The wait is nearly over, the NFL season starts on September 5th and with the Bank Holiday gone you only have one weekend left to hold your fantasy draft. Whether you’re a veteran of the game, or this is your first time, we have some DOs and DON’Ts to help you through this stressful period.
RISKS ARE BAD
There is a popular saying among the fantasy community. ‘You won’t win your league in the early rounds, but you can definitely lose it.’
Pick safe. Don’t take risks and forget your team bias. If you are a Tennessee Titans fan, put Derrick Henry’s four-touchdown game against the Jaguars out of your mind. This is not the norm. Their OL is a risk, maybe not as much as Marcus Mariota… but who is? Trust the ADP rankings, draft the best talent on the board until you have your starters locked down.
Then, and only then, should you widen your horizons and pick guys like Curtis Samuel at the Panthers or Miles Sanders of the Eagles. They have a very high ceiling, but a low floor, and that’s what you want to avoid early on.
AVOID RUNNING BACKS ON BAD TEAMS
Some believe the game is changing. Perhaps teams are beginning to move away from the mentality of throwing the ball when they are behind, but when you have teams who consistently are down, they are going to run the ball less and less.
If you are picking a running back who isn’t a consistent pass catcher, avoid those who play for bad teams. Bell cow backs are great in offences who are looking to grind down the clock. You can hoover up easy points without any effort.
Last season, as the Cardinals struggled, David Johnson, who started the year as the consensus second pick based on ADP, finished as RB15. Leonard Fournette, despite his excellent debut season, came in at RB17.
Matt Ryan may have finished as QB3 last year as the Falcons won seven games, but after Devonta Freeman went down – lost for the season due to injury – Tevin Coleman could only manage 800 yards and was RB25.
Kalen Ballage is a player I am fairly high on for this season, but there is a reason he is ranked as RB43 and Kenyan Drake is RB31. The Dolphins are going to be bad.
And with FitzMagic and Josh Rosen at QB, they are going to throw the ball a lot. Avoid.
WAIT ON A QUARTERBACK
PAT MAHOMES, PAT MAHOMES, PAT MAHOMES.
We all want Pat Mahomes on our team. You’d be stupid not to, he’s pretty amazing, but last year the Kansas City gun slinger was drafted as the 15th QB drafted, and sometimes he wasn’t drafted at all. Picking up a QB who throws 50 touchdowns in the 12/13th round is the dream, but it’s very rare.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, most of them have a decent QB – sorry Jags, Bengals and Giants fans, but it’s true.
This year, even if you are in a 12-team league, you could wait to be the last person to pick a QB and still end up with Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Lamar Jackson.
Big Ben finished as QB3 last year, Brady won the Super Bowl and Jackson as a rookie led all quarterbacks with 695 rushing yards and added five rushing touchdowns.
You aren’t going to lose your league picking one of them.
Resist the urge to use an early pick on Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. Build your roster with the other skill positions, find value and wait on your QB. Obviously, if your league starts 2 QBs, you need to go higher. Go grab Mahomes.
FIND VALUE IN RUNNING BACKS
With Aaron Rodgers in control of the offence – sorry Mike McCarthy – Green Bay were a pass heavy team last year. Matt LeFleur is now in charge – maybe, if Aaron lets him – and all signs suggest the Packers are going to run the ball more.
Aaron Jones scored eight TDs in 12 games once he recovered from injury, averaging 5.5 yards a carry. He added 26 receptions for 206 yards. Through weeks 10 to 17, he was RB11 in PPR leagues.
Bank on Jones staying fit and active and he could be a high value RB2 in your team this season.
Another steal could be Oakland rookie Josh Jacobs. The first round pick will be John Gruden’s bell cow back and is projected to have between 200 and 250 rushing attempts.
His current ADP has him at 34, but Fantasy Pros have the Raiders strength of schedule showing him as a potential RB14 in the NFL. Expect him to score over 200 points, which would have placed him amongst the top 16 in last season’s rankings.
Although we don’t know exactly what to expect from the RB, when you get to the third round and you are choosing between Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon and Chris Carson, the Raiders RB1 should be a no-brainier.
PAY ATTENTION AFTER DRAFT DAY
Apart from choosing your lineup each week, your job is not finished after draft day. Leagues can be won and lost off the waiver wire.
When looking back at the 2018 numbers, Bilal Powell – yeah, we forgot he was a thing too – was drafted before Matt Breida, Nick Chubb and James Conner. In some drafts those three weren’t picked up at all.
They finished as RBs 26, 17 and 6 respectively. Mr Powell was No.74.
Watch for trades, watch for injuries and when you see an opportunity and a change which would see a different RB rise up the depth chart, pounce on him and watch your points rack up.
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Ask Tom Brady.
Believe in your draft, trust the guys you picked and don’t make any knee jerk reactions.
Through weeks one to eight last season, Atlanta Falcons WR1 Julio Jones was the 14th best for points, behind Tyler Boyd and Robert Woods. Yet, from weeks eight to 17, he came out as third-highest for points, scoring eight touchdowns and finished as the fourth-best fantasy wideout in the league.
How many players in the early weeks would have considered trading a player they took in the opening two rounds, looking for a boost? They would have missed out on a barrel load of points when the fantasy season reached the playoffs.
That is how you lose championships.
THINK ABOUT HANDCUFFS
Running backs are fragile. All it takes is one bad hit, a twist the wrong way, or even a contract dispute and their season is over.
Right now, both Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon are going to be one of the first 10 backs taken this year, but we still don’t know if they are going to play come Week 1.
If you take the risk in drafting either, make sure to use a later pick on Austin Eckler or Tony Pollard. Both are the respective back ups and if you trust the team and the system, you could pick up the same type of volume by being smart.
The same can be said for Todd Gurley at the Rams. If his knees don’t hold out, someone like Malcolm Brown, John Kelly and Darrell Henderson Jr will take the load and pick correctly and you have yourself a stud running back.
TIGHT END WORTH REMEMBERING
On draft day you are going to see Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and George Kittle go off the board early. Those three finished in the top 16 amongst receiving yards last season. They are more than just tight ends, they are elite receivers.
This year, once they are gone, the value and quality drops, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some stars out there.
One of them could be Pittsburgh Steelers Vance McDonald. Mike Tomlin lost 168 targets and 1297 yards when Antonio Brown left the AFC North side, and not all of them can go to Juju Smith-Schuster.
The former 49ers TE was third on the Steelers in terms of reception yards last term and scored four touchdowns. He was ranked 11th in the league and would only have needed another 100 yards to break the top five.
Currently ranked 82nd on ADP, picking up a high-end TE in the late rounds could give you more value than using an early pick on the three big-name players.
YOU CAN’T PREDICT DEFENSES
Over the past four seasons, 14 different teams have finished in the top five for fantasy defense points. Looking back since 2012, no one team has finished in first in two consecutive seasons.
Everyone expects the Bears to be a formidable force again in 2019, but it would be a shock to see them finish 44 points ahead of the team in second this time around. As many points separated them and the Rams as did the teams from second to 15th.
Wait on a defence. Even all the way to the last round. If you like a team, take them, but basically pick one and stick with them. There will be ups and downs, there will be good and bad, but you will have as much luck deciding on your D by rolling dice than you will by doing the research and making an educated guess.