Drafting Strategies

Contributed by: Todd DeVries and Jon Millman
Last Updated: Aug 02, 2011 4:20 PM

Fantasy Football University Class V Drafting Strategies Building a champion begins with the fantasy draft, and following this course closely will give you a significant edge over your opposition. Understanding the CFG Tiers When using the tier-based drafting strategy, you need to group players within each position

Fantasy Football University – Class V

Drafting Strategies

Building a champion begins with the fantasy draft, and following this course closely will give you a significant edge over your opposition.  

Understanding the CFG Tiers

When using the tier-based drafting strategy, you need to group players within each position into what we call “tiers.” Each of these tiers includes players that have similar projected values for the season ahead. You can read more articles about Tiering in the CFG Draft Kit and 10 Commandments.

Organizing your cheat sheet this way makes drafting easier because if, for instance, there are five or six left in a tier at a given position (like wide receiver) yet only one left at a different position (like running back) you can probably wait on the receivers and scoop up the last back in your tier.

The reason is because one of those similarly-valued wide receivers is bound to be there when it is your turn to pick again in the next round -- but if you pass on the running back on this turn there is virtually no chance he'll be there when you are up again. You'll have to drop down a tier and take a running back of lesser value.

This strategy allows you to take the most valuable player left on the board relative to the other players at his position with every pick you make.  

Tier-based drafting is a variation of Value-Based Drafting approach, only it is much more flexible and won't, for instance, force you to take that third quarterback before your second wide receiver. It’s the best of both worlds.

The tier-based approach is not new, it's been used by many successful and experienced fantasy football players for years, and it's why we break our C3 cheat sheets into tiers here at CFG.  

Tiers can include several players or just a few. Sometimes players have their own tier with just a few players, and sometimes many are in the tier.  

Now let's say that you are drafting in a 10-team league. The first seven wide receivers in the rankings are gone. Let's also say for arguments sake that the top three quarterbacks are also off the board. Then you look at the running back rankings and you happen to notice that the first nine running backs are gone.   

It's your turn to make the 18th overall pick. In your top tier of RBs there are 7 available. In your top available tier of WRs there is only 1 or 2. The thing to do, according to the tier-based approach, would be to take the WR because there is almost no chance he will still be available when you pick next in this serpentine draft and he is the last player left in his tier.

By contrast, there are seven running backs left in the current running back tier and, by the way, some of the owners behind you have already selected a running back in first round and may be looking at a different position in round two. One of those four remaining similarly-valued running backs is bound to be there when the pick comes back to you in the next round so take a pass on the backs and grab the receiver. This is but one imaginary example, but similar scenarios will play themselves out again and again throughout your fantasy football draft. Having the tiers in place on your cheat sheet will lead you to smarter decisions. 

How will you know the tiers? Easy, we mark them for you. We actually hand mark them on every different default scoring option. When you produce a C3 (CollegeFootballGeek Customizable Cheatsheet), we do not recommend having the computer generate the tiers as we don't feel it's as accurate.

We built in the feature with a formula, but it isn't perfect, so we'd actually recommend choosing the option to “Print WITHOUT Tiers”, and then to try and hand write them in after looking at one of the default scoring systems that we've manually put in the tiers. 

You can't just take the projected fantasy points and wait until you see a drop off and make a tier mark. In the real world, we see making the tiers as more of an art form, and we do that personally on every cheatsheet so our users know how we are drafting.


Therefore, depending on the scoring system reflected by each cheat sheet, the tiers can be in different places on different cheat sheets, so pay attention. 

Note: tiers only appear on our C3 when viewing a player pool of All Teams (All 120 schools).  If you are viewing the C3 for a BCS-only format, for example, the tiers will not appear, but if you toggle back and forth you can easily disseminate the information.

Using the CFG Draft Tracker to Dominate

When it's your turn to pick, it's not always about what your team needs, but what other teams need, too. By using our Draft Tracker, you'll always know exactly what each team's needs are, so you can anticipate what your opponents will do next.

For example, let's say you are team 11 of 12 in the 3rd round and team 12 already has 2 RBs, but you took a RB and WR to start. In the 3rd round you want another RB and WR but you don't know which to take first.

Answer: You should take the WR. Why draft another running back when you know team 12 has to be taking at least 1 WR here if not 2. Maybe he takes a TE or a QB in the 4th, or maybe he takes your guy. But the best shot you have of getting one back is the RB. 

Get the most value out of your draft! And when your opponents are analyzing your draft, round-by-round, smile when they call you a psychic.

How to Draft a Sleeper

Sleepers should NOT be drafted too early, and are ideally best selected in the mid to late rounds. Drafting a sleeper too early could burn you if that player does not pan out, and honestly many won't. Sleepers are meant to be value picks, hence giving fantasy owners an edge when the talent pool dries up late. Sometimes guys are just over-hyped and no longer “sleepers” as where you need to take them is not getting good enough value to justify the risk.

The way I look at sleepers is I want to get about 4 or 5 of them on an average 20 man roster. I expect about half to pan out which will give me 2 or 3 solid contributors. Hopefully I didn't reach for any of them other than the guys I just HAD TO HAVE.  Those are all listed on the “Big Sleeper List” in the Draft Kit. 

Backing Up Your Studs

We cannot stress enough how important it is to back up your stud players. Backing them up provides insurance in the event of injuries, and just as importantly prevents other owners in your league from swarming in and taking the backup of your injured stud. This is also called handcuffing, with some handcuff moves being more essential than others.

It is most important to back up your stud running backs, and less so for wide receivers. Lastly, it is only advised to back up a quarterback if his backup is capable of strong production as a starter and if you can afford an extra roster spot to hold him.

Drafting Quarterbacks (in leagues that start only one QB)

We do not advocate taking a quarterback early in drafts. For one, there is plenty of talent to go around because most leagues only start one. So in a 12-team league, you are very likely to land a top-12 quarterback unless an owner or two decides to add their backup early. And if they do reach for their backup early –- it will only leave more talent at other positions, like running back and receiver.

There is one exception of course. If you play in a quarterback-heavy league where touchdown passes are worth six or more points, in which case it is a good idea to target one of the better gunslingers earlier.

Also, we advise not to draft a quarterback and a receiver from the same team unless the value is too good to pass up. It can burn you on weeks when the your dynamic duo is slowed down by the opposing defense, or when they decide to heavily pound the ball on the ground.  It’s better to diversity when possible.

Drafting Kickers and Defenses

Kickers are a dime a dozen, and should be reserved for the very last picks of the fantasy draft. Like quarterbacks, you only need to start one, and should have no problem landing a good starting option. Also, we tend to favor kickers who play in favorable weather conditions.

Also, it is not critical to land a stud fantasy defense to be successful. Even if your league heavily favors defenses in the scoring, don't target one until at least half of your league owners have already selected one. Also, it is worth noting that defenses can be volatile from year to year, and one of the top-rated units is bound to fall, while an under the radar unit has a strong year.  

Don't Get Caught Up in Runs

Stick to your tiers and do not get caught up in runs, like when the defenses start flying off the draft board. If there is a run on quarterbacks, then there will likely be more talent left to reel in at running back and receiver.

With that said, you can use runs to your advantage. The only time when it may be suitable to get involved in a run is at tight end, as there are few studs at the position generally and the talent pool dries up the quickest when compared to quarterback, running back and receiver.  

For more in depth articles on our strategies and sleepers, be sure to check out the Draft Kit.


Follow Todd DeVries on Twitter: @CFFGeek

Follow @CFFGeek on Twitter