Look, first and foremost, do what you want to do when you are drafting your fantasy football team. That is the best piece of advice you’ll ever receive and it was free of charge! It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you about the players for the upcoming season, it matters what you think and how you are going to draft. If you don’t do the research and put in the time, you’ll end up with a sheet of paper where someone else or a group of people have told you who to draft. Trust me, that won’t work, due to the fact that there are usually 12-15 players consistently in that range at the end of every season who are consistent and tend to avoid injuries as well. Of course, this was the case until last year when the fantasy world was turned upside more than it usually is and it became a game of survival.
Take the first round of my league’s draft from last season (in no particular order) Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, and I will even throw in Maurice Jones-Drew (even though I doubt very seriously there was anyone who went into last season expecting Jones-Drew to be the fantasy stud we’ve seen for some time now) that went in the first round. That leaves Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers (depending on the league it could have been Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Johnson, or even Michael Turner) that were not worthy of the first-round pick that was spent on them. To expand in to the 15-player mark I mentioned earlier, you have: Johnson, Mendenhall and Turner. Turner was a borderline player last season but not worth a Top 15 draft pick then and certainly not now in my book.
My point is, more than half of the Top 15 players drafted in (most likely) nearly every fantasy football draft in America busted out in some way shape or form last season, causing a huge detriment to the fantasy team they were on. In retrospect, guys like LeSean McCoy, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford changed the fantasy outlook for many teams last season. Again, it doesn’t matter what I think, though. I mentioned I didn’t/don’t like Jones-Drew or Turner, yet the guy in the 12 slot of our snake draft took them both in that position last year. His strategy was to take all the players that fell into his lap (mostly). He also ended up with Marques Colston in Round 5, Fred Jackson in Round 8, and snagged Rob Gronkowski in the ninth round. He ended up making a trade or two because that obviously isn’t going be a game-changing team, but adding in Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, plus the in-season additions, that team went 12-1 in the regular season. His strategy worked.
On the other hand, there was a team in my league that continually reached for players he thought would excel and he ended up missing the playoffs. My guess would be either he didn’t do his research and was trying to guess or his research was shoddy and he was guessing but just didn’t realize it. Either way can work if you utilize the tools and resources that are made available to every fantasy football player every year!
From an overall standpoint, you as a fantasy football team owner need to put in the time necessary to make yourself successful. I’m going to hammer this point home if you haven’t already noticed. If injuries or any other fluky type of thing happen that causes you to be unsuccessful, at least it was something that is usually outside of your control. My mantra with regard to fantasy football drafts is “You have to take the guy you like. Identify that player and take him.” I just don’t recommend going crazy and taking a guy that you like but could get in the fourth round as your first-rounder. Especially within the first 18 picks, even if you’ve identified “that guy,” it is a near certainty that there are very good to elite players still on the board worth drafting. After that point, by all means, go after “that guy” or “those guys” you’ve identified. Even if it means taking the guy you think is the next Matthew Stafford (who went in the early part of the fourth round in my league last year) a couple rounds ahead of the other owners in your league.
You can only take so many risks before it will bite you in the rear and you’ll lose the guy you identified (and you know what it becomes then, that guy breaksout just as you thought he would). The point is this - if you identify the players that you want, ensure you get them where you want and don’t go crazy doing it. You’ll also have some solid players that you can snag when you don’t need to take one of your guys. This will only fill out your roster, making it stronger or back filling for depth. Either way you have a better team for it.
***Disclaimer*** – In no way am I telling you to go off of a piece of paper or a website to draft for the first two rounds. If you think that Trent Richardson is the second coming of Adrian Peterson, by all means draft him wherever you like. I’m just saying it probably isn’t the best idea that early considering there are players that are usually in that upper echelon still available.
As I said, there can be some value to drafting strictly from an “expert’s” board, and I completely advocate the process of putting in the time in the attempt to find this year’s Matthew Stafford. I’ve identified a few guys that I think are going to fit that mold and that you could get a bit later than normal. If you agree with me about these guys or someone different, by all means take that leap of faith and trust that you have done the proper research to ensure success.