Fantasy Football Draft Preview

What to know before you head into this year’s draft

Graphic by Kelly Campbell.

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Well folks, the summer’s almost over and it’s almost time to go back to school. I’m talking about fantasy football school. This is an uncredited fall session course and I’m the professor, “The Fantasy Prof.” Over the next five months, we will be studying what it takes to build a team and achieve the ultimate glory: a fantasy football championship.

I call myself “The Fantasy Prof” because I’m a commissioner and I have a few fantasy championships under my belt. I’ve been playing fantasy football for a long time. How long? We were a young bunch of U of M students and the internet was just getting popular. We did everything by paper and mailed out the results. Thinking on it now, I can’t believe that happened.

What I offer with this column is a mentor, perhaps a guide through the long and winding road of a fantasy season. Hopefully, we can avoid a few Winnipeg potholes along the way. A prof can be also a friend, a confidante, maybe even a shoulder to cry on – especially after your opponent’s bye week fill-in blows up in a match you were supposed to win.

We know you have other fantasy sites to visit. But I’m offering a little local perspective, astute fantasy advice, and maybe a few laughs along the way.

In my opinion, here are some keys to getting back into the fantasy groove and starting the season on the right note.

Know where all the free agents have gone

This is basic. For example, you need to know Adrian Peterson now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Brandin Cooks is with the Patriots, and so on. Not only do you have to figure out where people are – and avoid getting chided when you select Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery–psst, he plays for the Eagles – but figure out how they will be used. Will Cooks get lost in the Patriots’ juggernaut offense? Too many mouths to feed? These are all things you need to consider.

Training camp battles and preseason

This is where social media is your friend. And maybe try watching a few games. For example, is Joe chaxon actually beating out Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill?  Is the rookie living up to the hype? If you’re drafting Mixon in round three or four then you need to know this stuff. Watch the training camp battles. Watch the games. Figure out the depth charts. This knowledge will help you when it’s draft time.

Injuries and suspensions

Watch for these both in training camp and pre-season. Who just tore an Achilles? Who’s recovering from a concussion? Who is nursing a bad hammy? How’s Julio Jones’ toe? This drove me crazy last year. Watch the injuries. You need to know Quincy Enunwa is out for the year. But if you pinned your fantasy hopes on a Jets WR, then there’s probably no help for you anyway.

And what to do about Ezekiel Elliot? Possibly suspended for half the fantasy season. He’s a pass now in the first round. But how bad do you want Elliot? If you’re bold, do you take him in the second or third? This forces you to be savvy for the rest of the draft.

The draft

You can’t just walk into an exam without studying and say, “hey, I got this.” Like any good student, you need to be prepared. You’ve kept track of training camps, position battles and injuries. Now you have your rankings. Maybe a bit of a strategy, but know your league, know your rules.

Have a strategy

Don’t be afraid to diverge. Be flexible. What if you’re a two-running-backs-in-the-first-two-rounds kind of person and Odell Beckham Jr. is staring you in the face at the number five or six spot? Well, sorry Melvin Gordon, you’re not on my team this year. Must take Beckham in my humble, professorial opinion.

Don’t be afraid to go off the board

I do my research, and if there’s a guy I really want I often jump two rounds or more to get him. If people laugh at me, I don’t care. I will be laughing at them when I hoist the fantasy trophy. If you’re curious about average draft position and what round players are going, I highly recommend checking out www.fantasycaluclator.com. The lesson here: you have to live with most of these players for the next four months. Like a dorm roommate. Make sure you can get along, target the players you want, and go after them.

Don’t be afraid to throw darts

Injuries always happen. In the middle or later rounds, take a chance on a backup or an RB stuck in a committee situation. Say a first-string RB gets hurt and I have the backup. Well, well, look what I have, an automatic RB1. Throw a couple darts, you might hit a bullseye.

Take kickers and defence last

This has been said before and often. So I will say it again: take kickers and defense last.

The draft is just the beginning of the journey

It’s a foundation, yes. But so much relies on in-season management, like trades and free agent pickups. That’s where the fun lies. If you feel bad about your draft, don’t be discouraged. Remember, it’s only the beginning. To give a nod to my colleagues in the Faculty of Science:  your fantasy team is organic. It’s a living, breathing thing. It changes. And when you lose your WR1 to a torn ACL, it changes a lot. Roll with the changes, embrace them.

Remember: preparation, strategy, roll with the changes. Yes, you’re trying to win a championship. But if fantasy football is going to dominate your life, you might as well take it somewhat seriously. But if you take it too seriously then your friends start to stage interventions, your GPA will take a hit, and your significant other might break up with you.

Fantasy football, in the end, should be fun. It’s about finding balance. You have school, food, family, love, and friendship. If you leave a bit of room for fantasy football, how much better can life get?

The Fantasy Prof’s office hours are 24/7, for any fantasy related questions, he can be reached at thefantasyprof@gmail.com.