Here are a few words of wisdom from a fantasy football preacher on the topic of 2016 fantasy football standard league draft strategy.
The single best advice I can give you about drafting your fantasy football team is “Do the exact opposite of what the Cleveland Browns do in the NFL draft”. Seriously though, your fantasy draft does share some common ground practices with that of the NFL draft. The biggest difference of course is you won’t lose your job, or let down an entire city if you have a bad fantasy draft.
Many very smart football people preach “the golden rule” of drafting the best player on the board, rather than reaching for a position of need. I believe this to be true in fantasy drafts as well. The biggest difference here is that in fantasy football every team needs every position at the start of the draft. This completely eliminates the element of need. So, for the first 8-10 rounds of your draft, ALWAYS DRAFT THE BEST PLAYER ON YOUR BOARD! (Envision me yelling this from the highest mountain top)
While that is the Golden Rule, I have several other concepts of a more silver colored hue. These are concepts I will utilize in 2016, in Standard, non PPR league drafts. While some of these concepts are great for both Standard and PPR scoring, some of them are only relevant to Standard leagues.
The difference between PPR and Standard scoring is night and day. Receiving RBs like Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick, and high reception/low Yards Per Reception WRs like Julian Edelman and Jarvis Landry are far less valuable in Standard leagues. QBs and non receiving RBs are more valuable in Standard leagues. TDs are also more important in Standard scoring, so try to draft guys that get in the endzone.
2016 Fantasy Football Standard League Draft Strategy
Drafting 2 RBs, 2 WRs, or One of Each With Your First Two Picks Are All Options
If you go into a draft planning on going RB/RB, WR/WR, or drafting one WR and one RB with your first two picks, you’re making a huge mistake. You can’t win a league with your first two picks, but you can definitely lose a league with your first two picks.
If you go into a draft dead set on targeting certain positions early, you’re much more likely to make a blunder. Say last season, you didn’t want to go WR/WR going into the draft. You were open to either RB/RB, or one RB and one WR. You get the 12th pick in a 12 team league. You end up with an opportunity to draft Julio Jones and Odell Beckham, but because you’re dead set on getting at least one RB, you decide to draft one of those WRs and a RB like DeMarco Murray. You just ended up putting yourself at a huge disadvantage right away.
Take the exact same 12 team draft, this time we’ll use the 7th pick. In this situation, another guy is going to go WR/WR no matter what. So he drafts Demaryius Thomas in the first round, and Randall Cobb in round two. While neither of those players were complete busts, both fell way short of their expectations. This team is going to be in some trouble as well.
So, always be open to going RB/RB, WR/WR, or RB/WR (in either order) with your first two picks. You never know what players are going to be on the board.
This Season Draft 3 WRs and 2 RBs With Your First 5 picks (or 3 RBs in flex leagues)
This concept may seem like I’m spitting in the face of the Golden Rule. However, this particular season Rob Gronkowski and Cam Newton are the only players I would rank in the first 5 rounds. Somebody is going to take Gronkowski in the late first/early second round, and that person isn’t going to be me. I have too many concerns about Gronk, with injury history and no Tom Brady for 4 games.
Newton is attractive enough to be the consensus first QB drafted in rounds 3 or 4. The problem is, there is so much quality depth at the QB and TE positions this season. It just doesn’t make sense to use a premium pick on those positions when you can fill them later in the draft without sacrificing much value.
If by some minor miracle Gronk is available in the 3rd round, or Cam slips all the way into the 5th round, then by all means, draft them.
Target The No. 3 Through No. 7 Ranked QBs After Round 5
This kind of piggybacks off my last point. Very little separates the No. 3 and No. 7 ranked QBs. So, go after the one you want. My 3-7 ranked QBs are Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Blake Bortles (Many may disagree with my Bortles ranking, so target QBs 3-6 if that’s the case). Their differences in value are razor thin.
However, there is a drop off into the next No. 8-12 QB tier; including Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, and Tony Romo. So aim for one of the five QBs in your 3-7 rankings.
The value of a high end QB is higher is Standard scoring than in PPR, because without the point per reception, QBs are typically the highest scoring players. Last season, the top 17 scorers in Standard leagues were all QBs. In PPR leagues, Antonio Brown was the number 1 scorer, with Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall also finishing as top 5 scorers.
Break Up Your Overall Top 50 or 100 Into Tiers
I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing your tiers. Many fantasy players are familiar with position tiers, but they don’t tier their overall rankings. This is very important, because it’s extremely helpful to know where the talent gaps are.
The first, most obvious talent gap, is the top 6 players. WRs Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, and RBs Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell are the clear cut top 6 players, in whatever order you want to put them in. This season, the most advantageous pick you can have in Standard leagues is the No. 6 pick. The worst pick you can have is the No. 7 pick (unless someone before you makes a huge mistake).
Tiers can be as small as a couple players, and as large as up to ten players. The objective of a tier is to place players of similar values together. Meaning, whether you land the top or bottom player in each tier, there shouldn’t be much of a difference.
Don’t Sleep On Your Sleepers or Handcuffs
Everyone’s going to go into their draft with a handful of mid and late round sleeper picks. The problem is that there are many other teams, and odds are at least one other team is going to be gunning for a sleeper you are also gunning for. So, you can’t sit back, and expect your sleepers to just be waiting for you whenever you decide to take them.
If you really want to make sure you land a certain sleeper, draft them a round or two above where their ADP says they are going. You obviously like these players, and expect them to overachieve. So, what’s the difference between taking them in the 12th round, or the 14th round?
This same concept is also relevant for handcuffs. The likelihood of RB injuries is extremely high. I recommend drafting your two starting RBs’ backups, whether you drafted your starting RBs in rounds 1 and 2, or rounds 4 and 5. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to draft your handcuff, and letting someone else steal them from you.
Stealing other people’s handcuffs late in the draft is a good idea too, if you can grab them at a value price. You’ll only be one injury away from having another starting RB. Also, if you’re looking to make a trade, that handcuff will have extra value to the team you stole them from, even if they haven’t played much.
Kickers and Defenses
If you draft a kicker or defense in the early rounds, you should be exiled from the world of fantasy football. Since you do have to start a kicker and a defense though, it makes sense to aim for the top 3 or 4. You want any little advantage you can get.
When it comes to defenses, you never want to be the first team to draft a defense. After the first and second defenses are selected, you should look to grab one of the next best options soon after. The Texans, Chiefs, Broncos, and Cardinals are all good defenses to target this season. The Seahawks and Panthers are likely to be the top two defenses drafted.
With kickers, most people opt to take their kicker in the last round. To me it makes more sense to take your kicker with your second to last pick. Having a top kicker like Stephen Gostkowski or Justin Tucker can be a nice advantage. Plus, what player are you going to miss out on that late in the draft? Your kicker is going to be in your starting lineup every week.
Take these words of wisdom I have bestowed upon you, and use them to destroy your competition in your upcoming drafts.
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