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Fantasy Football 101: Draft Day Tips and Advice

How to build a winning strategy for your fantasy draft.

Football - NFL - Chargers vs. Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

It’s only a couple of weeks until the start of the NFL season. More importantly, for those who love fantasy football, there are only a couple of weeks left for all the fantasy football drafts.

There are many different draft strategies. Zero RB, Hero RB, Late Round QB, Streaming QB/TE/DST, etc. Personally, I do not stick to any one strategy, but I also stay away from the Zero RB. The main thing everyone needs to do to have a successful draft day is to be prepared. Being prepared for your draft is the single most important part of a great draft day. There are many sites to get free cheat sheets of player rankings by position & overall. Any of the big sites have free cheat sheets. Looking over cheat sheets and using highlighters is a good way to single out players to target.

If you are doing an online draft, you can use your highlighted sheet to set up a queue of players in the order you would draft them in case of the infamous “internet glitch.” This will also help you get acclimated with the draft board in an online draft.

Make sure to have a list of NFL team bye weeks. Every year, someone makes the mistake of drafting several players, at the same position, with the same bye weeks. Never underestimate paying attention to bye weeks. Once you have all your research together for the draft, you may want to do a few mock drafts, especially if you are doing an online draft. I would do mock drafts on the site your actual real draft is on just to get familiar to the draft board and overall set-up for that site.

Every year, someone waits until the last minute to do an online draft on a site they have never drafted on in the past. That can be disastrous. Different sites have different draft room set-ups with different information in various places. Never underestimate the need for a cheat sheet for in-person or online drafts. In a live draft, you can mark off players drafted to see who is left, which positions are being drafted the most at any given time, and to know when your targets are in that “need to be drafted range”.

In online drafts, printed cheat sheets are just as important. The same applies to online draft with an important caveat. In online draft rooms, you can only see so many players without having to scroll or navigate the draft room player available box. This can throw you off about important targets, especially in later rounds and when you want to handcuff your running back. Having a printed cheat sheet gives you a glance of all the players without having to navigate to find them. If you don’t see someone, you can scroll by position or just use the search function to find them.

Remember to print an up-to-date version of your cheat sheet on draft day. This will help make sure you don’t draft that player who just tore an ACL a couple of days before the draft. You can re-highlight the new one or just compare to the one you originally highlighted. A printed cheat sheet is a guaranteed way to make your draft go smoother and with a better outcome.

When looking over your cheat sheet(s), try to target players you think are overvalued & undervalued. Consider things like age & injury history. Never draft a player because just because of name recognition. I love some Christian McCaffrey, but I am not taking a chance at his current ADP (second overall) unless he falls in the late first-round range in the draft. I would use a certain color, usually yellow, highlighter for all players who fall in this category.

I’ll use another color highlighter, usually green, for players I think are undervalued. Joe Mixon would be a good example. I would use another color, usually red, for players I want to stay away from completely. When setting up a cheat sheet this way and marking names off as you go, it makes for a smooth and successful draft. If you just use a standard cheat sheet with no research, you will just be doing the same thing as some, most, or even all of your opponents. Just depends on the skill of players in your league.

Once you have your cheat sheets and bye weeks all sorted and ready to go, it’s time for draft day. Many people try to use one of the strategies mentioned above to have a great draft. The problem is you never know what everyone else is going to do during the draft.

Non-SuperFlex Leagues

I like to hammer away with running backs and wide receivers in the first five rounds. Go for the best value based on your cheat sheet. If Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews is still on the board in the late fourth or early fifth-round range, that’s where I would deviate. When it comes to TE and QBs just remember in a standard 12-team draft, there are 32 of each, and you only need one. Waiting on them both until later in the draft is optimal unless you see extreme value.

Defenses, and especially kickers, should be taken at the end of draft. If you find a spot in the draft where you do not see any RB/WR you really like, or your targets are still down the board, then that may be when you consider switching to a QB or TE pick.

Personally, I do not like to follow draft trends. My main goal is finding the best value and addressing my team needs. I like to be the trend setter and not the follower, but value and needs are the most important. This year happens to be an exceptional year for running backs. You can find RB1/2 all the way into fourth/seventh rounds, and arguably later for RB2. That gives you an advantage when drafting.

I like to get that stud running back RB1 right at the beginning of draft, but this year, I will take the highest value pick of the players I am targeting at my spot. Just make sure to have some RB targets with different bye weeks if you go WR’s in the first couple of rounds. I usually draft a QB/TE when I get to that “dead zone” in the draft. The part where none of the RBs or WRs excite me with their upside potential. Usually middle to late draft rounds unless I see extreme value. Remember on DST/K you only need one. Use those precious bench spots for depth.

SuperFlex Leagues

The same as above, but you need to get at least one elite QB in the first two rounds. Try to get both starting QBs by the end of the fourth round. If everyone is drafting nothing but QBs into the second round, then draft an elite RB\WR.

On the other hand, if teams have already taken an elite RB/WR, then get that second QB. Another difference is that you will need a third QB. Make sure you get that at some point. A third QB needs to be someone you believe will play and be a starter the whole season. Some would argue you need a fourth. Maybe a backup to a QB who you think will get benched or won’t last through the season. There are many sites to get free SuperFlex league cheat sheets. Just use the same value approach, but emphasize QB.

Being prepared is the most important part of any draft. Research and organization of your players at your fingertips makes a huge difference. It not only helps your draft, but it makes it more fun.

In live drafts, getting to watch other managers freak out or make horrible picks is half the fun. Hopefully with a little extra prep to that cheat sheet for your draft, you ultimately find yourself in the playoffs, or even as the Super Bowl champion of your league.