Last week, BTSC's Jeff Hartman released his main fantasy football draft philosophies and what he saw as the main roads to success.
Here's a review of his primary points:
- Running backs still rule the roost.
- Quarterbacks are not created equal.
- Wide receivers are not a high demand position
- Tight ends are nice, but not priorities.
- When to take a Defense/Special Teams.
- Kickers are ... well ... kickers.
In short, Jeff is 100% correct that running backs are still the cream of the crop for picks in your draft and should take the highest priority when deciding between wide receivers and running backs of equal output. Quarterbacks have a top-tier in fantasy to draft in the early rounds but it's a short list. Wide receivers are important but are plentiful in productive players. Tight ends can produce but need not be the focus of your draft. Defenses and kickers are literally the last things you should worry about.
Though Jeff and I are not in complete alignment of ideals in how to do well in fantasy, his points were solid and should be taken into consideration for your own plans to draft successful teams for the 2015 NFL season. The draft is where your money is made in fantasy, and while the waiver wire is also very important week-to-week, you can win a season in August if you draft the right team.
That being said, here are my points on drafting strong for the season:
Draft for the playoffs, not just the beginning of the season.
Many people have Le'Veon Bell falling back in their own fantasy values because he will most likely miss the first three games of the season, leaving a big hole in the depth chart of whoever has him in those weeks.
That is a big mistake.
While it will be annoying in those early matchups that you will be missing a player that could be the best fantasy producer of 2015, it will be worth it when Le'Veon Bell is destroying for you in the games after his suspension, especially when you make the fantasy playoffs.
There are many different fantasy football playoff formats that can span through various weeks, but usually a leagues' playoffs will come in the final five weeks of the season. Even if it's the final four games, planning for the final five gives you room in case your league's playoffs don't count week 17, and even if it does you still need to win that last game to usually clinch your seed in the playoff hunt.
That's why in each of our quarterback, running back and wide receiver top draft lists, we have included our own statistic we call "APDPA." APDPA stands for Average Playoff Defensive Points Allowed, symbolizing an equation which analyzes the defenses which a specific offensive player will face during the final five weeks of an NFL season. APDPA observes the average amount of points which each of those five defenses surrendered to the specific position of that player, and averages them together for a quantification that can help determine the level of competition each player will face in those final five weeks.
While defenses are not always the same year-to-year, trends are noticeable and taking note of who a players' opponents might be in those later games are important. Keep following our APDPA stat throughout the season as new numbers come in. Take into account the potential playoff value of every player you get, because it won't matter how good you were weeks 1-12 if you completely fold in 13-17.
Know where you draft.
Don't just look at the players on the board, but build a strategy for who you could legitimately take in whichever slotted draft position you are given. It's important to do multiple mock drafts from that position to get the feel for who you'll be looking at in each of the first five rounds. The late rounds are harder to predict, but the earlier selections are crucial and usually run about the same.
You don't want to get to a position where you'll looking at several different players you had not considered taking and brain fart your way into selecting C.J. Spiller when Emmanuel Sanders is still on the board. You'll end up looking like Ralphie from Christmas Story when he blurted "football" to Santa and by the time you realize your mistake you have a boot in your face with a friend selecting the player you really should have taken.
It sounds silly, but even in fantasy, practice makes perfect.
Draft for a starting 4-5 targeted RB/WR players.
Most leagues operate with your starting roster having 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 RB/WR, 1 D/ST, 1 K. The focal point of where your points will come from is usually between your quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. However because of the tiers of quarterbacks and the higher statistics that so many of them bring, the primary concern for players usually fall to running backs and wide receivers.
Super producer running backs are on a short premium list that usually does not extend past 5-6 players. There is a second tier of significant producers, but the likes of Frank Gore and Jonathan Stewart are nowhere near the class of Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch when it comes to fantasy football.
You need to have a plan of attack, as in certain players you know should be available. Fortunately you should already have an idea for that when if you've practiced a bit already. But don't just practice, look for 4-5 RBs and WRs you want and realistically think you can get. Keep a list of backups in case your first options are gone and you need to think quickly before your timer runs out.
Do not deviate from your plan unless a superstar drops from the heavens. You want to solidify your top 5 RB/WR players so that you can have 2 RBs, 2 WRs and a flex player (RB or WR) ready to go every week.
Do not draft a quarterback in the first round.
Some people find that quarterbacks are the most important because a starting quarterback can score more points in a season than every other running back, but the difference between Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger can be so marginal that you would have more than made up for it when you have Demarco Murray and the person that nabbed Luck has to rely on Isaiah Crowell as one of their starting RB options.
Generally I won't even look at a quarterback until the third round and even then I'm only considering it if they are named Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers. By the time most people have one quarterback and a receiver, I've got two big name #1 RBs or WRs and ready to start filling out my top 5 while still having options like Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan at my disposal.
DO NOT fear rookies.
If you were able to stash Odell Beckham Jr. and hold onto him long enough last season, you saw that decision pay dividends as he was a top fantasy producer despite having missed games in 2014. Players this year like that might be Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon or even Amari Cooper.
Rookies are sometimes an ultimate gold mine because they can be taken with a very low draft position and end up being such a major producer. You won't want to risk passing on a player that you know will be a super producer such as Kelvin Benjamin for a Kevin White, but you do want to keep a Kevin White on your radar.
White is a perfect example of a grab that could work out, the Bears are now without their best receiver in recent history in Brandon Marshall, and now have White and Alshon Jeffery.
Build your bench before tight ends.
Every year people want to get excited about Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and other guys at the tight end position. While if you can reach and get a high value tight end, in the later rounds a 3rd string wide receiver or running back could be worth a lot more than a tight end that might get you 6 points on a good week.
Your year is going to see injuries, bye weeks and games against defenses that might lock down the position of one of your traditional starters. It would be more profitable to have better replacements for a stronger rotation than take a stab at having a tight end that could just satisfy one spot in your lineup.
Jeff made a great point that you have to invest into your bench to build for contingencies, but your bench needs to operate like a starting rotation of pitchers in baseball for your RB2, WR2 and flex positions. Some weeks it will not be a good idea to play Martavis Bryant, so Victor Cruz might be the option there. Jeremy Hill is going up against the Ravens? Good thing you grabbed Andre Ellington instead of Martellus Bennett.