The Most Basic Rule To Drafting Well In Fantasy Football

The fantasy season will not yet heat up for another month when preseason games begin, but it’s not too early to start dishing out some general rules for drafting well. Over the next couple weeks, dozens of fliers will claim to hold the secret to fantasy football success. Some will say draft a quarterback in the first round. Others will say wait on quarterbacks. Some will say to load up on running backs. And others will say wide receivers are the new running backs in fantasy. Some will claim that tight ends are worth drafting in the middle rounds, while others will say tight ends should be reserved for the last few rounds.

It’s almost impossible to forecast who to draft in any given year. Take a look at the first round or two of the league you were in last year. Almost surely, there are several picks that ended up being busts. And frequently, those busts were players that were supposed to be sure things coming into the season. Either due to an injury, or some other unforeseen event, that player’s production plummeted.

I’m not going to get into specific players to draft, or not to draft, just yet. There’s too much time until preseason even begins to go into detail over the draft board with any confidence. But, there is still one rule that somehow manages to slip by many fantasy owners. It’s a simple rule, and hopefully obvious, but still needs to be echoed:

Do NOT draft a defense and kicker until the final two rounds.

Duh, right? Actually no, you’d be surprised how many owners draft either position before the last two rounds. There is absolutely no reason to draft a kicker or defense earlier than the very end. Every year, in every draft, someone takes a defense in the 10th round or maybe even sooner. Someone will draft the Seahawks defense early this year. Just watch. And it will be a huge mistake. I don’t care how many sacks, interceptions, and especially touchdowns a defense had the previous year. The gap between the top defenses and the average defense is often a small one. Playing a defense every week is purely about matchups. It’s easier to pick up a new defense every week than to draft a defense early and expect consistency. You could play whoever was playing the Browns every week and feel fairly confident. Even if you’re in a league where it costs money to make a transaction, it is still more reliable to pick up a defense every week than spend a valuable pick on a defense.

Matt Prater was the best kicker in the NFL last season, but don't be that person that spends a valuable pick on him.

Matt Prater was the best kicker in the NFL last season, but don’t be that person that spends a valuable pick on him.

And not drafting kickers until the end seems too obvious, yet owners always make this mistake! There’s too much turnover from year to year with kickers. The top ten kickers one year are usually not the top ten kickers next year. Why not just draft kickers who play in domes? That’s easy enough. Or kickers with good offenses. Or wait, kickers with bad offenses, whose teams stall in the red zone. There’s many ways to look at kickers, but the first rule is that they are to be the last picks of the draft.

This rule won’t win you your fantasy season. It’ll just decrease your chance at losing it.

33 responses

  1. This is no longer true,top D’s and Kicker’s will give you over 10 pts per week on average,OVER 10 pts.The top D’d & K’s total pts for the year would put them in the top 10 of RB’s & WR’s.The catch is there are only 2 or 3 that will produce these #’s,THOSE are worth looking at drafting a few rounds earlier

    • Good luck finding those and drafting them in the right spot. More often than not the first defenses drafted end up being taken way too early and then don’t live up to it. You’re better off switching defenses weekly and playing matchups.

    • I take a kicker and D when I feel like I got who needed to get. Its foolish to not think this way and put yourself in a position to put up the most points on a week-week basis. NE and KC are Ds Im targeting this year and how can you not like Justin Tucker?

  2. I hate this logic. After you have at least 3 or 4 WR’s and/or RB’s take a shot on a defense. I like to take a kicker second to last then another defense. My philosophy is this – if you whiff on your first defense, you can always rely on that second one. Take a kicker on a high scoring offense seems more logical on one from an average offense. Wouldn’t you want Matt Prater over Blair Walsh? Finally, match ups aren’t always there and you may need to pick up an by week replacement or drop an injured player. Also, the other guys in your league are also eyeing defenses.

    • Picking two defenses in the draft is not the wisest thing to do. Look back on your draft from last year and you’re bound to find at least 5 guys who were very solid/good who went undrafted, or went way too late. Matchups don’t always work, but defenses fluctuate a lot more than other positions in terms of scoring. And for kickers: go with the high-scoring teams that get lots of PAT’s? Or bad offenses that stall and get lots of FGs? Can argue it both ways. Prater had an exceptionally good year on best offense ever. Wouldn’t expect that same production this year.

      • That is just your opinion dude. I have placed top 3 six out of ten years in a 16 team $ league and I never follow this advice.

    • Zig you are correct man. Im with you.Now if you cant get the D you want at a reasonable pick then you wait. Noone in our league waits to take their starting D until the last round partially because are league is so big. Heck last year around week 13 there was only 2 Ds on the waiver. JAX and WAS

  3. It’s crazy to me how many people still jump over K and DEF, and it’s crazier that people are arguing to continue DOING it. You can reasonable project how many touches a game a RB/WR/TE will get. With a K or DEF you have no idea. You can’t logically predict FG’s, or DEF TD’s, Sacks etc. So stay away until the later rounds. For the past few season I haven’t even drafted a K. I pick up a sleeper in the last round, someone like Justin Hunter or Jermey Hill this year for example. Then after the final rosters are set make a decision on who to drop for a kicker. If say the Law Firm keeps his job over Hill, then I’d dump Hill for a K. K aren’t worthless people, but they’re unpredictable.

  4. If you wants to win in fanasty football all you need to do is the exack opposit of what Matthew Berry say… Period

    • So short-sighted on Matthew Berry. He is like an umpire. Nobody remembers all the consistently good calls, but will remember the one or two poor ones. He is not a fortune teller. Those of you that blame HIM for the decisions YOU make on your team are rediculous. Of course, if you took his advice and it went well, you would let everyone know what a great job YOU did. If it didn’t go well, of course, it’s Matthew Berry’s fault. It’s your team, YOU decide what to do. That being said, what I like about Matthew Berry is he gives you facts and numbers to support his picks and statements, not to mention his stories and writing style are very entertaining. If you don’t want to listen to his selections, fine. However, do yourself a favor and read his 100 Football Facts article. It doesn’t give selections, rather, it gives the reader some VERY interesting nuggets that could help with your draft selections – things you may not have realized about teams and players: http://espn.go.com/fantasy/football/story/_/page/nfldk2k14_TMR100facts/matthew-berry-fantasy-football-100-facts-2014-preseason

      • right there with ya Keith. Matt Berry rocks!. love his writing…and I tell u what..when the ESPN guys do draft, i pay attention to his picks more than any other…AND…you make your own decisions…the experts are just educated guesses based on history and circumstance…but they can’t read coaches minds or predict injuries. there’s still too many variables to be spot on every time. The other thing I like about Berry is he doesn’t seem to get caught up in the drama in or out of football. that benefits nobody.

      • Berry is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than CBS and yahoo perts

  5. Even if you are a complete novice to fantasy, this article is obvious and provides no value. If you are going to write about fantasy football, write something original and meaningful.

    • One would think it’s obvious, but I’ll bet you in your fantasy league this year, someone will break that rule. Guarantee you.

    • I disagree. My wife is a very smart drafter. She blew everyone away last year, ending up with far and beyond more points than anyone, barely losing in the championship due to an injury and some unpredictable bad weeks by her star players. However, she killed it in the draft.

      That being said, she is currently under some magic spell that has her believing in the Chiefs D, because they did so well for her last year (she seems to forget the few weeks that they didn’t…but easy to forget when she has Jimmy Graham and a whole slew of studs making up those bad weeks). She said she’s taking Chiefs or Seahawks D early. EARLY! not like the 10th round early…but probably 4th or 5th. I told her not to…I’m a fair competitor. But if she insists, i might send her this link (after the draft of course). Hopefully she doesn’t see this condescending comment I just wrote!

      • Your wife is a very smart person. While KC has one of the tougher schedules they still have a ton of talent. They remind me of the old Bears. While u may not get the TDs like last year you can get them at a discount. NE is the other D you should keep an eye on. They have the DEF POY of 2014 in CHandler Jones.

  6. AS with everything, it depends on your league. Differences in scoring rules and roster sizes impact where you want to draft a D or a kicker, and also how many you draft. Does your league give better bonus points for shutouts and low points allowed? If so, then consider drafting a D earlier. If you get only only one point instead of two for a fumble recovery or INT, then draft one later.

    I know guys who only draft one D, but I always try to draft two – one upper level and one mid level. Then I can swap one for the other on weeks when one of them plays anemic offensive teams.

    As far as kickers go, drafting one late is good advice, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the last round. There can be a noticable difference in average points per week between the top level kickers and a middle of the pack one, so if you can score a top level kicker by drafting him in round 13 or 14 instead of round 16, then go ahead.

    (The argument that you are sacrificing a better backup WR, RB, or TE is not really valid, because you are not going to start those guys much anyway, while your kicker starts every week. Plus, most guys end up dropping their lowest ranked WR/RB a month or two into the season anyway, using the spot to pick up a suddenly hot replacement via the waiver wire.)

    • You actually made the argument. The argument has to do with the “hot replacement” that you talk about. Spending your better picks to get those types of players is worth it. It’s better to spend your 11th-14th rounds on guys who could be very valuable than on a defense, especially considering you can just play the matchups game every week on the waiver wire. And kickers–maybe the top guy is much better like Prater last year, but usually the drop off is not too significant.

  7. I play in a PPR league that gives extra points to WR and DST. Last year the two DST’s got 2nd and 7th overall in total scoring with a large gap after that. I will be picking one of the top 3 DST’s in the early rounds this year…ps…I won my league last year.

    • We get 1pt for every 50yds on STs and 6pts for tds but i still think Ds should be considered at some point prior to the EOTD. I dont play in 12 team leagues so it may be easier to stream Ds but in our league we cant afford to wait. I like taking mine at the 10-12th rd which is pick 200 + roughly. Not a whole of talent out there at that time.

  8. I play in a league that counts all of the points that a defense allows against you. -40’s on your score suck. I planned on taking seattle dst in the 6th, someone else took them in the 2nd!! I ended up with the cards in the 13th….and it was pretty slim by then. So I think where you draft your dst entirely depends on the scoring system your playing on.

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