Most of the talk heading into fantasy football draft season centers on which basic strategy to employ.
It all begins with who you take in the first round, leaving you with four main ways to go:
• Load up at running back, taking them early and often.
• Wide receivers are the new running backs, so load up at receiver instead.
• Go safe and take one of the elite quarterbacks first.
• Gain a big edge at tight end and grab Jimmy Graham.
Instead of focusing so much on a positional approach, which leaves you much less flexible, see if you can utilize the tiers strategy.
The basic idea is that by clumping together players you expect to produce similar fantasy points, it becomes easier to maximize value as the tiers provide a roadmap through the draft.
For instance, there are five quarterbacks in the second tier (listed below in a position-by-position cheat sheet). If you’re picking in the second round and all five are still available while only one of the seven-man second tier of running backs remain (Alfred Morris), take the running back. Or if there are still five second-tier running backs left while just one top-tier receiver remains (Alshon Jeffrey), go with the receiver.
The later the draft gets, the better you’ll be able to understand the supply and demand at each position, paying attention to what your opponents’ needs are while letting your tiers guide you.
Let’s say it’s the sixth round and you’re looking for your third running back, third receiver or starting tight end. If your tiers have just one running back from the third tier left (Bishop Sankey) while a handful of options remain from the third tiers at receiver and tight end, the decision is made for you.
Part of the trick is knowing where to draw the lines between each tier. Don’t be afraid to adjust the cheat sheet provided below, or better yet, create your own from scratch. That way you can move up players you believe in and move down guys you want no part of.
Still there remains the question of who to take in the first round.
Personally, I like to wait on quarterbacks and tight ends as long as possible. I use the tiers to fill out my starting running back and wide receiver positions first.
That being said, I don’t have a problem with anyone taking one of the big three QBs in the first round — I even rank Peyton Manning in my projected first round:
1. Jamaal Charles >> The Chiefs running back led the NFL with 19 TDs last year.
2. LeSean McCoy >> The Eagles running back had 1,607 yards rushing last year and has been talking about taking a shot at 2,000.
3. Adrian Peterson >> The Vikings hope rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater helps take some pressure off AP to carry the offense.
4. Matt Forte >> The Bears’ workhorse remains the unquestioned focus of their offense.
5. Calvin Johnson >> The best wide receiver in the game is back at full health after offseason knee and finger surgeries .
6. Eddie Lacy >> The Packers running back totalled 1,573 yards from scrimmage and 14 total TDs last year despite missing two games with a concussion.
7. Demaryius Thomas >> The Broncos’ playmaker led all receivers with 14 touchdown catches last season.
8. Jimmy Graham >> The Saints tight end dominated the position with 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns receiving despite battling plantar fasciitis.
9. Peyton Manning >> The Broncos QB set NFL records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns passing last year.
10. Dez Bryant >> The Cowboys will look to stretch the field more this season with their top receiver the main threat.
11. A.J. Green >> The Bengals star was the most-targeted receiver last season
12. DeMarco Murray >> The Cowboys’ injury-prone running back missed just two games last year, showing he can be a No. 1 RB if he can stay on the field.