Fantasy Sports

Fantasy Football Draft – Avoid Hype, Find Trends, Learn Strategy

Kansas City Chief Fans

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I am a fantasy football participant and historian. As a participant for over two decades, only recently have I adopted the historian title. I figured there had to be something beneficial to getting older, and this is the best I could come up with. Moving along.

There are perks to the miles it takes to gain a historian view. Watching football and drafting teams for a long period of time allows you to identify predictable cycles and understand when the proverbial pendulum is about to swing. I can tell you, it’s in motion.

Based on trends, here is some advice I would like to share as you begin thinking about your 2013 fantasy drafts.

On draft day you get the opportunity to see different trends. You can almost guess with clarity by the chatter at the table prior to the draft and the first handful of picks what strategy each person is using, and in some cases what “cheat sheet” source they are trusting. It’s really no different than a spirited game of poker. Who has the ability to keep their face expressionless and their strategy hidden?

Generally, very few do. It’s almost like show and tell in kindergarten; everyone wants to make sure the entire table knows they did their homework, they are fantasy football gods, and their sleepers are far better than yours. If your fantasy draft takes place with food and beverages, the talks are exponentially more braggadocios. Don’t be that person. You can talk after the draft if it’s that important. Better yet, let your season speak for you.

Next, don’t get too caught up in the sleeper hype. Generally, there is a reason these guys are sleepers and not big name players. If a guy has been in the NFL for nine years and is annually regarded as a sleeper at fantasy draft tables, chances are sleeper is the only title he’ll ever hold. I do get a kick out of the back slaps around the table when the super sleepers are reveled. Last year I heard names like Titus Young, LeGarrette Blount, and Peyton Hillis followed by the explosion of the table, “oh man, great pick!”. No, it wasn’t. All three have shown historically that they are knuckleheads. Don’t forget, character counts these days in the NFL.

Don’t get me wrong; there are a few sleepers every season. However, these occurrences are not accidental. Last year’s catch was Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris. With a little advanced research you would know that Morris would still be there in the far later rounds, that he was going to a running situation where there was no clear starter, and his head coach was Mike Shanahan. Shanahan is synonymous with late round RBs that reach NFL stardom. Of course Shanahan is also known for unpredictable RB by committee backfields, so Morris wasn’t a sure thing, hence sleeper pick. A sleeper pick historically is the guy that is a first through third (at the very latest) year player that comes in to an ideal situation such as Morris did, or they showed potential late in the previous season.

Finally, I mentioned to you earlier a shifting pendulum. What, when, and where you should draft different positions changes based on NFL trends. For years it was standard to draft a RB first to have any opportunity at success. That is no longer the case. There are now QBs and WRs with first round grades.

This is not new. 20 years ago a handful of RBs were drafted in the first round (Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Smith), but of equal value were QBs (Steve Young, Dan Marino, Warren Moon) and WRs (Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, Andre Rison). The top WR in ’93 actually outscored the top RB. Although the top RB today is still outscoring the top WR, the gap is far less. The NFL moves in cycles depending on what trend is popular and the talent available. Be cognizant of these cycles before drafting. It could mean the difference between a winning year and a long, cold season of regret.

Most teams today rely on multiple RBs, and the NFL is labeled as a passing league. It’s a new trend, it’s a different cycle and I haven’t heard folks call the NFL a passing league since – 1993.

Jim Heath is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google