Remember last season when all that anyone wanted to talk about was the "Zero RB Strategy"? Through the telescope of hindsight, we can see that this particular strategy wasn't all that far off from any of the fad diets that become all the rage. When all the dust settled from 2016, I took a look at the fantasy leaders for the entire season. Guess what? There were 7 running backs (David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliot, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, Devonta Freeman, & LaGarrette Blount) who had produced more fantasy points before I saw the first wide receiver listed in standard scoring. Of the top 10 fantasy point leaders (excluding QB's) in PPR formats, 6 were running backs and the first WR showed up after the top 3 running backs. The Zero RB Strategy reminded me of the countless fad diets from the Atkins Diet to the Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the day, it's pretty fundamental. Take in less calories than you expend and you'll lose weight. Be prepared when you enter the draft room and you'll have a great draft. It would appear that fundamentals, whether in dieting or fantasy football, are here to stay.
The season is right around the corner and drafts are heavily underway. If your draft is coming up, here are some tips and news that you need to know before you start putting guys into your Player Queue.
1. Understand the difference between price and value
As Warren Buffett once said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." Let me demonstrate how that applies to fantasy football. Let's say you spent a 3rd-round pick last year on Russell Wilson and another person spent a 9th-round pick on Matt Ryan. Using last year's numbers, Ryan contributed almost 5 points more per game than Wilson. You paid a certain price for Wilson (what RB, TE, or WR could you have had instead?) but the value wasn't worth the price. An equal upside QB was available 6 rounds later. Could you have waited? That's the question you have to ask yourself before you click that Draft button.
Knowing the depth at the QB position, you could have grabbed a running back instead where the drop-off between tiers in that position is more significant. Ryan had much more value relative to the price that you had to pay.
2. Mix safety with sexy
Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Rishard Matthews, and Larry Fitzgerald weren't sexy picks last year, but every single one of those guys delivered consistent results. They are pretty reliable in that way which makes them safer picks, but nobody wins it all playing it 100% safe. There are times when that sexy pick can make or break your team. The key is finding them and taking the risk of spending a roster spot.
Remember that in 2014, Le'Veon Bell was labeled a "bust" by ESPN before the season began and barely made RB3 status, yet he went on to become the single most dominate running back that year. Odell Beckham Jr. was barely drafted three seasons ago, and we need only look at the 2016 Madden cover to know how that turned out!
Don't be afraid to take a flier on a guy you think has the potential to be something. When your league laughs at your pick, just remember all the laughter when Bell and OBJ were drafted. It doesn't matter who laughs in the preseason. Week 16 is all that counts.
3. Know Your Scoring
I can't stress this one enough and I see it happen every year. If your league gives points for receptions (PPR or 1/2 pt PPR), certain players are going to be more valuable than others. If your league starts 2 quarterbacks or gives 6 points for a passing touchdown, those players will be more valuable.
Know your scoring before you enter the draft room.
4. Ditch the magazines
If you're using a magazine to help you draft this year, you're better off taking your money and giving it to charity. Your money is as good as gone, but at least with the charitable donation someone who really needs it can put it to good use. Listen, we've all used magazines in the past, but as time-honored as that tradition might be, it's like using AOL's 56K dial-up service to get connected to the Internet. If you use the rankings from Fantasy Football Nerd, we are updating those every single day. Trades...injuries...suspensions...those things all get factored into dynamic player values. The moment a magazine goes to print, that's it folks, and keep in mind that most of those articles are written well before it goes to print. It's as outdated as 56K. Besides, if you're going to spend 8 or 9 bucks on an out-of-date magazine that you can only use for the draft, why not spend $11.95 on an FFN Premium subscription and get access to draft and weekly tools all season long?
5. Players on the same team
I've watched people pass over players because they feel like they have too many from the same team. The logic generally flows something like this: half my team will be on bye at the same time and if the team does poorly, they'll all do poorly. When I hear that, I like to sit the person down and regale them with fantastic stories about the 2007 New England Patriots and the 2013 Denver Broncos. In both examples, I played in leagues where someone did have a roster full of those players including Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, and Sammy Morris for the Pats and Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno for the Broncos. Guess what? Each guy lost the week that those teams were on bye, but they completely dominated every...single...other...week. The playoffs were a breeze for them.
6. Sh!t on your neighbor
This is one of my personal favorites and it comes from a card game that I was taught as a young child. Regardless of the name (I've also heard it called Screw Your Neighbor), it's a fun game that any age group can play and it's all about making things difficult for the person on your left. In this case, it's about the person who is drafting immediately after you. The tactic works like this: get your Player Queue lined up before it's your turn to pick. You should have two or three players ranked in the order that you'd like to take them. When it's your turn to pick, grab the top-ranked guy in your queue and draft right away. The person drafting after you generally assumes that he/she has 60 seconds or so to make any final decisions about his/her next pick. By picking quickly, you are forcing the clock on them. People have a general fear of running out of time and auto-picking. Play on that fear and watch as their heart rate increases. Hopefully this forces them to rush into their pick.
7. Take the Best Available Player
Think you need to fill your roster right away? Think again. I haven't had the luxury of drafting Rob Gronkowski or Jordan Reed on any of my teams, so what's the point in rushing to get a tight end? The same can be said about Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. I don't own either so why would I rush to get a QB just to fill out my roster? Take the best available player on the board. If that's another running back or wide receiver and your QB spot is unfilled, so be it. I'm happy to wait for Martellus Bennett and Jameis Winston.
Trust me, reaching is only good for getting things on really high shelves. It's not for fantasy football drafts.
8. Be Flexible
No, you don't have to be a master in yoga, but you do have to be flexible when it comes to your draft. Re-read the Zero RB strategy up top. Every year I get questions from FFN members who want to know what I think about their draft strategy. Should I go RB/RB or WR/WR? The answer is that it depends. It's helpful to do a mock draft to get an idea of where guys will likely fall, but no mock draft will ever perfectly replicate your actual draft. You may have a RB/RB strategy going in, but if Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, or Dez Bryant are staring you in the face after all the Tier 1 running backs are off the board, you need to pivot and take an elite WR instead. The point differential between a Tier 1 WR and a Tier 2 RB can be significant. Have a plan, but be prepared to take what the draft gives you.
9. Draft a kicker LAST
Seriously - if you draft a kicker before the final round, you're in trouble. Given the point contributions, prediction difficulties, and relative variances, I have yet to hear a coherent, logical argument for drafting one before the final round. Oh, and you only need 1. Seriously - drop the one you have and pick another one up on the waiver wire if you have to. That extra roster spot should be spent on another skilled position player.
10. Be Prepared
Yes, FFN is an awesome tool to have, but what if your Internet connection goes down? What if you drop your tablet or laptop as you're reaching for your favorite beverage? Who knows what's going to happen on draft day?!? Be prepared by printing out our fantasy football cheatsheet and taking that with you. Yeah, it's old school, but it's definitely more timely than a magazine, and just like that condom you kept in your wallet all throughout high school, it's best to be prepared for the moment.
Finally speaking of moment - enjoy yours! We talk about things like strategy and which guys to target and when, but rarely do we talk about the fun part of the game. After all, we're not all in it for the money, right? Right? Right?
Have fun! Throw some smack talk. The social aspect of fantasy football is one of the best parts of the game! Trust me - it won't be long before December is here and fantasy season is over.
Good luck in your draft!