Jacob Siciliano, Online Editor-in-Chief

With July officially over, that means one of my favorite seasons is about to kick off. No I’m not talking about the fall, I’m talking about the season of fantasy football. The season where 40 million people come together to play a game within a game, with every one of those 40 million people chasing one thing: a league championship. That long road to a championship begins with one fateful day….. Draft day. 

If you mess up your draft it’s going to be a long fantasy season, so it’s vital that you ace your draft. Whether it’s your first time playing fantasy football or you consider yourself a seasoned veteran it’s always best to refresh on draft tips and strategies so you can rock your draft. Here are a few of my own tips on how to come away a champion.

#1- Wait on a Quarterback

If you were to look back at the last 3 seasons at the quarterback position, you would find that only one quarterback,Desaun Watson, has finished in the top five quarterbacks in two consecutive seasons. There has been a different QB1 every year since 2015, and only Drew Brees has finished as the QB1 in two consecutive seasons,2012 and 2013, within the last decade. This means that the quarterback position is not always reliant. 

Even Patrick Mahomes failed to finish within the top five last year due to an injury and he was being taken in the third round, 30th overall.The best solution is to wait on a quarterback to minimise risk and maximize upside. Because if you miss on the pick you lose nothing and can get a QB off the waiver wire, but if you hit you could be getting a league winning QB.  A perfect example of this is Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson from last year. They were going in the back end of drafts with ADP’s of 127.2, Prescott, and 133, Jackson. They finished as the QB1 and QB2 at the end of the year. Patrick Mahomes who was taken in the third round finished as the QB6, which shows nothing is a guarantee at the position. 

Streaming quarterbacks off the waiver wire is also not a bad strategy. The top 10 quarterbacks usually only put up QB1 numbers around 50% of the time. So if you can choose a streamer correctly 50% of the time you technically have a QB1. That allows you to strengthen other positions as well. This year Mahomes and Jackson have some serious upside and definitely warrant a third round pick however; due to the nature of the position, players possibly missing time due to COVID-19, and their High ADPs, I am going to wait and grab a player like Carson Wentz or Matt Ryan in the later rounds (8-11).

#2 Draft Running Backs Early and Often

When it comes to real football the quarterback is the most important position on the field, However: in fantasy football running backs are king. Having solid running backs is vital to having a good season. This is just purely based on volume and the fact that running backs score more points than wide receivers. If we look at total points scored, excluding Christian Mcaffrey and Michael Thomas who each had historic seasons in 2019, six running backs finished ahead of the Number 2 receiver, Chris Godwin

Running backs are more consistent on a week to week basis because of their guaranteed work load on the ground. The top five running backs last year, McCaffrey, Jones, Henry, Elliott, Cook, all posted RB1 numbers above 50% of the time. Three of those running backs, Mcaffrey, Cook, Elliott, posted RB2 numbers above 90% of the time. Now if you took the top 5 wide receivers only one, Michael Thomas, posted a WR1 percentage above 50%. Every other wide receiver had a WR1 percentage below 36%. That means that you are only getting WR1 numbers a third of the time, out of five best wide receivers in the league. Running backs also score more touchdowns.

If you took and added the total touchdowns of the top 24 running backs and wide receivers in 2019 you would find that the top 24 running backs scored 234 total touchdowns while the wide receivers scored 156 touchdowns. That’s a difference of 78 touchdowns and 468 fantasy points. Because of this stability, running backs often go much earlier in drafts. Most starters are gone by the fifth or sixth round, while you can find starting wide receivers throughout your draft. Running back committees are becoming ever more prevalent in football and workhorse backs are becoming increasingly rare. Because of this it is important to stock up on running backs early and often. Obviously you’re not going to take Chris Carson over Michael Thomas just because he’s a running back, but I usually like to have two out of my first three picks be running backs.

#3- Draft a High upside Bench  

Like I mentioned earlier when you play fantasy football your goal is to win it all. You are not going to win with a roster full of high floor low ceiling players like James White. A high floor low ceiling player is a player that you know won’t dip below a certain number of points due to their workload, but lacks high scoring league winning upside. James White will always consistently score points because of the receptions he gets, but he will never single handley win you a week or a league.

The reason that you win it all is because you drafted 2020’s version of James Conner or Kareem Hunt. You want Players that have an extremely high ceiling if they get an opportunity to play in those later rounds. Levon Bells’ holdout brought on the emergence of Conner in 2018 and an Injury to Spencer Ware left managers with an RB1 with Hunt in 2017.  Conner was going in the 14th round and ended the year as the running back six, leading teams to a championship.  Similar story with Hunt he was going 90th overall before Spencer Ware went down and finished as the fourth running back in PPR and the third running back in standard formats. 

Taking these types of players is how you win your league. These types of players are usually referred to as handcuffs and are the direct backup to an elite running-back. There only is a 5-10% chance that you hit on these types of picks, but if you hit you could have a league winning player that you drafted in the 12th round. If you miss on the pick you can always drop him for someone on the waiver wire. Especially with Covid-19 this season i’m going to be buying myself quite a few lottery tickets. Make sure to check out my other article on how Covid-19 impacts the 2020 season.             

# 4- Practice, Practice, Practice 

You wouldn’t go into a final without studying, so why would you go into your draft unprepared. Draft day is the single most important day of the year for fantasy and will dictate the rest of your fantasy season. There is nothing worse than staring at two players not knowing who to take with the clock winding down. Do your research and never draft off of last year’s stats. We are drafting for 2020 not 2019.

 I recommend listening to multiple fantasy analysts so that you can form your own opinions on players, ESPN and Fantasy Pros are great places to start. Mock drafting is also crucial to success on draft day, because it allows you to practice your perfect draft. If you mess up in a mock draft it doesn’t matter because it’s not a real draft. It also allows you to see what your team looks like from different draft slots. Make sure to change which spot you draft in each time so you are prepared to draft from any spot. ESPN and NFL fantasy both have great mock draft lobbies. I know practice makes perfect is a cliche but it really is true when it comes to fantasy. If you do your research and Practice in mock drafts you already have an edge over your opponents.

#5- Don’t worry about byes

Byes are annoying, they take out your star player and can flat out ruin your week. We have to live with byes, but when it comes to drafting completely ignore them. You should always take the player that you believe gives you the best chance to win. You may lose a week because you had two or three players out in a week but in the long term if those players help you win a championship it’s completely worth it. In short never don’t draft a player because he has the same bye as another player on your team. 

#6- Don’t take a defense or a kicker until your last two picks

The kicker and defense position is so unbelievably unpredictable that it makes no sense to take a defense early. In 2017, the Jaguars finished as the number one defense, but finished as the number 14 defense in 2018. In 2018 the Bears had the number one defense in the league but finished as 17th in the position the following year.  In 2018 Ka’imi Fairbairn was the number one kicker in the league, but finished as the 18th kicker in 2019. Starting to see a pattern? 

For defenses look for a team with a solid defence with an easy schedule for the first three-five games. My personal favorites are the Chargers and the Eagles who both have a great schedule to start the year. Kickers are a bit more predictable, Justin Tucker and Will Lutz are going to finish in the top five almost every year, and the rest of the position changes. When choosing a kicker look for a team with a good offense and you will be fine. Most likely by week five you will be streaming both kickers and defenses, so make sure to not make too heavy of an investment.  

#7- Don’t always follow ADP

You don’t always need to take the guy at the top of the draft board. Just because he is at the top of the board doesn’t mean he is the best player available. If you really like a player and don’t think you can get him with your next pick make sure to reach for him just because ADP doesn’t agree with your pick doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

 Look at Chris Godwin last year, he finished as the WR2 and was drafted in the 4th round. If you loved Chris Godwin but waited too long, you will be kicking yourself all year long for not drafting him sooner. Make sure to take your guys.

# 8- Know your league’s rules and scoring format

This is probably the most important tip in the draft, because everything revolves around your leagues format. If you are in a ppr —point per reception—¸ league you want to take players with high reception numbers, or in a standard league you want to draft more running backs, because running backs don’t depend on receptions for points like wide receivers do. 

Not only should you look at your league’s scoring format, but also the roster spots. If you play in a two quarterback or superflex league then the value of quarterbacks has gone way up. If you play in a tight end premium league, where tight ends get one and a half points per reception, then obviously tight ends are more valuable. There are hundreds of formats out there, even vampire leagues where one team makes his roster completely off the waiver wire and gets to take a player from the other team if he beats them. Click here for five crazy fantasy formats you need to try. Just make sure you know your rules and format, it will make your draft go much smoother

If you can keep these tips in your head on draft day you are well on your way to a successful fantasy season. Just remember to mock draft as much as you can and enjoy the season of fantasy football because it will be gone before you know it.