Normally at this time of year fantasy football diehards are in heaven. Off-season training activities (aka OTAs) are in the rearview mirror, training camps are getting set to open, and the shelves in the magazine sections of bookstores are crammed with your choice of approximately two dozen fantasy football publications.
Of course this season there is no normal, much less any football activity going on, unless you count the “negotiations” aimed at ending the lockout (which I don’t). Most football fans couldn’t care less about the issues involved in the lockout - just get this thing settled, get back to work, and we’ll all be happy.
Still, at least some fantasy football leagues are acting as though there’s nothing wrong with this picture - drafts are being held as though we knew which players would be playing where. I’ve taken part in two such drafts so far - thankfully, one of them was a mock draft, but the other one was an “industry experts” draft held at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s (FSTA’s) recent conference in San Francisco. These drafts were simultaneously the most fun, random, and pointless activities I’ve participated in in quite some time.
For those lost souls among us who insist on drafting their fantasy teams for this season before the lockout is settled, I offer the following five strategy tips for drafting the best team possible:
- Draft running backs sooner than you would in a “normal” season and quarterbacks/wide receivers later than you normally would. It stands to reason that with less prep time than teams usually have before the season kicks off that teams will rely more on the run and less on the pass just because the quarterbacks’ timing with their receivers might be a bit off. Don’t be surprised if there are an usually high number of low-scoring contests the first month of the season - defenses should have less sophisticated game plans to contend with than usual.
- Favor players in stable situations. By that I mean look for teams where the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, and key running backs/receivers from last season are all returning. Teams that don’t have to make major overhauls during an abbreviated training camp should be the most prepared for the start of the season.
- Avoid returning players with an uncertain situation at quarterback. Arizona, Minnesota, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington all fit that description - bump their skill position players down a bit in your rankings.
- Avoid players likely to switch teams once the lockout ends and free agency begins. Don’t get cute and draft Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb as your first quarterback - you’ll regret it.
- Avoid rookie wide receivers not named Julio Jones. See tip #1 above. Thinking of drafting A. J. Green? Who’s going to be his quarterback? If you know the answer to that, please share your crystal ball with the rest of us.
Better yet avoid drafting before the end of the lockout and spend your time enjoying the summer weather. Don’t worry, the fantasy gods will forgive you.
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