By Amol Nadkarni
In order to win any fantasy championship at season’s end, you need to nail your fantasy draft. Sure, you will make additions and subtractions to your team throughout the season, but it is your draft that serves as the foundation of your season. What you do in the draft will dictate the moves you make throughout the season, so it is imperative that you go into the fantasy draft with a plan and strategy. This article will detail a few of the most common and effective strategies utilized during fantasy drafts in order to give you a better sense of how to attack your draft this season.
Since running backs are more likely to score touchdowns and can also catch passes, they are generally the most valued position in fantasy football. With the league turning to the “committee backfield” approach, drafting that rare bell-cow back is always a major coup in any draft. The “RB-RB Strategy” looks to capitalize on the scarcity of quality running backs by going after them with your first two picks in the draft. By doing so, you are guaranteed a RB1 and either a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2, having two quality starters on your team at arguably the thinnest position in the draft. Naturally if you use this strategy, other areas of your team will not be as a strong. If you go RB-RB, you will have to target a wide receiver (or to a lesser extent quarterback) with your third pick and the players available will be second or third tier players serving the function as as your WR1. You need to take this into account when going with this strategy. It would be helpful to do additional research on these second, third and fourth tier wide receivers, to see which ones have the potential during the season to evolve into top tier players. Usually, the best players to target at these two positions are rookie or second/third year players who have the raw potential to be stars but might just need time or coaching to make an impact. Another risk with this strategy is the fact that running backs are more prone to injuries than any other positions in fantasy. Therefore it can be perceived as a risky investment to draft two running backs with your first two picks. You will need to weigh that risk against your value of the running back position. Despite the flaws, the “RB-RB Strategy” is a solid and widely used strategy that ensures that you have a solid foundation at a position that is limited in value and depth. If you opt to use this strategy, just make sure that you do in-depth research on the wide receiver, quarterback and tight end fronts, to make sure that you get the best value at those positions after the first two rounds.
This is a strategy that ensures that you have a balanced team heading into the season. The idea is that you draft a top tier running back with your first pick and with your second pick you go for an elite receiver. Since it is likely that most people in your league will draft a running back in the first round, you will be able to get a WR1 in the second. After the first two rounds, you can go a variety of different routes, opting to select a RB2 or low-end WR1 or high-end WR2, or you could go for a mid to lower QB1, forming a solid spine for your team. There really is not a lot wrong with this strategy, as it works to create a well rounded team that has at least one solid player at the two most important positions in fantasy. The real dilemma (if you can call it that) with this strategy is what to do after your first two picks, as there are many scenarios for you to explore.
It is no secret that over the past few years, the NFL has evolved into a passing league. As a result, wide receivers have elevated in value to the point that some might see them as more important to your team than running backs. With so many good receivers in the league today, if you opted to select wide receivers with your first two picks, you will be guaranteed two elite WR1s, as most others in your league will try to get a running back, the elite tight end (Rob Gronkowski), or an elite quarterback with one of their first two picks. If you employ this strategy, you might find it best to draft a quarterback or tight end with your third pick, since you have already put so much stock in the passing game. However, whether you go quarterback in the third or not, you will suffer in the running back department, as you will be faced with choosing a RB1 from a crop of second and third tier running backs. This strategy works best in PPR leagues and although it is risky because you neglect the running back position early, it is always nice to have two elite wide receivers on your team. With the league now being pass first, this might be the new trend in fantasy football.
This is a strategy that is rarely used but can serve a purpose down the road. You basically draft the best available running backs with your first three picks, stocking up on the thinnest position in the draft. The idea is that you will be able to start two running backs and one more in the flex position. Since most people employ the “RB-WR Strategy”, if you opt to go running back in the first three rounds you will end up with an impressive corps of backs. Of course, this is one of the more risky draft strategies, as you will definitely need to believe in your ability to find “sleeper” wide receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends. However, with three top running backs, you have the flexibility to trade one of them during the season should you need to upgrade at another position. It’s a high risk, high reward type of strategy that might just be crazy enough to put you over the top in your league.
Late Round QB
Real life and fantasy quarterbacks are two completely different phenomenons. In real life, there are very few franchise quarterbacks. In fact, you can probably count all of them on your hands (maybe even one hand). However in fantasy you have at least fifteen quarterbacks that could be used as QB1s in the most leagues. From Aaron Rodgers to Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterbacks in the NFL are constantly throwing and anyone of the starting 32 signal callers are able to put up big numbers on any given Sunday. This strategy takes advantage of the fact that you can wait to draft a quarterback until the later rounds and stock up with running backs, wide receivers and even tight ends. Unless you are hell-bent on getting Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton, you will be available to wait until as far as the thirteenth round to snag a solid QB1. If you are a true believer in the notion that quarterback is the deepest position in fantasy, then this strategy is for you.
Best Player Available
The name of this strategy tells you all you need to know. When it is your pick, draft the best player available on your board. The most successful franchises in the NFL employ this strategy in the real draft and the idea is not different in fantasy. With this strategy, it is helpful to create your own custom rankings, so that you know in your mind who is the most valuable player available at every pick. Basically you’re letting the draft come to you and if you have faith in your rankings, when it is all said and done you should come out with a team that you are happy with.
Zero RB Strategy
This is an interesting strategy, which requires a lot of in-depth research on rookie or young unknown running backs. Basically you hold off drafting a running back until the early mid to late rounds and instead stock pile wide receivers, an elite quarterback, and tight ends. Given that the running back position does not usually have a lot of depth, you are basically hoping to strike the jackpot with a rookie or second year back who has shown potential. Make sure to research the running back position thoroughly throughout training camp and keep your ears open for any buzz surrounding running back battles. This is a risky strategy, but if you feel like you can identify “sleeper” backs, then by all means employ this strategy, as you will have a very strong receiving corps along with tight end and quarterback, which can serve as the foundation for your team.