Fantasy football continues to gain in popularity, so if you were hoping it was just a fad that would eventually go away, you were sorely mistaken.
Don't have the first clue how to draft a team but you don't want to seem like a fantasy football dummy? Here are six simple steps to drafting a competitive team. These tips alone won't lead you to the top of your league – there's plenty of work to do during the season, after all – but they will get you off to a good start and may even help you contend for a title.
1. Find current draft rankings.
Don't know which experts to follow? Hit up The Scores Report's fantasy football feed and follow me on Twitter (@FantasyShrink) for all the latest news and rankings. Also, it's a good idea to find consensus rankings online. The consensus rankings will weed out the outliers so you're left with a solid set cheatsheet from which to draft.
2. Know your scoring system.
Is it a point per reception (PPR) league? If so, don't be afraid to draft a top WR or two early on in the first couple of rounds. Look for a guy who scored well the previous season and hasn't had much change in the offseason. It's a big bonus if he has a great QB throwing to him. If it's a standard (non-PPR league), you'll probably want to take two RBs with your first two picks, and a third RB by the sixth round.
3. Don't draft a QB early.
The NFL is a passing league and at this juncture, there is a tremendous amount of depth at QB. You're better off using your first seven picks loading up on RBs (3), WRs (3) and a TE (1). Then in the eighth and ninth rounds, take the best QB available. (Make sure they don't have the same bye week.) You've now created what is called a Quarterback By Committee (QBBC), and you'll be able to play the best matchup week to week, getting approximately the same points as those owners who drafted a “stud” QB early on.
4. Fill out your roster with handcuff RBs and upside WRs.
Over the next several picks, look for youngish WRs stepping into bigger roles. There once was a belief that the third year is when most WRs would break out, but that's not always the case. If they were productive in limited snaps the previous year and it looks like they'll see more passes thrown their way this season, they'll probably make great middle round picks. Look for young guys who were picked in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft. Aging veteran WRs who are still productive tend to slip into the 10th-13th rounds as well. Also, if you took a RB early on, you'll want to draft his backup (if he's decent) so that if your stud goes down, you'll have a fallback option at RB.
5. Wait until the final two rounds to draft a defense and a kicker.
Don't be that guy who drafts the top-ranked defense in the middle rounds, garnering snickers from the other owners at his draft. Chances are that defense isn't going to live up to that draft position, so wait until the second-to-last round and take a defense that has a Week 1 matchup with a bad QB, preferably at home. Then week-to-week, you can pick up a defense with a good matchup. This is called Defensive Team By Waiver Wire (DTBWW). You may even find a top-five defense on the waiver wire since, year-to-year, defenses are tough to predict. The same goes for your kicker. Wait until the last round and grab the guy who kicks for the team with the best offense. He's sure to put up a decent amount of points.
6. Hit the waiver wire hard in Week 1.
Pay special attention to the first week of games and if there's a RB or WR that surprises (think Peyton Hillis or Brandon Lloyd last year), jump on him if you can. Feel free to dump an underachieving WR that you drafted in the mid- to late-rounds.
Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!