When first getting your feet wet with fantasy football it is easy to feel like you are drowning in rules, stats, and players you’ve never heard of. This post is intended as a rough guide to the very basics, including advice on how to form a draft strategy.
If you are familiar with the game of chess, then you know that (aside from the king) the pieces have a worth like so:
Queen > Rook > Bishop/Knight > Pawn
In fantasy football our “pieces” are much more varied because each position contains players with varying talent and opportunities. But for the sake of trying to digitize an analog world, let’s start with this basic precedence:
RB > QB > WR > TE > DST > K
This turns out to be a decent rule of thumb. For example, if you checked the rank lists of various fantasy football websites, and found the first occurrence of each position on these lists, then you would see something like:
RB LaDainian Tomlinson > QB Tom Brady > WR Randy Moss > TE Jason Witten > DST Vikings > K Stephen Gostkowski
Now let’s increase our resolution. If we were to add modifiers called “Elite”, “Good”, and “Average” to each position, then we can get a much more accurate picture of player worth. To throw some numbers out, we’ll say that Elite is the top 10% of players at that position, Good is the next 30%, and Average is the remaining 60%.
With this added complexity, we can start making some interesting statements. For example:
Good RB > Elite DST > Elite K
For mainstream scoring systems, a good running back is generally going to rack up more points than an elite defense and certainly more than an elite kicker.
With six positions and three modifiers, you have eighteen pieces that one might say have the following worth:
Elite RB > Elite QB > Elite WR > Good RB > Good WR > Elite TE > Good QB > Elite DST > AvgQB > Avg RB > Good DST > Good TE > Avg WR > AVG DST > Elite K > Avg TE > Good K > Avg K
That equation contains plenty of room for argument, but some key points to take away are…
- … the high value of Elite/Good and even Avg running backs
- … the low value of kickers, even ones who are Elite
- … if you can’t get an Elite QB, then there are plenty of other players to stock up on before you try for a Good/Avg QB
- … most TEs, DSTs, and Ks are in the lesser half of the equation
I felt that my draft in a 12-team league this year followed this basic advice:
- Elite RB Ladainian Tomlinson
- Elite WR Terrell Owens
- Good/Elite RB Earnest Graham
- Good/Elite WR Wes Welker
- Elite TE Jason Witten
- Good RB Willie Parker
- Good/Avg QB Jake Delhomme
- Avg/Good WR Patrick Crayton
- Good DST Colts
- Avg QB Matt Schaub
- Avg WR Ronald Curry
- Avg WR Jabar Gaffney
- “Handcuff” RB Jacob Hester (LT’s backup for injury insurance)
- Good K Rob Bironas
Now let’s say that you don’t want to spend time researching players, reading the latest news, and filling your head with the projected worths of hundreds of NFLers. That’s okay, you can still have a great draft. Here’s how:
- Find a fantasy website that you have some reason to respect, whether it’s ESPN, CBSSports, Yahoo, NFL.com, etc
- Somewhere on that site will be a list of the projected Top XXX fantasy players
- Grab that list and either program it in as pre-rankings to your draft application, or keep it open during the draft as a spreadsheet or something
- In each round, take the highest available player on the list
That’s it. The only caveat is to be aware of your roster requirements; sometimes you’ll need to reach down a few positions on your list in order to fill out your roster.
Hopefully this has been somewhat informative and has not turned out to be a bunch of esoteric gibberish. Once you get a few seasons under your belt, you’ll gain a sense for how the players accumulate points and get a better feel for what you want to accomplish in a draft. Good luck!