The Colonel's secret recipe. The contents of Marsellus Wallace's briefcase in "Pulp Fiction." Tony Soprano's fate when the screen went black.
These are all mysteries, enigmas ... secrets. We want the answers, but we aren't likely to ever know the real truth. Well my friends, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that has helped me win more than my share of fantasy football championships. It's my recipe of 11 herbs and spices. It's Marsellus Wallace's soul, or Tony Soprano's death. (I'm speculating on the last two, of course). Yes, I'm giving out my round-by-round strategy on building an elite fantasy team in your draft.
It's not rocket science or Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It's a simple and effective blueprint for finishing your fantasy draft with a smile, knowing that you just put together a team that will put you in contention for a championship. If you follow this plan and make smart waiver-wire pickups and trades in-season, I can guarantee a successful 2014 campaign.
Draft a running back: If you have one of the first six overall picks in a 10-team league, you should be drafting a running back. That's the bottom line. The supply of featured running backs does not meet the demand of a fantasy football lineup, so you could be in dire straits if you pass on the position. The exception to this rule is for owners with the No. 7-10 overall pick, at which point Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are options. In that case, you can land the best wideout or tight end and still get a solid running back at the top of Round 2.
Draft a wide receiver: Unless you drafted Megatron in the first round, you should be going after a wide receiver in Round 2. That means you're going to get one of the top 10-12 running backs in fantasy land, as well as a top-10 wide receiver. In a recent expert's mock draft, I landed Eddie Lacy in Round 1 and came back around the grab Dez Bryant in Round 2. That's quite a solid foundation to build your fantasy lineup around. Remember, your main focus here is to draft the most balanced team possible with no glaring holes.
Draft a running back or wide receiver: You should be focusing solely on the runners and receivers in the next two rounds, choosing the best player available at both positions. For example, in the expert's league draft I mentioned earlier, I had the choice to draft either Reggie Bush or Alshon Jeffery. Being that this was a PPR mock and there were still a bunch of good wide receivers left on the board, I went with Bush because of his immense skills as a pass catcher in Detroit along with the fact that the running back position was starting to thin out.
Draft a running back or wide receiver: Same drill in this round as in the previous one. If you took a runner in Round 3, then you should get a wide receiver here. If you went with a wideout in the previous round, then it's time to go after a running back. My fourth-round selection in our PPR mock was Andre Johnson, who is a virtual lock to catch 90-plus passes in 2014. To recap, I have now drafted two running backs who finished ninth or better in PPR formats last season along with two receivers who ranked no worse than 10th at the position in 2013.
Draft a running back, wide receiver or elite tight end: This is the round where you should look at what tight ends are still on the board. Graham is going to be long gone, but there's a chance that either Rob Gronkowski or Julius Thomas will be available. If that's the case, pounce on one of them now and pass on a runner or wideout. If Graham, Gronk and Thomas are gone, however, you should continue to build on your running back and wide receiver depth. Deciding on which position to draft will be based on the best player available between the two.
Draft a running back or wide receiver: Again, this all about building depth at these two positions. You are also allowing yourself to minimize some of the risk with players such as C.J. Spiller or Trent Richardson (among others), because you can draft them as flex starters rather than No. 2s. In the sixth round of our PPR experts mock, I landed Roddy White as a No. 3 wideout. That's ridiculous value for a player who can catch 80 or more passes in an explosive Atlanta offense. I will sign up for White as a No. 3 in these formats all day long.
Draft a running back, wide receiver or Vernon Davis: This is where you need to use common sense. If you already have three backs, you don't need a fourth (not yet, at least). Same for wideouts. If Davis is still on the board, I would jump on him. Otherwise, I'm likely to wait on a tight end unless there's a massive run. You should also be looking at how many quarterbacks have been drafted at this time. There shouldn't be more than seven picked at this point, unless one or more of your opponents grabbed two (which isn't smart in standard drafts).
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or Jason Witten: In a perfect world, you will already have drafted three running backs, three wideouts and one of the top four tight ends (Graham, Gronkowski, Thomas, Davis). If you haven't landed a tight end and Witten is on the board, this would be a good spot to take him. You can also grab a quarterback if the position is losing depth or a player you like has fallen (like Cam Newton, for example). Otherwise, you should continue to target the best running back or wide receiver still on the board.
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end: If you have waited on a quarterback or a tight end, then you should target one of those two positions. There are still likely to be some good options at both positions. If you have a quarterback and a tight end, however, then you need to continue building depth at running back and wide receiver. Remember, injuries happen. In the expert's league, I landed Torrey Smith as a No. 4 wideout in Round 9. Not bad for a player who finished in the top 25 in points at his position last season.
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end: The same strategy applies here as in the previous round. In the expert's league, I waited to draft a quarterback until this point and was still able to land Newton. If you already took a quarterback and still lack a tight end, then that's the position you should target. In the event that you already grabbed a signal-caller and a tight end in one of the first nine rounds, then you need to continue to build that foundation of runners (maybe a top handcuff) and wideouts with this pick.
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end: If you have used this strategy to perfection, you should now have one quarterback, four running backs, four wideouts and one tight end. That gives you a lot of options to choose from in terms of your next selection(s). If you like but don't love your No. 1 quarterback or tight end, then you can draft a backup for one of those spots. I tend not to draft a backup tight end, though, and would rather go after a fifth running back or wideout. I landed Reggie Wayne in the PPR mock here.
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end: At this late stage of the draft, you should be keeping your eye on deep sleepers and players who could outplay their draft position. In all, continue to use common sense. You don't need to draft a sixth runner or wideout ... five at each position (once the draft is completed) is more than enough for depth purposes. You shouldn't have drafted a defense or kicker yet based on this draft strategy, but if you did there's then no real need to draft a second player at either position.
Draft a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end: In a standard draft on NFL.com, this will be the last chance for you to select an offensive skill position player if you follow this strategy. As a result, you're taking a backup quarterback, a backup tight end (which I don't advise unless you're not confident in your starter), a fifth running back or fifth wide receiver. In a perfect world and using this strategy perfectly round by round, you will now have two quarterbacks, five runners, five wideouts and one tight end.
Draft a kicker or defense: Unless there is a huge run on kickers or defenses, you should have no problem landing a top-10 option at either position. Chances are this will be a defense, as most of the owners in your league are also likely to wait on drafting a kicker as well. In our mock, I was able to get the Chiefs defense.
Draft a kicker or defense: This is usually the "round of the kicker," and it should be drafted as such. While this is considered to be the least important position in fantasy drafts, don't just let the auto-pick grab one for you. Kickers are scoring more points, especially the top players like Stephen Gostkowski or Matt Prater.