By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
After breaking down sleepers and busts at each position over the last few weeks, now we from RotoAnalysis are going to give you some of the most important rules to follow in your draft to build an efficient winning team. For more detailed advice and our top 260 players, get our draft kit HERE.
Don’t Draft Two Top QB’s
It’s just impossible to survive taking two top QB’s early in drafts. Last week, during a RotoAnalysis mock draft, two teams selected two QB’s with their first 4 picks. While this left a few teams with weak starting quarterbacks, those teams will still be able to play weekly matchups or, more likely, take advantage of those owners who do have two top quarterbacks and holes elsewhere as they realize they have basically no leverage. While drafting Michael Vick is risky, owners should look for late round backups and understand that they will be able to work the waiver wire for the few games he’s hurt. However, a team with the first four picks of Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Victor Cruz, and Willis McGahee is much stronger then a team of Matthew Stafford, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Vick, and Darren Sproles. Don’t let this team be yours as I guarantee you won’t get the value for those QB’s equal to where you drafted them.
How to Handcuff Running Backs
Handcuffs are important in the right situation, but not every situation has a backup worth owning as a handcuff. For example, although Darren McFadden is being drafted as a high pick and is often injured, I don’t trust Mike Goodson or Tawain Jones as being a top 20-25 RB if McFadden goes down. Similarly, although the Ravens have a great running offense, I don’t trust Bernard Pierce as a reliable replacement if Ray Rice goes down. In addition, it’s hard to use a pick as high as it takes to draft Ben Tate to handcuff Arian Foster even though I think he would be extremely successful if he got the job. At the same spot as Ben Tate is being drafted, Donald Brown and Rashad Jennings are two guys I would rather own who are still usually on the board. Here’s a list of running backs I would draft a handcuff for with a late round pick if I owned the starter:
Arizona: Beanie Wells (Ryan Williams)
Buffalo: Fred Jackson (C.J. Spiller)
Chicago: Matt Forte (Michael Bush)
Jacksonville: Maurice Jones-Drew (Rashad Jennings)
Kansas City: Jamaal Charles (Peyton Hillis)
Minnesota: Adrian Peterson (Toby Gerhart)
New York Giants: Ahmad Bradshaw (David Wilson)
Seattle: Marshawn Lynch (Robert Turbin)
St. Louis: Steven Jackson (Isaiah Pead)
With Tight Ends, If You Ain’t First (or Second), You’re Last
I know drawing inspiration from the immortal Ricky Bobby may often prove futile, but this year, if you listen to him in regard to your tight end strategy, it will do you very well. In our minds, there are exactly two elite tight ends this year: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. If you don’t get one of those guys (or possibly grab Antonio Gates in the late 3rd-early 4th round range), I would highly recommend waiting until the last or nearly last rounds to grab your starting tight end. Sure, Vernon Davis is a slightly better fantasy option and more highly rated than Fred Davis, but I would much, much, much rather have Fred Davis with the 100th pick than Vernon Davis with the 52nd pick, as the difference between them is basically negligible. While others imprudently grab a marginally better tight end than you’ll end up with, take the middle rounds as an opportunity to supplement your running back and wide receiver depth which will serve you much better in the long run.
Always Try to Zig When Others Zag
It’s really smart to be as prepared as possible entering a draft. Doing mock drafts, reading fantasy content (like, say, on RotoAnalysis.com!), and talking with fantasy experts is a great way to do that. However, in no way should you be confined to one draft strategy. For example, let’s say you’ve done mock draft after mock draft where you end up with an elite QB, and you like the way your team ended up. Well, if you go into a draft with the 6th pick and Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees get snatched up before your slot, there’s no reason to reach for Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton. Just let the draft come to you and change your strategy as it goes along. If you’re stuck in a one-strategy mind set, there’s no way for your team to succeed. Just be adaptable and look for value rather than being stubborn and ruining your team.
Wait ‘til the last two rounds for Defenses & Kickers
While this is true in most leagues, you’ll also see the Niners defense creeping up in drafts, and owners foolishly going with the “my starting lineup is more important than my bench, no matter the position” strategy. Well, it’s pretty clear why both kickers and defenses are of nearly no value and in many ways are a crapshoot. David Akers was the clear #1 kicker last year with 183 points, but what was he ranked in the preseason? 20th. That can’t really happen at any other position, and just points to how hard it is to predict kicker’s performance. After Akers in 2011, just 17 fantasy points separated #2 from #12 (exactly 1 per week). Just be safe with a guy on a high-scoring team and hope for the best – it really shouldn’t affect your week-to-week performance all that much. As for defenses, the difference is only slightly larger. The 49ers D was the clear #1 defense last year with 169 points, but what were they ranked in the preseason? Just like Akers, 20th. It’s much easier to simply play the matchups each week than to try and lock up a great defense early in your draft.
Don’t Be Scared of Doubling Down
There are a lot of poor misconceptions surrounding fantasy football and the way you should build your team. A lot of team owners will draft Aaron Rodgers, but then decide they don’t want Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings. If Jennings or Nelson is there later at a point where they are a good value, there is absolutely no reason to not go for it. If anything it is a way of sort of parlaying value – when one succeeds, it’s likely the other has too. That could lead to some huge wins for your team. This also applies to handcuffing, which is the perfect way to reducing the risk your team takes on. Just because you took Roy Helu, don’t stay away from Evan Royster or Alfred Morris. If anything, draft all of them and try to play along with Mike Shanahan’s whims. The last place this applies is bye weeks. While I generally ignore them while drafting, it can be a good thing to “punt” a week by having all of your starters on bye. This way, every other week you will be able to overpower teams that our struggling.
Good luck in all of your drafts, and for more advice go to RotoAnalysis.com and get our Draft Kit!
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.