Beginner’s Guide: 10 Big Tips for Fantasy Drafting

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

I wish when I was first encapsulated by the wonderful world of fantasy football I had sat down and took a few minutes to look at some tips and tricks from veteran fantasy analysts. Now, I am certainly not suggesting I am a veteran by any stretch, but I like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to this anomalous yet elusive affiliation to the NFL. So I will offer you my opinions of how to compete competitively and let you in to some trade tricks and secrets that will hopefully steer you to victory and have the edge over your rivals.

1) Mock Drafting

A mock draft is where you will get the lie of the land of where players are being drafted in live practice drafts. Most fantasy football platforms will have a mock draft system either on their app or on their websites.

I prefer to use ESPN’s fantasy app and that certainly has a very good mock draft section but DraftWizard, CBS, Yahoo, NFL Fantasy and Sleeper also offer this service in the off season.

(AP Photo)

It is vital to mock draft all the way until you do your real draft. You will be able to use different draft positions in order to figure out where you think is the best place to draft from and which spots your specific targets are falling to.

For example, if you really want to have Davante Adams on your team, you will find in most mocks at the moment he is being drafted in the first round between picks 6 and 9. If you choose the sixth spot, you can then see what player falls to you in the second round and so forth.

Keep swapping positions and do multiple drafts until you can find a constant where you are happy with the players you are drafting.

2) Find a draft strategy for you

Once you have done a few mock drafts and you have got your targets and know roughly where they are being drafted, the next step is to get yourself a couple of systems to play with.

I always try and get an even spread of talent throughout my team in all the positions. I tend to go with a system of using my first four picks as a mix of running backs and receivers and alternate those positions each round, although this year I have found myself taking three RB’s in the first four picks and really liking my team at the end.

But usually, if I take a running back in the first round, I’ll then grab the best available receiver in the second round or vice versa. Or maybe you find yourself and your favoured position to grab RB, RB with your first two picks as you like a couple of later round picks as sleepers or flyers to fill in your receiving corps.

Alternately you could like the zero RB strategy where you don’t pick a running back until the mid-rounds where you can get potential break out players like David Montgomery or Kenyan Drake.  It’s very much each to their own.

Again, this is why mock drafting is so important, you can play around with all these different strategies to see which one you like, but ALWAYS have a backup plan because, trust me, not all drafts fall how you want them to!

3) Research, ADP and Sleepers

ADP is short for Average Draft Position. This ADP of a player is based upon where he is being drafted in mock drafts during the off-season and real drafts once they start getting underway (usually from July onwards).

It’s an indication for us, the fantasy GM’s, to see where the general public are drafting players and where about they are in relation to other players around them. Basically it’s a public ranking system.

I find the best websites for ADP checks are fantasyfootballcalculator and FantasyPros. ADP’s provide a pivotal tool for us analysts who write about fantasy but also a reliable source for you to plot out where you should be looking to draft the players you want in your team(s).

This goes hand in hand with finding sleepers. It always pays to do research. Whether it is reading one of my articles (excuse the plug), or maybe listening to fantasy podcasts or other media outlets that provide good information, stats and opinions and maybe even just going to watch a players tape on YouTube.

A sleeper, for those who don’t know, is a player slated to be drafted in the late rounds (from round 7 onward as a general rule of thumb) in fantasy drafts but is a player that you/an analyst thinks will have a very good season and outperform his ADP. Anything after the 12th round or undrafted players that are fancied are known as deep sleepers.

One of my sleepers this year for example, is rookie running back Justice Hill from the Baltimore Ravens. I love the opportunity he has to potentially be the back there or at least in a decent split work load with Mark Ingram, and his current ADP is RB52 or 140 overall.

Photo Credit: baltimoreravens.com

4) Know your league format and points system

This might seem obvious, but you might find yourself in a few different leagues with differing rules. For example, you may be a part of a PPR (points per reception) league where players get extra points every time they make a catch.

This will drive wide receiver, tight end and pass catching running backs value up. Players like Tarik Cohen and James White are just two that come to mind as productive receiving backs. You might also consider taking one of the top wide outs ahead of a running back like Melvin Gordon or David Johnson if you are drafting in the middle of round one.

You could be in a dynasty league where younger players have more value than the veterans. Or the league you are in may offer bonus points for extraordinary games or long runs/catches so big play players such as Brandin Cooks or DeSean Jackson who can break off a 90yard TD reception at any point in any game have more value.

5) Drafting Quarterbacks

It’s easy to assume that QB’s are one of the first players off you’re draft boards. Well, that shouldn’t be the case. I have never drafted a QB before the 6th round and I will always continue that tradition.

The reason for not picking a quarterback early is logical, in my opinion. Despite that position being the highest scoring in fantasy terms, usually your league will consist of a maximum of 16 players but most likely 10 or 12 and usually your league will only require you to start 1 QB.

There are 32 in the league, obviously, so you’re more than likely going to get a top performing quarterback in the mid to late rounds. Unless you have an infatuation with either Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes where these two are likely to go in the first few rounds along with Andrew Luck and probably DeShaun Watson, why not wait and get potential studs like Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston who are currently going in rounds 9 and 10 respectively.

You could even wait until the later rounds where you will find potential top 10 QB’s in Dak Prescott (round 11) or Mitch Trubisky (round 13).

Throughout the season, the points between these sorts of options and some of the higher ranked positional players won’t be that different, but the options down in the later rounds sometimes offer a lot more in terms of upside.

In my opinion, it is not worth wasting an early round pick where you could use those spots to bolster up your running back corps or receiving options where you will be starting 2 or in some cases 3 of each of these positions.

6) The Tight End

I’m tempted to copy and paste a lot of what I’ve just said regarding quarterbacks. You only have to start 1 tight end in most fantasy leagues. Travis Kelce is in a league of his own and is a viable option within the first 2 rounds if you really wanted to take the nailed on TE1 on the season. 

Zach Ertz and George Kittle are likely to be the next two TE’s off the board and probably before round 5. But after these bigger names it’s a big pool of potential breakout seasons vs veterans who will consistently put up average points.

So why not wait until you can get players like Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald or David Njoku who are all available later than the 7th round and again, fill up your roster with the power positions first.

7) Bulk up on Wide Receivers and Running Backs

So I have touched on this concept in the quarterback and tight end paragraphs. You are going to be drafting more WR’s and RB’s than any other position. In a standard setup this will be the case too.

Even if you have filled your quota of starting positions, continue to look for talented players that you can fill your rosters with in case of injuries or if your selected player(s) bust. Trust me when I say, this is the most important thing to take into consideration when drafting. Not only does it bolster your team, you will also have trade bait later on in the season.

8) Pay attention to who others in your league have drafted

Again, this might sound obvious, but come draft day, it all goes by very quickly. It’s always worth using your allotted time when it’s your turn to have a quick flick through all of your rivals’ teams to see what pieces they have drafted and what needs they have.

For example, if the next 3 teams after you in the draft order all need running backs, it may be worth considering grabbing the best available RB in case that triggers off a run and you are left with slim pickings come your next turn.

On the other hand, if a lot of players have already filled a position, like a QB, you might want to wait another couple of rounds before taking your guy as it’s likely he will still be available.

You could also be sneaky in the later rounds and snatch another players handcuff running back or receiver which will give you trade leverage if their main player goes down with a long term injury or is suspended.

9) Keep one eye on the bye weeks

On most, if not all of the websites you are likely to be drafting on, somewhere on the info screen will tell you when a player is on their teams bye week. This could affect your draft strategy because you might not realise a few of your players have coinciding bye weeks and you don’t really want to have to drop your key players mid-season because you only have a couple of players eligible.

It’s not the end of the world as you could just have that week as a loss week but it could be a tie-breaker if you have to choose between two similar players and you don’t ever want to go into a season knowing you’re definitely going to lose at least one week.

10) Leave Kickers and Defense/Special Teams until last

If your new to fantasy you might not think how little special teams/defence and kickers affect your fantasy team. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but only a couple. You can draft Justin Tucker or Greg Zuerlein once you’re happy you have a good amount of depth, but certainly not before round 10.

(Photo Source: Ken Blaze/ USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski are also solid options, but certainly don’t pick them up until round 12 at the absolute earliest. Kickers usually fluctuate with their points and you’ll find that points wise throughout the season, the main bulk of decent kickers will score a similar amount of points week-to-week and will only average 5-8 points per game.

As for defence/special teams, don’t even bother drafting them until the last couple of rounds. OK, a couple are likely to go off the board predictably Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, but throughout the season it’s usually beneficial to play the match-ups from week to week and most of the time a favoured defense for that week will be available on the waiver wire.

As for draft day, take a look at the early season schedule to see who has favorable match-ups… I know i’m targeting the Dallas Cowboys D/ST towards the tail end of drafts thanks to a good looking first few weeks.

Thanks for reading this article, if you are struggling with some of the technical words I’ve used in this article, don’t worry, coming next will be a jargon buster breaking down industry related words and phrases.

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