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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or just want a refresher on the basics, following Field Yates’ 10 Rules will ensure you leave your draft with a solid team ready to compete for your league championship.
There are many ideas that my good friend and former colleague Matthew Berry has shared over the years that are worth passing on at any time.
My favorite image might just be his suggestion to anyone who plays fantasy football to bring someone new to the game every single year. While it may feel like everyone you know plays fantasy football, it’s both invigorating and satisfying when you can find someone who hasn’t yet had that experience and bring him or her along for the ride.
And if you’re one of those new to this fantasy football thing, you’re in the right place!
As best we can, we will outline the things you need to know about how to draft your fantasy football team.
1. Draft value
This is the first and most important rule that I can share: your draft is about finding value. If you’ve never played fantasy football before, the highest scoring players on average are also names you’re most familiar with: quarterbacks. You can look at Patrick Mahomes’ or Tom Brady’s stats (both real and fantasy) from last year and think, “Hey, Brady was the fourth-leading scorer in all of fantasy, I’ll make him pick eight and this is a steal !” Not so fast.
While Brady is the GOAT, he’s also a quarterback—a position that contrasts with the real world of fantasy football because it’s easy to find one. The top 12 quarterbacks averaged at least 18.8 points per game last season. match. Only three total running backs scored at least 18.8 fantasy points per game. game and you start at least two running backs every single week and only one quarterback, which makes the top backs that much more valuable. It’s a matter of supply and demand: quality running backs, wide receivers and tight ends are harder to find than quarterbacks, so prioritize them early.
2. Concretely prioritize the running backs
Every year is different in fantasy, but the most relatable challenge you will face in fantasy is struggling to find reliable running backs. A total of 29 running backs scored at least 150 points during the 2021 season, compared to 44 wide receivers. The value of an elite running back stems from several factors, including the consistent lack of them year after year. Also, an elite running back has a better chance in any given week to score a touchdown than any other position on the field; the last time a tight end or wide receiver led the league in points (real points) among non-kickers was Randy Moss in 2007. If you can get your hands on a Jonathan Taylor or Austin Ekeler early, your list is already well up. .
3. But don’t forget the recipients either
While in an “all else being equal scenario” I would prefer to take an elite running back over any other position, wide receivers are also extremely important! What you will notice is that in the first two rounds, most picks – if not all – will be running backs, wide receivers and the occasional tight end. Remember this: Running back and wide receiver are the only positions you have shall play at least two each week.
There is a greater need across any league for wide receivers and running backs compared to quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and your defense/special teams (each of these slots only includes one starter, although a tight end can be your flex), so there is an inherent value in wide receivers and running backs that must be accounted for. And if you play in a league that uses point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, receivers will have a leg up on the competition, as you’re awarded a point for every catch a player makes during a game. The definition of a receiver’s duties is to catch the ball so the points can pile up!
4. And yes, you can be patient with quarterbacks
Even if you haven’t played fantasy football before, you may already be familiar with the mindset of many fantasy experts: don’t rush to draft a quarterback. We highlighted in Rule 1 that there are plenty of quality quarterbacks in fantasy football, although there are those who project a tier above the rest (e.g. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen). But every year there are quarterbacks who exceed preseason expectations, and if you use an early pick—eg. round two – on a quarterback to bypass a wide receiver or running back, need that quarterback must be leaps and bounds better than average.
While we’ve seen some historic quarterback seasons lately — Mahomes and Jackson’s first full seasons as rookies saw them both win the MVP award — they came this year when no one expected them to be the best QB in fantasy, so you picked not them early. You can take a Mahomes or Allen or Jackson early and be just fine — a great quarterback won’t hurt you — but you can also wait and find a player in rounds 10 or 12 who turns out to have incredible upside: players such as Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Derek Carr come to mind.
5. Kickers and defense come last
When you complete your draft, it becomes difficult not to fixate on your starting lineup, which fills up as you make your choices. And while you might think to yourself that the players who are your starters — and likely in your lineup every week barring an injury or bye — are in every case more valuable than players you project as backups, that’s not the case. Fantasy football is unpredictable, but so are defenses and kickers. I’m here to tell you that the next person you meet who predicted the Cowboys would be the best fantasy defense in 2021 will be the first. There was zero preseason buzz on them. None.
Fantasy points for defenses are based on things that are hard to predict (defensive/special teams touchdowns), so defenses are just hard to size up during the season. Also, the Cowboys averaged just 9.6 fantasy points per game. game last season, far from a dominant performance, despite being the highest scoring in the NFL. Absent extremely rare cases, the advantage you gain from guessing the top-scoring defenses by drafting them early is outweighed by the price you pay.
Kickers are similar in that there are unpredictable standouts every year (Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson was the top kicker last season after barely a preseason mumble), while the top scorers simply don’t give you a massive advantage (Carlson scored just 10.1 points per game). fight ). The prudent play is to be patient and simply wait until near the end of your draft and take the kicker you like best that falls to you.
6. Stack up that bench
So if you’re wondering where to go after your early running back and wide receiver picks, the answer is…go right back to the well. The best value in the middle rounds will be players who, in a perfect world, could hardly play for your roster. What do I mean by that? Well, if you absolutely crush your first four or five picks, those could be your weekly starters at running back and wide receiver. However, given the fickle nature of fantasy football, it’s difficult to land all of your early picks, so having strong depth is important. Since you need at least four running backs and wide receivers in your lineup each week (and up to five total), these positions are already important to your roster. Factor in struggling performers, injuries and bye weeks, and you’ll need a deep bench in those spots to make sure you can make it through rough patches.
7. And aim upwards
Fantasy football is not a game that rewards you for finishing in the middle. You play a different opponent every week, but ultimately your fortunes are best if you have a roster with legitimate upside. When making your draft choices, keep your head in mind. Here’s an example: If you think Ravens second-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman is destined for a breakout this season, he represents a much higher upside than — as an example — AJ Green, who has a clear role and could be productive in Arizona in his second season as a Cardinal, but it’s more likely he’ll be akin to the player he was last season. Roll the dice, swing for the fences, shoot for the stars. Whatever high-upside analogy you want to use, go for it.
8. Know the rules, know the language
This may seem too obvious to mention, but a gentle reminder: it’s important to know the rules and know a little about the language. The defaults for an ESPN league can be found on your league info page, and your starting lineup will include a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a flex (which can be any RB/WR/TE), a tight end, a kicker, and a defense/special teams. But it’s important to know if the league you’re playing in has modified settings or even more rudimentary distinctions, such as whether or not it’s a PPR (points per reception) league. The easiest way to get more information: just ask!
Learn more about league rules and scoring options here.
9. Your draft day roster is not your final roster
We could probably do a whole other piece on the ground rules for handling the waiver wire, but I want to start by reminding you that it is an important tool for any successful manager. So much so that we’re here to remind you that the team you’re drafting is long from the team you end up with at the end of the season. The only certainty for any fantasy football roster is that there will be changes, whether due to struggling players, bye-week fill-ins, waiver-wire additions or in-season trades. So even if the draft is your starting point, be prepared to be dynamic.
10. Have fun!
Fantasy football can be an extremely competitive endeavor. I have been guilty in the past and will certainly be guilty again in the future of putting too much emotional energy into how a matchup plays out when the reality is pretty much all of it is out of my control. We only get 18 regular Sundays to enjoy during a given NFL season, so instead of letting the early season blues wear you down and make you wish you hadn’t signed up for fantasy football in the first place, you just remember that this is a game that we should all play for fun. Let’s enjoy it!
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Ready for an advanced course? Mike Clay’s Fantasy Football Playbook takes you step-by-step through how a fantasy expert prepares his draft.