Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes. Josh Allen. These guys are some of the best at what they do and not a single one just steps onto the field without having prepared for their opponent. They watch film. They practice. They visualize things in their heads. They come into it well prepared, and there's a lesson there for everyone as they head into their draft rooms.
Fantasy football draft season is special. That feeling when you have a guy lined up in your queue and someone from your league snipes him right before it's your turn to draft. That feeling when you are counting down the hours, and then the minutes prior to the draft. The comraderie. The trash talking. The inside jokes that only you and your league understand. The thrill of watching a Monday night game needing just a handful of points, and then gloating when you claim victory for the week -- or playing it off when you lose by a point. It's all part of the experience...we need it...we deserve it...so let's enjoy it.
OK, now on to our draft tips for 2022.
1. Understand the difference between price and value
As Warren Buffett once said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." If you remember nothing else from this article, this is the one takeaway that we really want to impress upon you which is why we bring it up every year.
Let me demonstrate how that applies to fantasy football. Last year, Patriots' RB Damien Harris was the 28th running back off the boards in most standard scoring league drafts. In 12-team leagues, he was being drafted as a flex in the 6th round. When the dust settled, Harris finished as the 8th best fantasy running back.
We paid an 6th-round price for him and got a 2nd-round value.
Joe Burrow was the 14th quarterback off the board in most drafts last year. In 12-team leagues, he was being drafted as a backup in the 9th-round. Burrow finished as the 8th-best fantasy QB.
We paid an 9th-round price for him and got a 6th-round value.
Sticking with quarterbacks, let's look at projections and ADP for Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, and Aaron Rodgers. Prescott is going in the 6th round. Brady and Rodgers are going in the 8th. Dak is projected to deliver an average of 17.8 fantasy points each week. Brady is projected to deliver 18.4 and Rodgers is projected to deliver 17.7 points each week. Prescott is the younger of these guys, but let's not focus on that number. Instead, let's focus on the fantasy points we expect to see. In this case, if we pass on Prescott and wait two rounds, we can get essentially the same or better fantasy points out of that position. The real takeaway here is that we would have spent that draft pick on someone like Amon-Ra St. Brown or Darnell Mooney instead of DeAndre Hopkins (suspended for the first six games) or Brandon Aiyuk.
While we have a point differential among the quarterbacks of 0.1 points or less, there's a full point difference every week projected for those receivers. From a projections standpoint, it makes sense to wait on the QB and draft another WR.
If the NFL is a game of inches, fantasy football is a game of fractional points.
Understanding the difference between price and value can pay big dividends during your draft. Find the values in your draft and do your best not to overpay.
2. Mix Safety With Sexy
The first few rounds of your draft should be all about safety. Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, and Ja'Marr Chase are all safe picks. They're the bedrock upon which to build your championship team.
As your draft starts rolling into the later rounds, that's where we're looking for upside. That's when we want the sexy potential. Guys like Travis Etienne, Diontae Johnson, Kareem Hunt, and Hunter Renfrow have the potential to be solid fantasy contributors for your team in the mid-rounds. When you see guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster sitting on the board in the 8th, take a moment to realize that guys like JuJu are known quantities. We know what his situation is like, and we know what kind of production he's likely to put up. He's a safe pick for a WR2/Flex on your roster, but if you see Breece Hall sitting on the board in the 6th, he carries some unknowns having never carried the ball in the NFL before. It's OK to take a flier on someone at that point in your draft. He may not crack your starting lineup right away, but you took care of the safe picks in the earlier rounds.
Finally, use your last skill position pick on a lottery ticket. This is a guy who will likely be your 4th or 5th RB, WR, or your 2nd/3rd TE. If you think that Dameon Pierce will climb atop the depth chart, then take a chance. Think George Pickens will emerge with a greater role in the Steelers' passing game? Take a chance. After all, that's what lottery tickets are for.
3. Know Your Scoring
We can't stress this one enough and it happens 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. It is remarkable to me that in virtually every draft that I have participated in this year, someone inevitably asks what the scoring format is. Don't be that guy.
Know your scoring before you enter the draft room.
4. Take the Best Available Player
Think you need to fill your roster right away? Think again. I haven't had the luxury of drafting Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or Mark Andrews on any of my teams, so what's the point in rushing to get a tight end? The same can be said about Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. I don't own shares of either guy, 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. Wait for Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, or Tom Brady.
Trust me, reaching is only good for getting things on really high shelves. It's not for fantasy football drafts.
5. Ditch the Magazines
This absolutely boggles my mind. Why in the world do we still publish fantasy football magazines, and why in the world do people buy them?
Look, 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. I'm even fairly certain that these magazines are still delivered via horse and buggy.
If you use the rankings from Fantasy Nerds, 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. Keep in mind that most of those articles are written well before it goes to print.
When your magazine was printed, Alvin Kamara was RB24 going in the 5th round because it was believed that he would miss 4-6 games with a suspension. Things have changed and it no longer appears that Kamara will be suspended this season. Think the publisher of the magazine is going to recall them all and adjust the rankings in light of recent developments? Not going to happen. Save your money and save your dignity in the process. Hell, you might even be able to save some trees. Ditch the magazines.
6. 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.
7. 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. Don't wait. The person drafting after you generally assumes that he/she has 60-90 seconds 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.
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. Every year I get questions from FN members who want to know what I think about their draft strategy. Should I go RB/RB or WR/WR? Truthfully, 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. For example, in every mock that I did preparing for one of the Fantasy Nerds User Leagues, I had gone RB/RB in the first two rounds. While I did take Derrick Henry in the first round, Stefon Diggs was waiting for me in the second. Running backs were going quickly and the ones left at my turn in the second did not present enough value compared to Diggs, so I pivoted to RB/WR. The point differential between a Tier 1 WR and a Tier 2/3 RB can be significant.
Have a plan, but be prepared to take what the draft gives you.
9. Draft a kicker LAST
Seriously - don't draft a kicker until the very end. 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 your lottery ticket player.
10. Be Prepared
We're a bit biased and think Fantasy Nerds 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. As I discussed at the very beginning of this article, these are the moments of normalcy that we crave and need. The draft will be over before you know it. 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 January is here and fantasy season is over.
Good luck in your draft!
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