Here are some things that I consider key in preparing for and participating in a fantasy football draft.
Draft consistent players: Consistency is key in fantasy football. A guy who scores 10 points every week is better than a guy who scores 20 one week and two the next. Not only will the latter player frustrate the heck out of you, he’ll end up killing you in certain weeks and resulting in losses. It’s better to know what you’re getting week in and week out than to play a guessing game. Just because a guy makes several spectacular one-handed catches, the kind that sell NFL tickets, every season doesn’t mean he’ll win you your fantasy league.
Know your format: Know the scoring system and rules of your league. Some leagues give points for receptions, some for return yards. Some leagues require teams to start three wide receivers each week, some only two. Some leagues have a position where an owner can play guys of multiple positions. You need to know these things or you’re not going to win your league. For example, a guy like Reggie Bush gets drafted much higher in points per reception leagues than in standard format leagues.
Do the research: I know it’s just a fantasy game, but you still want to win, and that takes some effort. You can’t go into the draft without researching what went on in the offseason. For example, this offseason the Rams drafted a stud offensive tackle in the first round of the NFL draft. How will this affect guys like Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Donnie Avery? Do you even know who Donnie Avery Is? If you don’t, then you’re not prepared.
Go in with targets: Don’t let this make you reach for players, but go into the draft with a bunch of guys to keep in the forefront of your mind throughout the draft. These are guys that you think will probably outperform their likely draft position. It’s good to have a list like this so you don’t forget a guy you think will surpass expectations this season.
Find some sleepers: Every season there are a few guys that tear it up that nobody expected to do so. Nobody thought DeAngelo Williams would rush for 1500 yards and score 20 touchdowns going into last season. Nobody even saw Steve Slaton as anything more than a flier pick on draft day. Assess teams’ situations and see who could be in line for a major role in the event of an injury or opportunity.
Know your opponents: Most people play in leagues with people they know personally, and this advice is for them. Know enough about your opponents’ allegiances and tendencies. If you’re targeting Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans and you’re not sure if he’ll make it back to you, look at who is drafting between this pick and your next one. If one owner is a Bills fan or loves Wisconsin Football so much he wears Wisconsin socks or lives for big play guys who get down the field, you probably want to take Evans with the pick because it’s much less likely he makes it back to you. Don’t let this make you reach for players, though.
Do not take a kicker until the last round: It’s nearly impossible to predict a kickers’ success from season to season, so don’t waste a pick before the last round on one.
Do a mock draft: Do one, do twenty, just practice at least one time before your draft. You’ll get a sense of where players are generally being drafted and you’ll see mistakes that you would have probably made in your real draft.