“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else.”  – John Madden

Anticipation for draft day in fantasy football is a lot like it is for draft day for all of the real football teams – the draft can make or break a team. In fantasy football, the draft is, in essence, the first head-to-head competition. To be successful in fantasy football, you have to perform better than your peers in the draft. You will also have to be aggressive before the other owners, but know how to keep calm when everyone else overreacts. That is how you can dominate your draft. The question many of you may still have is whether I have any tips to help you. The answer: yes.

  • With many leagues taking place online, the first thing you can do to help yourself is to show up to your draft ON TIME. By on time, I actually mean about five to ten minutes early. Give yourself a few minutes to get settled in and focus on the task ahead of you. If you arrive late, either in person or online, you could end up losing your draft pick, or have the computer pick for you, and that player may not be who you really wanted in the first place.
  • Be prepared for each pick. It is rare that the person with the top pick in the draft actually wins the championship. Know how you want to build your team, and pay attention to how the other owners draft ahead and behind you. One mistake, and you can either be the hero or the zero. That mistake can be compounded by the fact that you only have a short time to make your selection (usually 90 seconds or less).
  • Stay focused. I cannot tell you how many times owners have selected a kicker in the third or fourth round, and pretty much blew their draft. Don’t let the run on defenses in the fourth round force you into selecting a player or unit you don’t want when there is someone better for your team still on the board.
  • Stay sober. For many fantasy football players, drinking is one of the great parts of the draft. For the championship winners, drinking comes AFTER the draft…and after winning the championship.

Opening Rounds

The first round is usually the easiest pick you will make in the draft. You should already have two or three people in mind for where you are drafting. In the second and third rounds, you will still have a good selection of players to choose from. The first three players you select are going to be the base of your team, and will likely play every week they are not on a bye. Even though the NFL has become a passing league, at least one of the players in the first three rounds should be a running back. For many championship winning teams, two of the first three picks are RBs. If running backs are flying off the board, that’s OK. Sometimes, you change your team based on who has already been selected ahead of you. Follow your list, and pick the best player available on the board. While other owners are worried about that run of RBs or WRs that are flying off the board, that only means you may have the chance to pick up a top player at another position. In the fourth through the seventh rounds, that’s where you have the chance to break away from the other owners in your league.

Middle Rounds

This is where all of your preparation comes in handy. The middle rounds will help shape your roster and provide depth where needed. Some of that will depend on who or what is still available. These players will be able to take over for your starters if they are on a bye week, run into a bad streak, or happen to be out due to injury.

Don’t pass over a great player just because he has the same bye week as another one of your starters. If you draft a balanced roster, bye weeks won’t matter. You have to be willing to be flexible. It is the key to a great draft.

I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating: Follow your list. In the middle rounds, your list may tell you to take a defense/special teams unit and not another wideout or running back. Don’t be afraid to do that. You made your list with a specific purpose. Don’t throw the list out of the window because one owner picked someone you wanted, or a run on a particular position whittled your choices down.

Later Rounds

Whatever holes are still left on your team will be filled here. Bye week issues can be solved here, as well as those possible “handcuffs” (drafting players’ backups as insurance). This is also a time to pick sleepers or exploit other owners’ mistakes in the draft.

You don’t need backups for every position. Many teams will go into the season with only one kicker and one defense/special teams unit. They will add those backups through free agency when it comes up.

Final Tip

          Understand that no matter how prepared you are for your draft, it may not go as planned. Your fantasy stud players may get injured, and other players you didn’t see on your radar become great. You can have the greatest roster in the world, and still lose any given week. Don’t let any of it get you down, or throw you off your game.