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Drafting From The Top

Posted by zewkey on August 31, 2007

by Mike MacGregor

You lucky S.O.B.! You landed the #1 pick in the draft. There hasn’t been this much consensus in the #1 overall pick since, well, let’s see…

  • 2006: Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, and LaDainian Tomlinson interchanged the top 3
  • 2005: Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Alexander
  • 2004: Tomlinson, Holmes
  • 2003: Ricky Williams, Tomlinson – Ricky? Is that right? Yep, 2,200 yards and 17 TD the year before.
  • 2002: Marshall Faulk

The #1 PickExclusive Expert Analysis at Yahoo! Fantasy Football

Its been half a decade since everyone agreed who the #1 pick is. Congratulations. Ah, but you can’t rely on LT and a team of Drew Bennetts’ to get you to the Championship. You still need to know what to do after locking down LT, and that is what we’re going to cover here.

What’s that? You didn’t get the #1 pick, but wound up with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th pick in the draft? Well boohoo for you. Before you think you’d be better off drafting towards the bottom, understand that is a complete cluster at that end of the draft. You’re in the top half, so consider yourself lucky (just not as lucky as the S.O.B.’s reading this who have the 1st pick).

For the purpose of this discussion we’ll generally assume a 12 team league with normal performance scoring (1 per 20 PaYd, 4 per PaTD, 1 per 10 Ru/ReYd, 6 per Ru/ReTD) with comments thrown in regarding the ever more popular point-per-reception leagues. For those in the 6 per PaTD camp, the difference is not going to be as significant as you might think, but that explanation is for another time. Now let’s get to work.


Round 1

RB Plan – You have a top 5 pick, you’re taking a RB. Manning? No. But? No, just no. Take a RB. Don’t try to get “cute” by taking Manning unless you can start or flex a 2nd QB. Then I’d consider it, and still may not do it depending on the other starting requirements. We’re now entering the 3rd season since Manning’s 49 TD pass-fest, indicating it was the exception, not the norm.

I got Manning as a good deal in a couple leagues last year. That isn’t happening this year, as people are seeing a bigger difference between the top half and bottom half starting QB. People got burned by the old “wait on a QB” theory last year, but the main reason for that is because they finally took it too far. Did anyone really think Kurt Warner was going to last the season this time last year? My feeling now is people are taking it too far the other way, overpaying for a QB. And with regards to Manning in the 1st, you’re giving up too much at other positions when there are still good QB on the board to be had later.

Now on to which RB to pick. We’ve already established the 1.01, and 1.02 has a very strong consensus as well.

  • 1.01 LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
  • 1.02 Steven Jackson, STL

The next 3 to form out the top 5 are much more debatable, and even at 5 there are very good arguments to put a few others in place of these guys.

  • Joseph Addai
  • Frank Gore
  • Larry Johnson

Not so much red flags, but caution signs with each of these picks. Addai gets the “never carried a full load” label. Gore lost his genius offensive coordinator, and already has a broken hand bringing to the forefront his injury prone history. Larry Johnson’s back in the mix but even with that new contract, are we entirely comfortable with Johnson? Can he buck the heavy workload trend, and what about his sub-par supporting cast?

We’ve been thinking about these top player rankings since April, so at this point it is easy to pick apart each player by identifying their weaknesses. I can see strong arguments for Shaun Alexander, Brian Westbrook, Reggie Bush (in point per reception leagues) and even Travis Henry being considerations in this top group. Ultimately, we could write essays on these top picks and still have uncertainty about who should be taken at each spot.

The only right answer on who you should take with your top draft pick is in your own head and in your own gut. Man, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. The only certain advice I can give you is to take a RB with that pick.

Round 2

RB-RB Plan – You’ve got your RB in the 1st, and let’s assume the 5 listed above are the ones who went in the top 5. You aren’t even going to sniff these guys on the comeback in round 2, picks 2.08 to 2.12 (20 to 24 overall) in a 12 team league:

  • Shaun Alexander
  • Brian Westbrook
  • Reggie Bush
  • Willie Parker
  • Rudi Johnson
  • Travis Henry
  • Ronnie Brown
  • Laurence Maroney
  • Maurice Jones-Drew
  • Willis McGahee

Now that is a RB heavy draft, but true to form 15 of the first 19 picks are RB. The likely candidates to be taken with those other 4 picks are:

  • QB Peyton Manning
  • WR Steve Smith
  • WR Chad Johnson
  • RB Edgerrin James

James may be available depending how much your league-mates can overlook what still may very well be, the same old Cardinals. Usually someone will overlook it, and nab James. Smith and/or Johnson may be available if your league is completely RB obsessed, and instead drafted the likes of Clinton Portis, Cedric Benson or Brandon Jacobs in the mid-2nd. Manning may be available but probably not unless the league starts 7 or more RB/WR/TE versus only 1 QB, and is full of sharp owners.

So if you are set on RB-RB to anchor your team, you are looking to choose from:

  • Clinton Portis
  • Cedric Benson
  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Thomas Jones

Assuming full health, I still believe Portis is one of the top 5 RB in the league in terms of pure talent. The problem is he’s not at full health. Benson impressed me his opening preseason game, but he has 2 years of being a malcontent to overcome before I can completely trust him. Jacobs has great potential, but he clearly falls into the boom or bust category. Jones looks like a potential force on an underrated Jets team, but he’s already injured.If you have a top pick, then RB-RB is a viable plan. Stockpiling RB talent always falls into the “safe play” category. However, I see a clear drop-off from McGahee-James to these 4. You have to consider RB-RB, especially if a good value falls to you, but I’m not expecting it which is why I normally recommend RB-WR start to your draft.

RB-WR Plan – Unlike prior years, instead of only 2 or 3 top tier WR, we’re looking at 6 guys with an equally legitimate shot at finishing as the #1 WR in the land. However at this end of the draft it doesn’t change our strategy that much. If 2 are already gone before the 2.08, that leaves 4. If you drafted 5th overall, and pass on a WR here, then you’re giving the guys drafting 1st through 4th two shots each at cleaning out this WR group. And if you can’t bear to have one of these top 6 on your team like, oh, I don’t know, Terrell Owens (although I tell you, his interviews have been very tame this year with no garbage that usually comes with Owens), then maybe your own top tier is not 6, but 5 or 4 instead.

This is where it really helps to know the tendencies of the other guys in your league. If you want one of the next 4 RB listed above, and one of the top WR coming out of the 3rd round, you should be able to do that, if you play your cards right. I’m not suggesting sneaking into a fellow owner’s house and stealing his fantasy notes, but check old drafts to get a feel for what positions they put their emphasis on. Owners can be surprisingly consistent year to year.

All right, let’s get to these WR. After Steve Smith and Chad Johnson who went at the backend of the draft, these are the guys to contemplate:

  • Marvin Harrison
  • Torry Holt
  • Terrell Owens
  • Reggie Wayne

I love getting one of these top WR, especially if your league starts 3 WR, and even more so if it is a point per reception league. While it is certainly possible to build a WR corps with later draft picks, how good does it feel to drop one of these guys into your lineup every week regardless of matchup? That’s a no stress move if ever there was one in fantasy football.

People may be surprised I added Wayne to this group, but I strongly believe he belongs. In a couple drafts I’ve done he has slipped down into the latter part of the 3rd. I of course was drafting a little later in the 3rd each time, much to my chagrin.

RB-QB Plan – If Peyton Manning is still there in the mid to late-2nd round, many people would jump on it. I personally would not be overly enthused for reasons stated above, but at the same time he gets dangerously close to the “well, I pretty much have to take him at this point” category.

The great thing about Manning is that you can drop in the lineup for every week except the bye, and just watch the points roll in. This is in fact the most stress free move in fantasy football, but there is an opportunity cost here, which is why I list this as the third option to consider.

RB-TE Plan? – Only in a point per reception league would a person start thinking about who else is eyeing Antonio Gates, but the 2nd round is too early to nab him. He should last into the 3rd round. As Matt Waldman would point out, I do have an apparent obsession with adding Gates to my fantasy teams (Exhibits A, B, C… and D), but in every case I don’t think I went overboard on what I paid to get him (forgot to include Exhibits E and F). While Mr. Gut Check chases the “most physically talented [yet unproven] TE in the league“, I’ll take the sure thing in Gates on a great offense. But if even I’m saying don’t spend a 2nd round pick, then its probably a good idea to not spend your 2nd round pick on Gates.

Round 3

A lot of this will be the same as the round 2 discussion, with the small yet significant point that you will have to wait anywhere from 14 to 22 picks until your 4th rounder. First off, you are going to check if any of the players listed above as legitimate 2nd round picks are available. Don’t pull the trigger just yet. Coming out of this round, do we have to have 2 RB? Not necessarily, but understand the implications of not doing it. You will pretty much have to go back to RB with one of your 4th/5th round picks, and maybe both.

Do we have to have a WR on the team coming out of this round? Again, not necessarily but you should be really sure about the 1 or 2 non-RB/non-WR players you added to your roster, and also your ability to grab WR later. If your league starts 3, and you have none in your first 3 picks, then there is a high likelihood that you should take 2 WR in the 4th/5th.

What about having 3 RB through your first 3 picks? Even in leagues where you can flex a 3rd RB I’m not even sure this is a good idea. As your league reaches for more RB the deeper in your draft you go, they get a lot less reliable than the top players at other positions.

I’ll also add, if you find yourself wondering “am I drafting with idiots?” because of the apparently amazing value you’re getting on RB, then you might end up with the dunce cap later on. Inexperienced players may not know the “RB are gold” fantasy rule, so instead of the league draft going RB, RB, RB, RB (ad nauseam) the rookie owners start taking top QB, top WR, top TE. Maybe even a top K and DEF. These rooks surprisingly take you to the cleaners because while you were drafting “amazing value” backups at RB, they stocked their teams at other positions, won’t overpay trading for your backup RB later, and outscore you week after week. Sad, but true. I’ve seen It happen. Don’t outsmart yourself in cases like this.

Let’s run down the positions to consider adding from the 3.01 to 3.05 picks.

QB – Presumably Peyton Manning is already drafted, and not by you. The player most people are thinking about now is the one considered to have the best odds to beat Manning for the #1 QB spot by season’s end, Carson Palmer, with an ADP right in this area of the draft.If you really want a Tier 2 QB, then taking Palmer here looks about right, because all of Palmer’s similarly projected peers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Marc Bulger, are being drafted in the mid-3rd to mid-4th on average. That is your long turn, so you may not get any of them back with your 4th rounder.

Personally I really like Carson Palmer, but I would generally not draft him this year. Unless the first 2 rounds of the draft truly went according to my worst case scenario (all players taken that I like, left with scraps), there will be good choices at other positions I’d feel better about drafting first. Plus it is possible Bulger makes it back to the late 4th, and there is always Jon Kitna lasting to the 5th/6th (or later), Donovan McNabb and other “hold their own” choices (will be good enough at the QB position for you) much later.

RB or WR – Depending how RB obsessed and/or WR friendly your league is, you may have all of those choices at RB listed above in Round 3, or you could possibly have none of them. This could dictate what direction you go with your pick.

I’m going to recommend the tried and true, take the best player available strategy. If there are good WR that have slipped through the 2nd round, then grab them now. If there is a RB you are excited about still on the board, and you haven’t drafted 2 already, then go RB.

Let’s assume the first 19 picks were taken that we listed in the prior 2 rounds, down to Edgerrin James. Then Portis, Benson, Jones, Harrison and Holt make up the rest of Round 2. That leaves us with

  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Cadillac Williams
  • Deuce McAllister
  • Marshawn Lynch


  • Terrell Owens
  • Reggie Wayne
  • Roy Williams
  • Larry Fitzgerald

…and others of course. The thing is beyond Jacobs, the rest of those RB have a much later ADP than the value of your pick in the 3rd. This really looks like the WR round. If your league starts 2 RB and is not awarding a point-per-reception, then it is tough to justify coming out of this round with a RB-WR-WR roster.

Really look at your 2nd and 3rd picks as a package deal. What pair of players can you take in these rounds to maximize your potential and minimize the risk? Maybe if you are just as confident in Reggie Wayne or Roy Williams as your #1 WR instead of Harrison, Holt or Owens, then back in the 2nd round, go against my earlier recommendation to take a WR. Take a RB instead or even Peyton Manning if he lasted that long. Actually, that sounds pretty good to me having a top tier player at each of 3 positions QB-RB-WR. This is where it really pays to know your league scoring and starting lineup. Can you get away with this, or are 2 RB a must? Make sure you know the answer to this before your 2nd round pick.

TE – Antonio Gates is still there, and my trigger finger is twitching. In the standard setup I’m using for this article though, I don’t pull the trigger. If it is point-per-reception, then I strongly consider it. Many wouldn’t, and instead will recommend getting value in a Vernon Davis or Jason Witten much later. I really like Davis and Witten myself, and they certainly will come at a lesser cost per fantasy point, if that is the way you want to assess value.

What Gates brings to the table though is what I like to call “premium points”. These are points that vault him into an elite tier all himself, that ultimately are worth more because of the separation they create from all other players at his position. You have to pay extra for those. It may very well be worth it.

Will another TE put up points similar to Gates? Possible. Is Gates guaranteed to finish as the #1 TE this season? The only guarantee in fantasy football is that there are no guarantees. However, Gates offers a unique combination of premium points and at the same time is an extremely safe pick, offering more certainty he will hit his projected numbers and be a positive force in your lineup than a Brandon Jacobs or Cadillac Williams.

The safety of Gates is very similar to Peyton Manning. A rock solid, worry free piece of the puzzle. The difference for me though, which is why I’m shying away from Manning a little in this article, is I don’t see the same premium points potential from him. (Not to mention you’re unlikely to get Manning from one of these draft slots.) I can see I’m going to have to expand on this premium points idea some time. Getting back on track though, in non-PPR, Gates = no. In PPR, Gates = very possible.

Rounds 4 and 5

Here are some possible rosters you’ve acquired through 3 rounds:

Team A Team B Team C Team D

The Gore-Harrison-Gates combo is primed for a PPR league. The Johnson-Benson-Wayne is potentially devastating against opponents in a TD heavy league (and assuming a top QB slips back in the 4th).

The ADP varies a lot more from here on out, but time to give it a shot anyway and see what players do not make it back to us having been taken in the 3rd and early 4th round, for a total of 19 picks.


It was quite the WR run, which is another reason why I put such importance on getting a top WR with either the 2nd or 3rd round pick. These other guys are trying to catch up to you, but they’re having a tough time of it since you already have a better 1st RB, a better 1st WR (other than perhaps the Chad Johnson and Steve Smith owners), and you may have a top tier player at QB (Palmer) or the top TE in Gates. Many of them will have a better 2nd RB than you, so let’s look at that first.

RB – Yikes, I mentioned Cadillac Williams back as someone to think about in the early 3rd, and he slipped all the way back to us in the 4th. Cadillac is similar to Kevin Jones when he was entering his third year, last year. Do we get the guy who ripped it up as a rookie, or the one who stumbled through his 2nd season when those late 1st round drafters (suckers) rolled the dice on him? These are the kind of decisions you need to make waiting to the 4th/5th for your 2nd RB. The choices aren’t too bad though, overall, and you do have an option to double up at RB here if you feel the value is right.

  • Cadillac Williams
  • Adrian Peterson (Vikings)
  • Marion Barber
  • Deangelo Williams
  • Ahman Green
  • Jerious Norwood
  • Jamal Lewis

Double up is not a bad option. There is no rule saying you have to draft all of your starters before your backups. Consider the likelihood of Adrian Peterson taking over the full-time job from Chester Taylor and lighting it up down the stretch. Also consider the likelihood of Ahman Green starting well but fading towards the end of the season as the games and carries on a sub-par team start to pile up. You have to balance your boom-or-bust picks with some steady, reliable guys – or what you expect to be reliable guys.

In a lot of leagues there will not be all of these guys available, because other teams have drafted more RB than my ADP data would indicate. In that case though you’ve been left with some better QB and WR choices from the above list.

QB – Hopefully Brees, Bulger or Brady are there for you. This would be a nice spot to take one of them and secure a quality starter at half the cost of Manning or Palmer. If these are all gone though, then consider these other two guys who have top 3 potential and are a notch up from a larger group of similarly projected QB.

  • Donovan McNabb
  • Jon Kitna

Of course, there is a greater risk with these guys which is why they are getting drafted into the 5th and even early 6th for Kitna. I’m one to tend to push the ADP on the QB position, and what I mean by that is, if I’m not getting a deal, then I’m not buying. So, McNabb I might consider here if I already secured 2 RB and I wasn’t that happy with the rest of the available choices for this pair of picks.

Kitna on the other hand, I would probably pass and just see how far he falls. If he comes back for the 6th/7th round, then great, let’s scoop him up then. If he doesn’t, then move on to the next QB tier and go bargain shopping there. Vince Young’s rushing yards start to look pretty good at that point.

This is not quite the same as the tried and true “wait on a QB to the end” strategy that many people have been preaching in recent years – which failed miserably in 2006. By all means take a top QB. Just don’t overpay for your QB.

WR – Lee Evans is available. Do me a personal favor and draft Lee Evans if he is available for you in the 4th or 5th round (assuming no other remarkable value falls to you). You won’t be disappointed. Well, I don’t think you will. No guarantees and all that. Here is the whole group of WR we’re looking at:

  • Lee Evans
  • Plaxico Burress
  • Hines Ward
  • Reggie Brown
  • Calvin Johnson
  • Deion Branch
  • Laveranues Coles
  • Santana Moss
  • Darrell Jackson

That is a good looking group of receivers to choose from. Yet another reason to thank the fantasy Gods for that early pick.

The only additional comment I’ll make here, after jumping off my Evans soapbox, is if you are keen to draft a guy like Calvin Johnson, make sure to get a steady veteran later you can count on. An Isaac Bruce or Derrick Mason type. Rookie WR do not have a good track record (with known exceptions of course), but Johnson is a rookie, and he could just as easily struggle as any other scenario. You need a guy you can slot in if Johnson does not pan out, or if it takes him a little while to get in gear.

Balance the boom or bust picks. All things being equal, you are almost assured you are overpaying for Johnson here. I don’t mind people taking risks, but take calculated risks and a steady vet in your WR4 spot will help mitigate the risk of having a boom or bust WR2 like Johnson.

TE – This will be a short discussion. Tony Gonzalez is going early 6th as the next TE off the board. I don’t even understand that given Gonzalez’s low TD numbers in 2006 (5) and 2005 (2). Vernon Davis is going mid-6th. Shockey late-6th. Then Heap and Winslow in the 7th. Anyway, it should be apparent that we won’t be drafting a TE in the 4th/5th.

DEF – Bears. Ravens. Yeah, these defenses are good. In most all leagues this is too early. Let’s revisit this in the 6th/7th round.

Rounds 6 and 7 and Beyond

We’ve got the core of our team through 5 rounds. Not all of our starters, but the group of players we are counting on the most. Now it is time to complement them with the remaining starters and quality backups. At this point I would expect most of our rosters consist of 2 RB, 2 WR and Gates or 1 QB or a 3rd RB.

I’m about to pass the 10 page mark on this draft plan, and should almost just turn it over to my tiering article to take it home, but let’s close with some quick comments at each position.

QB – The same applies as I wrote in the last section on QB. If you don’t have one, then look for a bargain. You don’t want to sleep on the position too long, but depending on how keen the others in your league are at grabbing their starting QB, you could still have a fair bit of flexibility here. In a slow draft I’m currently in (not drafting at the top), Philip Rivers was drafted 10th, Vince Young 11th and Ben Roethlisberger 12th. That’s not bad.

One team didn’t even draft his first QB until the 12th round – Eli Manning. Even that isn’t bad in my mind. If you draft your starting QB late though, then invest a little more than you otherwise would on the backup. If you did get Peyton Manning or Palmer, then you can afford to wait longer for the backup.

Deep picks to exceed their draft spot: Matt Schaub and Jason Campbell, each typically getting drafted in the 13th round or later.

RB – Backup your main starter or not? It depends what is costs, but generally, yes, I think you should. Its like buying insurance. If you have LT then why not back him up with Michael Turner who has you covered with continued top 3 RB fantasy points if the cost of that insurance isn’t too expensive? Turner is borderline expensive, so it will depend if someone swipes him on you or not.

In other cases, if the backup isn’t very clear then don’t feel compelled to grab someone. The player still takes up a valuable roster spot. I like Brian Leonard at a very reasonable cost for Steven Jackson owners. Michael Robinson for Frank Gore, maybe, but Robinson may not be suitable for a starter position. The Colts’ backup behind Joseph Addai is such a mess right now, better off just to pass on that situation.

Deep picks to exceed their draft spot: DeShaun Foster (9th), Leon Washington (11th but rising), Adrian Peterson (12th – the other one).

WR – I had a discussion with a friend the other day who was making a deep draft pick at WR. He already had 5 WR on his roster, and was considering Joe Jurevicius (his idea) vs. Maurice Stovall (my idea). My thought pattern: you’re drafting WR late, so go for young and upside guys who have a chance to blow up and be regular starters, similar to Marques Colston and Mike Furrey who came out of no where a year ago.

What good is Jurevicius to your roster? He will never start for your team in a 12 team, start 3 WR league. At least I hope not. If you draft a boom or bust young WR and he is doing nothing, that’s fine, chalk it up to a mistake and cut him for another guy. I know I said balance the boom or bust players earlier, but at WR once you’re filling the 5th or deeper WR, go boom or bust. If you hit one who booms, then your team is remarkably better as you’ve just struck gold.

Stockpile WR is also a good strategy, just for more chances to strike gold. Especially in point-per-reception leagues, and especially in leagues where you can start 4 WR.

Deep picks to exceed their draft spot: Kevin Curtis (9th), Derrick Mason (11th – gut feeling and I’m not sure why) and Patrick Crayton (14th).

TE – The 6th and 7th round is a good spot to grab a TE if you didn’t get Antonio Gates. The targets include Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Vernon Davis and Chris Cooley. I’m personally not high on Tony Gonzalez and Todd Heap, so I don’t foresee the TE position being as deep as some would suggest, which I guess goes back to helping explain my obsession with Gates.

While I realize some people are happy waiting for a deeper sleeper TE like Owen Daniels or Eric Johnson, it seems to me like you aren’t getting enough benefit from waiting that long for your first TE. Those guys are better second TE for the time being. Don’t give up a starting position like that because you could get beat by your opponent there every week.

Deep picks to exceed their draft spot: Jason Witten (9th), Owen Daniels (13th – its not like I don’t like the guy; I’m just saying he’s a better 2nd TE) and Bo Scaife (15th+)

K – Last two rounds guys and gals. The last two rounds.

DEF – I used to recommend just not drafting a defense until the late rounds. The Bears and Ravens have been so good though, its been tough to stick to that. Stick to it I will! Just kidding. Well, I personally will stick to it because I’d still rather stockpile RB and WR while the Bears and Ravens invariably get drafted much higher than I’d be willing to take them. I won’t knock someone for taking one of them though, in a league where DEF scoring is significant. The ADP is the mid-7th for both, but will fluctuate quite a bit depending on the league.

Assuming you fall in my camp about taking a DEF late, then I say take them really late. Before the K but not much before. Play the matchups and there will be viable DEF on the waiver wire, so I’m happy to draft 1 short-term DEF and work from there once the season starts.

Deep picks: Jets, Redskins and teams playing against the Vikings.

Final Thoughts

Enjoy having an early draft pick. In fact, rub it in you have an early draft pick to those guys down at the bottom of the draft order in your league, but make sure you back it up by maximizing your draft spot. You’re in position to do it, especially if you are sitting with that prized #1 pick. Lucky S.O.B.



Posted in Draft, Draft Tips, Drafting | 1 Comment »

Dominating Draft Day

Posted by zewkey on August 15, 2007

Posted by Will Grant and Chris Smith, Exclusive to

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else.” – John Madden

It has finally arrived. DRAFT DAY. This is your first real taste of fantasy football as a new owner, and the first head-to-head competition you will have against the other owners in your league. Your entire season will spring from this one day. It is a fantastic mix of tension, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, disappointment and flat out fun. To be successful, you need to out draft your opponents. You need to jump before they jump and restrain yourself when they overreact. In short, you need to DOMINATE your draft; leaving the others wondering what happened to them. Here’s how:

Exclusive Expert Analysis at Yahoo! Fantasy Football

General Tips

Here are a few general tips to observe during your draft

  • Arrive on time. A few minutes early would be even better. No one likes to wait.
  • Be prepared for each pick. When you time comes, double check your short list and make your selection. Don’t go over your time.
  • Stay Focused. If your opponents are in the middle of a backup quarterback run, don’t get caught up in it. Stick to your list.
  • Keep a clear head. Save the serious drinking for after the draft.

Opening Rounds

When the draft starts, you should have your first 2 or 3 picks in mind. These guys will be the bread and butter of your team. They need to be guys who will consistently score better than 80% of the other players in the league. They’ll build the foundation for your team each week. That probably means that you’ll need two solid running backs in the first three picks although that isn’t written in stone. Don’t panic if RBs start flying off the boards. Just follow your list and select the best player based on who is available. These rounds are pretty easy. It’s during the later rounds that things really become interesting. As things start to heat up, make sure to keep a close eye on the players that other owners are drafting. Pay particular attention to anyone who is in your division/conference, especially if you will face them more than once.

Chris Smith Note: Don’t be afraid to skirt the running back position if tremendous value presents itself. If owners are reaching for questionable running back talent in rounds two and three, buck that trend and scoop a top quarterback or receiver instead. It is always nice to have two running backs after the first two rounds, but don’t reach for a questionable talent with top-tier talent at the other positions still on board. You will be able to find players like Ahman Green and Jerious Norwood in rounds five or later. If you can start a fantasy draft with only one running back in the first four rounds but emerge with a top quarterback and two of the better receivers along with the running back then go for it. For example, in a fantasy draft I participated in back in 2006, I started with RB Steven Jackson 5th overall and by the time my pick got back to me (20th selection) almost everyone had gone running back. I managed to scoop QB Peyton Manning in round two, WR Torry Holt in round three and TE Tony Gonzalez in round four giving me a great foundation to build upon. Having strength in all departments will put you on the fast track to success.


As you head into rounds four through seven, start looking for a way to break from the pack. If every other team has taken a quarterback by this point, you don’t gain much by taking one now. Focus your attention on another position where you can pick up a stud #1 or solid #2 guy. Look at the teams who will draft in between your next few picks. Can you see a possible run on one position about to start? If so, grab the highest player from that position now and START the run. When your next pick comes up, start the NEXT trend. If you can stay ahead of these runs, you’ll be able to consistently out draft your opponents at every position, and even control the flow of the draft.

Middle Rounds

Here is where all of your predraft preparation comes into play. As you try to decide whether to add depth, or finish out your starting lineup, a lot will depend on who is available. Your list will tell you which way to go. Continue to draft the best player available, regardless of position. In rounds eight, nine and ten you should focus on guys who have big upsides, or players who can post big games during the season. These guys can take over for your starters in the event of an injury, or streak of bad play. Keep your off weeks in mind here, and try to balance them whenever possible. Don’t bypass a player strictly because they are off the same week as your starter. However, if all things are equal, take the guy who can start when your #1 guy is off.

Most owners will wait until after round ten to take a kicker and/or team defense. While this is a good general strategy, at some point is will become obvious that you should take one or both. Again, trust your list. If your opponents are waiting too long to fill these positions, it might be time to start another run. If your list is telling you that it is better to take a defense than to add another wide receiver, you should not be afraid to do so. Your predraft preparation was done when you were thinking objectively about how each player could benefit your team. Don’t lose that objectivity in the heat of the moment.

Chris Smith’s Note: Never pigeon hole yourself into one strategy but rather let the draft come to you. It is perfectly acceptable not to select two running backs in the first two rounds but you then must focus your attention on the position in three of the next four rounds before the viable candidates vanish. If you take three running backs in the first three rounds, it would be a smart move to avoid the position for the next few rounds, focusing on the other key positions. Flexibility is one of the keys to a great draft.

Later Rounds

As you enter the later rounds, your focus should turn to filling your roster gaps. If you have off week issues draft players to fill those holes. If you have starters who are injury-prone, consider drafting their backups as insurance (otherwise known as ‘Handcuffing’). Once all of your bases are covered, take a flyer or two on some of the guys that you have earmarked as ‘sleepers.’ Look at your opponents and see if they have made any mistakes in their drafting. Look to exploit those mistakes at this point as well.

Don’t get hung up on drafting a backup for every position. Many teams will go into the season with only one kicker and one defense, adding a backup during free agency. If you are confident in your draft, consider this as well. You can add an additional ‘sleeper’ or two now, and cut the dead wood from your roster during the regular season. If one of your sleepers works out, it will be well worth it.

Keeping Track of it All

Keeping track of everything is a daunting task. Managing your team is hard enough, but following every team in the league is even harder. Analyzing every team on the fly, looking for drafting trends, off week gaps and other mistakes that you can exploit can seem like an impossible task. It is not. Everything that you need is already taken care of by the Footballguys Draft Dominator. Should you take a wide receiver or a tight end? The Dominator will analyze your opponent’s rosters and suggest which player is best for you. Can you lay off a quarterback for a round or two? The Dominator will look at the teams around you and determine if you should wait or not. Have any of your division rivals drafted a defense yet? The Dominator can tell you with a few quick clicks. Based on your scoring rules, your opponents’ rosters and the current drafting trends, The Draft Dominator will suggest which available player is best for your team. Just download projections into it, and let the program do all the work. This year’s model has even more features than ever. If you really want to dominate your draft, and put yourself in a great position to win your championship, you need to check this program out. Your opponents won’t have a chance.

Chris Smith note: In regards to the Draft Dominator, if you haven’t taken the time to download this program and play with it, you are really missing out on something wonderful. For years, I would use an excel-based cheatsheet that I came up with that would help me track the various things happening during a draft. I felt that I really had a step up on my competition in understanding what was going to take place next.

However the Draft Dominator takes that excel-based sheet and expands on it to the tenth degree. Once you are familiar with the various functions of the program, you will have incredible insight to what the other owners in your league are doing, what their next picks are likely to be and which players you should be targeting in your drafts.

Here are some comments by David Dodds on the Draft Dominator tool:

“I am clearly biased but I believe it represents a new breed of logical drafting. Things someone could never do without the aid of the computer. Just as VBD and later Dynamic VBD made their marks on this hobby, the new Dominator will change how you draft.

  1. Imagine if during a draft, you could look at your lineup against your opponent’s lineup and attempt to predict team strength, scoring margin, etc. for every single week of the season while the draft was happening.
  2. Assume for a moment that you could also emphasize or de-emphasize certain weeks during the draft based on how you are faring against your opponents, league rules, etc.
  3. Imagine an auction draft where you know exactly how much everyone has spent, has left and has dynamically adjusted player values after every pick.
  4. Imagine a program that you can tell it not to look for a kicker or defense until after 9 have been taken.
  5. Imagine being able to assign distributions to players (other than normal) for how they will score their points. Think Jimmy Smith here who was suspended for the first four games last year.
  6. Imagine a program that analyzes schedule strength and applies it to select complimentary players for your roster.
  7. Imagine a product that recommends different picks to different teams based on their need and how those players would maximize their head to head play.
  8. Imagine a program that works for all positions (IDP included) and virtually any scoring criteria.

You know what. I do not have to imagine these things. The new Dominator does every one of these and a lot more. I know it does these things because Bruce Henderson and I have been working for the past 3 months to deliver the best product ever to this industry. For those not in the know, Bruce Henderson is a full-time C++ programmer in his normal job. He also is a very skilled fantasy football player. And now working with our staff and soliciting all of the input last season for improvements, we have put together something that WE KNOW will change the industry.

I will say it right now. If you are playing in a high stakes contest (WCOFF, etc.) this season and are not using the Draft Dominator, you are playing from behind. I know that to be true.”

David Dodds,

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Fantasy Football Draft Tips

Posted by zewkey on August 13, 2007

Yahoo! Fantasy Football – Leader in Fantasy Sports

1. Prepare ahead of time
* Get a copy of the rules, which should include the drafting method, scoring system, and prize disbursement for the league.  Auction Drafting
* If you’re a first timer, learn all the terminology with our FF Dictionary
* Make a cheat sheet / projection sheet (or use ours)
* Read up on who other people think are sleepers (check out our Sleepers Page)

2. Bring your drafting equipment
* Money, for entry fees (if any)
* Cheat Sheet (no sense in working on it if you’re going to forget it)
* Old FF Magazine (to loan to the guy who wants info from you)
* Several Pens/ Pencils
* Highlighters (1 color for your picks, another for other’s picks)
* Clip Board (do you want to write on your knee for 2 hours?)
* Folder to keep things private (see #6)
* Paper (to jot down trade ideas & notes to yourself)
* Blank Draft Roster Grid — Print out ours

3. Encourage the commissioner to be innovative
* Check out the commish tips page
* Suggest a fantasy football draft kit like UltimateDraft

4. Keep your eyes peeled (and your mouth shut)
* Pay attention to others picks, if everyone else already has 4 running backs and you only have 2, you’re in trouble.
* Try not to say too much, you don’t want to get a bad label
* Just by watching the other drafters you can get a good idea of what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing.

5. Be careful about bye weeks
Never draft a backup QB that has the same bye week as your starter, it defeats the purpose of drafting him. Here’s our list for this season.

Exclusive Expert Analysis at Yahoo! Fantasy Football

6. Draft the best player available (don’t fill your roster in order)
Some people (not knowing any better) will draft QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, K, D, QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, K. But it’s much more important to get your third RB before a kicker. In it’s simplest form, the value of a player is determined not by the number of points he scores, but by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position. Your league’s particular scoring system is very important in making these kind of decisions.

7. Keep your cheat sheet to yourself
It doesn’t do you a lot of good to “share” your cheat sheet with the owner next to you. Years ago I made this mistake and then he ended up with a better record than I did.

8. Bring the beer (if you’re over 21), but don’t drink
* I’m sure you know, but just in case, the human brain does not function at 100% when it’s under the influence.
* You will be seen as a great guy, but you’re really just helping yourself because your opponents won’t be at full speed.

9. Consider trading
In between picks is a good time to think about trades. Maybe you’re sure your big sleeper is going to be picked before your next turn, so try trading your next 2 picks for a higher pick. Or maybe you realized you made a mistake like #4, trade that player now and you can still come out ahead by getting 2 lower draft picks. Check out the draft pick calculator on our tools page.

10. Finishing up
Your last few draft picks should be on some long shots. Don’t waste these picks on older veteran players that have consistently scored a couple points a game. Take a chance on that rookie quarterback or a backup running back with a big upside.

11. Double check everything
Before leaving the draft, make sure you:
* Pay all your fees
* Agree with the commissioner on your roster
* Check each other’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses
* Know what time transactions and lineups are due.

12. Have fun
Too often we over-analyze our hobby and drain the fun out of it. Remember that the whole reason we play fantasy football is for fun. Good luck!



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