Fantasy Football Drafting Guide (Non-Erotic)

Jets Cheerleaders

Not that kind of fantasy. These might be the best players on the field for the Jets this year. Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr.

“Why does this still seem like gambling to you? I mean, why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker EVERY SINGLE YEAR? What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas? It’s a skill game, Jo.”

-Mike McDermott, Rounders

Fantasy football

is a lot like a weekly poker game: there are the guys who somehow always get “lucky” and win and the guys who get “screwed” every week and can’t believe this keeps fucking happening to them.  Right?  Thing is, even if you go into your draft blind, like most of the moronic lumps out there who manage fantasy squads, you can still build a team by plugging in the highest ranked player from your little cheat sheet, and who knows?  The result may even look good on paper.

But you know what else looks good on paper?  Communism.  And we all know how well that went for Russia – it was the fantasy football equivalent of a roster that even Matt Millen would be embarrassed by.  If you want to avoid shooting the moon and being the post-1985 USSR of your fantasy league, it’s essential you go into your draft with a solid well laid plan.  Here’s one that works for me:

The most important aspect of a fantasy draft is understanding draft position.  Now, when I say “draft position” I don’t mean “am I picking first, fourth, or eighth?”  I’m talking about understanding which position groups in the draft are deepest, and which players my opponents in the sandwich space between my current pick and my next pick have already taken.  This line of thinking will increase your odds of getting not only one but two quality players with your picks (I’ll explain further, don’t fret).

First things first, and that’s to secure your quarterback, unless you have a late pick and all the top-flight slingers are already gone.  I know I have pretty much zero credentials here, but just trust me on this: QB is king.  Traditionally, in the first round everyone is gung ho on drafting a top-flight running back.  I can tell you right now, if you do this and miss out on an elite quarterback, you’re going to be sweating like Jerry Sandusky in an elementary school all season long.

Running backs

are walking, breathing, question marks – they’re injury prone, thanks to the fact that all game long they go down like Lindsey Lohan leaving a night club (hard and often).  Or, they’re a game time decision and you don’t know if you should play them or not, and then you do and they wind up sucking (insert same exact Lindsey Lohan joke here). I’m not saying you shouldn’t be drafting running backs – you should, early and often, just usually not with your first pick. The important thing with running backs is quality depth, so getting one in the first round should not be as high a priority as ensuring you land an elite quarterback.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, and this is where actual draft position comes into play. Though it is imperative that you get a top five QB (last year the drop in points from the #1 QB to the #5 QB was only 56 points but the drop from the #1 QB to the #6 QB was 110 points), he doesn’t necessarily have to be your first pick.  For instance, let’s say you’re in an eight-person league and you’re drafting sixth, and two or less of the top five QB’s have already been taken – in this case you should draft the best running back or an elite receiver (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald), because even if the two people behind you take a quarter back, one of the top five will still be there when you pick again.

This is what I was talking about when I referred to a “sandwich” earlier – it wasn’t just because I have the drunk munchies, although that was admittedly a big part of the reason I chose the term sandwich and not something else.  The “sandwich” refers to any picks between my current pick and my next pick, and it’s imperative that you pay attention to it just as closely as if it was a real sandwich that you were about to eat (VERY CLOSELY).  For example, later on in the draft if you need both a wide receiver and a tight end, and the players in the sandwich after you have already taken wide receivers, then it’s smarter to take the tight end because it’s more likely the receiver will still be there when it’s your turn to pick again.

Another overlooked aspect of drafting is deciding which player you should pick at a given position when you have two or more players ranked about the same.  Personally, I like to pick players that are on the same team as others already on my team, because there are only so many players on one team that score. So basically, if it’s not one it’ll be the other, and thus you increase your odds of having one of your players score in a given week.

This works even better with quarterbacks and receivers, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out unless you’ve got some sort of mental retardation holding you back.  Let’s say you’re lucky enough to draft Aaron Rodgers, and then later in the draft you’re deciding between Hakeem Nicks and Jordy Nelson (both ranked about the same), you should take Jordy Nelson, due to the fact that every time he scores it’s almost like you’re getting double points because it’s Rodgers throwing to him.  I usually like to take one explosive offense and sort of roll with it – if I take Drew Brees, I want Jimmy Graham, and then later you can bet I’ll be looking for Marques Colston.  Brady?  I want Gronk-If-You’re-Horny, or Lloyd, or Welker.  Calvin Johnson?  I want Stafford.  Larry Fitzgerald?  I want John Skelton.   …Okay, maybe I don’t want fucking Skelton – I mean, the man’s own mother probably wouldn’t draft him – but you get the idea.

I also think this theory helps with bye weeks, although many would disagree.  Most people like to avoid players with the same bye week, and then are forced to plug players in each week, whereas if you go the other route, and carry a lot of players with the same bye week, you can just make like the Chinese Badminton team and say fuck it – throw one week in order to keep more starters in all the other games, while your opponents are scrambling to plug in multiple backups each and every week that there are byes.

In the end, having a strategy for how you’re going to draft is really half the battle. The other half is just deciding who to actually take – trying to find this year’s Cam Newton, and avoiding last year’s Chris Johnson.  Bill Belichick believes players make the biggest jump between there rookie and sophomore seasons, so try to target rookies from last year that might be slightly undervalued who could put up big numbers or provide depth: the A.J. Greens, Torry Smiths, Julio Jones’s’s and Demarco Murrays of the NFL world.  Another way to find good players that may be undervalued is to look for receivers like Brandon Marshall, Brandon Lloyd, Demarius Thomas, and Eric Decker who will benefit much improved quarterback play this season.  Yet another way is to pinpoint guys who you think could have a bounce back year – guys who held out or who had lingering contract disputes last season that may have caused a dip in production, like Chris Johnson, or DeSean Jackson.

Conversely, I would stay away from guys like Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe, and any others who have held out this year.  Also, players who constantly are injured such as Andre Johnson, Darren Mcfadden, and Antoinio Gates, I wouldn’t touch with a 23-and-a-half-foot pole, but hey, if you’re feeling lucky…

Lastly, a quick tip on drafting defense and special teams: I don’t typically like to set the market and be the first one to draft them, but just be aware that once they start to go, they go quick, so if you want to set your mind at ease, it’s never a bad idea to get ‘em while they’re hot.  However, I find it to be a better strategy to use your picks on creating quality depth on your team for potential trades and injuries down the road, get a kicker with your very last pick, and then simply look through the defenses available on the waiver wire each week and pick up the one that’s facing the worst offense – it can wind up working out quite well, points-wise.  Of course, it only works in leagues with team defenses, not with individual defensive players, but that should (hopefully) go without saying.

Just to finish up, a list of a few skill players I really like, both on and off the radar: Darren Sproles (Saints RB), Kendal Hunter (49ers RB), Doug Martin (Bucs RB), Jamaal Charles (Chiefs RB), Matt Forte (Bears RB), Fred Jackson (Bills RB), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles WR), Denarius Moore (Raiders WR), Laurent Robinson (Jags WR), Danny Amendola (Rams WR), Kenny Britt (Titans WR), Josh Morgan (Redskins WR), Randy “Straight Cash Homie” Moss (49ers WR), Aaron Hernandez (Pats TE), Jacob Tamey (Broncos TE), Dustin Keller (Jets TE), Coby Fleener (Colts TE)

Follow these basic guidelines in your draft, and I promise you’ll steer clear of utter collapse this fantasy season.  I can’t necessarily promise you’ll be the America or Japan or even Canada of your league, but at least you can bet your bottom ruble that you won’t be Russia.

This piece of “journalism” was produced by Bobby “Swamp-Dick” Sano, most likely while shitfaced.  Bobby, a self-described freelance juror, is best known for his extensive body of work with the Federal Body Inspectors, and is currently wanted in six different states.

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr.

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