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INDIANAPOLIS --- If you want to take that next step this season in fantasy football, you have to begin to break away from standard draft rankings. You must customize them for your league settings.
This is not 2001, with your 8-team Yahoo! leagues, trying to draft every St. Louis Ram possible from the "Greatest Show on Turf" on your AOL 6.0 modem connection (Remember when you had to choose between going on the Internet and using the phone?).
Every manager in your league has preseason rankings, whether it's in a magazine or on-line. Most know the sleepers creating preseason buzz. You must go deeper to outsmart your fantasy rivals.
That's where Value Based Drafting (VBD) comes in. Christopher Harris from ESPN Fantasy breaks it down nicely here.
You must understand certain positions have more value, depending on your scoring system and starting lineup. In a standard league with 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 RB/WR, running backs are always first off the board at the top of the first round. However, the pool of sure fire running backs is shrinking outside the obvious top-6 (Charles, McCoy, Peterson, Forte, Lynch, Lacy). That's why you may want to wait on a RB if you don't have a top-5 pick (remember the busts last year).
It's why I believe Jimmy Graham is a top-10 pick this season as a tight end. Yes, you only start one tight end, but the drop-off from Graham to the rest of the tight ends is significant. He was 56.5 fantasy points better than the #2 tight end last season, or 3.3 points per week. Graham was about five points per week better than the #4 tight end last season and almost seven points per week better than a low-end TE1 last season. That's significant value.
The QB position is the exact opposite. Last week, we discussed why Andrew Luck is a stud in real life, but why he probably won't carry the same value in fantasy. The position is maybe deeper than it has ever been.
But in two QB leagues, this strategy changes. You absolutely want to snag one of those top-5 QBs early. In fact, it's vital. Did we mention Point Per Reception (PPR) leagues? The rankings change drastically then. I shake my head when I see people using a standard magazine in a PPR league...then I crush them.
Last year, a friend invited me in a league where you get a full point per reception but only one point for every 20 yards. It was crazy, but because I understood value in that system, I drafted Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in the first two rounds. Running back value is severely depreciated in a league like that. Adapt! You'd be crazy to use conventional draft rankings in a league like that (unless you like losing).
Bottom line: it's 2014. You should be customizing your rankings. There are fantastic fantasy tools out there to help you customize rankings based on your league's starting lineup and scoring system. Some websites will charge a subscription for these services but others offer it with a free registration.
After you have your custom rankings, you can then look at Average Draft Position (ADP). You may have Pierre Thomas at the top of your RB board in round 5, but if he isn't being drafted on average until round 8, then you must know you can wait another round or two to snag him.
Welcome to the next level of fantasy football. Go forth and prosper.
Any time you have a fantasy question, you can ask me via Twitter: @ColtsReporter. Some I may answer immediately, and others we'll feature in the mailbag. Like this one from Justin Ayers:
Will Reggie Wayne have a bounce back fantasy year coming off of his injury?
In 2012, Reggie Wayne compiled 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and 5 TDs. He was the #14 WR in standard scoring and top-10 in PPR. More importantly, he had 70 yards or a touchdown in 13 of 16 weeks. Fantasy football is a week-to-week competition. Wayne's consistency that season was HUGE.
In 2013, Wayne's standard scoring totals in his seven weeks were: 15,4,5,16,6,8,5...but in PPR those scoring totals were 23, 9, 9, 21, 12, 13, and 10.
NFL.com Fantasy currently has Wayne being selected as the 32nd ranked WR in the 11th round of 10 team leagues. I've seen more in-depth ADP data that has him going in the 9th round or 8th in 12-team leagues.
Watch him closely in the preseason. The Colts 3rd preseason game may tell a lot about where Wayne's knee is at coming off a torn ACL.
I 100% want him on my roster at his current ADP in PPR leagues but that ADP may climb if he looks good in the preseason.