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.
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.