How to Draft a Successful Fantasy Football Team, Part One

With the arrival of summer comes a general loss of interest in fantasy baseball, coupled with unbridled excitement about the upcoming fantasy football season. Fantasy football drafts begin in earnest, and seasons can be made or broken by what a team manager knows in the summer.

Here, then, are a few tips on how to draft a successful fantasy football team.

Know Your League Rules

How many times have you heard a fantasy football manager gripe after a demoralizing Week 1 that “I didn’t know we got points for that!” It happens every year in nearly every league:  some overconfident (or lazy) team owner doesn’t do any research on what scores and what doesn’t in this league, and that owner is left with egg on their face and dung on their roster.

The huge rule to be aware of is whether or not your league scores points-per-reception (PPR). If you don’t know whether you’re in a PPR league or not, you’re setting yourself up for massive failure. You’ll snicker when running backs like Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush come off the board sooner than you expected – until those same backs start pounding you into dust with all their points off of receptions.

Familiarize Yourself with Position Depth

Inevitably, you face a decision when you’re on the clock on Draft Day:  do I take Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Charles or Calvin Johnson with my No. 5 overall pick?

Since you’ve familiarized yourself with your league rules, you’ll have a rough idea of how many points that fantasy football experts predict for each of those players – and players similar to them.

You must also familiarize yourself with position depth. It changes almost yearly. If you pass on Rodgers, can you get a pretty comparable quarterback in the next round? If you take Charles over Johnson, is there such a deficit in productive wide receivers that you’re receiving corps will be horrible?

It may not make sense to draft Rodgers – even though he might be predicted to score 100 points more than Charles and Johnson – if you can reasonably expect to get Drew Brees a round or two later, but the talent level among running backs plummets off a cliff after the first round.

Tier Your Draft Board

This process will help you get a better grasp on position depth. Not only do you want to rank each position from No. 1 to No. Whatever, you want to put them in tiers.

For example, once you’ve got your ordered list of quarterbacks, mark off which ones you think are “Tier One” QBs. Then mark the next few that you feel are “Tier Two” and so on.

Now as you examine the Rodgers/Charles/Johnson conundrum, you notice that you have Rodgers and Brees as your “Tier One” QBs. Maybe you have Charles in “Tier Three” of your running backs, along with seven other guys. And say you have Johnson as your sole “Tier One” wide receiver with a pretty significant drop in expected production to the “Tier Two” guys.

Now the smart move might be to take Johnson, since you may have a crack at Brees in the next round, and you have six other “Tier Three” running backs to choose from if someone else grabs Charles. But if you pass on Johnson, you’re not going to get a wide receiver of a similar level.

With that, we’ll take a break for today and return with Part Two of how to draft a successful fantasy football team in a future post. Stay tuned!