aturday, August 24th is National Draft Day at Buffalo Wild Wings. If you hold your draft at your local B-Dubs bar/restaurant, they’ll hook you up with a free draft board, koozies, brag flag, and $100 in free food* (ten $10 coupons to be used at a later date). But before you make that reservation, you’re going to need a draft strategy. That’s why I’m here, to help you draft the best possible fantasy football team in 2013.
Last season, I posted a similar article about Fantasy Football draft strategies, but while the core tenants of drafting remain the same, each year is different. The 10 Draft Commandments (queue the Biggie 10 Crack Commandments instrumental) remain almost the same (changes in bold):
THE 10 DRAFT COMMANDMENTS
Obey these draft commandments and do not deviate from them in any way, shape or form. While some of these commandments may change over time, many of them carry over from year to year.
1. Thou shall not draft a kicker until the final round of the draft.
2. Thou shall not draft a defense until the 2nd to last round of the draft.
3. If thou do not draft Jimmy Graham, thou shall not draft a tight end until you’ve drafted a BENCH RB and WR.
4. Thou shall not draft a backup kicker, defense or tight end (unless you draft Gronk).
5. Fill thy starting QB, RB, and WR roster spots before drafting backup players.
6. Do not jump on the “runs” that occur during drafts. Just because the last 4 people drafted a tight end does not mean you have to.
7. Fill thy queue with players thou want. The worst thing that can happen in a draft is auto-picking a kicker in the 9th round because thou ran out of time.
8. Do not reach for players.
9. Draft based on need, not for trade-bait.
10. Stick to thy drafting strategy.
DRAFT STRATEGY BY POSITION:
Last year, I suggested playing QB chicken in 10 team leagues. While I shudder at the thought that Philip Rivers was considered a viable starting option before the 2012 season, there are actually 12 legitimate starting fantasy QBs in 2013. (seriously, I feel like Ace Ventura after he hooked up with Lois Einhorn).
The winning QB drafting strategy is to play QB chicken to some extent this year, but by round. If Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees falls to you in the mid to late 2nd round, you have to pick them. After those two are gone, you can wait until the 4th round for Cam Newton or Peyton Manning. Once those guys are gone, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady will likely go off the board in the 5th… but I think waiting until the 6th round or later is your best bet to grab a solid QB.
In the 6th round, RG3, Stafford, Kaepernick*, Luck, Wilson, and Romo should still be available, with the first 3 guys and one of the last 3 likely to go off the board in or before the 6th. If you can grab one of the first 3 guys in the 6th, do it. Otherwise, it’s time to play more QB chicken.
*Kaepernick has been going anywhere from the 4th round to the 6th, personally I think round 4 is a reach. As I type this, I know there’s a chance he’ll end up in the top 5 QBs overall by the end of the season, and some troll will call me an idiot.
After Round 6 in most leagues, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck/Russell Wilson will be the remaining viable starting QBs. Like I said, this is where you can play a little more “QB chicken”. If you didn’t grab someone earlier, be the last person to draft one of these guys. You can wait until round 8. If you wait any later, some jagoff in your league will draft their backup QB in the 9th round, and you’ll be screwed. So wait for the other guys to go off the board, and pick your man in the 8th. Any of these guys will be incredible value this late.
Look to draft your backup QB in round 10 or 11. Vick is a high reward, minimal risk QB at this point, and should be snatched up by round 10. Eli Manning is also a very solid backup, as is Andy Dalton. The rest are a crap-shoot.
Draft RBs early and often. In standard leagues (3WR, 2RB, no flex) you should have your 2 starting RB by the end of the 3rd round. No exceptions. In flex leagues (2 or 3 WR, 2RB, RB/WR), I recommend drafting 3 RBs with your first 4 draft picks. I’m serious. After the 4th round, the RB options are terrible. You’ll be sitting pretty while the rest of the league drafts scrubs. While they’re picking guys like Chris Ivory and Ronnie Hillman, you’ll be adding to your WR depth with TY Hilton and Mike Williams. Draft RBs early, and stockpile flier RBs late in the draft and you’ll be set.
When it comes to WR in fantasy football, there’s Calvin Johnson, and then there’s everyone else. Megatron will go in the middle of the first round, it’s a fact. Due to the shortage of RB and the abundance of WR, I can’t justify picking him in the top 6, but if you’re sitting there at number 7 or 8 you really can’t go wrong taking Calvin. He’ll make up for the production you’ll miss with the lackluster RBs you’re likely to end up with.
WR is by far the deepest position this year. 2nd tier guys like Dez Bryant, AJ Green, and Brandon Marshall will all be 2nd round selections, but I really think you should lock up your RB core before picking a WR. If you are in a standard league (3WR, 2RB, no flex), feel free to take one of these guys in the 2nd round, but if you’re in a flex league (and I feel like I’ll be mocked for this at the end of the season, much like my Kaepernick advice) feel free to let these guys go to someone else. There are still solid WR available in rounds 4 through 7, maybe even as late as round 8. I’ve done about 50 mock drafts so far this summer and I’ve loved the teams I’ve drafted when I stockpile RBs and wait on WRs, and conversely feel dissatisfied with the teams I put together when I pull the trigger on a WR early.
Jimmy Graham is the Megatron of TEs. Might as well give him a cool nickname, like, um… Voltron? Yeah, I’m gonna call Jimmy Graham “Voltron”. Graham is going in the 2nd round in most fantasy drafts, and with good reason. With Gronk out, Graham is the only sure thing when it comes to TEs. My advice is to pass on him in the 2nd, though, but grab him immediately if he falls to the 3rd round.
Gronk has been the best TE in fantasy football the last couple of years, but his injuries are a major concern. There’s a chance he’ll end up on the PUP list and miss the first 6 weeks of the season. If this happens, Gronk owners will be kinda screwed. Drafting Gronk means you’ll have to carry 2 TEs, which will affect either your WR or RB depth. I can’t recommend taking the gamble on Gronk until the 7th round, which is obviously high-risk/reward.
Except for a handful of guys, TE has traditionally been a crapshoot in fantasy football. In the early 2000’s, Antonio Gates was a fantasy TE god who garnered a 3rd-4th round selection. He’s fallen off a cliff, and shouldn’t be trusted until round 12 now. Tony Gonzales has always been a solid selection, but how much longer can he play at a high level? And don’t get me started on Vernon Davis’ statline with Kaepernick at the helm (he’s pretty much been on the side of a milk carton). Jason Witten is a solid PPR selection, but he’s been a ghost in the endzone. So what should you do this year when it comes to TE? Take a gamble on the up-and-comers.
There are several TE that will go off the board well after Graham, Gronk, Witten, Gonzales, and Davis that may end up in the top 3 in TE fantasy production this season. Kyle Rudolph is no longer a secret and is being drafted in the 7th or 8th round, but 10th-13th round guys like Jordan Cameron and Brandon Myers could pay huge dividends. After I fill my starting RB, WR, QB and a bench spot for a WR and an RB, I’m going to see what TE are available and I suggest you do the same. If there’s value at TE in round 9, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
There are some fantasy pundits that swear by drafting the top DEF or DST in their leagues. I’m not one of them. Yes, the Bears DEF was awesome last year. Seattle and San Francisco are also going to be really good. But how much better than the best undrafted DEF will they be? No one knows, and there’s no way to tell. Wait until the 2nd to last round to draft a DEF. It’s the 2nd biggest crapshoot in fantasy football next to…
If you draft a kicker before the last 2 rounds of your draft, you deserve to lose.
Good luck this season, and have a few wings and beers for me at your fantasy football draft.
For more fantasy football advice, check out friends over at FanSpeak’s FREE 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Guide.