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Steve Schwarz | Archive | Email |  
Staff Writer

Five Draft Day Strategies

I've come up with five strategies, from basic to unusual, which I have seen being used over my 30-plus years of playing fantasy football. Some work a lot better than others, but I'll let you decide.

"The Classic"
Terrell Davis

Davis rushed for 1750 yards and scored 15 TDs in '97.

For many years it was the ultimate dream of every fantasy owner - to have two stud running backs in their backfield. That’s mostly because running backs are the most consistent position for point production. It's the same theory that has been used since fantasy football got its start many years ago.

The strategy is to draft two "workhorse" running backs in the first two rounds. That's of course if you can find them! Many fantasy owners will tell you that in today's game, with the dreaded "Running-Back-By-Committee" (RBBC), the west coast offense and changes in the NFL rules over the past few years to make it much easier to pass the football, you can't use this theory.

Here are the facts. Rushing attempts have changed little over the past 20 seasons. There were 13,688 rushing attempts in 2014 for 57,002 yards versus 14,428 for 59,709 in 2004 and 12,550 for 46,710 in 1994. Yes, that's 740 less than there was in 2004, but still 1,138 more than there was in 1994. We're talking 1.4 less carries per game per team than 10 years ago, but 2.2 more carries per game per team than 20 years ago.

So despite what many owners think, teams aren't running less.

They are, however, throwing it more often and for more yards than in the past which makes quarterbacks, wide receivers and pass-receiving running backs more valuable. In 2014, the teams threw 17,879 passes for a record 121,247 yards. That total was 13,450 more yards than in 2004 and 25,553 more than in 1994.

In 2014 there were 12 running backs who averaged 15 or more carries-a-game and 13 running backs who rushed for 1,000-plus yards.

While you may not be able to put together a "Terrell Davis/Barry Sanders" backfield like I did in 1997, it is still possible to line up two quality backs.

The Classic has become less and less popular over the years.

"Best Player Available Theory (a.k.a. stockpiling)"

Just as it says, you select the best player available when it's your turn to pick, regardless of position. Unfortunately, you frequently end up with an unbalanced roster. Having five receivers, when you can only start two or three, is a waste of talent. In leagues where owners like to trade, you can still succeed, but you're dependent on your ability to "wheel and deal."

The fantasy owner who uses this method is frequently at the mercy of injuries - both his own and his opposition. An injury where he has only one good starter can ruin the plan. On the other hand, an injury to another owner's key player can have him paying through the nose for your surplus.

“The One Loss Theory”

In this strategy you intentionally draft players who all have the same bye week.

The theory is that while you will obviously lose the game when all your players have a bye, the payoff is that you will be at full strength in every other week while the opposition will likely be playing short-handed.

I tried this one about eight years ago and it worked perfectly as I went 15-1 and won the championship.

This season the Bears, Bengals, Broncos and Packers all have off in Week 7. Week 9 in also a possibility with Cardinals, Ravens, Lions, Texans, Chiefs and Seahawks all on a bye.

"The Contrarian Theory"

The Contrarian always goes against the grain. While you are picking running backs in the first few rounds, he's trying to get the best player at other positions and his first two picks are likely going to be a receiver and a quarterback. He's trying to get the best player in as many positions as possible.

The problem with this theory is that he's usually scraping the bottom of the barrel for running backs. He'll be looking for his two starters in rounds four and five and that means a starting backfield like Carlos Hyde (ADP 39.6) and T.J. Yeldon (51.0) is about as good as he will likely find.

Frequently you'll find the guy who uses this strategy is also the kind of guy who loves to draft rookies and sleepers. If he hits it big with one of his sleepers or first-year running backs, he can win the title, but it's usually a long shot.

"Biggest Variance Theory"

If you have done your homework, this can be the most reliable strategy to use and the one I have employed successfully in both football and baseball for many years.

The strategy is all about determining which combination of players will produce the largest margin over the next pair of players. You are not selecting the player who will necessarily score the most points, but the pair who will give you the biggest advantage over your next available option. For example; You need a receiver and a tight end in the fourth and fifth rounds. Determine whether to draft a tight end first or a receiver first based on the highest combined production. Even if all the receivers average more points than the tight ends, you may have to select the tight end in the fourth round and a wide receiver in the fifth round if that combination produces the best fantasy totals.

Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.