Let's face it. 2020 is going to go down in the history books as one of the craziest and most jarring years in generations. A global pandemic. Kobe died. Brexit happened. Olympics postponed. Impeachment...Acquittal. MLB and NBA seasons cancelled...MLB and NBA seasons restarted. Tiger King. Murder Hornets. George Floyd. An upcoming election with a historically-divided electorate. Uncertainties everywhere. If aliens suddenly appeared from the skies, or an asteroid the size of Texas came barreling towards Earth, frankly, it would be par for the 2020 course.
That's why fantasy football needs to happen. When we drafted for the FFN Charity League earlier this month, Olympian and TV Host Summer Sanders emailed me to say that it felt weird to be drafting a fantasy football team right now, and she's right. It is weird, but even if it was just for the briefest of moments, we got to enjoy a small bit of normalcy - and that was fantastic. Everyone could use a bit of normalcy right now, couldn't we?
Whatever 2020 is going to throw at us over the next few months, we should take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the small moments of normalcy whenever and wherever they happen. That feeling when you have a guy lined up in your queue and someone from your league snipes him right before it's your turn to draft. That feeling when you are counting down the hours and then the minutes prior to the draft. The comraderie. The trash talking. The inside jokes that only you and your league understand. The thrill of watching a Monday night game needing just a handful of points, and then gloating when you claim victory for the week or playing it off when you lose by a point. It's all part of the experience...we need it...we deserve it...so let's enjoy it.
OK, now on to our draft tips for this year.
I can't preach this one enough. As Warren Buffett once said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
Let me demonstrate how that applies to fantasy football. Last year, Lamar Jackson was the 14th quarterback off the board in most drafts. In 12-team leagues, he was being drafted as a backup in the 10th-round. As we all know, he finished the year as the #1 fantasy QB.
We paid a 10th-round price for Lamar Jackson and got a QB1 value.
Now, if it were easy to predict that kind of performance, his value would change, and we'd draft him in the early rounds just like his ADP has him going today. Hindsight is always 20/20, so I use Jackson as an example merely to highlight the price/value principle.
Let's look at some examples for this year that are more forward-looking.
Sticking with quarterbacks, let's look at projections and ADP for Kyler Murray and Matt Ryan. Murray (300 pts) is projected to outscore Ryan (285 pts) by just 15 fantasy points on the season. Now, in order to get Murray as your QB, you'll need to pay a 5th-round price based upon his current ADP. Ryan isn't being taken until a full three rounds later. The difference in weekly point contribution is less than one point, but the price you have to pay for those points is different, isn't it? If you passed on Murray and instead drafted a WR like Odell Beckham Jr in the fifth, you wouldn't have to draft a WR like Julian Edelman in the eighth where the point contribution between those two receivers is projected to be 2 fantasy points every week.
Here's a thought experiment:
If you had to choose between two wide receivers who each contributed an average of 15 fantasy points for your team every week, but you had to choose to draft one in the 3rd round or the other in the 7th round, which receiver would you choose? It's obvious, right? You'd take the same 15 fantasy points but take the guy with the 7th-round price tag. This isn't a hypothetical situation though. The 3rd-round guy is Amari Cooper and the 7th-round guy is Michael Gallup. Does that change the value proposition that each player brings? In 2019, they had essentially the same statistical production, but our perception of their value is different. Before you can take advantage of that, you need to recognize it.
Understanding the difference between price and value can pay big dividends during your draft.
The first few rounds of your draft should be all about safety. McCaffrey, Zeke, and Thomas are all safe picks. They're the bedrock upon which to build your championship team.
As your draft starts rolling into the later rounds, that's where we're looking for upside. That's when we want the sexy potential. Guys like Terry McLaurin, Marquise Brown, Kareem Hunt, and Diontae Johnson have the potential to be solid fantasy contributors for your team in the mid-rounds. When you see guys like Jordan Howard sitting on the board in the 8th or 9th, take a moment to realize that guys like Howard are known quantities. We know what his situation is like, and we know what kind of production he's likely to put up. He's a safe pick for a backup player on your roster, but if you see Jonathan Taylor sitting on the board in the 6th, he carries some unknowns having never carried the ball in the NFL before. It's OK to take a flier on someone at that point in your draft. He may not crack your starting lineup right away, but you took care of the safe picks in the earlier rounds. Taylor will likely have the starting job later in the season.
Finally, use your last skill position pick on a lottery ticket. This is a guy who will likely be your 4th or 5th RB, WR, or your 2nd/3rd TE. If you think that Hayden Hurst will capitalize on all of the targets vacated by Austin Hooper, then take a chance. Think AJ Dillon and his tree-trunk legs will emerge with a greater role in the Packers' ground game? Take a chance. After all, that's what lottery tickets are for.
I can't stress this one enough and I see it happen every year. If your league gives points for receptions (PPR or 1/2 pt PPR), certain players are going to be more valuable than others. If your league starts 2 quarterbacks or gives 6 points for a passing touchdown, those players will be more valuable. It is remarkable to me that in virtually every draft that I have participated in this year, someone inevitably asks what the scoring format is. Don't be that guy.
Know your scoring before you enter the draft room.
Think you need to fill your roster right away? Think again. I haven't had the luxury of drafting Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews on any of my teams, so what's the point in rushing to get a tight end? The same can be said about Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. I don't own either so why would I rush to get a QB just to fill out my roster? Take the best available player on the board. If that's another running back or wide receiver and your QB spot is unfilled, so be it. Wait for Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, or Drew Brees.
Trust me, reaching is only good for getting things on really high shelves. It's not for fantasy football drafts.
This absolutely boggles my mind. Why in the world do we still publish fantasy football magazines, and why in the world do people buy them?
Look, we've all used magazines in the past, but as time-honored as that tradition might be, it's like using AOL's 56K dial-up service to get connected to the Internet. I'm even fairly certain that these magazines are still delivered via horse and buggy.
If you use the rankings from Fantasy Football Nerd, we are updating those every single day. Trades...injuries...suspensions...those things all get factored into dynamic player values.
The moment a magazine goes to print, that's it folks. Keep in mind that most of those articles are written well before it goes to print.
When your magazine was printed, Damien Williams had not yet opted out of the 2020 season leaving rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire way, way down in the rankings. Think the publisher of the magazine is going to recall them all and adjust the rankings in light of recent events? Not going to happen. If you're going to spend $8 or $9 on a magazine that's useless after your draft is over, why not spend a few bucks more on a Premium Membership to FFN and get access to not just draft information, but an entire season's worth of tools, rankings, and advice?
I've watched people pass over players because they feel like they have too many from the same team. The logic generally flows something like this: half my team will be on bye at the same time and if the team does poorly, they'll all do poorly.
When I hear that, I like to sit the person down and regale them with fantastic stories about the 2007 New England Patriots and the 2013 Denver Broncos. In both examples, I played in leagues where someone did have a roster full of those players including Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, and Sammy Morris for the Pats and Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno for the Broncos.
Guess what? Each guy lost the week that those teams were on bye, but they completely dominated every...single...other...week. The playoffs were a breeze for them.
This is one of my personal favorites and it comes from a card game that I was taught as a young child. Regardless of the name (I've also heard it called Screw Your Neighbor), it's a fun game that any age group can play and it's all about making things difficult for the person on your left. In this case, it's about the person who is drafting immediately after you.
The tactic works like this: get your Player Queue lined up before it's your turn to pick. You should have two or three players ranked in the order that you'd like to take them. When it's your turn to pick, grab the top-ranked guy in your queue and draft right away. Don't wait. The person drafting after you generally assumes that he/she has 60-90 seconds to make any final decisions about his/her next pick. By picking quickly, you are forcing the clock on them. People have a general fear of running out of time and auto-picking. Play on that fear and watch as their heart rate increases. Hopefully this forces them to rush into their pick.
No, you don't have to be a master in yoga, but you do have to be flexible when it comes to your draft. Every year I get questions from FFN members who want to know what I think about their draft strategy. Should I go RB/RB or WR/WR? The answer is that it depends. It's helpful to do a mock draft to get an idea of where guys will likely fall, but no mock draft will ever perfectly replicate your actual draft. You may have a RB/RB strategy going in, but if Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, or Julio Jones are staring you in the face after all the elite running backs are off the board, you need to pivot and take an elite WR instead. The point differential between a Tier 1 WR and a Tier 2 RB can be significant.
Have a plan, but be prepared to take what the draft gives you.
Seriously - don't draft a kicker until the very end. Given the point contributions, prediction difficulties, and relative variances, I have yet to hear a coherent, logical argument for drafting one before the final round.
Oh, and you only need 1. Seriously - drop the one you have and pick another one up on the waiver wire if you have to. That extra roster spot should be spent on your lottery ticket player.
Yes, FFN is an awesome tool to have, but what if your Internet connection goes down? What if you drop your tablet or laptop as you're reaching for your favorite beverage? Who knows what's going to happen on draft day?!? Be prepared by printing out our fantasy football cheatsheet and taking that with you. Yeah, it's old school, but it's definitely more timely than a magazine, and just like that condom you kept in your wallet all throughout high school, it's best to be prepared for the moment.
Finally speaking of moment - enjoy yours! We talk about things like strategy and which guys to target and when, but rarely do we talk about the fun part of the game. As I discussed at the very beginning of this article, these are the moments of normalcy that we crave and need. The draft will be over before you know it. Have fun! Throw some smack talk. The social aspect of fantasy football is one of the best parts of the game! Trust me - it won't be long before December is here and fantasy season is over.
Good luck in your draft!