Vinnie Iyer's 3 draft strategies
Courtesy of the Sporting News
1. Draft the best player available, regardless of position. Early in the draft, this makes sense if you have one of the top eight or nine picks, because the best player will be a running back. When you start at No. 10 or 11, however, this can be tricky, because then you're on the verge of the second running-back tier.
Because you've committed to taking the best player, you should land either a top quarterback (Peyton Manning) or a top wide receiver (Randy Moss). Going against the running-back run feels good at first, but the key is anticipating what you can do off the serpentine rebound.
Say you take Manning in the first round. A few more running backs and Moss, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens all go before your second pick. Then you end up reaching for a back or a receiver, while you could have been perfectly happy with the available No. 2 quarterback (Daunte Culpepper) as your starter. Your team already has lost some good potential value.
Say you take Moss. You don't fret that Harrison and Owens are both gone before your second pick, because you already have an awesome wideout and you can find good value there later. Then Culpepper is available, and you've got the Vikings' dream connection working for you.
Taking a starting quarterback early sets the tone for your entire draft, because unlike running back and wide receiver, which offer as many as three starting options, you're done at one at QB. You need to determine at what draft spot a quarterback truly is the best player on the board. If you're iffy at all, draft for another position.
If you're following the "best available" philosophy later in the draft, it also might mean adding a No. 3 reserve back before you get a tight end, third wideout, and yes, in some cases, even a starting quarterback.
Running backs are the most important fantasy commodity. Two healthy studs can carry the rest of your team, so why not get insurance for injuries before rounding out your lineup with marginal contributors? There is a point in the draft where the difference-making tight ends are gone, the wide receivers don't thrill you and all quarterbacks are created equal.
In addition, one of your opponents likely is to be desperate for running back help in midseason, which will allow you to cash in your depth later.
It's important to know your lineup rules and not go overboard on the best available talent. If you can start only two wide receivers, there's no point in drafting six -- you might miss out on taking a reliable kicker or defense instead of a player you never will start.
2. Draft for position, regardless of the best available. Unlike NFL GMs, in an annually redrafting fantasy league, all of your positions are in need at the beginning of the draft. Even so, some fantasy players employ a linear way of drafting, such as going RB-RB-WR-WR-QB-TE respectively in Rounds 1 through 6.
That works well if you've analyzed the player rankings enough to know you'll get a good value at each position based on where you select in each round. But if it's a pure case of tunnel vision hoping to make your draft go easier, this can be a trap -- especially if your league uses flex positions.
I don't like to go into my drafts so structured. Not everyone will draft by the book, and you might hit an unexpected wideout jackpot in Round 2, or see some ridiculously good quarterback lingering in Round 3.
If you're set on going down a checklist, too, don't include tight ends, kickers and defenses. You can find viable starting options at those positions in the final three rounds, or even off the post-draft waiver wire.
I would go as far as only including backs and receivers in making particular positions your draft priority, whether they account for four, five or six starting spots. Once you've done that, you can apply the "best available" strategy.
3. Draft for value. Let's use an example from the upcoming NFL draft to explain this one. The 2004 wide receiver class is one of the deepest (and best) ever. While Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald is being talked about at No. 1 overall, Wisconsin's Lee Evans is regarded as a great late first-round value.
Drafting No. 28 vs. No. 2 won't lead to as big as a difference in production as the difference of 26 picks in between. On the flip side, Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery and Miami safety Sean Taylor are in a class by themselves at their respective positions.
In terms of fantasy football, look at quarterbacks for value. The position isn't loaded with "best," but it's deep in the fact there isn't much difference in production once the top tier is gone.
My Fantasy Source colleagues have seen it before from me. I'm usually the last owner to draft a quarterback, and sometimes as late as Round 8. Yes, Manning (1.8 TDs, 266.7 yards per game in 2003) always is tempting early, but then I realize I still can be solid at QB with Matt Hasselbeck (1.6 TDs, 240.1 yards per game).
There used to be few running backs with combined 1,600-yard and 16-TD potential, but with every season, the list continues to expand. That's why the best reigning fantasy wide receiver, Moss, is the equivalent of what Gallery and Taylor are.
The Dolphins' Ricky Williams, considered the No. 1 fantasy back before last season, posted 1,723 total yards and 10 TDs in '03. Moss, who was taken on average 15 spots behind Williams, posted 1,650 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Because Moss performs like a No. 1 or No. 2 back, selecting him early takes pressure off your next pick, as you should be able to find a wideout-like back (1,200 yards, 8-10 TDs) in Round 2 or 3.
Know your tiers and what production you except from a player in a tier -- it's similar to what NFL GMs do when "stacking the board." It's the best way to avoid reaches.
Know your competition, too -- if you're fortunate to play in a league with people you've drafted against for years, you should have picked up some of their draft tendencies. The Patriots and Cowboys both need a running back, so you can bet that Bill Belichick will keep this in mind when his team picks a spot ahead of Bill Parcells.
Then there's knowing what kind of players your competition likes. Al Davis likes speedsters, Butch Davis likes Big East players and Mike Martz likes Arizona college products. If you're in a league where you know Joe Hurricane will take Jeremy Shockey too early, it will allow you to jump on a wide receiver who's ranked higher overall.
Drafting for value requires the most research and preparation, but it will keep you ready to go with the flow of your draft and never sweat being on the clock. Be complete in your draft, and you'll compete for your league championship.
The aforementioned NFL owners met in West Palm Beach, Fla., last week to put into effect some changes to the game, including assessing 15-yard penalties for overdone celebrations and toughening up on physical contact with receivers.
What does that mean for fantasy players? Owens, Joe Horn and Chad Johnson all will make more catches and find the end zone a few more times, but can't do anything when they get there. That shouldn't stop you, however, from doing a dweeb dance when one of them helps you beat your best friend by a point.