Fantasy football is officially in the air. Preseason NFL games are showcasing veteran and rookie talent alike while fantasy football drafts are likely closing in for most.
With that, let’s kick off our 2018 fantasy coverage with some guiding principles around building a successful 2018 draft strategy.
Tip 1 The first tip may seem obvious, but know your league rules. Cheat sheets are helpful, but league rules can really differ making position value much different from one league to the next.
Tip 2 Get a sense for average draft position (ADP) for where players may typically be drafted, but then be willing to be bold enough to go off script. You have limited roster spots and fantasy football is supposed to be fun. It’s your team to build, so take the players you think will succeed!
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Tip 3 Be prepared for the running back run early. Expect upward of 9-10 picks (out of 12) in the first round to be a running back this year. There is a deep set of high-end running backs, and every fantasy team is going to need one.
Tip 4 It’s not at all crazy to start your draft with two elite running backs, especially if backs such as Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville), Christian McCaffrey (Carolina) or Joe Mixon (Cincinnatti) are there in the second round.
Tip 5 Sticking with running backs, the talent will look to really dry up fast after about 30-35 running backs selected. It’s supply and demand: There is not enough quality depth to go around, so over-emphasize the running back position earlier in the draft for depth.
Tip 6 Quarterback is really deep this year, perhaps the deepest it’s been in terms of strong fantasy starters who can be had late (they can’t all be drafted). Pending league rules, you may want to be the last team to draft a starting quarterback (and then perhaps the first team to draft a backup quarterback, adding two good ones to the mix).
Tip 7 While you want solid wide receiver starters, be in position with your roster to add receivers to your team late. There are so many attractive later-round flyers, players like Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay), Christian Kirk (Arizona), Cordarrelle Patterson (New England), John Ross (Cincinnati), Courtland Sutton (Denver), James Washington (Pittsburgh) and Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers) and could all be available later in the draft and be strong starters this season.
Tip 8 Don’t forget the rookies. We saw this last season as four rookie running backs were in the Top 10 of their position. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh) and Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) were strong starters at receiver, and Evan Engram (NY Giants) was a Top 5 tight end. College players come out more ready to play than ever and teams are often drafting prospects to play quickly.
Tip 9 Swing for the fences. There’s no glory in finishing middle of the pack, especially in the later rounds. Take a swing on players with big upside, like perhaps pairing up Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) to go with Tyreek Hill (Kansas City) to hit on big weeks.
Tip 10 Don’t take team defenses early, as they just can be too unpredictable in fantasy. That said, there is probably one key exception and that’s being the team to pull the trigger on - the Jacksonville defense (in about the 12th round). After 55 sacks, 19 takeaways and seven defensive touchdowns last year, the potential remains for another difference-making season.
Look for the follow-up article to this coming soon, as we dive into more sleepers and value-plays for the 2018 season.
Alan Satterlee is in his fifth year of writing about fantasy football for The Charlotte Observer. Find him on Twitter at @Speedkills_DFW.