yes, it's that time of year again and the NFL football season is almost upon us.
I am in a fourth league this season, the only one I am in that is a bit more of a performance league, giving away points for yardage gained.
I wanted to share the basic rules of this new league with you all and then some of the advice I have in regards to drafting strategies for this particular league.
It's six points for a touchdown regardless of how it is scored, passing, running, receiving, returning, etc. no bonuses for how long the touchdown is. For every 50 yd. of passing your player gets, that's one bonus points, and for every 25 yd. rushing or receiving, that's another bonus points, however the totals are not combined. So, 24 yd. rushing and 24 yd. receiving from the same player will not get you any bonuses.
If your player throws an interception, you lose two points, if your player loses a fumble, you lose two points, if they missed a field goal under 45 yd. you lose two points, over 45 yd. you lose 1 ..
Defense scoring is pretty standard, one point for a sack, fumble recovery or interception, four bonus points if they allow fewer than 10 points, two bonus points if they allow between 11 and 18
There are literally dozens of different ways that people play fantasy football ranging from standard drafts to auctions to keeper leagues to Dynasty leagues with each one of them having any number of different scoring rules. Some leagues only give away points for actual scores, field goals, etc. while others give away bonus points for yards accumulated by your players, so even if they do not score you a touchdown, you still get points.
Depending upon the type of league and scoring system, a draft strategy can vary greatly. However, here’s a list of what I have found to be the three most common drafting strategies, and below those are a few tips to help you decide what might work for you and who’s the best person for you to go with in the seventh round
Basic drafting strategy:
The standard thinking of most people playing fantasy football is running backs are at a premium, get them while you can. It’s not unusual for the league to have 16-20 running backs selected in the first two rounds (in a 12 team league).
This means, if you don’t have your primary, starting running back by the end of the second round, you could be in trouble. Many players will select running backs with their first two rounds.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, and less than half of them have a single “work horse” that carries the entire load. More and more teams are going with what is called “running back by committee” where one or two running backs split time, frequently there is even a third running back who comes in only on third downs. Players on these running back by committee teams very rarely get as many yards as players on teams who have a single running back (however, you can come across running backs on running back by committee teams who score more touchdowns than some workhorse guys, see: Jerome Bettis or Branden Jacobs circa 2004/2005)
The widely agreed-upon top five running backs(for our scoring system) this season are Ladainian Tomlinson, Stephen Jackson, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander and Rudi Johnson (Willie Parker, Joseph Addai, Frank Gore and a handful of others are also frequently mentioned in place of Rudi Johnson in the fifth spot)
After the first two rounds, most people look at wide receivers in the third.
The most common listing of top five wide receivers (for our scoring system) this season are: Chad Johnson, Steve Smith, Tory Holt, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison (Reggie Wayne, Roy Williams, Larry Fitzgerald and a few others are worthy of consideration this high as well)
After the third round, most people either start looking at choosing another receiver or going with their starting quarterback.
Again, the top five quarterbacks (for our scoring system) this season are: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb (you won’t do too shabby with Philip Rivers, Marc Bulger or Matt Hasselback as your primary quarterback either)
A note on quarterbacks here, if you’re going with the basic drafting strategy, Manning and Palmer are most likely going to be gone before the fourth round. It wouldn’t be strange for both of them to go somewhere in the first round, and if Palmer is there in the third round I would grab him immediately! (there is no way Peyton Manning will be available in the third round unless he gets hurt in the preseason)
By the end of the fifth round, you should have two running backs, two wide receivers and your starting quarterback. Basic drafting strategies can vary little bit here, some people will say get your tight end next, others will say get yourself a good third running back. My feelings are that unless Antonio Gates (everybody’s number one tight end) is still available at this point, then you would probably be best served getting a good backup running back or receiver.
Definitely save your placekicker and defensive team for the final two picks. And that’s your basic drafting strategy
Against the grain strategy:
This strategy is a little trickier, but if you take the right season and are drafting in the right place in the draft, it can pay off big. The theory with this strategy is, instead of going with your running backs in the first two rounds, go with your quarterbacks and wide receivers through the first three rounds.
This allows you to get two out of the top five receivers and one of your big two quarterbacks. That can be a very potent nucleus for a team.
The trick comes in after the third round. You still need two starting running backs, and believe me, by the fourth round the starting running backs are going to be pretty well picked over. This is where identifying a good “sleeper” running back makes this strategy useful.
Nearly every season there are a couple of running backs who seemingly come out of nowhere and start scoring touchdowns, racking up yards and generally just running over the league. These are the guys you need to identify and grab in the fourth and fifth rounds if you’re going to have the against the grain strategy work for you.
Identifying sleepers can be extremely tricky, and nearly every expert fantasy football player in the game will have different potential “breakout” running backs on any given season. If you nail it on the head and correctly identify one of these players, this strategy can put you in a really powerful position in your league.
Who are the potential breakout running backs this season? The ones who have an opportunity to either score big as rookies or score a lot more than where they are ranked on cheat sheets? Well, I can’t do all of your work for you
but, a few you might want to check out are Cedric Benson from Chicago, Adrian Peterson from Minnesota and Travis Henry from Denver. But, if you take any of these players and they completely flop, don’t blame me!
After the fifth round, the rest of this strategy mirrors that of the basic drafting strategy.
Fill in your starting lineup strategy:
This is your “best player available that I need” strategy. This strategy subscribes to the idea that if you have to start nine players every week, then you should draft those nine positions in your first nine rounds.
Odds are that the first round of this strategy will be very similar to your basic drafting strategy. If you’re drafting anywhere between first and seventh, you’re probably going to grab a running back, seventh through twelfth your going to go with Manning, Palmer or one of the elite wide receivers.
The variance on this one starts to come in around the third round. By then, your top level running backs and wide receivers are usually all gone, Manning and Palmer are usually gone and somebody like Antonio Gates, who far and away out scores other tight ends in the league becomes an option for you.
Is it worth it to take what is clearly the best tight end in the league over, let’s say, a second level receiver, running back or quarterback? Everybody has different opinions on this and it is up to you to figure out what kind of value you put on the different positions.
By the time you get to the eighth round, all of your starting positions except kicker and defensive team should already be filled. Following this strategy, you would then take either the top kicker in the league (Adam Vinatieri) or the top defense team (lots of argument on this one, but cases can be made for Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Diego).
By the time you get to the 10th round, all nine of your starting positions are filled and you are going with best player available to backup your starters each round.
And there you have it, those are the three most common basic strategies I have found in my two decades of fantasy football playing.
A couple of tips:
First, don’t just go with the first cheat sheet you happen to come across. Try to look over a good sampling of player rankings from different people. This will give you the best opportunity to formulate your own rankings. This is mostly for the newer players, if you’ve been playing a while or watch a lot of football you should already have a good idea of who YOU consider to be the best running back, wide receiver, quarterback, etc.
Try to check updates on the NFL once a day. This usually just take a couple of minutes, I’m pretty sure this web site you can even have them send the news breakers directly to your e-mail address every day. This will let you keep up on injuries which is extremely important before the draft. Nothing sucks more than getting into the second round, having your eye on that one player who you hope slides to you, and when they do you draft them only to find out they severed their arm shaving the day before.
Once the season begins, follow the box scores of all of the games as closely as you can. This is really important when it comes to identifying players who nobody has drafted but are making strides on their team. Maybe somebody got hurt and the backup in Arizona is suddenly the starter. Knowing this, you have a much better chance of picking up those “free agent” players who will help you during the season.
Primarily for running backs, draft a “handcuff” for your stud. Believe me, if Tomlinson goes down in the third week you’re going to want to have Michael Turner (if he is healthy) on your team, or Maurice Morris to Shaun Alexander. For every team that subscribes to the one running back theory, there’s somebody waiting in the wings for when that guy goes down, and if you have spent your first-round pick on a big-time running back, you’re going to want that guy who is waiting to replace him.
Finally, during the actual draft, do your best to keep track of who EVERYBODY is choosing, not just who you have chosen and who is still available. Having an idea of what player is on what team can help you decide who your next selection should be. If you’re drafting in the number 11 spot and we are in the third round, and the person drafting 12th has already selected two running backs, then you can go with the assumption they are not going to take a third running back. That means, if the running back you were looking for in the third round gets to you, you can probably pick somebody else, maybe a higher ranking receiver or quarterback because the odds are good the person drafting 12th is not going to take that running back and you can get them in the very next round. Little things like that can make a difference in a competitive league.
And there you have it, a sampling of some draft strategies and some of the tips I have found over the years. The more you play fantasy football, the more you’ll wind up watching football, and the more you do that, the better you’ll get at fantasy football. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.
Oh! And one other really important tip. Never, NEVER believe what one of your opponents tells you in fantasy football. They are most likely just trying to mislead you, confuse you or outright trick you so you don’t take the player they want! Except for everything I have just written of course
I'll do my best to keep everybody updated on all four of my leagues after all of the drafts are completed. None of them are finished yet, but one should be finished by this coming Wednesday, another is scheduled for Friday the 31st, and two others on Tuesday, September 4.
Good luck to everybody out there this season unless you are playing me!