Draft Strategy

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Maximizing Your Upside

Fantasy Football Draft Advice

We’re into the thick of Fantasy Football draft season so I wanted to jot down some quick tips on how to best set yourself up to win your league on draft day. Of course, leagues aren’t won or lost during the draft, but they can give you a nice head start if you maximize your upside.

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

[the_ad id=”63198″]We’re into the thick of Fantasy Football draft season so I wanted to jot down some quick tips on how to best set yourself up to win your league on draft day. Of course, leagues aren’t won or lost during the draft, but they can give you a nice head start if you maximize your upside.

Why maximize upside? Well, because this is America and in this country we go big or go home. Or as Herm Edwards once astutely said, “We play to win the game!” So without further adieu, here are my five tips on how to maximize your upside on draft day.

7. Know Your League

This is the most obvious piece of advice, but it needs to be talked about. Every year I hear about players who didn’t realize that tight ends got a boost in PPR scoring or that running backs received a 0.25-per-carry bonus. Don’t be this person at the draft because it’ll easily be the reason you lose your league.

A quick excel tip is to import all of last year’s players and stats and calculate their fantasy points per game with both standard scoring and then again with your league’s specific scoring. By calculating the difference in rank or points scored you can see which players gain or lose the most value.

6. Be Flexible

[the_ad id=”58837″]On a similar note to #7, you know your league better than any analyst you’ll read on the web. What this means is that you should know whether your league mates like to draft quarterbacks early or tend to draft with an old-school mentality by going RB-RB. You should come into the draft with a strategy, but if a positional run leaves you scrambling at running back in the first couple of rounds don’t be afraid to pivot and draft WR/TE heavy early in the draft. It’s better to take the best values on the board rather than reaching to fill a roster spot.

5. Go Contrarian

I’m a contrarian by nature. If you tell me the sky is a beautiful shade of blue my first instinct is to argue that it’s looking more gray. The contrarian strategy is already very popular in the DFS circles, but it has its merits in season-long as well. If your league tends to draft RB-heavy maybe you should consider a Zero-RB approach or visa versa. Going against the grain is often a high-upside move as it allows you to capitalize on some nice values that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

4. Buy on Bad News, Sell on Good News

Frank GoreThis is a popular saying on Wall Street, but it can be applied to fantasy football as well. It’s similar to the contrarian strategy as you’re likely to be going against the grain by nature since the common reaction to bad news is to sell, sell, sell.

Some examples of buying on bad news are:

  • Frank Gore (ADP 7.03) turned 33 years old this offseason and no running back produces that late into their career. However, few running backs have as easy a path to the majority of the team’s carries as Gore does with the Colts this year and the Colts should have a big bounce-back year offensively.
  • The Jets signed Matt Forte this offseason keeping Bilal Powell in his RB2 role again for the 2016 season. However, Powell (10th round ADP) is coming at a great discount and contributed well in a limited role last year and has a path to bell-cow work if things slightly break his way.

3. Late Round = High Ceilings

Upside, upside, upside. When you’re in the later rounds, you should be targeting players who could be league-winners and not bench-rounder-outers. The latter can be found via the waiver wire (depending on the size of your league, of course) during the season.

Instead, you should scour the NFL for fragile situations that could present some monster opportunity for someone waiting in the wings, which brings me to my next topic…

2. Target potential bell-cows vs. existing bell-cow running backs

This is the core of the “Zero RB” strategy that has swept the nation by storm and the idea is that the running back position is very fragile, so you should buy heavily on the discounted pieces that could cash big vs. the high-priced assets that could fail. I generally take a weaker Zero RB approach in my standard leagues and my top targets this year are the aforementioned Powell (10.04), Gio Bernard (5.12), Ryan Mathews (5.12),  Jay Ajayi (8.05), Charles Sims (8.06), Jerick McKinnon (12.12), and James Starks (13.07).

1. Punt Kickers and D/STs

If your league is still using kickers, you need to change that ASAP, and I’m starting to move that way with D/ST as well. That said, if you’re stuck playing with them — kickers especially — you might as well treat them like the trash they are and ignore, ignore, ignore on draft day. If you can get away with not even drafting one and waiting until Week 1 to fill that roster spot I’d much rather take a flier on a high-upside flier at wide receiver or running back and expect to see how the preseason shakes out.

Our own Wes Anderson made some great points on why elite defenses should be drafted earlier than the last rounds and I agree to an extent. That said, there’s a lot of turnover on defense from year-to-year and feel there is more value trying to play the waiver wire with matchups vs. drafting an elite D/ST.

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Have a great fantasy draft this weekend!

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