Draft Prep: Strategies
June 14, 2007
By Dave Richard
Senior Fantasy Writer
It's draft day. You've got your rank list, you've got your Pro Football Weekly/CBS SportsLine Fantasy Football Draft Guide and your favorite jersey on your back.
But do you have a draft strategy? You know -- an idea of who you want to pick for your Fantasy team? How many running backs do you want to commit to in your first five picks? Do you want a stud quarterback or can you live with one of the other better gunslingers? Is tight end a priority? Are DSTs a priority?
Let's take a look at some of the better draft strategies to consider this season, as well as some that shouldn't be used ... ever.
Strategies we'd use
The Three-Back Strategy. Plain and simple, your first three picks are spent on running backs and nothing else, leaving the rest of your draft to fill in other positions. If you start two running backs, then you get a third as a trusty backup and possible bargaining chip in a trade down the line. If you start three running backs, you've got your workhorses covered. There are Fantasy experts and owners who live by this very strategy.
Good for 2007? This is a year where the running back you get in Round 3 is about as good as one you'll get in Round 4 or 5. So if your league will see several QBs and WRs go in the first two rounds, then this is fine. If it's RB-heavy in the first two rounds, this isn't the best strategy -- just take a good back or two and pick up strength at the positions abandoned by other owners.
The K.I.S.S. Strategy. When we say K.I.S.S., we're not talking lips or glam rock, we're saying Keep It Simple, Stupid. Before the draft, you rank the top players (or just borrow our list), and when it's your turn, you take the player ranked the highest. Obviously, once you have enough players at one spot, you ignore the rest of their peers on your list. This should result in a well-rounded team, but keep in mind that if you rank a player higher than most, you'll end up stretching for him when you could snag him in a later round.
Good for 2007? This should be good for every season. Chances are your first two picks will be running backs, your third will be a receiver and you'll build from there. It also makes drafting a lot easier. The talent pool is deep at QB, RB and TE, so just make sure you cover yourself once the top 20 or so wide receivers are gone.
The Big Bang Strategy. Hear me out on this one as I use this myself: You're looking for the inconsistent guys. The players who will get 141 yards and two touchdowns one week and get 54 yards the next. Load up your roster with them. Of course, just about anyone you take in the first two rounds will be good every week, so this is one to carry with you into Round 3 and beyond. The idea is that every week, some will go off enough to carry your team to victory. If they all tank, you tank. That's the only risk you take with this plan.
Good for 2007? Like any season, there are plenty of players expected to be inconsistent. But with most NFL offenses customizing their gameplans each week to fit the weaknesses of their opponents, this strategy could actually work in your favor now more than ever before.
The Peyton Manning Strategy. When is the right time to take Peyton Manning? That's a question we get a lot. This year, Manning shouldn't be a consideration until the sixth or seventh overall pick. Take him then, and then do something completely, totally unfathomable: Wait until Round 4 to get a running back. Now why in the world would I suggest such a thing? Because you'll be completely loaded with talent at the other positions. We actually did this in a mock draft earlier this year and wound up with Manning, Chad Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, three guys we'll never bench. And the running backs? That's the good news -- while we did forfeit any shot at a top RB, we were left with plenty of decent guys who will split reps and/or compete for starting jobs while the other owners filled needs we already covered. Our RBs wound up being Marion Barber, Tatum Bell, Chester Taylor, rookie Chris Henry, Reuben Droughns, Lorenzo Booker and T.J. Duckett. In a league that starts two running backs, two of those guys should be useful on a platoon basis.
Good for 2007? Because the RB pool is deeper than normal, there are more guys who will get their paws on the ball. That means more running backs to pick from. Until that trend changes, I think this could be a sharp way to draft, especially if passing touchdowns are worth six points and receptions for receivers count. Also, Manning could be primed for a bigger-than-normal year thanks to an added receiver in his offense and a weak-link defense in Indy, so now might be the time.
The Quarterbacks-Grow-On-Trees Strategy. Take a look at our top-12 Fantasy quarterbacks. If you're interested in getting running backs early, then compare the QBs ranked fourth, fifth and sixth with those ranked 10th, 11th and 12th. Not a big difference in your mind? Then go ahead and wait until the middle rounds to get your quarterback. Now, the keen Fantasy owner will keep track of which teams draft a QB and wait until just one is left before pouncing on the last best startable signal caller. In our Pro Football Weekly/CBS SportsLine Fantasy Football Draft Guide mock draft, I landed Michael Vick in Round 7 thanks to this strategy.
Good for 2007? Absolutely. Because there are 13 startable Fantasy QBs this year, anyone drafting in a 10- or 12-team league can do this. It's those owners in 14-plus-team leagues that will have a harder time.
Strategies we'd toss in a grease fire
The Two-QB Strategy. I've been crowing about this one since 2001. It's when an owner spends two early picks on quarterbacks, basically forcing another owner into starting a No. 2 QB as his No. 1. When I witnessed this live, the owner who did it was really proud of himself. When the time came to trade one of his passers, he wound up getting a situational receiver and an over-the-hill running back for him. Total trainwreck. Don't do this.
The Sleeper Strategy. Everyone thinks they know a couple of players who they can snag late and pay dividends later. But some owners think that these players should be picked early. Tony Gonzalez in Round 1. LaMont Jordan in Round 3. Matt Schaub in Round 6. Reach. Reach. Reach. If there are players you have your eye on, get a good idea of when he should be picked before you start drafting.
The Homer Strategy. I've seen owners who are loyal to a certain team, pro or college, go and draft everyone they possibly can. I've also seen owners who are upset with their first three picks and start drafting guys they root for just so they can, well, root for them. Essentially, they eliminate any chance they have at winning, but at least they'll have fun doing it.
Here are a couple of additional pointers to consider when devising your strategy.
• Know your league rules. If passing touchdowns count for four points, devalue your quarterbacks. If receptions count, consider wide receivers who annually get 70-plus receptions sooner than normal as well as running backs who rack up three-plus catches per game.
• Along those same lines, be aware of special scoring for kickers and DSTs. A lot of sneaky commissioners will throw a curveball into scoring for those spots and could make them more valuable than you'd normally think. If you get big points for shutouts, points against and yards against, then aim to get a strong DST in Round 8. If long field goals mean anything, then do a little extra research on strong-legged kickers and shoot for one of them starting in Round 10.
• Keep an eye on the bye. When drafting, make sure you don't pick too many guys with the same bye week as it will hurt your starting lineup for that particular week. Also, players on teams with late bye weeks carry a little added value because they will be able to start for the first several weeks of the season without having to need being replaced. I prefer to draft kickers and DSTs with late bye weeks.
• Don't be afraid to deal. Creative Fantasy drafters will target guys they want and then pull the trigger on making draft-day swaps to get them. Even if your league doesn't allow the trading of picks, you could always make a tentative deal with another owner, have him pick your guys and you pick his guys, then consummate the deal when the draft is over. Hey, whatever it takes to make your team what you want it to be, right?
I'd say my draft strategy is a combination of Three-Back or KISS, combined with The Quarterbacks-Grow-On-Trees strategies, although I'm rolling my eyes at how they're so proud of themselves for "landing" Vick in the 7th round of a recent mock. The Peyton Manning strategy should also be tossed in the grease fire. It's nothing short of fantasy suicide to wait until the fourth round to draft your first starting RB. Again, I'm rolling my eyes in disgust at how they're proud of having a RB platoon of Marion Barber, Tatum Bell, Chester Taylor, Chris Henry, Reuben Droughns, Lorenzo Booker and T.J. Duckett. You couldn't pay me to play in a league this season with that lineup.