Definitive advice, no maybes, it’s only pride.
With the beginning of the 2018 season two weeks away, over 30 million people will get ready to bet pride and/or real money on the superstars of the NFL. There are over a dozen different versions of fantasy football that stray away from the original betting line— ‘who will do better than the other guy’ –and there are still some hold outs for getting to bond over something on Monday, other than what the kids did over the weekend. This is so that you can lie your way into a league, so it’s still possible to trash talk your friends.
Google fantasy football, and the first two links will have large banners for where to click to join a league, or maybe there’s an office league to sign up for. There are plenty of sites that offer similar programs for tracking player stats, offering advice, and displaying highlights week to week, so it doesn’t matter which interface you decide to go with. Here’s the shortcut to ESPN. Once asked to sign up with a profile, choose the size of league you want to join and the type of scoring.
In fantasy, you’ll pick a group of well-known players from different teams to outscore someone else’s lineup each week. Certain people in the NFL get the ball way more than others, and should since it’s their high-paying job, so they ‘score’ more points through running yards and catching. The important positions to know are quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, and kicker. The defense of each team also counts as one position as is awarded points for turning the ball over and not letting their opposing team score too much. Specifics will follow.
The quarterback gains fantasy points by throwing hundreds of yards of passes that eventually turn into touchdowns in real life. Both the receiver and quarterback gain points for touchdowns. Running backs and receivers (including tight ends) get one point for every ten yards they have move the ball, and kickers get between one and five points for the length or type of kick made. Basically you want your players to be ballhogs.
Primarily there are two kinds of scoring, standard and PPR. PPR differs in that players can earn one point per catch they make, regardless if they go anywhere after catching the ball. This makes it so that certain players are not overlooked because they play a more supporting role in their offense instead of being the show off. In recent years many offenses have relied on passing plays to get their offense moving, making the running back position less valuable. PPR makes it so that running backs who can also catch get their fair share of points, while standard is more traditionalist—one of two truck-like men with cheetah hearts will outscore every other running back by 100 points by the end of the season. Choosing one or the other scoring option will change the format of the stats you’ll see for high scoring players.
This is the most looked forward to part of the season and arguably the most important. The interface will ask what type of draft will occur: ladder, snake, or auction. In ladder and snake, people will take turns choosing who they think will score the most points for their team over the course of the season. There are 16 rounds and each person has two minutes to choose a player or the autopick will do it for them. Ladder style goes from player 1 to player 10 and starts over, while snake goes 1 to 10, and switches from 10 descending to 1 so that the higher number players do not consistently miss out on better picks. This is the fairer option, especially if your league is randomized. In auction, everyone is given an imaginary salary cap of usually 200$ to buy the players on their team. A player is suggested each round, and people get to bid on how much they think that player is worth. Some running backs go for 60 dollars and a few rounds later will go for 15, people will try to goad rookies into overpaying, and the system gets frustrating if you don’t know the stats for every player that gets put up for auction. It is a blast once you understand fantasy football as a whole, but wait on it until things start to get stale.
Three strategies exist on who to pick when to ensure a well-balanced team; anything else is misguided and for shock value. Too understand each, you need to know what a lineup looks like.
Teams usually have 15 players on them, a starting line and a bench. The starters play each week and score points, the bench players are available if a starter gets hurt, has a real life bye week and doesn’t play, or has a particularly bad matchup and won’t score much that week.
A starting lineup looks like this, and scoring is on the right.
|QB- quarterback||1 point for every 25 yards thrown, 1 point for every 10 yards run, 4 points for a passing touchdown (TD), 6 for a run TD, -2 points for an interception or fumble|
|RB- running back
2nd running back
|1 point for every 10 yards run whether it was passed or handed off, 6 points for a TD, -2 points for an interception or fumble|
|WR- wide receiver
2nd wide receiver
|Same as RB|
|TE- tight end||Same as RB|
|F- flex player||Can be a RB or WR, same scoring|
|K- kicker||1 point for a point after touchdown (PAT), 3 points for a field goal, 5 for a field goal over 50 yards away.|
|D- defense||1 point for sacking the QB, 2 points for interceptions and fumbles, 6 points for a defensive TD, 10 points for allowing 0 from the other team, 7 points for 1-6, 4 for 7-13, and negative points if the other team scores more than 27.
The defense will start the game with 10 points and it will change from there.
|6 bench players|
Picking strategies and things to know
- Run heavy- take a RB the first two, or three, rounds of the draft in hopes you score one of the two elites. WR are still important and two starters are gotten before round 7, but a solid ‘core’ of RB will dominate since so few great ones are available.
- Pass heavy- similar to 1 but with WR instead of RB because again, there are a few players who will get at least five more touchdowns than everyone else at that position.
- Run overload- every other round take a RB, no matter what. Your roster will have 7 RB and you won’t draft a defense or kicker at all, but after two logistical nightmare weeks teams lacking in the run game will have to trade you one of their more valuable players in order to stay competitive.
The most underrated and most valuable positon on the team. No one can make the playoffs without a QB who is at least tier two. Drew Brees of the Saints has gone in the first round, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Tom Brady of the Patriots, Peyton Manning in his prime… A few QB are simply better than everyone else and prove it every week by putting on throwing clinics, racking up 500 pass yards and four touchdowns, totaling 36 points. One week Peyton scored 52 somehow. Depending on how valuable you think they’ll be when compared to more competitive positions, taking a QB early is risky. There are the top five, tier one, who are expected to break away like elite RB, but a tier two QB can be taken as late as round 9 or 10 long after you’ve filled your other starters. It’s a gamble that usually pays off to grab one of the greats between rounds 3 and 6, but there are some gems in the later rounds if you know who will get looked over—like Matt Stafford every year.
CircumstancesEvery now and then certain players are at the top of their game. Rob Gronkowski, the tight end for the New England Patriots, had some 60 more points than every other TE, a position that’s incredibly hard to excel at, pointwise. For two years he was projected as a top 10 player in the league and almost always was taken in the first round if not the second. His proneness to injury made that a huge risk to miss out on a great RB or WR so early, but that’s what makes fantasy football fun.
Rookies and later rounds
In the first 8 rounds you’ll want to fill out the starters for high scoring positions—everything but defense and kicker. If you didn’t get a TE or a QB yet that’s risky, but not unheard of. Rounds 9 through 13 are for those risky picks called sleepers. Sleepers are players who have been looked over in the past, but now have a new team, new quarterback, new offensive set up, or new schedule that might allow them to dominate. Every year, really struggling teams will pick up key position players from college with the expectation that they will play when ready to fill that role. Some rookies boom in their first few games, and some bust, dropping down on their real life roster to the bench. The table below will help a little in knowing what crumbs there will be left to scoop up. Despite what every draft program suggests, do not pick a kicker or defense until the last 3 rounds or face ridicule. Yes there are some very good ones, but not at the cost of a mid-round pick that could pay off big later on. Many people pick up a new defense every week depending on who is facing the worst team in the league that week.
The website or league manager will give you a draft time and all there is left to do is consider who you want to root for on your team. The next section will briefly go over the key positions of most of the teams in the league, but feel free to do your own research on who you think will carry you to victory.
QB– Mitchell Trubisky- rookie means big risk. Round 12 at best
RB– Jordan Howard- top 10 RB last year which should continue so get him early
WR– A. Robinson- after an amazing year as the Jaguars main WR he tore his ACL in week one last year and was traded. He should be good 4th round, but it’s a risk with an unproven QB
WR– T. Gabriel- Atlanta’s #3 WR last year, Gabriel looks prepped to step into a bigger role and could be a deep sleeper.
QB– Matt Stafford- always a top 10 QB
RB– L. Blount- a star in New England with 18 TDs, Blount failed to shine with the more pass oriented Eagles. He has less competition, but it looks like Detroit has a stable of average RB to share duties.
WR– Marvin Jones somehow beat out Golden Tate with 4 more TDs to become the #5 WR, but both are solid options in early rounds.
QB– Joe Flacco-despite having an impressive 9th season of 4000 passing yards, Flacco is too inconsistent to be a starter, especially with a RB committee that shares instead of scores
RB– no one has proven themselves yet
WR– M. Crabtree takes over for Wallace and Watson, Flacco’s favorite lackluster core last year, but instead does not have to compete with Cooper and Cook for targets. He’s a steal round 8 or 9
WR– W. Snead- New Orleans #3 also shows promise, but under the radar could go as high as 13
QB– Andy Dalton- never thrown below 3200 yards, but never over 4300. He fits comfortably in the top 20 but shouldn’t go before round 10
RB– Cincy does not have a running game right now; check the waiver wire soon
WR– A.J. Green- one of the league’s best, Green is a bright spot of the Bengals offense and #10 will go in the first 3 rounds if not 2
TE– T. Kroft rounds out the top 10 of TE and belongs on someone’s team, just not in the first 9 rounds.
|Green Bay Packers
QB– Aaron Rodgers- after a season ending shoulder injury in week 6 of last year, Rodgers is good to go and has something to prove. He might go under the radar until round 7
RB– J. Williams- after two other RB, the cheese settled on Williams to carry the second half of last season, but he only racked up 4 TDs. With Rodgers back he could see less pressure up the middle but he’ll still be around in round 5
WR– D. Adams finished 12th with a less-than pro bowl QB; he should be in the top 10 easily
WR– R. Cobb is a staple of Green Bay; he may be worth a look in the double digit rounds
TE– J. Graham, his third team in three years, Jimmy Graham wants more touches despite being the #4 TE last year. Rodgers passes more than Russell ever will. He will go early.
QB– Tyrod Taylor, unlike Cleveland’s previous 17 QBs, has more than a year of moderate success, and with an average supporting cast. Cleveland has spent this year’s salary on offense this year and Taylor might surprise some people with a win
RB– N. Chubb- rookie= big risk= bigger in Cleveland since he may have to split carries with D. Johnson
WR– J. Landry- four consistent seasons as Miami’s number one has led to a reverse LeBron James. Landry should do fine with a more talented QB, but will have to fight for the top spot with the ghost of Josh Gordon: he had one of the most impressive second year runs back in 2013, for Cleveland no less. 1600 receiving yards is unheard of. But a string of crimes and selfishness got Gordon suspended basically until now. Someone will get him in round 5 or 6 for the payoff but you don’t have to.
QB– Kirk Cousins- with the contract Washington couldn’t give him, Cousins will want to put on a display early to show he’s still top 10. People should sleep on him in early rounds
RB– D. Cook- a week 4 knee injury last year has healed up, but he’ll fight for the top RB slot with L. Murray who filled in last season under a QB who passes. Take him round 3
WR– S. Diggs would have gone top 10 if not for a groin injury that kept him sidelined for almost four weeks; under Cousins he’ll crush
WR– A. Thielen- solidly the Vike’s #2, Thielen should see another +1000 yard season and will go later than most people would think.
TE– K. Rudolph- top 10 for the last few years, Rudolph is one of the last consistent tight ends and should not be skipped past round 6.
QB– Ben Roethlisberger fits comfortably in the top 10 QB, and by all accounts cannot be brought down by injury for more than a few weeks. Once QB start to go, wait until everyone wastes a mid-round pick and hang onto a QB that’s only 40 points from second in the 11th round
RB– L. Bell- in the top 5 more often than he isn’t, Bell is unstoppable and is definitely going in the first round; he is worth the pick
WR– A. Brown is far and away the best receiver in the league and is another first round pick
WR– J. Smith-Schuster had an amazing first year, especially getting half of the targets given to Brown, but there’s a lot of hype about him this year and there shouldn’t be yet. Don’t be surprised if he’s taken in rounds 3 through 5, there are more reliable options who will consistently deliver.
QB– Dak Prescott- behind the best offensive line in the league, Dak blew people away in his rookie season and came within 300 yards of doing it again in his second. One of the most eager QB to run, expect some extra TD points
RB– E. Elliot- even more dazzle follows this third year Cowboy, being the #9 RB despite missing 6 games due to legal troubles last year. He will definitely go in the first round of every league
WR– A. Hurns- Jacksonville’s number 2 turned number one before an injury took the last few games, Hurns fills the big shoes of Dez Bryant who has still yet to find a home. Pick him up starting round 3, especially with Jason Witten’s targets needing to go somewhere.
QB– Ryan Tannehill- an ACL tear in 2016 and has taken the safe road to getting back. Middle of the road QB, he can be a good back up in late rounds
RB– K. Drake- after completely splitting carries with J. Ajayi, Drake has come out on top as the #1 RB. Since he’ll get the ball so much it would be a surprise if he was picked any later than the fourth
WR– D. Amendola has had no good seasons in 10 years. He’s had a few great singular games and been on great offenses but he’s injury prone and is never the number one, until now. This will be his chance to show that he can dress for 16 games and catch for an offense that loves to throw. He’s a deep sleeper along with K. Stills.
|New York Giants
QB– Eli Manning- it’s been a tough few years for the southpaw Manning, but he’s usually in the top 20. He’s is a great back up for matchups down the stretch
RB– S. Barkley- the most sought after rookie, Barkley is going in the first round in some drafts. Rookie RBs have not done well for the G-Men in previous years, but he may prove himself
WR– O. Beckam- another first rounder cut down by injury in week 5, OBJ should go in the first two rounds as the most talented, and relied on, member of the Giant’s offense
TE– E. Engram surprisingly clicked more than any of Eli’s other targets and earned him a four week streak of touchdowns, so he should stay the #2.
|New York Jets
QB– Teddy Bridgewater- two seasons in Minnesota looked promising before injury took him out in the first week last year. Now in New York, Bridgewater will look to change an offense that has unsuccessfully relied on the run in the past. He’s too big a risk to get before double digit rounds
RB– B. Powell lost 100 carries to M. Forte last year, and now he may lose 100 to Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell. Neither broke 1000 yards and are therefore liable to a RB committee. Don’t take either until one proves more than the other
WR– R. Anderson- along with J. Kearse are back for another year as 1 and 2. If Bridgewater fits well expect one of them to break 100 yards, but right now they can wait for a mid to late round.
QB– Carson Wentz- the #5 scoring QB went down in week 14, keeping him from the elusive 300 club. With his options, expect him as one of the first QB off the board
RB– J. Ajayi, also known as Jay Ajayi, failed to follow up his breakaway season as a Miami Dolphin. Behind Blount, Ajayi missed plenty of carries, so he should reclaim his former stats. Grab him before the fourth round
WR– A. Jeffery and N. Agholor- both finished in the top 25 receivers, so that’s nothing to overlook, but neither will be stars with the variety of targets Wentz has available
TE– Z. Ertz is the real highlight of the Eagles pass game. The 3rd highest TE overall and most yards per game of any Eagle, it would be a mistake to wait past round 5 for him.
|New England Patriots
QB– Tom Brady- should and will be one of the first QB off the board in round 4 or 5
RB– J. White made a name for himself during last year’s playoff run, but was relatively unknown behind the then healthy Dion Lewis. Belichick runs a RB committee, so White isn’t worth more than a third or fourth option on your roster
WR– J. Edelman missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, and starts the season with a four game suspension, AND only has two 1000 yard seasons, but with top target Brandin Cooks in LA, he’s an easy 8th round sleeper
TE– R. Gronkowski- still on top for tight ends with size and speed, the only thing stopping Gronk are the frequent injuries because he’s in on every play. Almost anyone would pick him up as early as round 3 if no one else looks appetizing at the time.
QB– Alex Smith- posting arguably his best season, Alex Smith from KC moves to DC to a cast of questionable targets. Almost 4500 yards last year, and with no one expecting much from the burgundy, he should be an easy 10th round sleeper.
RB– no one. Washington just signed the elderly Adrian Peterson to a one year deal in case their four other injury prone backs can’t go the distance like AP has. Pick a Washington RB in the late rounds as a league joke
WR– check the week two waiver wire.
QB– AJ McCarron- a professional back up, McCarron currently holds the spot for rookie Josh Allen. Pass
RB– L. McCoy was 7th overall last year and should go top 10 again, unless his untested QB cannot get the pass game going and defenses buckle down on him. He’ll go in the first two rounds but there is a risk
WR– K. Benjamin- last year’s Bills needed a star receiver to take on Taylor’s throws and Benjamin might not be it. Acquired in a trade halfway through last season, Benjamin’s production didn’t jump with so little time to get used to a different QB. He should go as a late round sleeper with primary target upside.
QB– Sam Bradford- this was Carson Palmer’s last season, and ARI looks to the previously injured and traded Vikings QB. He’s capable of +3500 yard years, but not without two strong WR; wait until the double digit rounds
RB– D. Johnson- a week one wrist injury ended the campaign of last year’s first pick overall for the rest of the season. Scoring an ungodly +330 in his sophomore year, Johnson is set to make a comeback and should go round 1 or 2
WR– L. Fitzgerald- for the ninth time in 14 seasons, Larry Fitzgerald had over 1000 yards. If he can outrun father time, he has no competition doing it again—try waiting until the 7th round to try and sneak out with him.
|Kansas City Chiefs
QB– Patrick Mahomes- a 2nd year with one game under his belt, Mahomes has a lot of pressure and a lot to work with, but he’s a rookie
RB– K. Hunt had a massive first year and head coach Andy Reid likes to run. He’s going in the first round
WR– T. Hill ended as the 4th WR and will go in the first two rounds, but the talented S. Watkins may also take some catches. After two great years in Buffalo, he’s struggled for the last two. He can be a deep sleeper option that gets dropped week 4
TE– T. Kelce- the #2 tight end overall with over 1000 yards- as soon as someone grabs Gronk pick him up. The limited options at TE means that he could go way earlier than expected.
|Los Angeles Rams
QB– Jared Goff- a surprisingly good tier 2 QB from LA, Goff racked up 3800 yards with no real receivers. He’ll be available in the higher rounds and shouldn’t be
RB– T. Gurley should be the first pick of the draft. The only RB to top 300 points, LA has the offense to do it all again. Take him first
WR– B. Cooks is doubtful to repeat the catches and yards he had in New England, but may be worth a late round pick in sheer volume.
QB– Case Keenum- one season in Minnesota was good enough to get him top 15 last year, and with these receivers he should do even better. He’s a light sleeper who should be available in the 9th
RB– D. Booker will step up to fill C.J Anderson’s 1000 yard shoes. He’ll get the majority of carries so getting him before the middle rounds is a good idea
WR– D. Thomas- last year was a 50 yard fluke from Thomas’ 5 year 1000 yard streak and this year can bury the last one with a more consistent QB. He’s worth it from round 3 onward.
|San Francisco 49ers
QB– Jimmy Garopolo?- he falls under the radar and is worth as much as a kicker.
RB– J. McKinnon is the second RB traded from the Vikings for being very inconsistent, yin-yanging between 5 and 20 points each week. He won’t have competition for carries, but he won’t go early
WR– M. Goodwin might get 1000 yards but for now he’s a deep sleeper.
|Los Angeles Chargers
QB– Philip Rivers- number 8 last year, he’s consistently underrated and usually top 10
RB– Melvin Gordon gets better each year, and breaking 1000 yards means first two round material
WR– K. Allen- finally healthy, Keenan Allen came away with 3rd and almost 1400 yards. He’ll go in the first two rounds as well but has to stay injury free
TE– H. Henry is a solid pick once the elites are taken.
QB– Russell Wilson- the perfect combination of pass and run, Wilson has found the sweet spot for points and nabbing him between round 4 and 6 is not a bad idea
RB– not worth looking into
WR– D. Baldwin almost broke 1000 last year, but Wilson spreads the ball around to his top 4. With Graham gone, Baldwin should get more looks so take him round 5 or 6.
QB– Derek Carr- incredibly consistent in four years, Carr doesn’t need to go before round 10 as a tier 3
RB– M. Lynch shook off the rust of retirement to reach the top 20 RB, but not what people were expecting, so Beastmode could be a 4th round steal
WR– J. Nelson- a four week injury kept A. Cooper from the top 25, but Green Bay’s long time #1 in now in Oakland so he should be the easy choice in round 5.
QB– Matt Ryan is the cornerstone of this high powered offense. 6th in yards, expect him to go middle rounds once QBs start to go
RB– D. Freeman makes up for runs with catches, #13 last year. He’s worth the 4th or 5th round pick, despite splitting with T. Coleman
WR– J. Jones- Julio has been top 10 for almost a decade—he’ll go before the 5th round.
QB– Deshaun Watson- now that Tom Savage is gone Watson is the starter, but hasn’t proven himself enough to be picked in the draft
RB– L. Miller had an off year and still ended up #14. Thanks to his offense, he’ll go round 2 or 3 easily
WR– D. Hopkins got more options than anyone else and because of this was first. Get him in round one.
QB– Cam Newton- it’s hard to argue with production, and although Cam doesn’t pass too many touchdowns, he certainly runs the rest himself. As #2 last year, he’ll be one of the first to go once people get QB happy.
RB– C. McCaffrey is the stand-alone RB, with more receiving yards than running, Cam has the run game locked up. He’s top 15 material, but goes in rounds 3 to 5. What’s surprising is the silence around Denver’s 1000 yard runner C. J Anderson coming to Carolina and not moving up the depth chart. He’s a huge sleeper for now but could prove valuable.
QB– Andrew Luck- somehow Luck missed every game last year to the frustration of everyone, so this previously elite QB is on no one’s radar
RB– M. Mack was the backup to Frank Gore, who’s now in Miami. In sheer volume he should break 1000, but only worth a mid-round pick for the risk
WR– T.Y Hilton- a less talented QB than usual meant barely breaking the top 25, but Hilton has been top 10 in recent years. He’s a light, round 7 sleeper
TE– J. Doyle- the colts pass; it’s what they do. With so many opportunities, Jack Doyle is a solid TE option in the top 10 last year- get him round 10.
|New Orleans Saints
QB– Drew Brees- always top 10, he’s never thrown fewer than 4,000 yards in a decade. The only concern is his getting along in years—his 18th season—but the 6th round isn’t bad
RB– A. Kamara had an impressive balance of 800 receiving yards and 1100 rushing. He will definitely go in the first round
RB– M. Ingram- with Brees’ offense Mark Ingram was ALSO top 5 with Kamara and is the ultimate handcuff in round 2
WR– M. Thomas rounds out the Saints’ offense, #8 WR overall, 2nd round.
QB– Blake Bortles- he may have slipped from the impressive sophomore year he’s remembered for, but Bortles is a top 15 QB that can go in later rounds and still remain consistent each week
RB– L. Fournette was the breakout rookie from last year and there’s no reason why he can’t be top 10 again. See him go in the second round
WR– M. Lee- Donte Moncrief was brought in from Indy to add star potential, but his stats have not produced in the past 3 years. He’s a deep sleeper
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB– Jameis Winston faces a 3 game suspension to begin the year, and missed the top 20 due to a 3 week injury in the middle of last season. He is consistent, and could be a round 13 backup QB without anyone noticing
WR– M. Evans cracked the 1000 yards club but is otherwise a middle of the draft receiver
TE– C. Brate is worth grabbing if everyone else starts getting the top five tight ends, can wait for later rounds if you’re not worried.
QB– Marcua Mariota- consistent through three seasons, he’s a great tier 3 QB for a later round
RB– D. Henry had to compete with the truck that was DeMarco Murray, and now will with Dion Lewis. He’s worth picking no earlier than 5th
WR– R. Matthews should be the undisputed #1 receiver, but doesn’t have mid-round potential yet
TE– D. Walker- over 800 yards each of the past four years with Mariota, Walker is a respectable top 10 TE to get before the 10th round to secure points.
If you’ve made it this far you really don’t know what you’re doing and will need this. Between the draft and the first week you’ll be able to make trades and set your lineup of starters. Check for defensive matchups so your WR aren’t screwed by Seattle, and make sure none of your starters are injured. Once a game with your player has started, you cannot move them on your lineup, so be aware of league news on Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. On Monday you’ll be able to check stats to see who did well and who got hurt—please check out the waiver wire to pick up players who no one saw doing well. Losing teams will have priority to pick up players on Wednesday morning, and you’ll set a new lineup each week with primarily the same starters as long as they’re doing well. Watch out for bye weeks, and have fun making mistakes that all of us have.