In our first installment of the Fantasy Football Beginners Guide, we dipped our toes in the water to test the temperature. If it felt just right for you, let’s take the plunge together now for part two of the guide!
We will now dive deeper into different approaches for drafting, draft a team in a mock draft, discuss keeper and dynasty leagues, how your approach should change when drafting for them and waiver wire strategy and tips for managing your roster in-season.
Let’s continue on where we finished off in the first installment of the Fantasy Football Beginners Guide, drafting. We talked about the importance of the running back position in fantasy football, and the commonly held believe that the safest approach to drafting is to draft two, “stud” running backs with your first two picks. While safe, it does not ensure fantasy success.
Lets face it, most people (I would say between 70-80% of fantasy players) adhere to this philosophy and draft RB-RB in the 1st and 2nd rounds. They obviously all do not win their leagues, as only one participant is worthy of that title. Lets analyze expert rankings from prior to the 2012 season and see how going RB-RB early may have panned out for teams. I was using ESPN as my example during the last article, so we will stick with them and use their fantasy expert rankings for the purpose of this exercise. That expert being, Mr. Matthew Berry. Here are the running backs he had ranked in his top-20 overall last season.
RBs in Berry’s Top-20 Overall Rankings
2012 Berry Draft Ranking
2012 Standard Scoring Rank
Full disclosure, that is an insanely small number of running backs for a top-20 overall list. Berry was very open last year, as I am most years, to not strictly going RB-RB early. He had four quarterbacks, seven wide receivers and a TE ranked in his top-20. The 2011 season was a freak year for quarterbacks and it resulted in them being pushed way up draft boards for the 2012 season. But as you can clearly see, of the eight running backs Berry had ranked in his top-20 overall players, only three of them ended up as top-10 fantasy running backs in standard scoring leagues, (Arian Foster – 2nd, Marshawn Lynch – 4th, and Ray Rice – 6th). The other seven running backs that rounded out the top-10 in standard scoring last year, he had ranked as follows.
RBs who were top-10 performers NOT in Berry’s top-20 Overall
2012 Berry Draft Ranking
2012 Standard Scoring Rank
Before we go any further, let me say wholeheartedly that I do not intend this to be a Matthew Berry rip job. I respect the work he does as a fantasy football analyst, I wish to merely shed further light on the debate over what positions to draft early, and why. So as the above charts show clearly, last year was an example of how going RB-RB when using expert rankings could have likely landed you in the bottom half of your league. Berry does not disagree with that premise if you read his annual draft day manifesto which he published on June 26th, 2013 where he states;
The first thing you should know is that there is no magic bullet. What we are discussing here is not about your only chance to win, but merely what gives you the best chance. Honestly, there are lots of ways to do this. Last year, you could have drafted a kicker and a defense in the first two rounds, not drafted a running back until the fifth round — and not even drafted a second running back — and won your league going away. Nobody would ever do that? Nonsense! You only say that because no one ever has. But what if the kicker was Blair Walsh, the defense was the Bears’, if you grabbed Doug Martin in the fifth, picked up Alfred Morris on waivers and gotten players like Robert Griffin III, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Mike Williams late?
The first sentence of that quote is the key to my entire philosophy for fantasy football. “there is no magic bullet.” While I won’t go as far to say that the RB-RB philosophy is treated as a magic bullet by many, I will call it a crutch. Can a crutch be a good thing? Sure, it will keep you up right and prevent you from falling, that is what most want. Not I, not if I’m trying to win a fantasy football league. I don’t want to “not fall”, or play it safe. This is not to say that I’m an Incredible Hulk-like maniac in my fantasy drafts, selecting who I want, where ever and whenever I see fit.
Careful calculation and strategy is always going to win out, there just is just no cookie cutter template for how you are going to find success. I will again reiterate, I am not telling you to not draft Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin or Jamaal Charles with a top-3 overall pick, you won’t get much argument from me there. In that late 2nd round however, when you are starring Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray and Stevan Ridley in the face, I’m suggesting you consider other positional options very carefully if your feelings are not favorable towards those running backs.
What I am about to say is probably going to have some of you smacking your foreheads asking yourself, “is this guy for real?”. I am for real and this is what I am going to say. The idea of this “game” is to pick players who are going to score the most fantasy points. I realize how obvious and dimwitted that sounds, but by deciding pre-draft that you are going to select RB-RB-RB, or RB-RB-WR with your first three picks, you are pigeon holding yourself from truly maximizing your fantasy potential. This is what I mean. Many sports fans have probably heard the name Marek Malik before. It might take some digging around your memory to realize why it’s familiar, but chances are once you see what it is Malik is most remembered for, your memory will be jarred. Here it is:
There are so many things amazing about this shoot out goal, I struggle with where to start. This was in the 15th round of that shoot out, which set the mark for the longest in NHL history, Malik was the 30th shooter, a mountain of a defenseman who was better known for his stout defensive play than his offensive shoot out theatrics; what am I saying, he had no shoot out theatrics period prior to this moment! Here’s the fantasy football tie-in. What should Malik have done as he skated in on Washington Capitals goaltenders Olaf Kolzig? Most would have anticipated a hard slap shot, or even a sturdy wrist shot from the hash marks. I guarantee you that’s what Kolzig was preparing for. Playing it by the book, Malik likely would have fired the puck into the pads of Kolzig and over the boards would have came a Washington Capital player to begin round 16 of this shoot out (settling on a 2nd or 3rd running back in the 2nd and 3rd round just for the sake of doing what you’re suppose to do).
Marik Malek wasn’t going to draft DeMarco Murray or Darren McFadden with A.J Green and Dez Bryant on the board. This is a guy who ended up scoring only 33 career goals in 691 games but is known for scoring one of the most spectacular and unlikely shoot out goals in NHL history! Again, if Malik DeMarco Murray’s that puck into Kolzig’s chest, I’m certainly not talking about him right now. He was going to have it all, or nothing. In fantasy football, I think the same way. There is no glory in making the playoffs, or giving yourself the best “odds” to win as Matthew Berry sometimes preaches. If I’m not going to win the league, I’m fine falling flat on my face knowing that I attempted to put together a roster that WILL win a championship. Most years in the league I commish, I feel this way post-draft. Many of us do, but I’ve managed to back it up with results, going 28-11 over the last three regular seasons which includes one championship (2011), a loss in the championship game (2012), and a semi final loss (2010). So if you want a fantasy team name to remember how I feel everyone should play, call your team the Marik Malek’s an make sure your opponents will always remember you.
Next Page: Creating Rankings & Mock Draft