FANTASY PLAYS: Essentials for drafting the right 2018 squad

<p>
              Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown makes a catch during drills at practice during NFL football training camp in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 . (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
            </p>

Fantasy football is supposed to be fun, but some players stress a lot about their upcoming drafts.

Most notably, they obsess about their first-round pick and who may be available when their turn comes. Don’t play the guessing game — try to figure out who will be picked ahead of you. Let the draft come to you, even at the beginning.

For instance, if you pick eighth, have your top eight players ready and just take the highest ranked one available when it is your turn. The worst case scenario is you get your eighth ranked player and that could turn out to be someone as good as Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins or Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt.

You must go with the flow of the draft throughout, and not try to heavily speculate how you are going to build your team ahead of time. There is no set sequence for how to assemble your roster in the early rounds and should be prepared to adjust because every draft is different.

That said it makes sense to have a basic shell of a plan. You should fill out your running back and wide receiver positions first. If your league requires you to start two running backs and three wide receivers, you should focus your first five selections on those two positions. Make sure you get two running backs and three wide receivers in the first five rounds because you have to start multiple players at those positions and the depth and quality drops off very quickly.

It may be tempting to go for a quarterback or superstar tight end early, but it’s not recommended when you have to start just one of each in most standard fantasy formats. You should really wait on a QB until at least the sixth round. The position is very deep.

Colts QB Andrew Luck has an Average Draft Position of the seventh round, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is going in the eighth and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is being picked in the ninth round. Stafford and Rivers were the eighth and ninth highest scoring QBs in fantasy last season. You do not need to have Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers or Seattle’s Russell Wilson to win your league.

As for tight ends, only Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz deserve consideration earlier than the sixth round. Taking any one of those before the fourth round, however, costs you a shot at prime RBs or WRs. If you miss on one of the elite TEs, being prepared and knowing the rest of the field well can lead to a respectable alternative later on.

If your league requires, for instance, two RBs, three WRs and a flex starter, plus the QB and TE, you should come out of the first eight rounds with those positions filled. After that, you should start loading up on depth at RB and WR, grabbing quality fantasy reserves and some sleepers.

Leave your defensive unit and your kicker for the final picks. Don’t be that person who takes Jacksonville or Minnesota in the eighth round. You only have to start one defensive unit and defensive performances vary a lot from season to season. You can stream different defenses each week based on units facing weaker offensive opponents. Kicker production can vary wildly from week to week and season to season and there are always viable ones available in free agency during the year.

You can also pass on a backup QB in cases where you have a top star like Wilson or New England’s Tom Brady. You are only going to use the backup once during the season and may be able to grab a decent QB off the waiver wire. It’s also not essential to draft a backup for a top 5 TE selected early.

When planning out your team as the draft progresses, don’t sweat bye weeks and schedules, especially for fantasy playoff weeks. Don’t pass on a player in the middle or later rounds because he has the same bye week as one of your starters. By the time the byes actually roll around, your roster may have changed significantly because of waiver adds and trades. You cannot rigidly plan for bye weeks that occur in say, Weeks 7 or 8 when you are drafting in the summer. There is going to be way too much that changes outlooks and your rosters between now and then.

Don’t look too far down the road at schedules, either. Teams change a lot on defense from year to year and you cannot base too much on last season. We really will not have a firm grip on this season’s true trends until at least the first quarter of the season has concluded.

Focus on building your own roster throughout to grab best players available for filling needs or to get bench upside or depth. Mixing in sometimes unnecessary factors such as bye weeks and schedules only complicates matters. Keep honed in on filling starting spots first and filling out your projected skill position starters. Then load up on reserves and upside guys or sleepers before finishing up with defense and a kicker.

Also, remember to never draft with your heart. Fan allegiances have no place in fantasy football. If Brady is your favorite player, don’t take him in the third round when you have to get a more essential WR or RB. And don’t pass on Carson Wentz in the seventh round if you are a Dallas fan who roots against the Eagles. Rooting for or against someone never affects their fantasy production. Separate your fandom from your fantasy team. Keep in mind that if your favorite team is facing one of your fantasy players, your team can still win its game while your fantasy starter from the opponent scores points.

The other NFL team is usually going to score, so hope it’s your guy when that happens.