2012 Fantasy Football: Top 10 Rules For Dominance

Contributed by: Anthony King
Last Updated: Jul 23, 2012 1:17 PM

As football season gets closer and closer, it means Fantasy Football drafts will begin swinging into full gear. Those who have any chance of taking home some virtual hardware may want to heed these ten rules for Fantasy Football dominance. Take it from someone who will be going for a Fantasy Football 4-peat this season, you can either use these rules or get beat by them.

10. Put The Kicker Down And Back Away Slowly

Every year I am left shaking my head at the Fantasy owner who has to jump on the best available kicker in the 5th or 6th round. Last season the Green Bay Packers’ Mason Crosby was the highest rated kicker on the pre-draft board, and if you would have rushed to take him, you would have received the 6th most kicker points – which were actually two points lower than the Cowboys’ Dan Bailey, whom you could have picked up off waivers.

My rule is you never ever pick a kicker before your very last pick. Assuming everyone else had grabbed a kicker and you waited, the 12th best kicker last season was the Detroit Lions’ Jason Hanson, who accumulated 138 Fantasy points. So, by waiting until my last pick, I would have ended up with only 9 less Fantasy points than that kicker you had to have ten rounds too early.

9. A Sleeper Is Not A Sleeper If You Have To Take Him Before The 10th Round.

By definition, a sleeper is a pick you grab late and benefit from him doing better than expected. If you take a “sleeper” in the 6th round, that is not a sleeper that is a player you are depending on to win every week.

If a “sleeper” is taken too early and then doesn’t pan out, well, you just basically gave away a high draft pick for nothing. Target all the players you need first and then go after the guys you want to take a flyer on later in the draft.

8. Picking Bench Players Too Early Is A Great Way To End Up There Yourself

Let’s assume it is the 5th round and I pick a solid wide receiver – such as Stevie Johnson – and you pick Phillip Rivers, who is now your second QB taken since your first pick was Aaron Rodgers. Whose pick was better?

I won’t leave you in suspense; mine was the better pick. I see owners every year taking their second quarterback or fourth running back before they have their starting wide outs or tight end, and my immediate reaction is, “well, you just lost.”

I don’t care if you have two QB’s who are going to throw for 5,000 yards each – you can only play one of them at a time. My wide receiver pickup is going to start every week and my team will get his full 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns, whereas that 2nd quarterback you grabbed is going to collect dust on your bench until the one week you use him because of your starter’s bye.

7. You Don’t Get Fantasy Points For The Best Available Name

I can’t wait to see all the owners standing in line waiting to take Randy Moss way way way too early, like they did with Michael Vick last season. If they gave out Fantasy points for names, T.J. Houshmandzadeh would be the first pick every year.

Too often owners draft based on the names they recognize or think that player’s past success matters at all this season. If you want to be a good Fantasy player, you can’t draft like a fan. Sure, you may own a LaDainian Tomlinson jersey, but how did drafting him work out for you last year?

6. Defense Is One Of The Most Overvalued Positions – So Be Smart.

A good defense is a great Fantasy piece to have. On great weeks they can net you an extra 20 points, and on average weeks they will add 8-12 to your total. The problem is, the best NFL defenses are not always the best Fantasy defenses.

Last season the NFL’s No. 1 and No. 2 defenses were the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans. However, in the Fantasy world, they ranked 14th and 9th respectively.
What Fantasy owners need to value are turnovers created and defensive touchdowns. The Detroit Lions gave up 140 more points than did the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they also created 19 more turnovers and scored 6 more touchdowns, so it was the Lions who ended up as the 4th best Fantasy defense. 

Look at the schedule when selecting a defense. Wanting to pick the Green Bay Packers is fine, but you should understand they will be playing the Lions and Bears all year long. It is also important to know the AFC or NFC portion of your defense’s schedule. If your NFC defense has to go play the Patriots, Texans, Steelers and Ravens, then they are not a safe pick.

My philosophy is to take two or three middle of the pack defenses and just play the best matchup each week. In doing so, I have the ability to cash in when my defense plays a weak offense, rather than having one big-name defense that I have to play in the weeks they give up 35 points to the dominant offenses.

5. Tight End Is A System Position

Obviously Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez are no-brainers at the tight end position, but what about the players after them? After the big names are off the board, selecting a tight end comes down to understanding how teams use their tight ends.

Does a team have a high-powered throwing attack? Is their tight end used primarily for run blocking? Do they use the tight end in their goal line packages?

A player like Brandon Pettigrew was a solid tight end waiver pickup last season, and he ended up with only 5 fewer Fantasy points than did Vernon Davis. How you may ask? Because Pettigrew plays for the pass happy Detroit Lions and is always a favorite target of Matthew Stafford’s when they get into the red zone.

Players such as Brent Celek, Greg Olsen and Jermaine Gresham are those same types of players who will get 5 to 7 TDs a season, just from their goal line presence alone. If you are not lucky enough to grab one of the big time playmakers, target a goal line threat on a good passing team late.

4. Understand Position Depth

I know, the rule is you have to take a running back with your first two picks, but here’s the secret…you don’t (shhh!). Last year I had the 7th pick and realized I could grab a second-tier running back, or I could dominate at wide receiver, one of the weakest positions on the board. So my first three picks were Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Mike Wallace. I still ended up with Marshawn Lynch and Shonn Greene, and picked up Demarco Murray and Darren Sproles off waivers.

Had I gone with the rule of thumb and taken Steven Jackson and DeAngelo Williams with my first two picks, I would have ended up with one okay wide receiver and two guys who would be hit and miss all year.

I won my league going away and did it without either of my first three picks being running backs. Go into your draft understanding that the board should dictate how you draft, not some out of date Fantasy rule.

3. Handcuffs Are A Necessity

Football is a violent game. The smart money says star players will go down and it will happen a lot. The easiest way to lose at Fantasy football is to go into a season without proper insurance for star players.

Those owners who had Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden or Jamal Charles last season know just how important the second string player on a team’s depth chart can be. Running back is by far the most important position in which to backup.

This season, Michael Bush may be the No. 1 player to have on your bench – particularly if you draft Matt Forte.  But players such as the Texans’, Ben Tate, or the Chiefs, Peyton Hillis, may find themselves as Fantasy diamonds in the rough if their first-string counterparts go down.  

2. Fantasy Leagues Are Not Won In The Draft – They Are Won On The Waiver Wire

Jordy Nelson, DeMarco Murray, Rob Gronkowski, Miles Austin, Victor Cruz and Arian Foster – these are just some of the names who could have been picked up off the waiver wire in recent years.

I good draft is key, but paying close attention during the season is almost more important than having a high NFL knowledge.

As an experiment a couple years ago I decided to draft from the bottom of the rankings and then I just picked up players off waivers for the whole season – I ended up finishing 2nd in that league. So while I don’t recommend this as a pre-draft strategy, it should tell you just how important the waiver wire can be.

1. Go In With A Game Plan

Picking a good Fantasy team is not rocket science. Get to your draft board 15 minutes early and go through the rankings based on where you will be selecting. If I have the 5th pick in the draft, then I know I will have the 5th pick, 20th pick, 29th pick, 44th pick etc… Go to each ranking and identify the two or three players you want to target around these spots on the board.

Repeat this process by planning to take someone else with your first pick and then outlining what the rest of your draft will look like from there. It gives you a nice contingency to have in case the first player you wanted is not available. If you take a RB first, the rest of your draft will look very different compared to if you had selected a QB first. Go in having a game plan for all scenarios. 

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