Fantasy football season is here and that means it’s the time of the year for mock drafts, stat analyzing and predicting this year’s ticket to the finals of your league. However, that last part is the trickiest as you have to navigate things like injuries, draft busts and bad match-ups. Is there a way to solidify a spot in your league playoffs before the season even starts? The short answer is of course “no” but there are a numbers of things that you can do to help your cause and most of it begins with minimizing risks in the first two rounds of your fantasy football draft.
Many people think that as long as they get the preseason’s highest rated players then they’ve had a great draft. While this certainly makes sense in a way, it’s very easy to look past the fact that those players are usually ranked based on the prior year’s performance – professionally or collegiate. Unfortunately, “guaranteed success” isn’t a factor in determining rankings. But if you know how to spot a risk in the early rounds of your draft, it will go a long way in putting your team in the best position to succeed.
Risk #1 – Last Year’s “Out of Nowhere Sensation”
For every Arian Foster there are twice as many Steve Slaton’s. The rigors of the NFL make it improbable for a player to replicate his form from the previous year. So when you’re debating about whether or not to take this sort of player with your first or second draft pick, be sure to ask yourself these three questions:
- Has there been a coaching change?
- Has the competition changed?
- Talent or Team?
Risk #2 – New Coach, New System
It goes without saying that every coach has their own preferred way of doing things. Always be wary when a new regime or system takes over because there is a good chance that things won’t stay the same. Take the example of Michael Turner.
The former Atlanta Falcon spent a number of seasons as a top 10 pick in fantasy football. But in the 2010 season, the run-heavy Falcons got blown out by the high-flying Green Bay Packers in the Division round of playoffs. That off-season, Atlanta traded a number of picks to draft WR Julio Jones. This came after the team had already picked up playmaking TE Tony Gonzalez and signaled the team’s shift to a more pass-heavy offense. Michael Turner was out of the league two years later but doomed the fantasy owners who spent a high round pick on the running back during that time.
Risk #3 – New Competition
Anytime a new player is added to the pecking order you have to pay close attention to the developments. Take a look at what happened to the former Eagles star “Shady” McCoy last year once Darren Sproles was introduced to the offense. The two dynamic backs competed for touches and ended up not be very viable options during the 2014 season.
Wes Welker was another player who lost value when the Broncos added a more explosive option in Emmanuel Sanders to their WR corps.
Simply put: competition is great for the team, but terrible for fantasy football.
Risk #4 – Team Over Talent
Of all of the risks this is perhaps the hardest to spot. Is Player A’s success a product of his “undeniable talent” or the superiority of his team? I’ll bet this question will pop up a lot this year when fantasy owners are debating whether they should pick Demarco Murray (now a Philadelphia Eagle) or CJ Anderson (last year’s “out of nowhere” player) in the first and second rounds of this year’s draft.
Both of these players had fantastic fantasy seasons, but both face uncertainty at their positions this year. Murray, who just broke Emmit Smith’s single season rushing record at Dallas, is now with Philly and has to compete with Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Anderson is also not the guaranteed starter in Denver as he only saw playing time because of the injuries to the people in front of him. Though he ran well, so has just about every RB paired with Peyton Manning in that Broncos offense. If he finds himself in a committee with Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball, Anderson could easily be this years highest risk.
Now that you know the risks to watch out for, it’s up to you to make the decision of whether you will draft a “risky” player in the first two rounds or play it safe. Either way, good luck and happy drafting!