Know your draft order. Having the first pick in the first round and last pick in the second will require very different strategy from picking near the middle of each round. Prepare for both possibilities.
Know how many teams are in your league. Eight, ten, twelve, even fourteen team leagues provide differing depths of available talent. 196 players will be drafted in a 14 round 14 team league versus 112 in an 8 team league.
Know the first three rounds of your league’s draft. Hint: they’ll look almost the same for any league so let’s cover the first three rounds of a standard 10 team draft.
QB Aaron Rodgers plus RBs Ray Rice, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Chris Johnson will — in some order — be the first five picks. Franchise RBs are in shorter supply than ever so forget picking WRs early. The QB pool is also deep. RBs Jones-Drew and Trent Richardson plus QBs Brady and Brees are all but mortal locks to round out the first round. WR Calvin Johnson sneaks in.
If you own the “turn around” picks (last pick in the first, first in the second), make the most of them — grab talent that compliments one another. A top QB or WR plus whatever best RB is left would make for a great compliment to one another. So would a formidable backfield duo of Matt Forte and Darren McFadden.
RBs Forte, McFadden, Fred Jackson and Ryan Matthews come off in the early second round of any competitive league. QBs Cam Newton and Matt Stafford have proven elite and go in the second round of any ten team league. WRs Julio Jones, Wes Welker, and Andre Johnson finish the round along with RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
If you only have one RB after the first two rounds, you must get one in the third. Expect DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and probably Michael Turner to be available in leagues of 10 or fewer teams. Elite QBs and WRs worth skipping an RB for are all gone and — after this round — so will any RBs you want in your lineup.
If you have two RBs and either a WR or QB after the first three rounds, concentrate on WRs. Five teams already have QBs so your competition for remaining talent is light. Going for an elite TE in the fourth or fifth round will do wonders for your roster. You can still come back for Romo, Rivers, Dalton, Cutler, or either Manning later.
Pick an RB like Mark Ingram or Darren Sproles in the middle rounds but be smart in these rounds and make trends — don’t chase. If you can’t get a top TE, get a top D/ST. Most people won’t draft two TEs so second tier guys will still be around. Likewise, if you don’t get a top D/ST or kicker, leave those positions until the final rounds. They’ll probably be on waivers by week 5, anyway.
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by Nick Falana