Top 10 Fantasy Football Draft Tips for 2023

Friday, Aug 18, 2023 at 9:13 am ET

Patrick Mahomes. Josh Allen. Jalen Hurts. 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 let's enjoy it.

OK, now on to our draft tips for 2023.

1. Understand the difference between price and value

Warren BuffettAs 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, Seahawks QB Geno Smith was one of the last quarterbacks off the boards in most league drafts. In 12-team leagues, if he was drafted at all, he was being drafted as a backup QB in the 13th round. When the dust settled, Smith finished as the 5th best fantasy QB.

We paid an 13th-round price for him and got a 2nd-round value.

While the Geno Smith example is the extreme, we can find more reasonable examples among Justin Fields, Kirk Cousins, and Trevor Lawrence. All finished as Top 10 QBs though ADP had all the outside the Top 14.

We paid a 9th-round price for these guys and got 5th or 6th-round value.

It's almost an absolute certainty that someone in your league is going to draft Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes in the first two rounds this year. According to current ADP, Lamar Jackson is going nearly two rounds later. If you passed on the top QBs and instead drafted guys like Chris Olave, DeVonta Smith, or Tee Higgins, the equivalent WR differential would pay dividends during the season. Given the expected contributions each week, it makes sense to wait on the QB and draft another WR/RB.

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. Fantasy Nerds has developed a tool to help you 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. Justin Jefferson, 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 Jahymyr Gibbs, D.J. Moore, and Alexander Mattison have the potential to be solid fantasy contributors for your team in the mid-rounds. When you see guys like James Conner sitting on the board in the 6th, take a moment to realize that guys like Conner are known quantities. We know what his situation is like, and we know what kind of production he's likely to put up - especially without Kyler Murray at the start of the season. He's a safe pick for a RB2/Flex on your roster, but if you see Breece Hall sitting on the board in the 3rd, he carries some risk both from an injury perspective as well as a depth chart perspective (Dalvin Cook will get his touches). It's not crazy to target Conner over Hall. It's even less crazy when you see that their projected points per game differential is just 0.1 points.

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 Khalil Herbert will be the guy to own in the Chicago backfield, then take a chance. Think Jordan Addison will emerge with a greater role in the Vikings' 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 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 Justin Fields, Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, or Deshaun Watson.

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?

Fantasy Football Magazine

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, Tim Patrick, Sony Michel, and Russell Gage were still playing this season. Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook were unsigned free agents. 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 the Fantasy Nerds Charity League Draft, I had gone WR/RB in the first two rounds. While I did take a WR in the first round, Davante Adams was waiting for me in the second. The running backs left at my turn in the second did not present enough value compared to Adams, so I pivoted to WR/WR. The point differential between the tiered players can be enough to warrant that pivot.

Have a plan, but be prepared to take what the draft gives you. Marry your spouse - not a specific strategy.

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. Yes, Justin Tucker is the GOAT of kickers, but given the fact that kickers are the most streamed position in all of fantasy sports, why take him early?

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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