Remember that all of these suggestions aren’t written in stone, because I don’t have any tablets or chisels.  The number one rule that trumps all of these so-called rules, is to be flexible.  If you are so rigid on the first rule of not drafting a QB early that you pass on Aaron Rodgers in the third round, then you just aren’t paying attention.  Use common sense.  These are guidelines that should help you draft a competitive team.  Your ability to think on your feet and make informed decisions on the fly is what turns that competitive team into a fake championship team.

Don’t draft a quarterback in the first 5 rounds: Any position where you only start one player needs to be waited on.  There are 32 teams and if you are in a 12 team league, you got it, there are only 12 starting QBs.  Teams are throwing more and even schmohawk QBs are putting up 4,000 yards.  Don’t be fooled by all the QB hype, it just means there are more out there for you to choose from.

Draft a backup quarterback: This is where my two quarterback strategery comes into play.  You haven’t drafted Brees, Rodgers or Manning so there is a good chance you’ll want a later round quarterback to complete the strategery. 

Go upside with backup RBs: Good 2nd and 3rd tier wide receivers are much easier to predict than running backs.  They often stay healthier than RBs because RBs touch the ball more, which means they get hit more.  Good waiver wire receivers are easier to come by than running backs.  The right backup/committee member running back is like having a fantasy football lottery ticket.  Would you rather have Ahmad Bradshaw or Braylon Edwards as a bench player?  Both are going in the 8th round. Would you rather have Willis McGahee or Austin Collie?  Say Reggie Wayne and Ray Rice are injured on the same day and Collie and McGahee are on the waiver wire.  Who do you put your claim on?  Grab your starting receivers, then stock up on running backs.

Don’t draft a tight end until you have all your starting RBs, WRs, and QB: Until we start seeing more 2 tight end leagues there is no reason to reach for a top tier tight end.  Yes, Gates, Clark, Davis and Finley have a lot of ability, but you will need to grab them in the 4th through 6th rounds.  There were 65 points separating the top 10 tight ends last season, whereas there were 149 points separating the top 10 running backs.  Up your odds of grabbing that Ray Rice, Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson or Ricky Williams of last season.

Don’t draft a backup tight end: Save those precious bench spots for running backs.  It’s not that tough to find an average tight end with a good matchup, which makes them slightly above average.

Always fill a RB/WR/TE spot with a running back: Yes, there will be times during the season that you’ll have to throw a receiver in there, but don’t draft with that as your goal.  A running back with 15 touches will often rack up more points than a receiver with 5-10 targets.  And if you follow the backup RB suggestion, you should have a decent back to fill that spot even on bye weeks.

Don’t forget your bye weeks: Byes are always the easiest thing to forget while you are in the middle of the draft.  Football hasn’t quite caught up with baseball, so we are stuck with head to head leagues.  You need to win as many weeks as possible.  Don’t get caught with all your starting running backs taking a siesta.  If the value is there, sometimes you just have to pull the trigger, so don’t let it completely deter you, just make sure you are aware of the situation.

Know ADP: If you happen to use Razzball’s rankings, you’ll see some players a lot higher than their ADP.  Say you have the 10th overall pick and Jamaal Charles is sitting there, and lo and behold, Razzball has him ranked 10th overall!  Your lucky day! Hold the soiree Todd McShay.  JC’s ADP is sitting around 25 right now and you’ll get to pick 15th next.  Grab someone with a higher ADP that you think might go before you pick JC.

Don’t draft a defense or kicker until the last 2 rounds: This is a bit of a no brainer, but there are always those managers who reach for defense and sometimes even kickers.  Fantasy defenses and kickers change so much from year to year that wasting a pick, even a round or two earlier is just that, a waste.  I often don’t even take a kicker and sometimes even a defense, especially if the draft is before or during preseason games.  If you can take a flier on a player that could win a position battle and be worth more than someone you picked earlier, you can be ahead of the curve.

Mock, mock, and mock some more: Many fantasy leagues have very few roster spots and it is difficult to make up for bad moves with late upside bench players.  You need to feel comfortable drafting from different positions. But don’t waste your time on mocks that don’t fill with real people.  We play fake football, but not with fake people.  Unless you are in a league with Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.

  1. Howard says:
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    Hi Doc, I have to admit I succumbed to joining a league last night just for the draft. I only hope the managers are active! It’s a 12 team H2H. Reading your column I realized on some fundamendal mistakes that I made.
    – Reaching for Dallas Clark at (47) and plugging Finley into the R/W/T slot at 74. It’s an IDP league so I started drafting DP’s when Patrick Willis and Jon Beason left the board!
    I think I could have got a better backup QB than Cambpell but that was my last pick. In retrospect I could’ve had Henne or Big Ben or Cassell earlier.
    Thanks for the advice and I’ll take that to heart in my next draft.
    Any news on the Razzball roto leagues?

    1. (2) Adrian Peterson
    2. (23) Brandon Marshall
    3. (26) Marques Colston
    4. (47) Dallas Clark
    5. (50) Matt Forte
    6. (71) Jay Cutler
    7. (74) Jermichael Finley
    8. (95) Robert Meachem
    9. (98) Justin Forsett
    10. (119) Dallas
    11. (122) Mario Williams
    12. (143) Paul Posluszny
    13. (146) David Harris
    14. (167) Eric Weddle
    15. (170) Oshiomogho Atogwe
    16. (191) Justin Tuck
    17. (194) Ray Edwards
    18. (215) David Akers
    19. (218) Devin Hester
    20. (239) Bernard Berrian
    21. (242) Tashard Choice
    22. (263) Correll Buckhalter
    23. (266) Dustin Keller
    24. (287) Jason Campbell

  2. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Howard: Yeah, I love those tight ends, but I rather have RBs in their place. That is good value for Finley and would be great if you’d grabbed a RB or WR instead of Clark. I like Campbell that late, but I agree those other guys would have been better (not sold on Cassel though). I really like Hester at 218. If he continues to go late he could be a steal. Seems weird that an IDP league also has a team D. Usually they just stick with IDP. Keep on mockin’!

  3. Isles Guru says:
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    Doc. Your boy Greg sent me the worse trade offer I have every received in our dynasty league.

    VJax ($9) and Stewart ($6) for Jennings ($22).

    He thinks I am peeing in my pants because of the likelihood VJax will get suspended and/or sit out for an entire season.

    I already have Marshall ($9), S Smith ($2), Nicks ($3), Brit ($1), and some sleepers at WR but for some reason he thinks I am desperate for another.

    How delusional is Greg that I would even consider that terd of a deal?

  4. Greg says:
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    Doc you know I love ya but I disagree with this:

    “Always fill a RB/WR/TE spot with a running back: Yes, there will be times during the season that you’ll have to throw a receiver in there, but don’t draft with that as your goal. A running back with 15 touches will often rack up more points than a receiver with 5-10 targets. And if you follow the backup RB suggestion, you should have a decent back to fill that spot even on bye weeks”

    I’m that run and shoot guy and I have been relatively successful. I prefer WRs to RBs…. I’m that guy that finds Garcon on draft day and Austin the week b4 he breaks out…. granted my way works for me but the avg fantasy player probably should load up on RBs…. just saying there is another way :)

    I agree TEs early is a waste and I FIRMLY don’t believe in back TEs….but I also don’t believe in backup QBs….there is always a QB on waivers for the one week bye…..

  5. Greg says:
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    @islesguru:

    nice to take it public :) bottom line. If you are TRULY going for broke this year then I was doing you a favor. VJAX may NOT play this year and I wouldn’t bet the ranch on Steve Smith. Jennings gives you another stud WR…… Taking VJAX is a favor my man…i get nothing for him this year so obviously I need a J-STU to make it worth my while…..stop whining big boy

  6. Isles Guru says:
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    Doc, you see why I keep this guy around? Greg doesn’t realize how many more running back sleepers crush their ADP compared to wide receiver sleepers.

    In the late rounds while Greg is loading up on nobodies I am the guy who goes after the Mendenhalls, Charleses, Ricky Williamses, and Fred Jacksons.

  7. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Greg: @Isles Guru: Hah, you need to start a 30’s comedy routine.

    I can get on board with getting stud WR’s early, sometimes bypassing a risky RB, but in the late rounds I can’t agree. I don’t really think you drafted Garcon and if you did you had the 37th best fantasy WR for the year. Collie had more fantasy points than him. Austin was also a waiver wire pick up which goes toward my theory of picking up WR’s off the wire and drafting RB’s.

    I do agree that the trade is one sided, especially in a dynasty. JStew and VJax are top 10 backs in a dynasty.

  8. Greg says:
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    Ahhh…..my boy Doc siding with the enemy….. I actually had BOTH Garcon and Collie on draft day…. I dropped Collie early in the year last year… wish I still had him :) Isles can confirm.

    My point on the WR is do your research hard and heavy and draft the rookies with promise. For example this year I drafted Eric Decker (who i predict will be a possesion wes welker type) and Damian Williams. Not high on Williams this year but next year will be valuable. The other WR I had a hard on for was Jordan Shipley. I firmly believe Shipley and Decker will have value from day one.

    My point is that you can find value in late rounds on WRS….mainly bc no one else typically looks for them….counter insurgency. Its a plan and if done well works. It looks like Doc we are going to agree to disagree….

    Isles – good luck on getting any value for VJAX… most people would rather have a Mcdonald’s happy meal then VJAX this year….at least there you get a toy inside

  9. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Greg: Guessing this is a pretty deep league.

    This is actually a great time to get VJax. I doubt he has a long suspension and the odds of him actually sitting out are slim. Think about where a lot of people got Brandon Marshall last season when he was doing his thing.

  10. Greg says:
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    Well thats the thing. People remember Marshall’s situation from last year. So ppl may make a mistake and reach early for VJAX on draft day. Granted, the Marshall thing did work out real well last year.

    I can’t figure out who the VJAX suspension helps- Floyd? The guy whose name i can’t spell Nnemme? I guess it’s great for Gates (if his foot is actually ok).

  11. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Greg: Floyd. He will be the #1 while VJax is gone. He’s worth drafting, especially where his adp is right now.

  12. ryan99 says:
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    “Always fill a RB/WR/TE spot with a running back”

    Does this change to “with a WR (unless the RB catches the ball)” if PPR?

  13. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @ryan99: It doesn’t change completely, but becomes more murky. Many of the backs you’ll have available for that slot will be your 3rd down types with a chance at receptions.

    But you make a good point. These tips are for your run of the mill league. As settings change, so do the tips.

  14. mrbaseball – on the baseball side of things

    hey whats up doc – I don’t understand why commisioners who go through the trouble of setting up their football leagues with IDP would set the value of the IDP players on the same level as the FG Kickers

    why should the IDP setup value be so low – I tried to communicate with the commissioners in those leagues and explain to them – for me its going to be like drafting an extra 9 FG Kickers since the offensive player values are double of the IDP

    do you agree with me on this point

    Very Sound Points on your draft strategy
    and hope none of your drafted players end up with a high ankle sprain

  15. Doc

    Doc says:
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    Hah, thanks. I agree. Usually the reason IDP players are drafted last is because the player pool is so large, not because they score so few points. I don’t like playing IDP leagues that have IDP points inflated because I’m more about offense, but there’s no need to even have them if you are going to devalue them that much.

  16. Joe says:
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    Good stuff! I was wondering if maybe you could do a similar post except for PPR leagues? I’m doing ffb for the first time ever this year (long time baseball guy) and the league is PPR…

  17. Austin says:
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    Absolutely agree with every part of this.

    In my league, we have to have a D, kicker, and IDP, so I always go-in no particular order- D & Kicker in the 3rd to last & 2nd to last rounds & then IDP the last round

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