There is a lot you can't control when it comes to fantasy football. Injuries, play calling, how many points your opponent that particular week scores…these are all factors out of your control. But there are some things you can – and should – do on draft day to increase your chances of making a run at this year's playoffs.
Here are seven draft-day fantasy football rules you should follow to have a successful season.
1. Know the bye weeks
Every team and, thus, every player on your fantasy roster will have a bye. There's no avoiding that. But you can avoid significant scoring decreases brought about by the bye weeks by knowing each team's schedule. Make sure you aren't drafting too many players who share a bye, thus rendering your output in that particular week far too low to compete. Spread the bye weeks out as much as you can among the players on your roster, particularly when it comes to your heavy point-scorers (quarterback and running backs).
2. Careful with handcuffs
Back when at least half the league had bell cow running backs, handcuffs were not only more important but also a lot easier to decipher. These days, though, with the role of the running back being diminished across the League, it's a little trickier to identify who to handcuff with your stud back. Look at Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, arguably the top two fantasy backs. Both have shifty backs behind them in the form of Jerick McKinnon and Darren Sproles, but neither one of those two are likely to get the majority of the carries should either Peterson or McCoy get hurt. If there's a clear-cut handcuff for an upper-echelon back (say, Carlos Hyde behind the aging Frank Gore), it would behoove you to leave your draft and/or auction with both players.
3. Come to the draft with a plan
Yes, much of fantasy football comes down to luck. Things like your players staying healthy, not playing half your games against the team that puts up the league-high in points that week, etc. But you can put yourself in a position to succeed by putting in a little bit of prep and not just glancing over a five-month-old fantasy magazine you picked up at Super America on your way to the draft. Maybe your plan is come hell or high water to take two backs with your first two picks. Certainly nothing wrong with sticking on that path, but be flexible … if Drew Brees or Peyton Manning fall to you, nothing wrong with changing course.
4. Get up to speed on injuries and suspensions
There are two types of buckets you don't want to fall into at your fantasy draft. First of all, don't be this guy:
Ouch. However, it's one thing to goof up on names, that can happen to a good chunk of the population. It's a totally different story when you step up to the plate a draft the guy who just snapped his femur in three different spots in the final preseason game. Before your draft or auction, make sure to take a final glance at the news and notes section of your favorite fantasy site to make sure you have all your bases covered when it comes to injuries and suspensions.
5. Know your league's rules
Back before fantasy football and the internet simultaneously blew up, most leagues had very similar rules. However, thanks to the influx of people playing and the internet mercifully putting an end to checking Monday's newspaper to figure out your league's scores, league setups have become much more complex. Decimal point scoring, losing points for missed field goals, drafting head coaches…the list goes on. Make sure you know exactly what you do and don't get points for.
6. Trust the experts' rankings
As previously stated, find some time to do the necessary legwork prior to your draft or auction to position yourself to finish atop your league. With so many fantasy options and cheat sheets available these days, one tried and true strategy is to find a cheat sheet that's geared toward your league and instead of going off of strictly the rankings, break each position into tiers. For example, with this year's quarterbacks, most would agree that after Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, there's a big drop-off to the next rung of quarterbacks. Those three would make up Tier One. Doing this at each position can help you each time you pick in terms of where there's scarcity and where you can maybe wait until the next time around to address said spot.
7. Draft at least one player you really likeDon't be a homer and draft a bunch of players from your favorite team, but also don't be afraid to have some fun and take a player you particularly enjoy watching. Fantasy football should be fun, and what's more fun than watching one of your favorite players have a three-touchdown day AND knowing the whole time he's leading your fantasy team to a victory that week? Have you always respected Larry Fitzgerald? Grab him a round early to ensure you have him and watch him help lead your team to the playoffs. Kyle Rudolph is your favorite Viking? Spend a few extra auction dollars on him so you do a double fist pump when he scores twice against the Rams in Week 1. Have some fun!