It seems like everyone is playing fantasy football and things have never been more competitive. Serious players are looking to get an advantage over the competition. To do this it is imperative to go into the draft with some strategies in mind. Whether you are new to fantasy football or a seasoned veteran, you will find something useful right here. First some general advice, this is mainly for snake drafts but some of it can be applied to auctions as well.
This should go without saying, but do your homework before you show up at the draft. Everyone knows that Drew Brees is a great quarterback and Jimmy Graham scores a lot of touchdowns. You need to go deeper than that if you want to win your league. While it is not a good strategy to draft a lot of rookies for your team, you should know which young players could make a splash. Nobody wants to be the guy who misses out on the next Randy Moss, Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Clinton Portis, Marshawn Lynch...you get the idea. Rookies can achieve first year success. Just don't bet your whole season on it. Most of all, stay up to date with injury news. There is no worse feeling than drafting a player and having the whole league burst out laughing, "He's out for the year".
Take The Best Available Player
I am by no means telling people to draft five quarterbacks, this is simply to say you don't want to be scared by a run on tight ends and pass up a great wide receiver. The vast majority of reaches in the draft happen when someone sees a position drying up and grabs a B level talent while leaving an A player on the board. Every situation depends on the individual, but most of the time taking the better player will work out over working positional scarcity. Remember, you can always make a trade if you have three great running backs and questionable receivers.
Group Players In Tiers
This is a great way to make sure that you're getting a good value with your picks. Put players into groups at each position, based on their value. This is going to be an individualized strategy based on what you personally believe players are worth. An example would be the tight end position. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski would be the top tier, or you could argue that Graham may be the top tier by himself now. If you miss out on a top tier tight end, it may be in your best interest to wait and draft a player from another position, provided there is a top tier player still available there.
Look At The Big Picture
Make sure that the history of a player is taken into account. Looking at only the stats from last season can be a dangerous game to play. A player like Roddy White is a good example, he had a down season last year but he was injured and he finished strong. White has had a stellar career with no injury problems prior to last season, so he should not be discounted to strongly this year. He's going to bounce back. At the same time, you do not want to value a player too highly based on one time production. Having a big season is nice, but if it is production that hasn't been seen before it has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Grab A Feature Back In The First Round, Mostly
More teams are going to running back by comittee, which is bad news for fantasy. One goal in the first round should be to grab one of the few clear cut feature backs in the league i.e. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Lesean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, etc. This strategy is good for the top 2/3 of the first round, after this you have to be careful. Once the stud running backs are gone, you need to look at Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Rodgers...the top players at other positions. Missing a top running back is disappointing, but having the best player at another position can make up for it.
Tips For 2014
Keeping that general advice in mind, here are some player specific tips just for the upcoming season.
Sleeper For Each Position
• Josh McCown TB - He was big-time in relief of Jay Cutler in Chicago where he had some serious weapons. Now as he makes the move to Tampa Bay, he is going to have a nice tandem of receivers again. Vincent Jackson is a big target who is a proven producer and when he is paired up with Mike Evans it will be tough to decide who to cover. McCown should come cheap and put up big numbers.
• Trent Richardson IND - This could be a tough pill to swallow for owners of Richardson last year. I think that this year with the Colts improving offense, Richardson will have a lot more room to run. He won't be a top 10 running back, but for the price he will have a lot of value.
• Roddy White ATL - I mentioned White above and here he is again. I am VERY high on him for the upcoming season. Not to sound like a broken record, but he has no history of injury outside of last season and when he is healthy he produces.
• Troy Niklas ARI - Niklas is not a guy who will excite the way Julius Thomas did last year. I don't think he will singlehandedly win the league for your team, but by week 4 or 5 he should be starting and producing. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd command a lot of defensive attentiong and Niklas will give thema third option. He should at least see some opportunities.
Bust For Each Position
• Cam Newton CAR - Options are going to be sparse for Newton this year. Kelvin Benjamin is a nice looking physical specimen, but he is raw as can be when it comes to playing receiver. He is reminiscent of Stephen Hill of the New York Jets and everyone has seen how he has worked out. I think that Newton struggles this year.
• Ryan Mathews SD - Mathews put together a nice season last year, but I think this year the injury bug bites again. He has had a tough time staying on the field early on in his career and I would not spend a high pick on him in 2014.
• Sammy Watkins BUF - On the surface, Watkins looks like he can't miss, but everyone thinks that way. I think that his value is going to be sky high on draft day and there are better, more proven options for a similar price.
• Jason Witten DAL - This guy has big time name recognition but he is on the downside of his career. He is due for a big drop off sometime soon and I think that this will be the year. Draft him at your own risk.