Every year, I try to concoct an elaborate plan for my fantasy drafts that resembles the fever dreams of a conspiracy theorist. There are equations, flow charts, "if-then" clauses, etc. etc. But once the draft starts unfolding, I fall into the same rhythm of taking the best player available while reaching for guys I believe in. And so far, it's worked pretty damn well. However, if all goes according to my hair-brained plans, here's the general draft strategy I will be following for 2015:
» 1) Get an elite RB early
» 2) Draft the best player available
» 3) Reach for guys I believe in
1) Get an elite RB early. By elite, I mean ELITE. Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster. Once he is in the bag, there's no need to reach on another RB right away, as the parity at the back half of the position will again win out, meaning you can find value in the middle and late rounds. I built the table below to help explain this more visually, so take a look:
2012-2014 RB Scoring Finishes
Some notes to glean from this list:
» LeSean McCoy and Le'Veon Bell are the only "elite" worthy backs without two top-10 appearances
» Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch are the only backs to finish in the top 10 in each of the last three years
» Alfred Morris and Frank Gore might be the safest RB2s, but with the lowest ceilings
» 10 rushers in last year's top 25 were newbies (full chart here)
Taking this all into consideration, my point is that other than those elite guys I listed above, there is little guaranteed at the RB position. This is why I'm going to hope to get one of the top guys and hedge my bets by drafting a wealth of second-tier options later on with upside, like the incoming rookie class, Carlos Hyde, or Jonathan Stewart.
2) Draft the best player available. Many people will seek to fill out their roster before drafting depth, but this is pure lunacy. Unless taking the best player available would result in you stockpiling kickers or quarterbacks, there's no reason to avoid drafting someone because you are stacked at said position. Load up, son! I've taken three or four straight running backs or wide receivers in the past, knowing I'll eventually be able to package one and flip him for a position of need during the season or injuries will make this investment worthwhile. Also, having a wealth of talent at one position is why there's a FLEX position, after all. It gives your roster "flexibility."
3) Reach for the guys you believe in. If you have your eyes set on a player who -- based on your research/hunch/divine intervention -- is primed for a breakout year, for the love of the fantasy gods just take him. Even if it is a round or two early. I was ridiculed in my League of Record last year for taking Jeremy Hill WAYYYY early than he was projected. The guy who drafted Giovani Bernard (who also happened to be my father) laughed and derided me for reaching to select his runner's backup. As I'm sure you have all guessed, I laughed all the way to the fantasy bank as Hill steam-rolled opposing defenses while Bernard steam-rolled imaginary bugs on the stationary bike. My point is, if you're going to invest the time and resources into actually studying before your fantasy draft (and not just wing it with a cheat sheet and a prayer), do yourself a favor and take the guys you believe in. I really adhered to this strategy last year, and in leagues where I reached on Hill, DeAndre Hopkins and Mark Ingram I was richly rewarded. Granted, not every prediction will pan out (I'm looking at you, Geno Smith). But the fact of the matter remains that you'll have more fun over the course of the season (and especially when you're winning) if you're cheering for your boys every Sunday, instead of regretting waiting a round and letting some chump swoop in and steal them.
All right, that about sums up my plan for 2015. Another good rule of thumb is to just be flexible. Let the draft board fall as it may, and constantly be thinking a round or two ahead. And most importantly, remember to have fun.
Until next time.
Alex Gelhar is a fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, who advises you to take time to prepare for fantasy drafts and also watch "Hannibal" on NBC, which is one of the best shows currently on TV. No, that wasn't hyperbole either. Just trust him and go watch it already.