Remember that time your buddy took Brett Favre in your fantasy football draft the year after he finally retired? Or the time when that random guy in your league took Stephen Gostkowski in the first round? “He’s the best kicker around!” he gloated as he made the pick. And hopefully you have not had the distinct displeasure of watching a guy nab Aaron Hernandez or Michael Vick in complete seriousness while both players sat in jail cells. These and others are fantasy faux pas that are committed by people who simply do not do their research. To make sure you don’t join the ranks of these laughingstocks, I’m here to help you. If you don’t pay attention, may the fantasy gods unleash all their fury upon your team.
First of all, never, ever, ever take a defense or a kicker before the second-to-last or last round of your draft, respectively. Look, I know everyone thought the Seattle Seahawks were guaranteed to be a force last year, but they ended up as the sixth-best scoring defense in fantasy behind the likes of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Houston Texans. It would have been much wiser to have spent one of those mid- to late- round picks on a guy like Odell Beckham or Jeremy Hill and to have waited on defense and especially on kicker. Hitting a lottery ticket on a receiver or running back can win you your league; picking a winning defense cannot. Instead of wasting a high draft pick on a defense, it makes more sense to stream defenses, picking based on which defense has a favorable matchup in a given week.
Second, understand that the way NFL rosters looked at the end of last year is not always the way they look the following year. Key players to flag include Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who will be suspended for the first three games as the result of a DUI incident and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was suspended for four games as a result of the infamous “Deflategate” scandal. I’m not saying to not draft Bell or Brady, but be aware of the injury and disciplinary statuses of every player you think about drafting before you add them to your roster.
Also, be aware of key players that changed teams in the offseason. Taking former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and declaring that you believe in Jay Cutler will get you ridiculed, since Marshall is now on the Jets and Geno Smith is not yet a proven player. The same thing can be said of Torrey Smith leaving the Ravens and joining the 49ers. He is moving from receiving passes from the strong-armed Joe Flacco to the more erratic Colin Kaepernick (oh boy).
On the running back front, DeMarco Murray is now an Eagle. If he doesn’t suffer an injury (which, I warn you, he probably will), I think he will put up top-10 numbers. The injury threat haunts me, though, and so does a depleted line that will be without guards Todd Herremans and All-Pro Evan Mathis, who were both released during the offseason. Former Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy is ready to take over in Buffalo under Rex Ryan. I love Shady and yes, Rex loves to run, but that quarterback situation in northern New York worries me. No matter whether E.J. Manuel or Matt Cassel starts, defenses will be gearing up on McCoy. Expect a solid, if unspectacular, year.
One final piece of advice; don’t be the guy or girl who misses the draft and has to rely on auto-pick. Not only is that one of the surefire ways to fall into some of the pitfalls outlined above (most auto-pick mechanisms force you to draft a kicker or defense before taking a bench player), but it also exudes a lack of preparation going into the year. Drafts are when you can exchange trash talk and truly craft your optimal lineup. To many they are the highlight of the fantasy calendar. Do yourself and your league a favor; don’t auto-pick.
Until next time, fantasy lovers, play on.
Joe Lanzilla is a rising senior in the SFS. Fantasy Football Corner appears every other Tuesday.