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Fantasy football draft strategy cheat sheet for 2017

In fantasy football, playing in a "standard" league is like a guy buying khakis from the Gap. It's like the girl who has the picture board with those three square frames and the word "LOVE" emblazoned in cursive on it.

It's basic.

PPR, 2QB, FAAB, IDP ... it might look like alphabet soup to you right now but let me expand your mind a little bit. Each of these is short-form for a various style of fantasy league, all of which I'll detail below with an overview of what's different, some strategy tips, and a breakdown of who benefits/suffers from the rule changes.

The biggest point to remember for all of these league types is that different rules = different value for different players.

For instance, typical average draft position data is not geared towards you if you're playing for the first time in a 16-team half-point PPR auction dynasty draft.

So if you want to add some flavor to your league this year beyond the Pumpkin Spice latte better known as standard scoring, here's a quick overview of the various league formats and how to adjust player values accordingly.

PPR Leagues


PPR stands for "points per reception." It's pretty simple and pretty common, so much so one major fantasy site has made this the "standard" scoring system.

Newcomers to this format might assume wide receivers become vastly superior to running backs but more seasoned players know the trick is actually finding pass-catching running backs.

PPR doesn't vastly change RB scarcity and because the supply is still pretty low (albeit better than in standard) the demand, i.e. draft price, is still high.


Beyond looking at total yards and touchdowns, you've got to look at which backs get a lot of passing work as well.

For example, in standard, Leonard Fournette and Marshawn Lynch will typically go in the top 20-30 picks. But in PPR, the smart move is to take these guys a full round or more later. In a recent industry PPR mock draft we did, L4 came off the board at 32 while Beast came off at 52 overall.

Why? Well because both burly backs aren't expected to see a lot of passing work. A projection of around 30 receptions sounds about right for both.

Meanwhile in the same mock, Joe Mixon (22) and Ty Montgomery (30) went much earlier than you would see in standard leagues because both could see 50ish receptions this year. That 20 reception differential is equivalent to 200 yards in full-point PPR leagues. Not only is that a significant boost from a season-long perspective, the receptions also provide a much safer weekly floor, insulating you from low yardage and poor game scripts.

Who Benefits/Suffers:

At the top of the draft, Dez Bryant is a guy that takes a bit of a hit. His otherworldly ability in the red zone is still extremely attractive but his value is slightly muted due to the fact that he's never been a volume receiver. Bryant has yet to record a 100-catch season and given the run-heavy approach in Dallas, it's hard to see that changing.

The same goes for guys like Brandin Cooks and Donte Moncrief. Both see their high touchdown upside countered by relatively low usage rates.

Conversely, players like Willie Snead, Adam Thielen, and Jamison Crowder are names that don't get much love in standard but see a big boost in PPR.

From the running back position, Latavius Murray becomes almost undraftable. Even if he is a goal line hammer, you won't see him anywhere near the field on passing downs and if the tea leaves are correct, Dalvin Cook is looking like the starter anyways.

On the flip side, once you get into the later rounds, guys like Darren Sproles, Chris Thompson, Theo Riddick and Danny Woodhead should start looking awfully attractive due to their exceptional receiving skills. Woodhead, in particular, is one of my favorite sleepers in PPR. Given all the uncertainty in Baltimore's offense, Woodhead could carve out a significant role as both a running back and a receiver.

Keeper Leagues


Keeper leagues vary wildly, I won't go through all the variations because there are practically limitless iterations, but the basic premise is you get to keep a certain number of players from your previous year's roster. If you get to keep everyone, hooray, you're in a dynasty league, aka a league that will dissolve in two years after 4,987 emails go back and forth on what happens after a manager drops out ... Not bitter at all. Nope. Let's move on.


Youth, youth, youth.

If you're starting up your keeper league this year, guys like Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook will likely go earlier than in standard drafts because of the potential of getting high-level RB production for the next five to eight years.

But because managers will heavily skew towards younger players, it creates utter chaos come draft time as managers will be constantly balancing between winning now versus winning in the future.

LeSean McCoy is a perfect example of a guy that keeper-league managers will be torn on. He's projected to get a heavy workload this year and if he stays healthy will almost assuredly be a top-10 RB in 2017. But at 29 years old and given that his effectiveness is predicated on quickness, keeper-league gurus will shy away with the idea that his game could age poorly.

That being said, how long do you let him fall knowing he could legitimately win you a fake-game title this year? After pick 20, that decision-making process will be agonizingly tough.

And the crazy fun part is that this will happen with a number of vets all throughout your draft.

Overall, the strategy here is to take younger prospects much, much higher than you normally would in redraft leagues.

Also, unless it's Aaron Rodgers, don't ever, ever, ever keep a quarterback as one of your top three keepers. Replacement-level quarterback play can be found easily and most managers will throw their QBs back into the pool anyway.

Who Benefits/Suffers:

What was said about McCoy above goes double for DeMarco Murray who is also 29 years old but has a monster waiting in the wings in Derrick Henry. I would not be shocked at all to see Henry go ahead of Murray in some drafts of this format, which would be insane in redraft leagues.

The Tennessee example is the most extreme but generally speaking, young running back handcuffs will see a massive boost in value. Kareem Hunt in Kansas City and D'Onta Foreman in Houston are the most obvious guys but Joe Williams in San Francisco and Jalen Richard in Oakland are two of my favorite deep sleepers in this format.

Auction Leagues


Come draft day you have a budget (usually $200 bucks) and you bid on players as opposed to your typical snake draft.

Drafts of this nature usually take much, much, MUCH longer. A 12-team auction draft is going to take you at least three hours at a minimum but four hours is not out of the question at all.

Despite the heavy time commitment on draft day, in my mind, auctions are BY FAR the most intense and the most fun way to draft. I can't recommend it enough.


The whole process starts with a manager nominating a player to bid on. The nomination order is set randomly and when you're up, you pick the player and everyone bids on him.

Now you might think, it doesn't matter who gets nominated when, but listen, there absolutely is an art to nominations.

For example, you might be of the mind that you're not going spend big money on quarterbacks. Well when you are up for your first turn, nominate Aaron Rodgers for bidding. Managers still flush with cash could go crazy bidding up Rodgers while you sit back and watch some poor schmuck drop a 50-spot trying to garner the quarterback's services.

With that in mind, it's wise to wait as long as possible to nominate your own favorite sleepers but nominate high-profile sleepers you're not high on as early as possible.

Martellus Bennett is a great example of a guy that is a high-profile sleeper that some love and others will shy away from. If you are in the latter camp like my guy Matt Franciscovich (read why here) then nominate Bennett early. It's a great way to get managers spending more earlier.

Again, for first timers, you want a lot of $20-$40 dollar guys on your roster and as a rule of thumb, go in with the mindset that you'll spend $5 at most on a quarterback. You'll be shocked at how little they go for late your draft.

Two-QB Leagues


Fantasy quarterbacks are largely interchangeable later in your draft (it's dumb but true). To create more scarcity and drive draft prices up on football's most important position, some have decided to play in leagues where you can start two quarterbacks as opposed to one.

(Note: I personally detest this format. So I designed a simple scoring system for one-quarterback leagues that creates more disparity between good/bad QBs and more accurately reflects a quarterback's fantasy value. You can read about it here.)


Depending on how many teams there are, quarterbacks will move up dramatically in drafts. In 16-team, two-QB leagues, a case could absolutely be made for Aaron Rodgers to be taken first overall.

That being said, in most two-QB setups, waiting on quarterbacks is still a good strategy. Addressing the position in the eighth or ninth round and taking two signal callers back-to-back is not a bad way to go.

As a rule of thumb, I would draft pretty much as I would in a normal one-quarterback league, except I would give all quarterbacks a three-round bonus. So for example, if you would normally take a Tyrod Taylor in the 11th round, grab him in the eighth. As always, if people start over-reaching for quarterbacks, don't panic, just let it play out. It means you'll be getting great value for the positional players you take.

That being said, it's no fun to roll out Brian Hoyer and Tom Savage as your top guys, so be on alert once the top 12 signal callers come off the board. At that point be sure to take one or two of your favorite quarterbacks that remain.

Who Benefits/Suffers:

Quarterbacks benefit, obviously, but again, unless it's Rodgers the smart play is to wait until the middle/late rounds before addressing quarterback. And while it's always a good idea to read the board during your draft, in two-QB it's essential because drafts can be highly predictable. If you're sitting there in Round 9 and the team behind you has one quarterback and the list of signal callers is drying up, you can pretty much assume the guy you want won't come back to you.

Super Deep Leagues


If you're the guy who is sitting in the 14th round of your 10-teamer and thinking, "Man, I can't believe how many good players are still left!" try a 14- or 16-team league on for size.

Or maybe you're like me and don't have any more friends you want to play with but still, want to make your current 12-team league more challenging. All you have to do is add an extra receiver spot, an extra flex spot, and three more bench spots. Boom. Super deep league. Let's go.


In mega deep leagues, depth is huge because talent on the waiver wire can be extremely thin. As opposed to shallow leagues, injuries in deeper leagues hurt more and you want to insulate yourself as much as possible. Handcuffs have more value in this format and you come to truly appreciate those players who aren't necessarily game breakers but give you solid weekly production.

Regarding quarterbacks, as it was with two-QB leagues, I would still continue to wait on the position. The differential between the QB6 and the QB16 is a lot less than you would think.

And given that the top 20 running backs will fly off the board, it's essential you load up on running backs and wide receivers early. I'd rather take Dak Prescott later in my draft with two solid running backs than take Rodgers, with only one reliable back to start my draft.

Who Benefits/Suffers:

Beyond your traditional running back handcuffs, players who are afterthoughts in shallow leagues, guys like Zay Jones and Dwayne Allen, have a place in super deep leagues as injury insurance to Sammy Watkins and Rob Gronkowski.

If you want to see how we drafted in a 14-team PPR league click here.

FAAB Leagues


FAAB stands for free agent acquisition budget. Basically, once the season starts and waivers open up, instead of having your usual rotating waiver priority, you bid on players.

For example, let's say LeSean McCoy gets hurt. Jonathan Williams, all of a sudden, becomes a huge fantasy asset. If he is on the waiver wire, every team will put in their bid and the highest bidder would acquire his services.

This version allows every player in the league a shot at every player on the waiver wire, as long as they're willing to drop the necessary coin.


Don't go crazy on bids early in the year. In the above scenario, if the injury to Shady happened in Week 1, there's probably going to be some insane manager in your league who will bid $75 or more. IF Williams is crazy legit and IF McCoy is hurt for a long time, this move will work out. But more often than not, it's a temporary fix and you're left scrambling the rest of the year.

Just remember, be aggressive but not to the point where it's almost impossible to recover if you're wrong. It's a long season, there will be a lot of injuries and lots of defensive matchups you'll want to work around. Blowing your entire budget on one player is generally a bad idea.

IDP Leagues


An acronym for Individual Defensive Player, in addition to offensive players, you select defensive players to accumulate points for things like tackles, sacks, and interceptions.


Find new friends and join another league. IDP leagues are trash.


You know, the great thing about being a writer for the interwebzzzz is that you can drop 2,500 words into a column for the sole purpose of culminating in a terrible "IDP leagues are trash" joke to rickroll people.

So ... see ya!

*James D. Koh is an anchor and host for NFL Network. He is also a host of the NFL Fantasy Live Podcast and a guest columnist for the NFL fantasy football editorial staff. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh to tell him how much of an idiot he is for posting this column. *

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