By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Settle down class! Your professor, The Hudsonian, has the floor and class is now in session.
It is August. Fantasy Football drafts are happening every day. Some people will conquer a plethora of drafts in a day, some being mocks in preparation for the real thing, others being the real thing. Your old college buddies, your work crew, or random strangers in a Facebook discussion group have challenged you to bring your A game and attempt to beat them for the ultimate prize. Sometimes that’s a trophy. Most times it’s money. Other times it’s bragging rights. Every league varies. No judgement from me on that last one. (Said no person ever.)
Scoring is hardly consistent league to league so preparations can be daunting. This is precisely why one of my maxims to drafting is simply KNOW YOUR LEAGUE. Is it Points Per Reception (PPR) or Standard? If it’s Standard, ask yourself why you never grew into your big boy pants. Do you start two wide receivers or three? One running back or two? One quarterback or two? Do you actually play kickers or have individual defensive players (IDP)? Is it a keeper or redraft league? So many variables to consider that your prep should vary by league.
Once you get your settings in order, the next step is to figure out where you are drafting. Can I tell you how annoying it is to not know what position in each round you’re selecting? Such frustration. Still, some commissioners are assholes and wait until an hour before the draft to tell you. It just provides you more motivation to kick their ass when the season starts, but I digress. When you know where you are drafting, you can start preparing to get a better idea of which players will be available when your turn rolls around.
Size matters also. League size.
Eyes up here, class.
A player that is drafted in the first round of a 12-team league could be a second round pick in a 10-team league. A 5th round pick in a 14-team league is probably a 7th or 8th round selection in a 10-team league. So when you read articles or listen to podcasts and hear people talk about so and so as a 4th round pick, it’s likely in a 10-team setting. Do not misconstrue the information. Accumulate as many facts as possible to help you make your decisions.
Are you feeling prepared now? Groovy.
You are feeling great. You have done your research, you know where you are drafting, you have been in the league for five years so you know exactly how your league mates draft; you are set.
Or are you?
If there is one thing I know, the NFL changes from year to year. Offensive focal points change every year. In drafts I’ve done this year, running backs dominate the first round. I have seen as many as eight and as few as six. With the recent surplus of talented college running backs infiltrating NFL backfields, teams are more willing to give a guy 200+ touches in an offense. I stress touches over rushes because receptions by a running back are even more valuable to Club Fantasy followers. Those types of backs are what you want as a staple in your lineups. It used to be if you didn’t draft in the top half of the draft, wide receiver was the way to go. Now, you can have a potential 300 fantasy point running back as far down as the second round. Good times.
You feeling it? Awesome.
Here are some of my simple rules for not only preparing for drafts, but while in the midst of the draft itself:
If you don’t have the time to create your own set of rankings, that is okay. Download some from http://www.clubfantasyffl.com — or any other site you’d like to use that I won’t mention because they get enough publicity and exposure as is and they all suck — and start making notes. Every player has a price you are willing to pay or are not willing to pay. Maybe you really like someone, say Aaron Rodgers, but with the depth at quarterback, his price is exorbitant. But if he’s available when you pick in the 6th round? Or the 7th? Don’t hesitate to draft him if you feel that is great value for a QB that will likely be the first quarterback off the board.
Tiers help to determine the value you assign to players. Knowing where you draft also helps because there are some players you will inevitably develop hard ons for — or lady boners in the case of the female readers — and you will need to determine how early to draft them.
When you get around 10th round, it is okay to deviate from your rankings. Go for a lottery ticket or two, players you think have potential to exceed expectation. Feel free to buy some of that stock. That’s how leagues are won — lottery tickets and dart throws.
Make sure you come out of the 1st three rounds with at least one stud RB
This year, my goal is two because after the top 20, things get dicey. But that isn’t always feasible depending where in the draft you are selecting. That’s why my goal is to get at least one workhorse RB, preferably one not in a committee. Guys like Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, and Dalvin Cook meet that criteria. Alvin Kamara, Chrisitan McCaffrey, and Kareem Hunt will do plenty to secure RB1 status, but their numbers could fluctuate week to week because of the presence of Mark Ingram, C.J. Anderson, and Spencer Ware, respectively. If Kamara, McCaffrey, and Hunt are your top guys, be sure to snag a sure thing RB2 like Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy, or Royce Freeman because their floors are higher than some of the other boom or bust options that I have ranked around them.
Wide receiver is deep so put your focus at RB first
This is a big change from my previous draft strategies. I’ve always been a WR guy, especially in PPR leagues. I would take up to three WRs in a row and then load up on pass catching RBs to fill out around them. But with the surfeit of top flight RBs that catch 40+ balls a year — there were 18 last year and 19 in 2016 — wide receiver numbers are dwindling. In 2015, two WRs — Antonio Brown and Julio Jones — scored over 350 fantasy points. Over the last two seasons, only two WRs have even surpassed 300 fantasy points. (Antonio Brown did it twice, DeAndre Hopkins did it last year.) If you secure a top RB or two, you still have the opportunity to find two or three WRs that can top 180 points. Over the two seasons, there have been 55 instances where a WR has topped 180 points. Draft accordingly.
Wait on defenses and kickers
I can’t reiterate this enough. Sure, the Jaguars lit up the league last year. Based on how many points they scored, they would have been RB8, WR3, and TE1. That info alone makes it easy to understand why taking a defense before the 15th round is viable. Now allow me to put you in your place. Last year, five defenses scored more than 200 fantasy points, three exceeding 240 fantasy points. Only one team exceeded 200 in 2016. Seven teams in 2015 exceeded 200 points, one over 240. The fluctuation in points scored year to year among defenses goes to show how unpredictable they are.
Kickers are even worse. Year in and year out, teams cycle through kickers because they can’t kick a simple extra point. The Bucs and Chargers are prime examples of teams whose kicking games not only cost them games, but provide migraines to fantasy owners. Why spend even a mid round pick on a position that is more often than not streamed throughout the year?
Avoid the positional runs
If someone decides they want to take a QB in the 2nd round, and five other league members decide to follow suit before the end of the 3rd round, do not feel like you are missing the boat at the position. There is depth to be had. Same with TE. If you miss out on Gronkowski, Ertz, or Kelce, do not reach at TE. Let the board fall to you. Sure, there are reliable options like Delanie Walker, Kyle Rudolph, and Jimmy Graham available, but those guys likely won’t reach 200 points. You can wait until rounds 7-9 to get a TE if any of them are on the board after you have drafted your top three RBs and WRs. When you let your league dictate how you draft, you lose.
A good TE is just like a WR2
Gronk, Ertz, and Kelce are hands down the best three TEs available in fantasy. They were the only three to average more than 15 points per game last year. No other TE averaged 12 points per game in case you were wondering. In 2016, only two TEs topped 200 points (Kelce and Greg Olsen), both topping 13 points per game. 2015 saw six TEs average more than 14 points per game. Gronk and Jordan Reed both averaged over 18 points per game. The fact of the matter is that a good TE can change the dynamic of your team. I can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over.
A WR2’s average points per game over the last three years has fallen between 12.5 and 15. Last year, guys like Marvin Jones (WR55 in preseason), Robby Anderson (WR63), Nelson Agholor (unranked), and Cooper Kupp (WR70) all finished above 12 points per game. TE is typically a “you know what you’re getting” position. Do not think going after a top tier TE is the wrong move. WR2’s can be plucked off waivers, just remember that.
When you can, stick it to your friends
If there is a player you know a friend of yours loves, do not hesitate to draft them. The trade ransom could be yuuuuuge. It’s no secret people talk all the time about players they love. “Royce Freeman is the rookie not named Saquon Barkley you want to draft.” “Don’t sleep on Robby Anderson. His ADP is ridiculously low!” “Kenyan Drake is primed for a breakout after the way he finished 2017.” Take note when people make statements like these. If you don’t have the same kind of faith in someone but they’re available at a good price when you are on the clock and your friend is behind you waiting to draft them, it is a great way to extract maximum value for a player you don’t see in the same light down the line. Not all of us play in leagues with “experts,” people that eat, sleep, and breath fantasy. Use that to your advantage to improve the weak areas of your team.
Easy enough, right? Inhale this information like second hand smoke. The blessing is that this will not kill you in thirty years if you take my advice and lose. It just means you won’t come back for next year’s column if your league makes you stand on the side of the road wearing a sandwich board that reads “I suck at fantasy football” or something more demeaning. At least that is the worst case scenario. For me, not you. You’re still on the side of the road when it’s all said and done. Sorry.
Or you could win and come back for more because I am your Fantasy Messiah. Because as the great Rodney Ruxin proclaimed, “Fantasy Football is my religion!” You’re welcome, ladies and gentleman.