It’s almost go time.
In less than one week, the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots in the NFL’s 2017 season opener. With it, another season of professional football will officially be underway.
And with it another campaign in fantasy football leagues.
There’s just one big draft weekend left in IDP leagues – the biggest of them all, in fact, as smart fantasy owners do their best to dodge preseason injuries by waiting as long as humanly possible before selecting their squads.
If you’re one of those hearty soles drafting between now and next Thursday, here are some things to keep in mind (whether you’re an IDP novice or a seasoned vet) as your draft gets underway.
DO Attack the Defensive Line Aggressively
As I’ve been saying all summer long, if your IDP League starts two or more defensive linemen each week, this is a year to go after that position aggressively on draft day.
Simply put, it’s a numbers game. There are maybe 20 defensive linemen I have at least a moderate amount of confidence in as weekly starters. After that that the questions start piling up pretty quickly. This isn’t to say that there aren’t players outside that group who will go on to have solid IDP seasons. But the risk of those players falling flat is also considerably higher.
If you’re in a 12-team league that starts two d-linemen each week…well, you do the math.
In those types of leagues, making sure one of your first three IDP picks is spent on a reliable weekly starter at the position is highly advisable. An argument can be made for making it one of the first two picks and getting an elite guy. And if you can get two weekly starters you’re confident will go out there every week and put up points you’re going to have an edge over at least some of the teams in your league.
DON’T Put Much Faith in Rookies Up Front
In 2016, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was a revelation. The third overall pick in last year’s draft piled up 41 tackles and 10.5 sacks despite sitting out the first month of the season. Bosa ranked fifth in fantasy points per game in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
This isn’t to say this year’s rookie class isn’t talented. Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns and Solomon Thomas of the San Francisco 49ers were top-five picks for a reason. Derek Barnett of the Philadelphia Eagles had three sacks over his first two preseason games as a pro.
But there’s a fairly steep learning curve at the position, as players realize that one move that always worked in college gets shut down in the NFL. Tempting though it may be, don’t invest heavily in first-year linemen in redraft IDP leagues.
DO Target These Draft-Day Values
Brandon Graham – DE, Philadelphia Eagles: Graham had just 5.5 sacks last season in his first year in Jim Schwartz’s “Wide-Nine” front, but he was among the NFL leaders in QB pressures. Graham has top-10 fantasy upside available at a significant discount.
Trey Flowers – DE, New England Patriots: After watching Rob Ninkovich retire and cutting Kony Ealy loose, Flowers should see a big bump in snaps in 2017. That increase in playing time should help the 24-year-old sail past last year’s 45 total tackles and seven sacks.
Cameron Heyward – DE. Pittsburgh Steelers: Heyward struggled through an injury-marred 2016 where he missed over half the season. But the year before the 28-year-old finished inside the top-20 at his position. He’s a great add late as high-floor depth or a bye-week fill-in.