The 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Posted on June 30, 2014 by Ken Zalis

I know there have been many theories about how to draft in a fantasy football league. There are so many that you may be thinking to yourself, "Why should I bother to read this?" Well, I will tell you. This is a round-by-round guide to how to draft a competitive, balanced and deep fantasy football team.

I will try to give each round analysis of what position you should pick and why. I will try to include as many pitfalls or scenarios as I can. This strategy has worked for more than 20 years. I may not win every time, but I am in the playoffs, and have a shot at the prize, at the end of the year. Take it all in, try it and contact me if you have any questions. I will be glad to help out.

This strategy is based on redraft leagues with 16 rounds -- a starting quarterback, two running backs, two or three receivers, a tight end, a flex, a kicker, a defense and seven bench slots. It works for just about any format outside of a two-quarterback system.

So here we go. Read through it all first before you call me an idiot.

Here are some mock drafts to show you how it all plays out. You can also try it for yourself by using this mock draft simulator.

ROUND ONE: Take the first running back available, period. I do not care if you play in an eight-team or 16-team league. You have to start two running backs, and can start three if you're using a flex, so you need two studs if you are so lucky. I do not want to hear about quarterbacks Drew Brees, Aaron Rogers or Peyton Manning here, no thank you. If you take a quarterback or receiver with this pick, you will struggle to get good running backs to start or add depth. I would rather have a running back such as Ray Rice and a quarterback such as Tony Romo, Jay Cutler or Russell Wilson than a quarterback such as Peyton Manning and a running back such as Reggie Bush or Alfred Morris.

ROUND TWO: Take the best running back available. Now, there will be some temptation to grab a quarterback here. My theory: If Brees, Peyton Manning or Rogers is available during round two, take one of them if you wish. Otherwise, pass on a quarterback. On average, there are 12 teams in a fantasy league, so at worst, you will wind up with the 12th-ranked quarterback in your league in 2013 in terms of total yards. That would have been Romo or Andrew Luck -- you can win leagues with those guys, especially if your running back combination is Montee Ball and Le'Veon Bell. Resist the quarterback temptation; get two during rounds eight through 10, and you will be fine and deeper at running back and receiver.

ROUND THREE: Take the best running back available. Yes, I know I am being repetitive, but think about it this way: In the real NFL, general managers are now saying teams need two starting running backs to win in the league, because the defenses are bigger and stronger, and injuries happen. Back to the math -- there are 32 NFL teams, and there are 12 fantasy teams, so if all 12 teams in your league followed my guide, 36 running backs would be taken through three rounds. Trust me -- three quarterbacks, five receivers and a tight end will be taken during the first three rounds minimum. So, if you follow this guide, you now have three starting NFL running backs, and you now have your flex, trade bait and depth. A Zac Stacy or Ryan Mathews is a great third running back and a super flex.

ROUNDS FOUR AND FIVE: Here is where you have to really pay attention to what your other owners are doing. I would usually say to take the best receivers available on the board here, but that is not entirely true all the time. Yes, I know I do not have a receiver on the roster yet, but traditionally after the top 10 or so, wideouts are gone. There is a group of 30 or so whose stats are all about the same. Remember, there are 64 starting receivers in the NFL, so if you have 12 teams and each team takes two, then 24 wideouts are off the board, so you still have 40 or so, and you can also choose receivers from teams that use three-wide sets. So, with that being said, take the best running back or receiver available.

ROUND SIX: We are looking for depth here. If you took a tight end during round four or five, take the best receiver available. If you now have three running backs and two receivers, do not reach for a quarterback yet. Trust me. Those that already have a quarterback -- and this means most of your league by now -- are not going to take another signal caller before they fill out their roster. So relax on the quarterbacks and take the best back or wideout on the board. Oh, and if you do not have a tight end yet, don't worry about it. After the first three or so, they are all the same, and the same theories I have about quarterbacks apply.

ROUND SEVEN: Look for depth, depth, depth. We're still on running backs and receivers here -- maybe a handcuff pick here if you took running back Arian Foster or Rice during round one or two. Maybe take a running back such as Bernard Pierce (that may be early, but he will be gone before you know it) or start thinking of what ifs here. What if my running back gets hurt? Will I be forced into a trade or free agency, or can I handle it with my roster? You will want to handle it and make trades and free-agency pickups from strength, not weakness.

ROUNDS 8-10: OK, quarterback freaks, here is your time. In 2008, I got Cutler, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub during these rounds. In 2011, I got Eli Manning this late; in 2012, and Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III went in this range. In 2013, I got Romo and Wilson, so you can have quality. I like to take two quarterbacks during these three rounds, and unless I got a stud tight end early, I'll take my tight end here.

OK, there are six rounds left. I should have two quarterbacks, one tight end, three running backs, three receivers and another running back or receiver on the roster. Within the next six picks, I'll need a kicker and a defense and then four picks of sleepers and rookies. This is where those in it to win it do some damage. Anyone want wide receiver Marques Colston or running back Alfred Morris? Yes, I took them during many 16th rounds in 2007 and 2012. How? Why? Once Donte' Stallworth moved from the Saints in 2007, someone had to be their No. 2. In 2012, Morris was a Redskins running back with a pulse, so why not? As for rookies, wide receivers usually make the biggest impact. Unless a running back is a surefire starter, such as Bell was for Pittsburgh in 2013, look for those No. 2 receivers that could get playing time.

ROUNDS 11-16: Take a defense during round 14 and a kicker during round 15, or vice versa. Take sleepers or a rookie wide receiver with picks 11, 12, 13 and 16. Follow training camps. They will unlock the keys to these picks. Grab depth.

When you are done, your roster should look like this: two quarterbacks, five running backs, five receivers, one tight end, one kicker, one defense and one more receiver or running back. You can always pick up or trade for what you need later if you drafted well and have depth. I love two-for-one trades to those owners that are weak at running back and receiver, which someone will be.

Don't think it will work? Join a free league and try it. Try a mock draft or two. See how your rosters turn out. It works. I have tested all the draft theories, and based on my years of playing this game, this draft strategy will work. It covers all the bases.

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