Hey you! It's FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT SZN! Which my millennial co-workers tell me is the proper way to refer to it. But I know a lot of you are caught off-guard with looming fantasy drafts. Mostly because I see your posts on social media saying things like, "Oh my God, I'm so ill-prepared for my drafts this year." Which on one hand, is no different than previous years because you always seemed shocked. But I do kind of feel you on the concept of time having less meaning these days. I walked around the other day convinced it was Thursday.
It was Monday.
And if I hadn't been embarrassed to log into my Thursday yoga class (on Monday, mind you), I might not have ever caught on. But here's the thing. You know now. As much as we love binge-watching The Office on a Tuesday afternoon sipping mimosas, it's time to get serious about fantasy football. Well, at least it's time for me to do that since it's my job and everything.
If you will allow me, here are five winning strategies to help you get ready for your coming fantasy drafts in the next couple of weeks.
Which again, you are not. Thankfully NFL Fantasy Live has started. The NFL Fantasy Show podcast is running twice a week. And if you download our NFL Fantasy App, our players stories are keeping you up-to-date with the latest information.
And you need that information. Look, I get tickled when I think of the way us boomers used to do fantasy drafts. We'd stop by the local grocery store (remember grocery stores?) on the way to our fantasy draft to pick up a magazine with rankings that were compiled back in March. Times have changed. Because most of you probably don't even know what a magazine is.
Rankings are already kind of a relic of the past, too. Sure, it's good to have a visual aid to help you along. But it's better to have your players sorted into tiers. You can find them here:
Putting your list into tiers helps you handle your draft more efficiently. Because you should always have a plan. What was that thing my dad used to always say to me? If you fail to plan, you are really just going to end up working at Arby's. Or something like that.
My main draft plan this year is to take two running backs with my first two picks. By looking at my tiers, I have Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara as my top four picks. My next tier is Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders and Kenyan Drake. Those are my top eight guys. But if (for some reason) all eight of those guys are selected before my first pick, I'll move to the according wide receivers or tight ends (not quarterbacks, but we'll get to that in a minute).
And having the visual of seeing guys drafted in tiers also helps me know when I need to make a move on position. Because running backs are going to be at a premium this year. And speaking of that …
ZERO RB = ZERO CHANCE OF WINNING
I know, that's a catchy headline. It's not completely true. But I would advise people to avoid the Zero RB strategy this season. If you're not familiar with Zero RB, it was the Keto Diet version of draft strategies that was all the rage a few years ago. To explain it to you on the basic level, running backs were considered replaceable and you could find running backs much later in drafts. You instead focused on receivers and tight ends with your first six-or-so picks. I was kind of a fan for a while. And even used it a bit last year, but it's time to advance your strategy.
Or maybe you need to kick it old school. Loading up on running backs, throwing back to the days when we spent too many hours playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (which is back in the news). Seriously, I'll just draft running backs this season while streaming Goldfinger. (In fact, they released a new version of the song you knew from that video game.)
Again, don't be afraid to be the amoeba if you need to adjust your strategy on the fly. Like any good plan, you should plan to adjust. But my advice to you this season would be to load up at the running back position because it's going to get scarce quickly. And there are so many mid-round receivers I love this season – Robert Woods, Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, Hollywood Brown, D.J. Chark, D.K. Metcalf – that I'm willing to invest early in the running backs and fight with those receivers.
STOP IGNORING THE TIGHT ENDS
This is another troubling thing, too. Many of you approach tight ends like it's leg day at the gym. Hey, remember gyms? Here's another place where it's probably worth it to make an investment on two of the premium tight ends in the second round. It's like when you've left your headphones at home when you're about to fly across the country. You could just take the rando pair the airline hands out. You can opt for a cheap pair that will just annoy you. Or you can just spend some money and be happy with your decision.
Now I'm going back-to-back running backs if I can. But if I'm at the end of the second round. Let's say I took Saquon in the first. I have no problem jumping in with George Kittle or Travis Kelce in the second round. They are head and shoulders above the competition. They are Zan and Jayna. Every other tight end is Gleek. Well, that's not completely fair. Zach Ertz is pretty good. And nobody loves their tight ends more than Carson Wentz (that's been proven statistically, as Eagles tight ends average 14-plus targets per game). And Mark Andrews is pretty good. And Evan Engram has Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator.
My point. Stop ignoring tight ends. Don't be afraid to fire in early on the all-elite guys. And don't skip them during the middle rounds or else you'll end up with Vance McDonald as your streaming every week. Seriously, if anybody tells you to wait on tight ends, stop listening to that person.
BUT WE ARE STILL WAITING ON A QUARTERBACK
Of course we are. I believe it was Graham Barfield who made this point on one of our shows last year. Patrick Mahomes was playing at an MVP-level last season during the first five weeks of the season. But he was still just the QB5 during that stretch. Lamar Jackson was coming off the boards in the double-digit rounds and finished as the QB1.
You're not going to get Lamar Jackson for cheap this season. And everyone is already banking on Kyler Murray being this year's version of Jackson, so you are kind of out of luck, there. But there are a number of great quarterbacks who will be available to you later on in drafts. Cam Newton gets picked somewhere around 141. Which is insane. I know some of you feel like Cam is washed and over the hill. And his last good season was (checks notes) 2018. That's right. Cam played the first 14 games of the 2018 season. He was the QB5.
Josh Allen and Carson Wentz are going in the ninth round. I've seen Aaron Rodgers going in the double-digit rounds. I don't fault you for wanting to select one of the top guys. And we can argue about the ridiculousness of quarterback scoring in fantasy. But under the current rules (and unless you play in a super-flex or 2QB league) let's wait on that quarterback.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE GREAT
I've seen this a lot on my Instagram where people see my love for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and say things like, "He needs to prove it to me before I can draft him." Well, guess what? You don't get that luxury. Think of all the people who said that last year when I told them to draft Lamar Jackson? And Cooper Kupp? And David Montgomery?
All right, David Montgomery didn't work out. But you need to take a chance on some of these players. If you pick the players with the best stats for 2019, you're picking a team that will end up in fourth place. I once knew a guy who was very conservative in his fantasy drafts. Always measured. Always in the playoffs. Rarely, if ever, won a ship. There are years where I finish in 11th place. But I also have a number of titles to my name. Because I'm not afraid to be wrong. Hell, I thought the 49ers were going to be awful last season. But I'm still here. If you want to win a title, don't listen to your friends. Heck, don't even listen to me. Follow your gut and draft the players you believe are going to be the best this season. It's the only way to live.
This has been my Ted Talk. Good luck this season. Hit me up on the socials and let me know how your draft went!