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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 2015: Cheatsheet and Tips for Nailing Every Pick

Fantasy Football
September 5, 2015

Are you ready to get slapped in the face with so much fantasy knowledge you’ll take off an imaginary glove and challenge me to a duel?


I don’t blame you. That would be weird. So instead, just enjoy this fantasy football advice that I’ll softly, gently lay at your feet. Let’s not fight, OK?


Top 100 Rankings

Matt Camp’s Fantasy Advice

Fantasy Wisdom from Mohamed Sanu

“I couldn’t get A.J. Green,” Cincinnati Bengals wideout Mohamed Sanu told Sean Jensen of Nerdy Football, talking about his strategy of drafting his teammates. “Why not draft the people you got confidence in? There are other great players in the league, but you got to draft your boys!”

It’s a smart principle to draft by (though most of us don’t have the option to draft a teammate). If you have players you trust, players who continue to produce or who you know very well, draft them again!

I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan, so I’m more tuned into that team than some of the other organizations in the league. I have a good feeling about most of their skill position players this year, including Sam Bradford, so you can bet at least one Eagle will be on most of my teams.

You Can Wait on a Quarterback

Here’s a quick look at the average draft position for quarterbacks in ESPN leagues:

There are some really good players dropping well down the board at quarterback. Unless Aaron Rodgers falls into your lap in the third round, you can totally wait on the position.

Play it Safe in the Early Rounds

There is a time and place to take risks, and that is in the middle to later rounds. You need to crush your early picks, however. You can’t win your league by nailing your early picks, but you can absolutely lose it by flubbing them.

Go after guys in the early rounds with a reliable track record who you trust. If you are sitting at pick No. 10, you want a running back, and the available options are Matt Forte and C.J. Anderson, go with Forte. Maybe Anderson will be the better player, ultimately, but you know exactly what you are getting with Forte. Anderson’s 2014 could have been a fluke, or he might end up in a platoon.

Forte is going to eclipse 1,500 yards from scrimmage and score seven-to-10 touchdowns based on what he’s traditionally done in his career, barring an injury. If fantasy is the art of minimizing your risk while maximizing value, there is no reason to get cute in the early rounds and go after high-risk, high-reward players when more reliable, productive players are available.

Wide Receiver is the Deepest Position

You can build a really good team without drafting a wideout in the first four or five rounds. While that’s a risky strategy to employ, the position just has so many strong options into the middle rounds.

Yes, elite wide receivers are still very valuable because of the consistency they offer. Wideout generally is the most mercurial position, as a good wideout will get you 25 points one week and 20 points combined in the next three or four. The elite receivers, meanwhile, tend to get you double-digit points week in and week out, reducing the weekly droughts.

So yes, target a solid receiver in the first three rounds, but just know that it isn’t the end of the world if the board falls funny for you and you don’t take a wideout early. There will be plenty of nice options waiting for you and, if you play the matchups right throughout the season, you’ll be just fine without an elite option.

Get an Elite Tight End or Draft One Late

If you don’t get Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen, just wait on tight end until later in the draft. The difference between players in the middle tier of tight ends is likely to be pretty small, so there is really no reason to reach for a tight end in the middle rounds.

Draft a Defense and a Kicker with Your Last Two Picks

Streaming defenses is a really smart, viable strategy, so there is never a need to reach on a defense. The difference between the top kicker and the No. 10 kicker might be 1.5 points per week, meanwhile, so I’ve never understood taking a kicker before the final pick.

You should be using your late-round picks to nab sleepers, not to reach for a defense or kicker.

Have a Philosophy, but be Flexible!

Coming into this year’s draft, my philosophy is centered around taking running backs early and often. The top-end running backs are simply more valuable than the top-end players at other positions because the position thins out really quickly due to the growing trend of teams relying on their passing games and platoons in the backfield.

That said, if the board falls for me in such a way that I take a wide receiver and quarterback in the first two rounds, that’s what I’ll do. I’m not going to reach for players just because I have a template for a perfect draft I need to fill out.

A good fantasy player is always prepared and has a strategy, yes, but a good fantasy player can also adjust that strategy on the fly and react to how the board is shaping. You don’t want to wing your draft, but you also don’t want to approach it rigidly.

Don’t Go Sleeper Crazy

I see it every year—a bunch of solid, unspectacular, veteran players fall down the board for me to bolster my bench because the folks in my league have gone sleeper crazy. They start reaching for rookies or nabbing that backup who has looked explosive in the preseason.

To a point, targeting sleepers is smart. One really good sleeper can vault you into the playoffs. But the odds of hitting a home run in the later rounds is also really low, so the wise bet is to identify a few players you love, affix a value on them so you don’t reach for them and fill out your roster with less sexy but more reliable players if those sleepers aren’t available for you where you’ve slotted them on your board.

I’ve seen plenty of teams who have gone sleeper-heavy in the later rounds absolutely fall apart during the bye weeks when those players haven’t panned out and the team is left with no real depth.

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