With the calendar turning to August, it reminds us of a few things; sadly, the end of summer is on the horizon, but football season is right behind it!! But not just NFL football, Fantasy Football as well. Since most Fantasy Football drafts take place from mid -August through Labor Day weekend, we have a short time to dig into training camps and prepare our fantasy plans for our upcoming drafts and season. I have been participating in many versions of Fantasy Football for over 25 years, back when you had to hire a service to tally your results and mail them to you on paper each week! But the game has exploded since then and has almost become as much of a staple to the NFL season as the actual games themselves. With tons of sites offering multiple levels of free leagues it is even easier for people to get involved and become their own GM. With this in mind, I decided to take a break from the "Learning Football" posts and start this fantasy-based column for the upcoming season. Each week we will look to identify trends, strategies and players that could be effective in tailoring your squads for your upcoming matchup and also some DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) plays that I think are a value. For the more adventurous, I will also add a little gambling aspect by coming up with a weekly 3 game teaser, starting off with a fictional $100 budget. So, if you are already a rabid Fantasy player or this is your fist foray into the game, welcome to Fantasy Land.

Rather than start with lists and rankings, that have been reposted a thousand times by now, I will start with some of the most important basics in fantasy that I have learned, mostly the hard way, over the years. Fantasy Football is a game based on incomplete information and prognostication but knowing these few points will help you form a solid baseline to create your draft strategy from.


I cannot stress this point enough. In order to create your draft strategy to assemble your team, you MUST know the scoring system. How much is each yard receiving or rushing worth? How much are passing TD worth? Do you get a point per reception (PPR)? Are there bonuses for longer TD? Look, stud players will always be great in almost any scoring system, but after those few blue-chip players are off the board, without knowing the scoring, you cannot be assured that you are drafting the correct players, for the best value, at the time they are available. For example, if your league does not award a point for every reception, a player like Keenan Allen, who relies on catch volume to put up points, is not as valuable as Mike Evans who often produces more yards and TD than Keenan. Knowing your scoring system will help you to better identify which players offer you the best value for your league in your draft.


It sounds stupid, but it is so true. Just because a player put up certain numbers the season before does not mean that he will repeat those numbers this season, good or bad and especially historic seasons. Rather than drafting a player based on last years stats it is more prudent to look at a player's average year as a good baseline, all things considered, of what to expect for that season. It is easier to predict a player's floor than his ceiling. Using this method will help you from overvaluing a player and if he falls just short of expectations it will not sink your team. If he performs better, then you are receiving even more value from him. Of course, there are things to look for which can affect a player's stock either way. Is he going to a new team? Is there a new starting QB on the team? Is there a new coach or coordinator which could affect the offensive system? Did the team just draft another player at the same position? As I said before, great players will most likely perform no matter what, but factoring in changes to a situation can help you decide on which players to target and which to avoid. For example: Cooper Kupp has been a solid fantasy WR in the past based on his volume, and that was with Goff at QB. The Rams upgraded to Matt Stafford at QB and his numbers skyrocketed last season to become the #1 fantasy WR last year, but he was being drafted as the #10 or #11 fantasy WR last season. If you correctly factored in that QB change for the Rams last season, you could have waited on taking him and drafted 1 or 2 other players before drafting Kupp and walked away with incredible value. On the flip side, Tyreek Hill is going from one of the most prolific offenses in the league with a super star QB and a HOF coach, to a team with a middling QB and a first time HC from a run based offensive system. Logic dictates that he will not be as prolific as last season, so should he be drafted where he was last year as a top 4 WR?


This is important for every fantasy player, but even more important for beginners. After studying all the players and teams and factoring your scoring system, you should have an idea of which players you want to build your team around. But the draft can be unpredictable, so be ready to pivot at any time and remember your main goal of drafting for value regardless of position. For Example: You want to build your team around top RB, but when its your turn to draft in Rd 1, the top 6 RB are off the board, but the top 3 WR are all there. Would the better value be taking the 7th best RB or the best WR knowing that with your next pick you can probably still get a top 12 RB? Remember your main objective is to acquire more points each week than your opponent. So, is it better to take the #7 RB (16 PPG) and the #5 WR (15 PPG) or the #1 WR (20 PPG) and the #12 RB (13 PPG)? Of course, if your draft prep leads you to believe the 7th best RB will play more toward his ceiling and be more valuable than the #1 WR and therefore outplaying his draft slot, go for the it. After all, it is your team. Get the players you want. There is nothing worse than drafting by being a slave to the rankings and having a team of players you don't necessarily want.


While you are building your team during the draft, try to be aware of the other owner's rosters. Knowing what positions other teams still need to fill will come in handy for you in deciding which players to draft and which to wait on. For example: If it is your turn to draft a player and you still need a starting QB, but the 3 teams that pick after you before you pick again, all have a starting QB already. Why take one now when you can still add value at other positions and most likely still get your QB target with your next pick? What if it's your turn to draft and nobody has a TE, but you do not pick again until 18 picks later. Do you risk passing on one now and hoping there is still a top starting TE left when you select again? Knowing the draft board will give you an advantage in these situations.

Every draft like clockwork, after the first few rounds, there will be a run on a certain position like QB or TE, where people fear not getting one and will reach for one just not to be left out in the cold. This is where your draft prep and board knowledge will be utilized. While you are prepping for the draft, you should place players in tiers by position, so you know the absolute last player you want as a starter for your team at a certain position. For example: Let's say you are in a 12-team league, and you view 9 players at TE that you deem starter worthy, but in Round 5, TE fly off the board and the top 4 are picked in a row right before you. Do you panic and say "I have to take one now or I will be screwed", or do you continue to take the value in other positions that were passed up by the run on TE, knowing that you can most likely wait and still get one with your next pick within your tier? Having positional tiers will eliminate you getting sucked into a run and reaching for a player or position to early.


Obviously, drafting players that are starters for their team should be your priority targets. However, as you get later in the draft and your starting lineup is pretty much filled (outside of K and D) don't forget about the quality 2nd string players. The focus here should be on quality backups who are either highly drafted rookies, or players who are in a positional timeshare and are one injury away to the starter to be a top player. This is especially true of players from a good offensive team. Now there is a slight gamble here that the starter or committee player will be injured but having an eye for these players can be the difference in winning your league and we see it every year. A few examples of players who fit this mold this season are Tony Pollard, Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, AJ Dillon, Gabe Davis, and DeVonta Smith.

If you were to draft the starter to these backups, it would be wise to not wait to long to scoop up these players, especially at RB, where the most injuries to players occur. Drafting these backups will insure you have a starting caliber player on your bench ready to be plugged in if the starter goes down. This strategy is termed "handcuffing".


Bad teams are usually losing in the second half of games, which means they will be chucking it all over the field in order to catch up and stay in the game. Garbage time points count the same as those gained in competitive games. This can really be effective in PPR (Point Per Reception) scoring systems where those short underneath catches and check downs pile up as the winning team goes into a prevent defense. In my experience good WR from these teams can still put-up decent stats because the game script will be so pass heavy when the team falls behind. However, I would avoid the RB's for these teams unless they are good receivers out of the backfield. Some examples of players to target who fit this mold this season are Brandin Cooks, Darnell Mooney, Kadarius Toney and Travis Etienne. Examples of those to avoid would be Rashaad Penny, Dameon Pierce, and Damien Williams.


Since every team can only start one defense or kicker every week and only need a replacement for the bye weeks or an injury, most teams only draft one of each. So, let's say you are in a 10 team, 18 round draft and in the 10th round someone drafted the highest ranked kicker, but you waited until the last round, and you took the 10th ranked kicker. The difference between the best kicker and the tenth best kicker last year was 19 total points. Let's say that owner who drafted the kicker, passed on the 36th ranked WR and by the time he picked again 16 picks later the best WR available was the 43rd best WR. The difference between those two players selected only one round apart was 24 total points. Absolute loss of value by taking the kicker there.

Defenses are similar in that there is usually not much of a point difference between the top 10-12. However, since special teams scores are lumped in with the defensive scoring, a team that either scores a few ST TD and/or defensive touchdowns, will most likely be the top scoring defense by a handy margin. But these types of scores are impossible to predict, so why gamble on one with a mid-round pick when you are just as likely to hit on the top defense in the last round?

These last few points are simple and do not really need an in-depth explanation

1. All things being equal, try to draft kickers who meet these criteria: they kick indoors or in good weather, they are on a good offense, and they have a late bye week (that way you do not have to drop a good kicker or another player early in the season. You can wait until later in the season to drop an injured or underperforming player to pick up a bye week kicker without dropping yours). Example: Ryan Succop or Matt Prater

2. Be conscious of bye weeks on QB and TE. Since you usually only draft 2 of each to your roster, having matching bye weeks for these positions will leave you scrambling for a replacement. Example: Dak and Russ (week 9), Goedert and Knox (week 7).

3. Be vigilant on the waiver wire. Watch for good players that are being dropped due to a bye week or short-term injury.

4. When scanning waivers, instead of looking to add free agents based on their points scored, which could be skewed by one big game, look at targets and carries. Chances are if a player is getting more opportunities, the points will follow.

5. Stick to your convictions. If you really like a player but you might have to take him a little sooner than the rankings predict or risk losing out on him, don't be afraid to pull the trigger. Trust your process.

6. As your draft pick approaches, always have a few players in mind that you would like. There is nothing worse than having your sights set on one guy only to watch him get taken the pick right before you. If you are not prepared, you could end up scrambling and grabbing a player with a matching bye week or with an injury.

7. Never draft a player with the sole purpose of screwing/sniping another owner. Trust me it happens. For example: Don't draft Dak Prescott just because your buddy is a huge Cowboy fan and that's his favorite player, especially if you already drafted another top tier starter. You are giving away huge value by not selecting another WR/RB/TE just to piss your buddy off.

8. Do not overvalue players who will miss games to start the season due to injury, holdout, or suspension. Remember your fantasy regular season is usually 12-13 weeks long. Drafting a player early who might miss half your season is a mistake. Factor in that they are not fully in shape or up to speed for another 2-3 weeks and the risk is even steeper. Example: Deandre Hopkins, Alvin Kamara.

9. Don't draft big names that were once great looking for lightning in a bottle. Just because a player was once great doesn't mean he will ever even be average again. Example: AJ Green, Mark Ingram.

10. Participate in mock drafts. Practice makes perfect and you can try out different strategies without having to worry about the results. You can find a great mock draft lobby on

These are just some of the more basic points/observations for standard style drafts that I have gathered during many fantasy seasons. Of course, different leagues might have a very specific scoring system or award bonuses for certain yardage milestones that will affect your player rankings and values. In the next post I will focus on some auction league strategies that you can incorporate into that style of draft as well as some player rankings and lists. If there is anything you have a question about or if you have another point to add that you have observed through your fantasy experiences let me know in the comments. You can never have enough of a knowledge bank to draw from in Fantasy Football.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.