I've Never Played Fantasy Football before,I Want to Crush My Enemies

This is what you may be thinking right now while you're thinking and preparing for this upcoming NFL season, especially with the record-breaking offensive season by the likes of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Maybe you are already an avid football fan and have never dipped into the psychotic yet satisfying realm of fantasy football or you are a complete stranger to the notion of owning virtual replicas of your favorite gridiron stars. In either case, one of the strongest early game draft strategies is the first rank players in terms of "tiers" and drafting cores of players utilizing this tier system. Doing this allows you to have a clear approach going into the draft as well as give you the leniency in the late rounds to take flyers on guys with huge potential (i.e. Knowshon Moreno in 2013 or C.J. Spiller in 2012). Otherwise, you'll end up with needing a player like Toby Gerhart or Fred Jackson as your RB2 for example, which isn't terrible by any means. However, players such as these do not provide the possibility of achieving elite-level performances that high-upside players can potentially attain.

At some point, it would be wise to formulate your own sets of tiers based on your own personal criteria but for the sake of this strategy overview, I will use my own.

Tier 1 = "The Elites"

Tier 1 players are those you can build your team around, the "cornerstones of a successful draft. Grabbing at least one of these guys will set you up very well for the rest of the draft and with smart and frugal selections in the later rounds will complete a well-balanced team. The cream of the crop.

Tier 2 = "Highly Productive"

Those in Tier 2 are generally very productive players in their own right, but either lack the consistency of the elites or do not regularly produce over-the-top numbers akin to those of the elite. However, grabbing an elite plus two or three Tier 2 players can also be a championship-worthy formula. Snag these guys after the elites, their value will surprise you.

Tier 3 = "Somewhat Productive"

Players in Tier 3 are the fillers for the rest of your team. Chances are that if you are in a league with semi-competent managers, you will mostly end up getting either one or two elites, coupled with two or three tier 2 guys. Tier 3 players round out the rest of the draft and can be used as capable bye week fillers. What distinguishes this tier from Tier 4 guys are that most of these players are more reliable as fill-ins than the Tier 4 guys. Smart choices in this tier can win you leagues.

Tier 4 = "High Potential"

This tier is filled with young players with up to 2 years of experience and show massive potential to have breakout years in real-life football and fantasy. The one caveat to this rule are players who were injured during the 2012-2013 season or oft-injured that with a full season of work, should produce favorable numbers. Most of the rookies who can attain serviceable playing time fall in this category as well as players poised for a breakout season whether it be through increased playing, a change in offensive system, etc.

Tier 5 = "The Rest"

And here lies the rest of the league. These guys will have a decent game here or there but aren't likely to warrant a roster spot unless there are major injuries or you play in a fairly large league. However, when that happens do not hesitate to take a look at them as they may be useful in the later weeks (i.e. Zac Stacy and Mike James in 2013, etc.)

*Note: These rankings are fluid and will change as the pre-season/season progresses.

**Note: For Tier 5, I will list a couple notable names that may have consideration at some point of the year. Names to remember


Tier 1:

Aaron Rodgers; GB

Drew Brees; NO

Peyton Manning; DEN

Tier 2:

Matthew Stafford; DET

Andrew Luck; IND

Cam Newton; CAR

Robert Griffin III; WSH

Nick Foles; PHI

Tier 3 :

Matt Ryan; ATL

Tom Brady; NE

Tony Romo; DAL

Colin Kaepernick; SF

Russell Wilson; SEA

Phillip Rivers; SD

Ben Roethlisberger; PIT

Tier 4:

Johnny Manziel; CLE

Teddy Bridgewater; MIN

Blake Bortles; JAX

Tier 5:

Jay Cutler; CHI

Andy Dalton; CIN

Michael Vick; NYJ


Tier 1:

Adrian Peterson; Min

Jamaal Charles; KC

LeSean McCoy; PHI

Matt Forte; CHI

Tier 2:

Eddie Lacy; GB

Marshawn Lynch; SEA

Zac Stacy; STL

Le'Veon Bell; PIT

Montee Ball; PIT

Arian Foster; HOU

Alfred Morris; WAS

Tier 3:

DeMarco Murray; DAL

Frank Gore; SF

Ray Rice; BAL

Ben Tate; CLE

C.J. Spiller; BUF

Shonn Greene; TEN

Ryan Mathews; SD

Toby Gerhart; JAC

*Shane Vereen; NE (Tier 2 in PPR leagues)

Fred Jackson; BUF

Tier 4:

Giovani Bernard; CIN

Doug Martin; TB

Andre Ellington; ARI

Bishop Sankey; TEN

Tier 5:

Rashad Jennings; NYG

Maurice Jones-Drew; OAK

Chris Johnson; NYJ

Chris Ivory; NYJ

Reggie Bush; DET

Joique Bell; DET

Knowshon Moreno; MIA

Pierre Thomas; NO

Trent Richardson; IND

Darren Sproles; PHI

Lamar Miller; MIA


Tier 1:

Calvin Johnson; DET

Demaryius Thomas; DEN

Tier 2:

Dez Bryant; DAL

A.J. Green; CIN

Brandon Marshall; CHI

Jordy Nelson; GB

Alshon Jeffery; CHI

Julio Jones; ATL

Antonio Brown; PIT

Pierre Garcon; WSH

Randall Cobb; GB

Vincent Jackson; TB

Wes Welker; DEN

Andre Johnson; HOU

Keenan Allen; SD

Tier 3:

Roddy White; ATL

Victor Cruz; NYG

DeSean Jackson; WSH

Larry Fitzgerald; ARI

Kendall Wright; TEN

Michael Crabtree; SF

T.Y. Hilton; IND

Julian Edelman; NE

Marques Colston; NO

Eric Decker; NYJ

Torrey Smith; BAL

Michael Floyd; ARI

Mike Wallace; MIA

Dwayne Bowe; KC

Riley Cooper; PHI

Golden Tate; DET

Tier 4:

Cordarrelle Patterson; MIN

DeAndre Hopkins; HOU

Percy Harvin; SEA

Emmanuel Sanders; DEN

Jeremy Maclin; PHI

Terrance Williams; DAL

Jarrett Boykin; GB

Kenny Stills; NO

Sammy Watkins; BUF

Mike Evans; TB

Kelvin Benjamin; CAR

Cody Latimer; DEN

Tier 5:

Cecil Shorts III; JAX

Rueben Randle; NYG

James Jones; OAK

Anquan Boldin; SF

Reggie Wayne; IND

Marvin Jones; CIN

Danny Amendola; NE

Steve Smith; BAL

Doug Baldwin; SEA

Brian Hartline; MIA

Brandin Cooks; NO

Odell Beckham Jr.; NYG


Tier 1:

Jimmy Graham; NO

Tier 2:

Julius Thomas; DEN

*Rob Gronkowski; NE (if he doesn't hurt himself again)

Tier 3:

Greg Olsen; CAR

Vernon Davis; SF

Jason Witten; DAL

Tier 4:

Jordan Reed; WSH

Jordan Cameron; CLE

Ladarius Green; SD

Eric Ebron; DET

Tier 5:

Kyle Rudolph; MIN

Charles Clay; MIA

Dennis Pitta; BAL

Martellus Bennett; CHI

Zach Ertz; PHI

Delanie Walker; TEN
Heath Miller; PIT

Garrett Graham; HOU


Tier 1:

Seattle Seahawks

Tier 2:

San Francisco 49ers

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Arizona Cardinals

Tier 3:

New England Patriots

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Tier 4:

St. Louis Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minnesota Vikings

Tier 5:

New Orleans Saints

Baltimore Ravens

New York Jets


Tier 1:

Matt Prater; DEN

Stephen Gostkowski; NE

Justin Tucker; BAL

Tier 2:

Adam Vinatieri; IND

Steven Hauschka; SEA

Dan Bailey; DAL

Blair Walsh; MIN

Tier 3:

Matt Bryant; ATL

Phil Dawson; SF

Mason Crosby; GB

Nick Novak; SD

Robbie Gould; CHI

Tier 4:

N/A (C'mon its kicker)

Tier 5:

Greg Zuerlein; STL


Alright, so you see this giant list of players and now what do you do. Well the first thing to do is pick one or two of the elites that you feel comfortable owning from each of the positions (i.e. QB, RB, etc.). Next select about two or three from Tier 2. These players will more or less fulfill the core of your team, the players that you will be rolling out no matter what. For example, a solid core would be something like this:

Round 1:

Matt Forte; RB; CHI

Round 2:

Jordy Nelson; WR; GB

Round 3:

Matthew Stafford; QB; DET


Round 1:

Aaron Rodgers; QB; GB

Round 2:

Le'Veon Bell; RB; PIT

Round 3:

Vincent Jackson; WR; TB


Now there are other articles that go more in depth about draft strategy and on what positions to target early and so on, but having a strong sense of cores and achieving an overall balance between stats from your players allows you the most leeway in terms of reaching on other players in later rounds, instead of having to adjust for bad early round drafting, which has its own inherent risks.

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