Fantasy football draft advice: No cookie-cutters here

Read a Twitter post the other day — from a source at another site I will not reveal for reasons that will become obvious next paragraph — plugging an RB-RB draft strategy article.

My initial response: “RB-RB? How archaic?” Then I pondered: “What is the best positional strategy to use in 2010?” The answer hit me like a 300-pound defensive end hits in his contract year. Every one of these cookie-cutter strategies is for beginners.

Any “strategy” that shoehorns you into a certain situation — pick a QB late, RB-RB-WR-WR, best player available — will not help an experienced fantasy player. It can only hurt them.

Flexibility and versatility is the name of the game.

Winning tactics: Zag when they zig

Last year, I unveiled the Ninja Attack Plan. The words here mimic concepts in that piece, but it’s still worth a re-read. Some of you only want new hotness, I know. This summary is for you: “Ninjas don’t get pushed around, they attack.”

Despite some flawed thinking in that article — I mocked Miles Austin in favor of Patrick Crayton. Yikes — the team from that draft won one of the league’s two divisions and scored the third most points.

I didn’t know how successful that team was going to be but I did expect success from day 1. After a first-round bye, I lost in the semifinals to a team that somehow rostered almost all of 2009′s superstars, including Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Andre Johnson and Dallas Clark. Not surprisingly, he won the league.

In 2010, there is no better philosophy than to attack mercilessly. More wide receivers and quarterbacks are being taken early. There are more than three exciting tight ends to choose from, another contrast to previous seasons.

You left your poison-tipped arrows where?

If you ignore those trends and tell yourself you need a top 3 tight end or that you need to wait for a quarterback, you are leaving some of your best weapons at battlefield HQ.

There will be drafts where you end up with a top-3 tight end, but to feel like you need one is like marching into battle with blinders on. You’ll feel focused and prepared until a ninja takes your sleeper QB two rounds before his ADP.

Oops. You just got flanked and filleted, soldier. Have fun starting A.J. Feeley.

Let’s discuss another for instance: The draft begins with the first four backs — Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Frank Gore — flying off the board. But only one running back — Ray Rice — is taken over the next 14 picks. It’s an exaggeration, I know, but follow along for argument’s sake. That means the player at 1-2 who wanted to take a stud RB early, follow it up with a lower tier-1 receiver and a second back at the turn (RB-WR-RB, in cookie-cutter terms) is damaging the team if they follow their predetermined path.

I’d punt my starting lineup and go RB-RB-RB.

Be a hero: Attack the most vulnerable front

Why waste a third pick on an RB? You should always skim from the top of the pool that is overflowing and leave the backwash for someone else.

Risky? As risky as charging into battle as a lone wolf. But no great success has ever been made without great risk. Want another war axiom? Brainpower is nearly as helpful as firepower to a fantasy battlefield hero.

The fantasy owner pulling the strings must be a savvy lieutenant in the Ninja Army. You need to study resources here and at other respected websites. You need to know the names of all — yes, every single one — of the players that could be drafted, their potential for success and their potential for failure.

If you know potential superstar WRs like Hakeem Nicks, Pierre Garcon, Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin are available with back-to-back picks in the sixth and seventh rounds (www.mockdraftcentral.com ADP), then you can confidently go RB-RB-RB and watch your less ninja-ey opponents squirm under the weight of your boot.

Someone who laughs off a WR-WR-WR start — not for the faint of heart, but if the chips fall in some ridiculous way, a ninja must strike — knows that running backs like Ben Tate, C.J. Spiller, Marion Barber, Fred Jackson and Ahmad Bradshaw will all be available in the same turn at rounds 6-7.

For those of you turning your nose up at some of those backs, keep this in mind: Based on fantasy points scored, Barber, Jackson and Bradshaw were all fantasy starters in standard 14-team leagues last season.

Then again, if someone else zagged and those backs are gone you can pick a QB or TE. If you really want to go nuts, max out your WR quota and note who the boobirds are. They’ll be the ones ready to trade before the season even starts.

One key to this strategy is never settling for a player you don’t want. Never pick that second RB just because there are only two “good” ones left. Unless one of them is a back you badly want to roster, pick from another position. Your team will be better for it.

You’ll also have more fun.

A disrupted opponent already has one foot in the grave

Part of your duty when following a strategy like this is to obsolete your opponent’s tactics.

While everyone else is scrambling to get those last tier-1 wide receivers, you’re taking a top-level QB or TE, shouting “keep scrambling, fellas” and watching the sheep settle for scraps again next round. Chinstrap Ninjas settle for scraps at the end of the draft, you know, when scraps are all that’s left.

The draft is the best part of the fantasy football experience. When you’re in the driver’s seat controlling the flow while building a playoff-bound team, it’s even better.

This strategy has it’s rewards and risks, but you’ve never used one that was more fun.

Happy drafting and stay deadly.

6 Responses to “Fantasy football draft advice: No cookie-cutters here”


  1. Sockonfl

    Nice piece EP. A really enjoyable read.

  2. Krause

    nice post. I think it’s hilarious when someone drafts a TE or a K everyone else drafting starts jumping on that position. I normally draft a top three TE somewhere in the first five rounds but it cracks me up how many people throw away their plans and scramble for a TE after I select one. It puts me in crontrol and allows me to wait on a player until round six or so. defenitely pays off in a keeper league like mine. Nice to see I’m not alone in my thinking but did u have to tell the world?

  3. ep

    @Sockonfl: Thanks.

    @Krause: Even if I tell the world — and even with as strong a headline as I used — there are a lot of people who don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push people around in the draft. They’ll follow the same RB-RB strategy they’ve used since 1998.

    Luckily for us, Chinstrap Ninjas is filled with people like you two. People who aren’t afraid to buck trends and force their opponents to sweat on draft day.

    Thanks for the comments guys.

  4. Bigpelly8

    Hey,
    As someone who spends his day reading and overthinking fantasy football, its nice to hear opinion from the “real experts”. You know, the average joe player who know show to dominate a league with your buddies. Who can draft a stud team while 6 beers deep and stuffed with pizza and onion dip! The guys who get paid to do it, tell us what we already know!! Nice site brother…good luck in 2010!!

  5. ep

    @Bigpelly8: We are readers and overthinkers just like you. And like you we’ve probably each read 20 different RB-RB theory articles.
    Glad we could pour some freshness over your eyes.
    Thanks for the comment and the compliment.
    By the way, awesome username.

  6. Pick by pick strategy: What should you do if you pick No. 1 overall? at Chinstrap Ninjas

    [...] Rest assured that your first three picks will determine later picks, which is a perfectly good reason to avoid cookie-cutter strategy. [...]