Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Rules & Settings to Know Before Your League Starts
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” –Benjamin Franklin
You weren’t expecting a quote from founding founder Benny Franks in a fantasy football article, were you? Welcome to 2020! All jokes aside, you need to prepare for your fantasy drafts. There are some settings that will greatly change who is taken at the top of a draft and others that will change who you add towards the end. Knowing some of the key settings for your league ahead of your draft can put you miles ahead of your competition before the first player is taken
1. Is the league SuperFlex/2QB?
No setting will change the 1st Round complexion of your draft more than starting multiple QBs. The hosts of The Fantasy Footballers Podcast routinely advise you to draft QBs late with one exception, 2-QB leagues. In fantasy football, QBs score the most points just about every week but since most leagues only have 10-12 teams and there are 32 starting QBs in the NFL, there isn’t much pressure to draft one early. However, if every fantasy team gets to start two QBs, the game changes completely and you’ll need a whole new draft strategy. Top QBs routinely go in the first two rounds and most of the starters are gone midway through your draft.
2. Is this a dynasty league?
In a dynasty league, you keep all of your players from season to season instead of drafting a new team every year. This causes some major changes to occur during a dynasty league draft. Youth becomes a big factor when comparing two players, wide receivers get a slight uptick over running backs because of their longer shelf life, and trades become much more prevalent, as they are basically the only way to change your team. Knowing this before your draft is important for many reasons but two of the biggest are
1. The strategies and tips you’ll employ around players and trades will change greatly.
2. This draft will take FOREVER! A start-up dynasty draft is typically 25-30 rounds and is best done in a slow setting, meaning drafters have hours between picks.
3. What form of PPR are we using?
Points-per-reception is basically the new standard in fantasy football…not to be confused with Standard leagues, that offer no points-per-reception. Confused yet? There a few variances on PPR that can make major changes to your draft rankings. In a full PPR (1 point-per-reception), high volume WRs and pass-catching RBs should be valued way higher than in a Standard league. For example, Robert Woods was the WR22 in Standard scoring last season but jumps all the way to WR14 in full-PPR. Julian Edelman jumped from WR13 to WR7. Half PPR (0.5 points-per-reception) lessens the difference a bit but puts passing-catching RBs on a more equal footing to their high carry volume counterparts. Ballers Preferred Scoring is .5 PPR.
4. How many RBs and WRs do we start?
This is an important league setting that is often overlooked. It’s the 4th Round and you’ve drafted three WRs thus far. You’re not sure if you want to commit to a zero-RB strategy and you’re starting to get nervous about RB, but the available WRs still look far better than the RBs. Instead of forcing yourself to fill a need, you look at the roster settings and see that the league is 3WR, 2Flex. You laugh maniacally and draft Michael Gallup as your WR4 and grab Robert Woods in the 5th knowing that you can start all five WRs every week. On a similar note, there are leagues where you are only forced to start one of any position and have a bunch of Flex spots (spots that allow you to start an RB/WR/TE). These leagues give you the ability to only draft two or three guys at a thin position but load up on talent where it is deep.
5. How many players/rounds are we drafting?
As you near the end of the draft…wait, we’re only doing 14 Rounds…but I don’t have a QB or TE yet…ugh! Don’t let this happen. If you have guys that you know you can get late, you need to know exactly which round to target them in. If your league is using DEF and/or K, you want to wait until your last picks to draft those positions (more on this later) and that is going to force you to draft your lottery picks or sleepers a round or two earlier. It is important that you know exactly how many rounds your league is drafting to plan out your last picks accordingly.
6. Are we using Kickers and/or Defenses? Does this platform make me draft them?
This pairs well with #5. First and foremost, find out if your league is even using kickers or DEF/ST. It has become more and more common to leave these guys off of your fantasy roster (Note: As the DEF/ST guy for the Fantasy Footballers Writing Staff, I do not promote removing defenses). If you are using them in your league, find out if you have to draft them. If you do have to draft them…WAIT UNTIL YOUR LAST TWO PICKS. There are no exceptions. You are always better off streaming these positions and getting better players in your draft. If you don’t have to draft them, a world of possibilities opens up. Load up on RBs and WRs, wait until about a week before the season, and let the trade offers fly. You now have two extra WRs or RBs and can use that ammo to upgrade your starters. Two-for-one or three-for-one deals look great to the other owner and then you have a better player and the roster spots to add your kicker and defense later on.
Here is a quick rundown of common platforms and their rules around drafting K and DEF (assuming your league is using them):
Sleeper- Does not force you to draft K or DEF
FleaFlicker- Does not force you to draft K or DEF
Yahoo- Does not force you to draft K or DEF
ESPN- Does force you to draft K and DEF
NFL.com- Does not force you to draft K or DEF
Another tip I rarely hear talked about…in keeper leagues with an IR spot, I will offer draft either big name players or PUP guys late in draft and stash them in my IR spot. Several years ago I drafted Hunter Henry and Darius Guice in the 15th/16th round. I still own them today.