The NFL regular season is just around the corner, which means adult men everywhere are watching every preseason second. Why, you ask? We’ll do anything we can to get an edge in our fantasy football leagues.
Just like summer softball leagues are an excuse to drink adult beverages on a weeknight, fantasy football is the primary excuse for men to sit on the couch all day Sunday and monitor every point their lineup scores from a laptop computer. We become glued to NFL training camps to see which players are standing out, and preseason action validates those thoughts when they face an opponent.
Fantasy football has exploded in the last 10 years. There are various types of leagues, and most of us are in more than one when the season kicks off in September. But how do you draft a team that, if not guaranteed to be a winner, can at least get you some cash that can be wasted betting on the NFL Playoffs?
Here are the top five ways to draft your perfect fantasy football team, or at least a halfway decent one. Full disclosure: This comes from a guy who has never won in fantasy football.
Get your franchise quarterback early
It doesn’t matter what type of league you’re in, you’ll need an elite quarterback to carry you through the season. Between yardage and touchdowns, quarterbacks usually score the bulk of your team’s points every week. You’ll want to find your Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’re in an auction, be prepared to spend about half or even a little more of your total salary on your QB.
Load up on wide receivers
Almost as important as the quarterback is finding a top wide receiver. You’ll obviously want a team’s No. 1 receiver and one who finds the end zone frequently. You also want one who his durable and can stay healthy. A creative way to double up on points here is to draft the top receiver on the team your quarterback plays for. Otherwise, you simply want a guy who gets the ball a lot, doesn’t drop it and gets to the end zone. And with two wide receiver spots on every roster plus a flex option, good ones are at a premium. The obvious ones are Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas. Other solid options are Andre Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson and Roddy White to name a few. What’s most important to remember when picking receivers? Keep in mind the quarterback throwing to them.
Get running backs who score touchdowns
The concept sounds obvious on the surface, but it’s become quite the challenge with the NFL becoming more of a passing league every year. That, and more teams every year are using multiple running backs in their systems. Your best option, if you can’t draft an Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch or LeSean McCoy, is to find running backs used in goal-line situations who can also catch the ball as a receiver out of the backfield. Only a fortunate few can get a running back who runs for more than 100 yards per game, and it all depends on your draft position and how much you’re willing to spend. Some valuable options last year were Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte.
Get lucky on defense, special teams
Most leagues are scored here on turnovers, defensive touchdowns and special teams touchdowns. These are points that simply cannot be banked on; you’re lucky to get them whenever you do. That said, it’s important to draft a top defense in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft that sacks the quarterback, forces fumbles or gets interceptions, and can return the occasional punt or kickoff for a touchdown. Last year, the NFL’s top fantasy football defenses were Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco, Cincinnati and New England.
Have talented reserve players
It’s definitely important to keep an eye on how your second-tier players do on a weekly basis. After all, at some point they’re going to have to play for your starters. That’s especially true once bye weeks start across the National Football League. It’s also crucial to have a player or two in your back pocket in case one of the starters you relied on early in the season isn’t meeting expectations. Or, heaven forbid, if one of your studs gets hurt and has to miss an extended period of time.
With the regular season looming in less than a month, fantasy players across the country are getting their draft boards ready in the hopes of finding the next hidden gem. It’s also a great way to turn a casual football fan into a major couch potato on Sundays in the fall. So have fun with it and don’t sweat too much. Because if you make a bad decision, chances are you’re not going to be the only one in your league.