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Fantasy Football: Draft Tips

August 22, 2006 | By Andy Goldstein | comment on this post

Every fantasy expert and publication will throw a bunch of rules at you. They will put it in a convenient list form with bullet marks or numbers. They will speak as if you have never played fantasy football before and it just so happens, they may not always be right. The following list (I went with numbers) looks at why the rules so many fantasy football owners hold dear aren’t always accurate for every situation. Kid tested, mother approved. Here’s my slap in the face to antiquated fantasy football advice.

1. Don’t Feel Obligated to Pick Running Backs in the First Two Rounds — Sometimes taking two backs in the first two rounds is far and away the best strategy. Of course, it depends on what other positions have to offer. More importantly, though, you have to look at the depth of the running back class. In 2006, backs are not a very strong position. That is the main reason why taking a wide receiver in the first and/or second round isn’t that outlandish an idea if you have a draft position outside the top seven or eight. In terms of value, running backs being taken this year in the late first round don’t match the value of backs taken in the same spots last season. LaMont Jordan, Carnell Williams and Brian Westbrook would have been lucky to crack the top 17 or 18 last season. Now they all hover around 10.

This is why drafting two backs in 2006 isn’t the same as other seasons. Torry Holt, Steve Smith and maybe even Larry Fitzgerald are better values than Jordan, Williams, or Westbrook. Reaching for any player is just as detrimental in the first couple rounds as it is in the middle of the draft. Don’t go against your gut just because of a silly rule that applied to fantasy football when impact running backs went 15 deep.

2. Don’t Pay Attention to Bye Weeks While Drafting — Caring about bye weeks made a lot of sense when the NFL had teams on byes during Weeks 14, 15 and 16, in other words during fantasy playoff time. There was nothing more futile than relying on a guy for the entire season and then having to find a capable backup for the championship week. Of course the NFL changed the bye-week structure and now no team has a weekend off after Week Nine. (A change that I am convinced was done with fantasy football in mind.) Of course fantasy football rules don’t change quickly. The idea is that you shouldn’t draft multiple players, especially at the same position, who have the same bye week. Here’s the truth: That’s idiotic.

Every player on every roster has a bye week at some point. They are unavoidable. Believe it or not, fantasy teams would be better off if every starter had the same bye week. Sure, you’ll get clocked that one week, but you’ll be at full strength for the other six weeks where teams have byes. Is six full strength and one sacrificial week better than three times where you have a couple starters on bye? Maybe. It certainly isn’t worse. As far as backups, I prefer to take the best player possible. I take a backup with the thought that if my starter gets hurt, the backup can keep the ship afloat. Don’t take backups with the thought that they will play one week. Take backups as if they could be starters. Essentially, you are probably not going to win every week even if you pick the best team, so concentrate on doing the best you can, not on reaching for worse players because of the most useless of numbers on your cheat sheet. Stupid bye weeks.

3. Don’t Worry About Taking a Reach (In the Right Spot) — Yes, drafts are about value and understanding not just who to take, but when to take them. That being said, going for reasonable reaches can yield great rewards towards the end of the season if you target the right players. Taking one of your targets a round early is not the end of the world. For example, if you have an end pick in a 12-team league, there will be a stretch of 22 picks in between when you get to select. If you have a sleeper candidate you feel will be taken in that span, reaching on him (just a little) is acceptable. Take last season for example. Larry Johnson was on many owners’ radar. Value dictated that he went towards the middle of the second half in drafts. Of course, we all know that Johnson gained the starting job in Kansas City by about the halfway mark of the season and reeled off one of the most impressive stretches of games any running back has ever had in football history. Reaching for him would have been acceptable. Now, something to that degree probably won’t happen again, but guys do come out of nowhere each season. Understand value, but don’t let it get in the way of making your own picks.

4. Drink — Sure, most fantasy football draft tip columns will throw in the ‘Don’t Drink’ tip (probably because they could only think of a few tips and needed filler). Well, here’s how you can use your altered state to help you. First, make your cheat sheet a bit more forceful. If you have to write yourself notes, go for it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have ‘Andy, DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THIS LIST THAT YOU MADE’ written on a couple of my draft lists. The biggest bonus of getting sloshed at your draft is that people start to underestimate you. Draft mates start to pick looser because you’re obviously going to take Marques Tuiasosopo in the fifth round, right? Wrong. Why? Because you’ve written ‘DON’T TAKE TUIASOSOPO’ right there next to your quarterback list. So when your buddy passes on a great fourth round value like Frank Gore because he’s sure you won’t have a clue, you can snap him up in the fifth. Just don’t brag, because you’ll need a ride home.

That last tip is not kid-tested or mother-approved…and I can’t guarantee it would not result in you taking Tuiasosopo. ‘Till next time, don’t pay attention to ESPN.

– Andy Goldstein

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