditional serpentine draft, and you know the 3 guys picking after you have a QB, don’t waste a pick on a QB. Grab a player at another position and get your QB on the way back. This is such a simple concept, but so many people either overlook it, or they are too lazy or ADHD to keep track. For years I have been using a chart I created that has every team in 12 columns, and every position running down the left – starting & bench. Once a player drafts their guy, I fill in that position, it’s a quick visual representation of everyone’s needs. This is an essential tool, which REALLY helps if you are picks 1-4 or 9-12. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD VOODOO’S FREE PDF
Tip #3: It’s OK to overload talent on one position. Especially if you have a stud in that position. Let’s say you drafted Aaron Rodgers, Romo is available in round 5, and there is marginal talent available at WR or RB. Take him. Somebody is going to need a QB at some point in the season, and they will realize that they can’t ride Sanchez or Colt McCoy to glory. They might have a WR that you need, and it’s worth holding onto talent to ultimately capitalize on it. When in doubt, reference Tip #1, and know that you will not build the perfect team on draft day. The average turnover for a fantasy football roster is 35%, and yes, I pulled that stat right out of my ass. But it’s gotta be close to that, right?
Tip #4: If you can draft Rodgers, Vick, Brees, or Brady by round 2, DO IT. I am a little hesitant to put Vick in the category of “QB surgeons” like the other three listed, but since he gets rushing yards I’ll put him here (Note: Vick scares me this season. I’m an Eagles fan, but something tells me to stay away from making him my franchise). Normally I’d list Manning in the must-draft-if-available-in-round-2 class, but his mysterious injury really affects his draft position. The reason why you take one of these guys: there is nothing more frustrating than not knowing which QB to play every week. On the flip side, having that position solidified is a luxury that only a few teams can enjoy, and they are usually the teams that make the playoffs.
Tip #5: QB/WR Hookups can be risky. I learned that the hard way early in my career when I drafted 4 players from the Detroit Lions offense (they set a record for points the year before). They sucked that year, and so did I. But QB/TE hookups are straight up gravy. If you don’t have one of the top TEs in the league, you are not getting much production from that position – much like the rest of the league. So if you get TE production, it’s a bonus. Agreed? So what if your QB throws a TD to your TE? DOUBLE BONUS. Try to get a top tier TE. If you don’t land an elite TE, take a flier on the TE for the QB you drafted.
Tip #6: Try starting a trend. One of the disadvantages to being on the 1-4 or 9-12 end is the gap in picks. A ton of talent gets gobbled up during this long wait. A way to buy yourself a few picks is to start a trend. If there are sub-par WRs left in round 4, take an elite TE like Antonio Gates. I guarantee you a few TEs go between your picks, and now you just increased your chances of getting a better player than you otherwise would have. A QB surge usually starts in round 1/2 then ends, but a DEF trend is nice to start around round 8/9. This ensures you have an elite player at this position, but also preserves the talent pool once it swings back to you.
Tip #7: If you are one of the top 8 picks, and you REALLY REALLY want a guy that you know won’t be around by the time it’s your turn to pick, take the guy you want. Who cares if everyone laughs at you, calls you stupid, punches you in the face and throws beer on you. You got your fucking guy! I’m talking about Peyton goddamn Hillis in my draft! At first I couldn’t believe he went 4th overall. I personally would have taken Rice, McCoy, Charles, CJ, and others before Hillis. But he should be solid again, he was a consistent beast last year, and I can guarantee he wouldn’t have been around 17 picks later. There is so much pressure to make the right pick in the first round, but you are basically looking to get someone who will put up numbers. Hillis will do that. Was he selected out of position? Probably. Was it a bad pick? I don’t think so. I’m impressed the guy had the balls to pull the trigger.
My parting words: Listen to your brain, not the hecklers in the room. Everyone is looking to break your balls. The first risky move is always accompanied by laughing, jokes, mockery… but it’s obviously all in fun. It’s why we play. But just as important as avoiding the mockery, don’t make picks to try to impress the room. Nobody gives a shit. Once the draft is over, everyone will sit and admire their team, claiming their team is the best. Just make sure you fill your positions with talent, and make sure you can anticipate who the people after you might be looking to select. That’s the key to a successful draft.