As you’re preparing your draft boards and getting your strategy all lined up for the year, I would like you to offer you a little advice on the kind of thinking you need to have:
1. Don’t over-think depth on your bench – Sure you need to have some solid players on your bench for injury and bye-weeks, but you don’t need to overdo it. Some people love to have mid-level talent all over their roster, and those people will be your best friend. It is far better to trade away two mid level players for one top level player. Especially if you mix in a mid level RB and WR for one top level player at either position. You probably won’t be able to snag one of the top five guys, but you should still be able to snag a start-every-week kind of guy.
2. You don’t need to win every game - This one is kind of obvious, but it speaks to an over-arching way of thinking. You don’t need to skip over a player in the draft because he has the same bye-week as another player on your team. I’ve had teams where 5 of my starters were on a bye in week 8. Sure, your screwed for week 8 but every other week you should be able to dominate. There is nothing worse than missing the playoffs by one game because every week you had to sit a top-performer and you lost by 3 points a couple of times.
3. Don’t concern yourself with runs on a position - It is easy to hit panic mode when you watch all of the RBs start to fly off the board, but unless you are in the top 5 of that run, you might as well grab the top player for another position or you will always be chasing everyone else. Just remember, once everybody has drafted that one position they are not likely to come back to that position for a while. Chances are, you can grab the same player in the next round and snag yourself a top WR in the process.
4. Don’t be fooled by one-year-wonders - It isn’t hard to be fooled by players like Peyton Hillis or Steve Slaton. They come out of nowhere and have these stellar years. The next year they are drafted high, and leave their owners hanging. There are a couple things to look at that will help you uncover these players before it is too late. The first is what were they doing the year before? Rookies in the NFL don’t usually come out big and then disappear. What you are looking for are players that have maybe floated around a bit or been in the shadows for a couple of years, and then come from nowhere and play huge. They are best to avoid the next year. Also it is beneficial to look at the talent on defense that the players have been playing. If they played a large number of soft defenses and it was, by far, the best year that they’ve had, then you may want to steer clear.
5. Be careful of new coordinators/coaches – If a player is looking at a big change on the coaching staff, especially the head coach or offensive coordinator, you may want to examine the situation further. It’s not always as easy as the Mike Martz scenario, where if you he comes in you know your TEs and RBs are going to suffer. Veterans tend to do better in these situations and rookies are also less affected. You need to be watchful of year 2 or 3 players especially if they have not been studs their whole career.
6. Be mindful of age - This rule needs a little more discretion, I’m not saying age is the major factor here, it is just one of the big indicator when looking at other trends, If the player has had a recent knee injury or has had multiple injuries recently and they are up there in age, you will be better off staying away. Declining performance is another factor there, the first time I see a big step down in stats from a player that is 29 or older I drop them like a bad habit, or in keeper or dynasty leagues, trade them right away. Your worst case scenario is usually they have one good year left, and you missed it, but it is better to dump them early then too late.
7. Don’t try to be a genius - Everybody loves to be the one to discover some awesome sleeper player, and get all of the admiration for being the one to make that discovery, that is best left to your last couple of roster spots though. You don’t want to grab more than one or two sleepers because of the high percentage of failure rates in picking out sleepers. You are far better off going with relatively known quantity kind of players, the kinds that do the same thing every year.
8. WRs are a dime a dozen - Calvin Johnson was far and away the best WR in the league last year, but after him there is not a lot to get excited about. With the spread -style offenses that have become so prevalent in recent years, you are never sure who is going to get the most balls on any team in any particular game. Even Calvin Johnson had 4 games under 10 points. Sure, that is pretty good, but he had a 3 point game in week 14 against a soft Minnesota defense, that may have cost some people a playoff win. My point is that the top TE (Rob Gronkowski 234 points) had more points than the second best WR (Jordy Nelson 210 points) And the numbers for the top ten TEs are sadly comparative to the top 35 or so WRs, and most of the middle of the pack in WRs are interchangeable with each other without missing anything in the bottom line.
9. The Top TEs are worth more than your second or third WR - As I mentioned in #8, if you can snag one of the top 3 or 4 TEs, it will go a lot farther than getting that second or third WR. There has been an influx of pass-catching TEs that have created huge match-up problems for defenses and you would be wise to skip a WR in round 4 in favor of one of these TEs. If you want to be extreme, you could say that drafting Rob Gronkowski in the Third round would have been a smart move, he was the 15th highest scoring Fantasy Football player in the whole league last year (ESPN standard scoring leagues). That speaks volumes.
10. QB is the easiest position to draft – Year in and year out, there is not a deeper, more predictable position than QB. Typically the top players are up there for a handful of years and you can see the top performers coming a mile away. Since they dish out the ball and so many teams are using some version of the spread, it makes it easy to pick a QB that is going to net you a large amount of points every week. Granted, you want one of the top 5 but if you miss that boat, you can wait until the 8th round to pick one up, and you wont be missing much.