You might have heard football rumblings over the past week, and if you haven't, pull your head out of the grass. Football is back, the lockout is over, and teams are gearing up for a full season of gridiron classics after a devastatingly long break.
With little over a month until the 2011 season begins, fans are rounding up friends and foes alike to prepare for fantasy football drafts.
If someone's asked you to join a league, it's time to buck up and jump in with both feet, slick. Fantasy football is the 'work-pool' for the new generation, and it requires a little fortitude in order to be a champion.
|ESPN's Fantasy Football format|
Note: there is a difference between ignorance and being a damn fool, so don't blame us if you still suck.
Tip #1: Know The Rules
Some leagues incorporate 'every man for themselves' rules, where each team's total points are tallied at the end of the season to find a victor. Most standard leagues, however, pit two drafted teams in head-to-head competition, with the weekend's highest score taking the victory.
There are also different scoring rules for every game. One league might offer four points for touchdowns scored, while another might give you six. One league might grant a point for each catch a player makes (aka: PPR leagues), while the other will only give points for the amount of yards the player progressed. Most leagues employ Defense/Special Teams rules, where each team drafts an entire team's defense, while other more advanced leagues allow people to draft individual defensive players (aka: IDP leagues).
The style of play will factor heavily into how one plays the game, especially on draft day. A player with the first pick should consider his options in leagues that punish heavily for turnovers, such has fumbles -- should they draft Adrian Peterson, knowing he drops the ball an average of five times a year, or take a safer carrier like Chris Johnson? Again, rules factor heavily into the game, so consider what you're playing.
|Chris Johnson (RB) of the Tennessee Titans|
Tip #2: Have A Plan, But Don't Always Stick To It
Sure, you might be able to draft Tom Brady in the first round with the ninth or tenth pick, but that also means you'll probably be able to draft Philip Rivers in the second or third AND spend your first pick to snag a running back who'll rack up Tom-esque points (Jamaal Charles or Steven Jackson).
Make a list of your ideal team, with multiple options at each position, and also make note of when they might go in the draft. Your location on the draft order should also figure heavily into your plans. In standard leagues, the pick order is reversed every round. So even though you have the second pick, you aren't going again for at least another 16 picks. Spend that pick wisely.
The list isn't etched in stone, and the draft won't go the way you expect it to. People tend to pick with their hearts, so expect Larry Fitzgerald to be one of the first receivers off the board. This isn't a bad thing, Larry is a great choice, but this year it might be more rewarding to go with players like Vincent Jackson and Chad Ochocinco, who will not be in as high of a demand and have proven QBs throwing to them.
|Jamaal Charles (RB) of the Kansas City Chiefs|
Tip #3: Watch The Waiver Wire And Free Agency Like A Hawk
There's a startling trend over the last five years, being that about 50 percent of the top drafted 20 players do not rank as the top players at the end of the season. This means there's a strong chance that you'll draft a 'dud.' Not to worry, because for every DeAngelo Williams and Brett Favre to let someone down, there's always an Arian Foster or a Josh Freeman to bring them back up.
Many players that end up breaking out are not initially drafted, and many of those players are subject to first-come, first-serve terms at the beginning of the season. This time last year, no one knew how productive Michael Vick would be, if at all, since he was the second string QB. A fateful injury to Kevin Kolb in Week 1, however, propelled him to the national spotlight where he's remained ever since.
No one had Vick on their rosters in that first week, because he wasn't guaranteed to play. Well, guess what? Ask anyone that made it to playoffs last year, and chances are many of them will tell you it was the key acquisition of Michael Vick from Free Agency that helped them dominate the season.
Tip #4: Build A Winning Team EVERY WEEK
Sure, you're drafting for the entire season but your team needs to win every week, and each week is different. Know the match-ups of the individual teams -- for example, say the Rams are playing the Lions and the Steelers are playing the Eagles, and you have both Sam Bradford and Ben Roethlisberger for QB. Who do you start? Well, know that Bradford will be going up against one of the worst pass defenses in recent history in Detroit, where as Big Ben will be squaring off against a significantly stacked set of defensive backs. Roethlisberger might be the better QB overall, but Bradford will probably net you the most points in this case.
It's also good to know when to bench players who are normally productive, yet haven't put up the numbers to warrant a starting spot. Take last year for example - you draft DeAngelo Williams in the first round, expecting him to stack the bulk of your score. But he's hurt and doesn't put up a single game over 20 points. You've got to know when to hold and when to fold.
Tip #5: Draft A Good Tight End.
There are only a few good QBs in the league, but chances are there aren't enough teams to scrap up all of them, so even if you don't get Drew Brees or Peyton Manning you'll still be able to end up with something decent. The same can be said about running backs and wide receivers -- there might only be a few 'elite' players, but there are plenty of fish in the sea to pad your scoreboard.
|Yahoo.com's Fantasy Football format|
The same cannot be said of Tight Ends. A good TE can make the difference between a win and a loss, and they aren't as easy to come by. So before you stack your roster with a team of RBs assured to break 1000 yards, understand that there is a huge drop in quality as you go down the list of Tight Ends.
Players like Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates can hardly be classified as TEs in those positions, due to their tendency to put up points usually reserved for the best wide receivers. But having a player like these two, who are essentially the go-to targets for their respective teams, can provide a huge upper hand in close games.
Sleeper Draft Picks: QB Josh Freeman, QB Matt Hasselbeck, WR Steve Breaston, WR Julio Jones, WR Mike Sims-Walker, WR Brandon Lloyd, RB Mark Ingram, RB LeGarrett Blount
Avoid Like The Plague: QB Tavaris Jackson, QB Donovon McNabb, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Terrell Owens, RB Shonn Greene, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Reggie Bush, RB Ryan Matthews
High Risk/Reward Players: QB Michael Vick, QB Eli Manning, WR Steve Smith (CAR), WR Steve Smith (NYG), WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Chris Johnson, RB DeAngelo Williams, RB LaDainian Tomlinson