Forget the expensive magazines. Ignore the so-called experts. Eye the rankings with healthy skepticism. Because as a three-time champion, I can tell you everything you need to know about drafting a solid fantasy football team.
1. Print out the starting line-ups and/or depth charts of all of the teams. Rankings are based on what a guy did last year. But with players, like stocks, past performance is not a guarantee of future success. Get to know who the number one guys are, the number twos, etc. The more familiar you are with who’s been promoted and demoted, the better you can judge if a guy will get the ball early and often.
2. Look for teams, or “programs”, with a history of year-after-year success. The third guy on the best team is oftentimes better than the best player on the worst team. I don’t know who the third wide receivers on the Packers/Patriots/Giants currently are, but they’ll probably be on my team.
3. Running backs have a short shelf life, like three years. The running back position is physically brutal because most bad teams will just run the ball to slow down the clock. The rushing champion from the previous year could be retired the next. So be cautious about drafting a running back, especially with a high pick, in the league for more than three years.
4. Draft running backs liberally and often. Rookies, goal line guys, guys with girly-sounding first names. It doesn’t matter. The more running backs from any team, the better your chances of finding a winner.
5. Don’t underestimate team chemistry. Quarterbacks oftentimes look for “their” guys when they’re facing 3rd-and-22. Look for QB-WR combos and try to get one or both halves of any high-scoring duo.
6. Don’t overestimate rookies. Everyone loves the rookies because everyone loves to say, “I told you so”. But most rookies take a good three years to develop (Cam Newton aside). So unless you have a keeper league, keep your rookie picks to the fourth round or beyond.
7. Don’t draft any Seahawks before the 5th round. Draft day is no day to play favorites. You are always going to overvalue the players from your favorite team, so just vow never to draft them until the later rounds, when they can’t hurt you as much.
8. Once, just once, draft a kicker in the third round. You’ll get laughed out of the room and no one will take you seriously ever again. Perfect. That means the guys on either side of you will try to take players later than they normally would because they assume you won’t take them. Suckers.