You've spent all spring and summer reading rankings lists of all sorts. You've memorized strength of schedule lists. You wake up late at night to refresh Twitter lest you miss the latest beat writer report on which player has changed diets in order to be better prepared for the upcoming season. Now that you have all of that knowledge, how do you put it into action?
One way is to follow along with all of the conventional wisdom when it comes to drafting. But being predictable is usually a pretty good way to get beat. Sometimes it's best to zig when people zag. Yin when people yang. Be unpredictable like an M. Night Shyamalan film (one of the good ones). That's where this draft strategy kit comes in. The tips below aren't for everyone and not all of them may be appropriate for your draft. But keep these handy when you want to throw your league-mates the curveball that could set you up well on draft day.
Tired -- Get an RB in the first round. Forget all of the Twitter chatter you see telling you that #RBsDontMatter, if you're going to survive in this dog-eat-dog fantasy football world, you need to make sure that you have at least one of the top-tier ball carriers on your roster. Take that first round pick and reach for the brass ring.
Wired -- Wait on a RB. Regardless of how you feel about PPR leagues, that's the world we're living in. You know what position catches a lot of balls? Wide receivers. If you're sitting in the middle part of the first round and aren't sure about any of the running backs in front of you, put your mind at ease and click "Draft" on DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams or Julio Jones. If you're going full Galaxy Brain, you can always fall back on the Zero RB strategy but even if you start with a pair of wide receivers, you can still find a quality back in the third round.
Tired -- Get an elite WR in the first two rounds. Did I mention that we're all living in a PPR world nowadays? Because we are. With that as the backdrop, it is almost imperative that you get one of the best receivers in the game to solidify your WR1 spot. What else are you going to do? Start Jarvis Landry at WR1?
Wired -- Wait and load up on WRs. Maybe waiting on running backs isn't your bag. With a lack of depth at the top of the position, plenty of fantasy managers decide to use their first two or three picks on backfield spots. Right now, wide receiver is a deep as its ever been. Last year, teams threw the ball more than 62 percent of the time. That number was 61.3 percent in 2013 and 58 percent in 2008. At the same time, the number of three-receiver sets jumped 177 percent. Basically, there are more receivers on the field more often for a greater number of passing plays. It also means there are hidden target hogs all over the draft board which can mitigate the need for a top-level wideout. Starting Jarvis Landry, you say? Okay.
Tired -- Wait, wait, wait. Some fantasy analysts repeat this mantra in near Hodor-like fashion. It's become so ingrained in fantasy drafting that most analysts and high-stakes players are forced to wear a smock with a scarlet QB on it if they take one before the eighth round. I'm kidding. Sort of. Anyway, the logic goes that if you spend an early draft pick on a quarterback that you've missed out on taking a quality player at another position. Some even forgo drafting a QB at all and playing the waiver wire all season to take advantage of the depth at the position. So don't get so excited when you see Patrick Mahomes there in the third round. He's not worth it.
Wired -- Get your guy and relax. The idea of fantasy football is to score as many points as you can each week. Quarterbacks -- especially the elite ones -- score lots of points. But more than the high ceiling that players like Mahomes and Deshaun Watson offer, it's their high (and generally stable) floors. Jameis Winston might look like a nice option off the waiver wire but he also comes with a frustrating amount of week-to-week variance that isn't always predictable. Last year, seven of the top 10 quarterbacks in ADP were on track to finish in the top 10 at their position -- injuries (which are always unpredictable) prevented Cam Newton and Carson Wentz from joining the club. When someone mocks you for taking Patrick Mahomes early, let them know you're paying for peace of mind and the knowledge that you can almost guarantee a minimum of 20 fantasy points per week.
Tired -- Splurge early or play the waiver wire. Tight end has felt like an all-or-nothing proposition in recent seasons. There has been a small group of elite players at the top. The rest have been more "who's that?" than "who's who." If you want to feel confident about your TE spot each week, then you're probably going to have to make the move somewhere within the first four rounds. Otherwise, you're might want to consider seeing what's on the waiver wire each week and taking your chances.
Wired -- Don't panic. In the past, that old way of drafting made a lot of sense. We went into 2018 believing that Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz were pretty sure things. But we also thought that about Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. George Kittle, Eric Ebron, and Jared Cook turned out to be great finds but few people saw them coming. This year, there is reason to believe tight end has turned a corner. The healthy returns of Hunter Henry and Delanie Walker add immediate depth behind the big three. Meanwhile, the expected breakouts of O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and Vance McDonald (among others) should give fantasy managers reason to feel confident that they can wait until the middle rounds and still select a player they'll feel comfortable starting on a weekly basis.
Tired -- Don't get one before the final two rounds. You only start one defense and there will always be a lot of them available on the waiver wire. Plus there's often wide variance in defensive scoring from week-to-week. So why should you miss out on a chance to find that diamond in the rough at WR or RB in order to draft a defense that might easily go bust on you this year? In fact, you probably don't even need to draft one at all.
Wired -- Go a little earlier and get a good one. The points about waiting on defense are well taken but there's something to be said for feeling okay about what you've done at the "onesie" positions. (That's been a theme of this article, if you haven't noticed.) As T.J. Hernandez of 4-for-4 points out, there is some consistency at the position -- especially when it comes to pass defenses. With more defensive coordinators eschewing focusing on run defense in order to lock down opposing passing games, that's no small fact. If you want to get all Galaxy Brain here, you can reach out for the Bears defense in the eighth round. But more realistically, if you decide to take a shot on the Rams or Texans in the 11th or 12th round, you're not likely to regret it.