It's the biggest fantasy football day of the year, and who wouldn't like a few tips?
I've put together some of my best practices I try to bring into every fantasy draft. I've been playing fantasy since I was a freshman in high school and have had at least two teams per season since 2016. There aren't always things you can't prepare for (eg; Le'Veon Bell sitting out all of 2018, David Johnson breaking his wrist in 2017), but these are some things to best keep in mind.
My first tip is a freebie: for the Lord's sake, please stop drafting before Labor Day weekend. There's almost no point in having a draft more than a week ahead of the game schedule. Some of you drafters out there over the last few week must feel stupid having taken Tampa Bay's Ronald Jones as high as you did seeing Leonard Fournette adding to the Buccaneers' emerging O.
Also, specifically for this year, the NFL's cut down day was Saturday. So in order to avoid drafting a surprise cut like LeSean McCoy in 2019, let's just hold our horses and wait until Labor Day. Most people are either throwing BBQs or just hanging out most of the weekend, so it makes for a much easier scenario for most people.
Now let's get to the list:
Good offense, bad offense
Aside from taking true talent, my No. 1 rule is to take guys from great offenses. I know more times than not talent rules all. And yes, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon and Kenny Golladay may have put up big numbers in average or below average situations last year. But that has more to do with their high-usage rates and, obviously, the talents they possess.
If you're in a situation where you see a talented player on a bad offense (Le'Veon Bell with the New York Jets) and you have the opportunity to take a guy from a high-powered offense (Michael Gallup last season in Dallas), take the latter. The peaks and valleys the more talented player will give you will be far more frustrating than the constant high floor those guys can provide on good offenses.
If you are gonna take a great player in a meh situation, make sure it's a guy who will be the focal point of that offense and scheme. Speaking of that, this plays into my next point.
Scheme fits are key
Whether you're a receiver in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense or a running back in the Seattle Seahawks' backfield, there's something to be said for targeting guys for their team fit. The Seahawks may not have had a true Marshawn Lynch replacement since 2016, but over the last two seasons Seattle has ranked first and fourth, respectively, in the league in team rushing yards despite having one of the top signal callers in the NFL.
Even with Russell Wilson (who also contributes to the rushing attack) under center, the more important stat is they respectively ranked second in 2018 and third in 2019 in rushing attempts in the league. This makes running backs in this or any other run-heavy offenses (like Baltimore or San Francisco) more advantageous than ones that have no true identity like in Washington.
I'm glad I got to mention Russ earlier because he's a key example in my topic, too.
The QBs can wait
As dynamic as Wilson is, he may not be the best guy to target in fantasy. Even as great as he was last season, it was just the third time he's averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in a season.
The toughest thing about quarterbacks in fantasy is their real-life value does not always equate. While players like Wilson are held back by their offenses, there will always be room for a Jameis Winston-type who puts up gaudy numbers in a pass-heavy attack.
Even as electrifying as Lamar Jackson was last year (league-leading 415.68 fantasy points), he was one of five QBs with over 300 fantasy points. The entire top 10 accounted for 275 or more, including Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes (who also missed 2 1/2 games due to injury).
It just goes to show how heralded this era is for field generals. There really isn't a major drop off when you consider Allen was No. 6 in points with 288.56, while No. 12 himself, Tom Brady, placed 12th in the league at 263.68.
I'm not saying it's dumb to draft the last two league MVPs in the third or fourth rounds. But, in most years, you can hold off and get a quality QB later on.
Personally, I like to target mobile QBs because what they may miss out on in passing yards or TDs, they tend to make up for on the ground. In 2019, five of the top ten fantasy QBs rushed for at least 340 yards and three or more TDs. That doesn't even include dual threats like Dak Prescott, Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, who all placed second, seventh and ninth, respectively, in the top 10.
I know defense and kickers are the afterthought of the game, but make sure you consider these when drafting.
Only the elites
With the up-and-down nature of the tight end position and the importance of late-round flex options, defense and kickers often take a backseat. But if you are going to draft them, I've got a couple things to note.
For defenses, I'm only drafting one early on if it's elite or if there aren't great flex players available. It would be great to get a defense like San Fran's from last year or like the Chicago Bears in 2018, but if you miss out, my next best approach is looking at a team's division.
The Bills' defense was great last fall, but if you add in six division games against Sam Darnold, Ryan Fitzpatrick and an aging Brady with scarce weapons, that bolstered it.
My thoughts on kickers is they should not even be considered before the final three rounds. I mean seriously, no kicker is that crucial and like QBs, the top guys aren't too far above the middle tier. Talent must be considered for sure, but I think of it the opposite way I think of defense; if a guy kicks for a team with a great offense, then go for it.
Even if there's an off week here or there, you're in far better position to have them record high outputs if their offenses are putting them in position to score. I also strongly consider guys in warmer weather areas, on turf fields or in domes, so they'll avoid having to kick in poor conditions later on in the season.
Before we go, I've got one last piece to share.
Don't be a fan
This is probably the toughest one because I feel like this is a constant battle we deal with every week as fantasy team owners. I have trouble with this even to this day. Often times we try to target our favorite players, like I often do with Travis Kelce at tight end every year.
If you take that approach with the right players, this can work to a degree. But in my honest opinion, especially considering the factors I shared before, my teams were best suited when I picked the players who checked off the boxes for my criteria over the guys I just genuinely enjoyed watching play. Even here in Western New York, I try not to go Bills heavy in my drafts.
Not only because Buffalo's offense has been rooted in fantasy hell until the last few seasons, but also because I watch the Bills differently than I watch any other teams in the league. When it comes to gamedays this fall, make sure you leave your fan cap at home and walk in with your owner's one on.
That's all I've got y'all. Good luck with draft season and I hope these tidbits help lead you to a fantasy title. Or help you avoid that last place punishment.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to listen to the 'GNN Sports Podcast,' on Spotify, Anchor, Apple podcasts and more.