My goal for this is to speak to the casual fan. If you know all (or most) of the rules that follow, give yourself a pat on the back for being awesome.
These rules will apply to the standard draft, meaning you need to start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, and one team defense. If you have a flex option (W/R, W/T, or W/R/T) these rules will still apply.
I am assuming your players do NOT get a point for every reception (PPR). Again, we are talking about the standard draft that your cousin invites you to because he needs one more player to fill out his hometown league. He thinks you are cannon fodder. He is wrong.
If your league is larger than 12 teams or if you can start more than one quarterback, these rules would shift. You would need to consider drafting a quarterback before the supplies became scarce (even then, you could wait a while). But in general, waiting on a quarterback is all part of the plan.
Feel free to ask in the comments about your league’s settings and/or roster positions. We here at Fake Teams would gladly follow this up with more specific draft strategy in the future.
Without further ado, here are seven rules to draft by:
Draft players at the top of the draft board.
No matter what site you are on (Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, etc) the players at the top of the list are there for a reason. Most geeky fantasy footballers (myself included) get too cute at times. We think we know more than you do, and we take more risks because we feel we can make it up at other points during the draft. The ways that an informed fantasy footballer will attack the draft are endless, but could include the Zero-RB theory or the Late-Round Quarterback theory. You, however, can simply draft a balanced team that will keep you in the running every week...and annoy your arrogant cousin in the process.
Avoid drafting injured players.
Most sites have recent notes listed beside player names. You should read those notes before you decide to draft a player—even if it is a player that you recognize. The NFL is shifting sand. Injuries happen frequently, as Friday night’s preseason action reminded us. The NFL is a brutal game and injuries will befall your fake team at some point. There is no need to draft a player who is already injured.
Resist the urge to draft a quarterback early.
Anything before Round 6 (when you are allowed to draft Marcus Mariota) is early. In most casual leagues you only need to start one quarterback. If this is the case in your league, WAIT. Load up on skill guys (running backs and wide receivers) instead. You can draft Rob Gronkowski in Round 2 instead of a quarterback. If Gronkowski stays healthy, you will crush the competition at the tight end spot. If he doesn’t, you can find a tight end easily enough later on. Taking a quarterback later will allow you to take some calculated risks in the earlier stages of your draft. Gronk, in particular, is a risk that could pay off in a huge way. Just get one of these quarterbacks and you’re all set until a bye week.
Do not draft a team defense early.
Much like quarterbacks, you need only start one team defense each week. Most league’s don’t weight team defenses heavily, so they don’t often score tons of points for you. You can do very well on the waiver wire by finding the team that has a great matchup for that week. This is easy to do, as most sites have matchup information readily available. Yahoo even color-codes the matchups (green means GO, yellow is an average matchup, and red is bad). If you decide to get a little deeper into things, you can check out which offenses allow pressures/sacks the most and which defenses pressure the most. Pressures will inevitably lead to sacks. Give it a few weeks of the season so that we get some actionable data, but remember that tidbit once the bye weeks start.
Do not draft a kicker, period.
Draft an extra skill player instead. As Friday night proved, injuries can happen in a second. A player’s fortunes can drastically change (looking at you, Chris Hogan). Anyone who took a shot on Hogan in a recent draft is literally on a cloud somewhere up in the stratosphere right now. A similar situation could definitely occur in the last two weeks of practice leading up to games that actually count. Take a chance on that favorite sleeper of yours with your last pick. By the time Week 1 of the NFL rolls around, you can drop your worst player for a kicker.
Draft using tiers, not overall rankings.
It is a common mistake to draft from someone’s overall rankings. One way to elevate your fake game without much effort is to find your favorite tiered rankings for running back, wide receiver, and tight end. If you can draft a quarterback late and ignore team defense and kicker, drafting from tiers should be extremely beneficial. You do not just want to blindly draft the next best guy at a position—you want to constantly consider the dropoff at each skill position prior to making your picks. If, for instance, you are at the end of my “endless middle tier” of quarterbacks, I would take one of those before the big dropoff after Carson Palmer. I also compiled tight end tiers just over a week ago, for your viewing pleasure.
Avoid players attached to really poor quarterbacks/offenses.
This is an idea that Michael Salfino has spoken to recently. Maybe some others have spoken on it as well, but I have seen Salfino really beating that drum this offseason. This is an idea I have adhered to unconsciously for some time, but I think it helps to put it out there. Adherence to this idea means a guy like Chris Hogan should be SPRINTING up your draft board. He plays on a Top 3 offense and is the WR2 in said offense. He is easily a Top 40 wide receiver, and his ADP is in the cellar at WR60 (FF Calculator) and WR59 (FantasyPros). Hogan talk aside, another example of this idea is Randall Cobb. Yes, the Packers offense is loaded with options, but the efficiency/quality of targets he will receive due to playing with A-Rod and company will make him at least as valuable as a guy like Kenny Britt, who happens to be the top dog in his offense. I have these two receivers ranked 40th (Cobb) and 41st (Britt), and that’s nuts when you consider Cobb is a third or fourth option on his team and Britt is the 1 or 1A option alongside Corey Coleman. But elite quarterbacks can do that for you.
That’s a decent list to begin with at this juncture. In summation: Chill on quarterback. You are allowed to take Gronk in Round 2 if you can. If you miss Gronk, you can wait on a tight end (I like Rudolph or Ertz in Round 9). Use tiers to draft your running backs and wide receivers. Ignore defenses. Don’t draft a kicker—do that before the first game. Did I miss anything, sharps?
If anyone benefits from this, please let me know! I would love to see some teams drafted. Peace!