Over the last five years, fantasy football has exploded like Mount St. Helens circa 1980. You and your dentist, barber, and mailman have, or will be drafting over the next month in hope of capturing a championship in January. While PPR (points per reception) leagues are certainly the most popular type of format in 2015, there are still thousands of people that enjoy the standard format that focuses on yardage and touchdowns. With that said, here are several key pointers as you prepare for your Standard League draft.
1. Know Your Scoring System
No matter what format you are playing, you still have the same pool of players to choose from. Therefore, the most important thing you need to know is what the scoring system of your league is. For running backs and wide receivers, six points per touchdown is standard, but for quarterbacks that number could vary anywhere from three-to-six points.
Points for yardage is usually distributed per-10 yards in Non-PPR formats. For example, if DeMarco Murray rushes for 63 yards and gains another 51 yards over eight catches through the air, he would gain 11 points. If you add two touchdowns to that total, Murray would post 23 points for the week. Notice that the receptions mean nothing.
On defense, it is important to know exactly where your points are coming from. Sure, you know a shutout is going to net you 15 points, but what about sacks or interceptions? How about fumbles or forced fumbles? Does your league count special teams touchdowns? These are all questions that need to be answered. Defenses are normally taken towards the end of drafts, but they’re still important. Maximize your points on defense by knowing the scoring system inside and out and targeting teams that play to the strengths of the format.
2. Roster Format
If the scoring system is the most important aspect you need to know, then roster format is a close second. Be sure to know exactly how many running backs and wide receivers you start each week and absolutely, positively, know whether or not you have a FLEX position to fill. Having a strong starter in that FLEX position each week could be the difference of fifth place money and hoisting that trophy at the end of the season.
A deep bench is also important. With bye weeks and injuries, it is impossible to be too deep. That doesn’t mean you should hoard four quarterbacks; that’s just dumb. Use your bench to roster handcuffs at running back and depth at wide receiver. Over a full season, those early stashes are going to come in handy.
3. You Want To Pass On a Running Back Early? Think Again.
If you want to donate your buy-in minutes into your Standard League draft, go ahead and draft a tight end and wide receiver with your first two picks. By the time you reach the third-round, you’ll be staring at Mark Ingram or Andre Ellington as your RB1. With points per reception out of the equation, you absolutely need strong, reliable smash mouth running backs that will pound the ball on the ground and find the end zone with regularity.
Using data from Howard Bender’s #MockDraftArmy, you will see that no matter where you pick in the first round of a 12-team league, you will have the chance to draft an elite running back. I have yet to participate in a mock draft where at least two or three wideouts and Rob Gronkowski were not taken. Snap up Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, or one of the other consensus top 10 running backs and cross your fingers that another one lands in your lap coming back in the second round.
4. Wait On a Quarterback
You know the guy in your league. He is drafting sixth overall and his eyes are focused on the ruggedly handsome Andrew Luck--no other player is even on his radar. What makes matters worse is that passing touchdowns are only worth three points! Enjoy the outright stupidity of your league mate as he takes Luck in the first and ends up with Joique Bell as his RB1. Meanwhile, you take Marshawn Lynch in the first followed by Ben Roethlisberger seven rounds later. Which combo is going to perform better this season?
Based on Standard Scoring for 2014, there was a 98-point difference between the best overall quarterback (Aaron Rodgers-354.1) and 14th overall quarterback (Jay Cutler-256.3). On the flip side, just eight running backs and seven wide receivers scored over 200 points. Both running back and wide receiver thin out quickly. So, tell me again why you feel the need to take a quarterback early?
5. Rushing Quarterbacks
Of the top 10 quarterbacks last season, just one finished with fewer than 4,000 passing yards. That player was Russell Wilson. So, why was Wilson the third overall quarterback in standard leagues at season’s end? Easy. He rushed for 849 yards and found the end zone six times on the ground. Those six point touchdowns and wealth of yardage add up.
6. Wide Receivers Lose Value
Okay, this doesn’t apply to studs. Sure, it would have been nice to have an additional 129 points from Antonio Brown’s receptions last year, but when he racks up 1,700 yards and an abundance of touchdowns, what does it matter? Remember, no one else in your league is getting points per reception either.
Where you will feel the pain is with the possession receivers that you roster. Players like Jarvis Landry and Julian Edelman project well in PPR formats, but without the receptions, their value decreases dramatically. It is safe to ignore these types of players and focus on deep ball threats like T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson and red zone targets such as Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace.
7. Tight Ends
Unless you want to blow your first-round pick on Rob Gronkowski or gamble with Jimmy Graham in a new environment, the low-end TE1’s are very similar. The difference between Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, and Jason Witten is minimal. If you see a run on tight ends during the fifth or sixth round, break the trend and look in a different direction. It’s easy to panic if you reach the eighth round and feel like you’re going to take a big fat zero from your tight end each week. Have no fear. Grab Coby Fleener in the Colts’ fantastic offense or look at Josh Hill from the Saints who will take over for Graham this season.
8. Feast Or Famine
A popular Standard League strategy is owning the quarterback and stud receiver from the same team; think Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown or Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson. What this does is maximizes your points in the weeks where those combinations go off for huge numbers. The downfall to this strategy is that during an inevitable poor week, you are much more likely to land in the loss column.
Given the fact that these combinations will be some of the highest scoring players in fantasy football, it isn’t something you should worry about all that much. Enjoy nine points every time your QB and WR hook up instead of just six or three. Think about how hype you’ll be when you watch Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant for an 82-yard bomb even though you hate the Cowboys.
Overall, you need to head into your Standard League draft with the mindset that you are going to draft the very best team that you can. We have all competed in a countless number of drafts and the most important thing to know is that conventional wisdom should be thrown out the window. A wide receiver may land in your lap that you never thought was possible or the running back you had queued up gets snapped one pick before yours.
Focus on building a strong base of running backs and wide receivers that will rack up yardage and find the end zone with consistency. If you use this strategy, you’ll find yourself with a quarterback like Matt Ryan or Tony Romo and that certainly isn’t a bad thing. Fill in with an upside tight end, a strong defense, a kicker that gets scoring chances, and a deep bench, and you’ll be in a position to win when the playoffs start.
Next week we will look at 2 QB Leagues and how to prepare for your draft this season.