A lot of fantasy football owners think that they could manage the personnel for a real NFL football team perfectly well. They are wrong. It’s vastly more complicated and pressure-packed. That said, fantasy football is not completely divorced from reality, particularly on draft day when some tenets really do translate nicely to the NFL Draft. These are those principles.
Preserve your draft capital
This means a number of things but boils down to this: draft picks are precious and should be carefully guarded. There are instances where trading multiple draft picks for a player has worked out (the Falcons and Julio Jones) but typically when a team surrenders a ton of capital it ends badly (Redskins and RGIII, Vikings and Herschel Walker, Saints and Ricky Williams).
In a few years we should know enough to judge the moves made by the Rams (Jared Goff) and Eagles (Carson Wentz) before the ‘16 Draft. The corollary rule is that it’s dangerous to blow your budget on one player because that player had better be a star or you’re going to be neck-high in regret and probably looking for a new job.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn
Draft the best player available
Every team enters the draft with positional needs and areas of weakness. In a fantasy draft (dynasty league or otherwise), these weaknesses develop naturally as the draft moves along. So, should your team take the mediocre linebacker out of Texas because your team really needs a LB, or go with the talented tight end who’s fallen 25 picks beyond his projection? The teams/owners who commit to taking the best player available and stockpiling talent, rather than plugging up the roster, tend to fare best.
Don’t get distracted
As we witnessed in ‘16 with the absolutely surreal, minutes-before-Draft dissemination of a video showing top offensive line prospect Laremy Tunsil using a gas mask in which he appeared to inhale ... something, stuff happens. After so much preparation for the event and background checking, you would think that teams wouldn’t get spooked, but they did, and Tunsil tumbled down to the Dolphins. Tunsil did very well in his first season in Miami and he is set to take over at left tackle. Teams need to block out the noise (or the drunk friends, in the case of fantasy drafts) and trust their research.
A player’s statistics from last year don’t do you any good. That’s a basic fantasy sports tenet: Don’t pay for a career year. It’s wiser to evaluate all the game tape, study how a player capitalized on his opportunities and how he might contribute and grow in your system rather than rely on yesterday’s numbers. Take Julian Edelman for example. The guy was a quarterback in college. But the Patriots took him for his overall athleticism, a good special teams player, and eventually he blossomed into a dominant wide receiver.
You can find good value in running backs in the middle or late rounds
For the most part, teams have wised up to this reality and recalibrated. In 2014, not a single team picked a running back until 54 overall when the Titans started a mini-run on rushers with Bishop Sankey, followed by Jeremy Hill to the Bengals at 56 and Carlos Hyde to the Niners at 57. But more recently the Rams found the rookie of the year in Todd Gurley at No. 10 overall in ‘15 and the Cowboys got the ‘16 NFL rushing leader with Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4 overall. A good offensive line and a non-middle school offense helps. Meanwhile, the runner-up for rushing yards? The Bears’ Jordan Howard (1,313 yards) who was the 150th overall pick and didn’t even win the Bears starting job until Week 4.
Stick to your plan, but be flexible
A lot of fantasy owners want to have XYZ positions filled by a certain round and that’s fine, but if you sit there like a stiff you might miss something. You want to get one of the last few half-decent guards on the board and you’re up but the Rams are calling and they’re offering three picks and a kidney for your pick. There’s no guarantee you get the guard at the highest pick you’d acquire but heck, you’d gain several more picks, plus a kidney! Be smart but flexible and open to offers.
Don’t spend an early pick on a kicker
Buccaneers War Room, do you copy? The Bucs endured some kicking woes in ‘15 and then responded pretty aggressively in ‘16 by taking Roberto Aguayo in the second round (59 overall), leading to widespread ridicule and also a ton of pressure on Mr. Aguayo. No kicker had gone higher since the Jets used the 47th overall pick to get Mike Nugent in 2005. Kickers are not fungible but they’re not worth a second or third-rounder, either. As most seasoned fantasy owners know: just wait.