It’s that wonderful time of year again where we spend endless hours of our lives on fantasy football. We ditch school and work, push off tasks at the office, and blow off dates just to get the extra hour of research in for the draft. I personally feel like a kid on Christmas. Knowing that I have four drafts ahead of me this week and that the NFL season is only 10 days away is beyond exciting.
Everyone who plays fantasy football thinks he knows what he's doing, but the honest truth is that more often than not, he has no idea. Every year plenty of people talk a big game, yet it’s the same handful of us who produce results. Yes, us. Excuse my lack of humility here, but there's a reason why friends and work colleagues who once scoffed at the notion of my fantasy dominance have since slithered out of the dark alleys to pepper me with roster questions. Just ask the other members of the BroBible staff after my utter domination of our fantasy football league last year. They suffered more embarrassment than a 13-year old popping a woodie in the locker room after basketball practice.
All that said, here are my top 10 things you should be aware of as you prepare for your fantasy draft.
All Draft Formats
1. Be prepared.
Don’t take your rankings from too many sources. Keep it simple and just focus on one set of draft rankings that you trust. Go ahead and use websites to gather information on what’s happening in training camp and the preseason to help craft your opinions, but remember: it’s your pick, not Matthew Berry’s. You’re the one who has to live with it. Figure out who you want to target, circle them, and then go get ‘em. And always have three guys in mind when your pick is approaching. No one wants to wait for you.
2. Avoid timeshares whenever possible.
Timeshares are rampant in the NFL these days, and you don’t want your starting RBs to be part of a tandem (or trio) if you can help it. Draft RBs who are the clear No. 1s on the depth chart and avoid those who have to split carries. You wouldn’t want your girlfriend or wife splitting time between you and the UPS guy, so take the same approach with your starting backfield.
3. Draft for depth — in the right places.
If you draft Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, don’t worry about drafting a backup QB early. (With Michael Vick's injury history, you might want a little more insurance compared to the standard pocket passers.) If your starter gets hurt, you’re probably screwed no matter what. Draft bench guys at other positions who you can trade later. And don’t draft strictly by team need: In the later rounds, go for the best player available. Who’s going to be more valuable if your starting WR goes down? A break-out RB you can flip for a receiver or a TE who’s eighth in the league in catches?
4. Never assume trades are available.
I just stressed that you should draft for depth, but don’t sacrifice your starting line-up to make that happen. At the end of the day, you’ll need to go to war with your starting lineup and drafting five RBs in your first seven picks won’t help your case. You can’t assume you’ll be able to trade one of them for a starter at another position because it might take you four weeks to make the deal. Assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups. The season is too short to make assumptions. If you’re good enough, you’ll be able to grab someone in the next round that could possibly be traded.
5. Stay risk-averse early.
Don’t be an idiot and draft a guy with tremendous upside potential who isn’t slated to go in the first four rounds. Your first four picks are the core of your franchise. Can you really risk your fantasy future on a running back like Darren McFadden (averaging 4.75 games missed a season) or Ryan Mathews (averaging 3 games missed as season and already injured) who is always hurt? You need to be safe with your early picks and get risky later. Otherwise it’s like riding the town bicycle without your helmet. Better to be safe than sorry.
6. Don’t draft a kicker until the last round.
I say the same thing every year, and I’ll keep saying it until people prove they’re not absolutely braindead. The difference between the first few kickers off the board and the waiver wire guys is usually no more than a couple points per week. Plus, there are always one or two studs that go undrafted. Actually, if you’re in a league with me, draft a kicker before the last round. I’ll buy you a beer with my winnings.
7. Know how to nominate players.
There are many strategies on how to nominate players in an auction draft, so make sure you know all of them. There’s some strategy to it as opposed to just nominating the player at the top of the rankings. I like to nominate high-market-value players who I know I don’t want. It’ll kill other team’s available auction dollars, leaving you with the upper hand on bidding wars for guys you actually want.
8. Vary your bidding patterns.
It doesn’t pay to only bid on the guys that you really want. You should never bid more than market value on any player you don’t want, but you can throw in some lower bids on these guys to keep the competition honest. Otherwise teams will realize you’re only bidding on the guys you actually want and you’ll be showing your poker hand way too easily.
9. Make sure you have some stars.
You would never trade your first round pick in a snake draft for a couple of fourth-rounders, so don’t pass on elite talent in an auction draft. The whole point of an auction is that you get your chance to have anyone, so why would you pass up the opportunity to get a player who can put big games on the board? On a Saturday night at the bar, you wouldn’t pass up getting the number of a 10 just to pick up numbers from a three different 6s, right?
10. Don’t forget to adjust your auction values.
Standard ESPN pricing is based on a 10-team league. You need to inflate it by a multiplier of 1.2X for a 12-team league and 1.4X for a 14-team league. Assuming your league has a $200 auction budget per team, make sure the total amount of dollars listed in auction values totals to that (e.g. a 10-team league should have all player values total to $2,000). If you’re in a keeper league, you need to adjust the non-keepers’ prices to account for all the extra money available. For example, if Cam Newton is being kept for $10 and his market value is $28, that’s an extra $18 in the pool that you need to account for. Yes it’s a lot of math, but that’s why Microsoft Excel was created. You’ll thank me when the other teams in your league realize you just fleeced them by drafting a team full of studs.
You can ask him all your fantasy football questions and follow his additional thoughts on Twitter @MrT_BroBible.