Every fantasy football league is different and every draft is the same, especially if you consider the scoring differences of a Points-Per-Reception (PPR) league. Understanding the subtle differences make or break your draft.
Before we present to you SI.com's first Mock Draft for 2012 (a PPR league, by the way), we give you a few final pointers of things to weigh before you get to pickin'.
1. Draft according to your format
This should be beyond obvious to everyone, but it tends to be where the least amount of time fantasy owners spend preparing for their draft. You can know the NFL and its players upside down and inside out -- like your TV talking head of choice -- but if you don't know fantasy and your scoring nuances, you are ostensibly picking blind. Player rankings and average draft position (ADP) differ greatly depending on your format and scoring system. For example, in some leagues that reward points for yardage-against and points-against for Defense/Special teams, it can make sense picking your D/ST before your starting quarterback even. Seriously. D/STs can score big points in some formats, hardly anything in others.
2. Know your league's draft history
Like knowing your scoring system, if you play in a league that has generally had the same members, you can gleam a lot of knowledge from past years' drafts. Watch where the first defenses go off the board (on average); note where the second- and third-tier QBs start going off the board. Fantasy football drafters are creatures of habit. You can learn more about what will happen by looking back at what has.
3. Know your draft location
We aren't talking about showing up at the right address here. If you pick online, know the rankings, projections and ADPs of the website you are drafting on. Where you draft tends to have a significant impact on how your draft goes. A draft on Yahoo.com or ESPN.com will vary from one on CBSSports.com. The wisdom of the crowd tends to get us closer to reality, so have multiple sources of rankings and ADPs. (MockDraftCentral.com has good, frequently updated and multi-format ADP rankings that generally are unaffected by the major commissioner host website's rankings.)
Now that you have those three tips in mind, the draft below is a standard, 12-team PPR league that doesn't value D/STs that greatly. The participants, like most fantasy analysts drafts, generally value running backs and receivers, waiting a bit on quarterbacks. The draft was hosted on CBSSports.com, so it might not follow SI.com's top 200 rankings as closely as some other drafts might.
A few key notes on the draft below:
1. QB -- Three went in Round 1, two went in the middle of Round 2 and then there was a significant wait for the rest of the teams to lock up a starting QB.
2. RB -- Round 9 was roughly the start of owners picking up handcuffs for their elite starting RBs. If you pick Arian Foster (Ben Tate), Fred Jackson (C.J. Spiller), Darren Sproles (Mark Ingram), Beanie Wells (Ryan Williams) and DeAngelo Williams (Jonathan Stewart), you are going to have a tough time locking up your RBs proper handcuff.
3. WR -- They tend to go in bunches. Rounds 2 and 3 were heavy on WRs and RBs.
4. TE -- The elite duo goes off the board early in Round 2 and the next tier waits all the way until Round 5 and 6.
5. K -- If you don't like waiting until the final round, you shouldn't go any earlier than third to the last round. Even then, you should only pick a kicker if you are at the back end of the round. That figures to be where you can start a run on the few top kickers.
6. D/ST -- As reminded above, this league wasn't heavy on D/ST points, so the first unit went off the board in Round 10 and most owners waited even later. If you are in the league with bigger D/STs points, you can consider picking the first unit -- unanimously the 49ers -- in Round 7 or 8.
This draft was held Wednesday, Aug. 22, so there could be significant changes if you are drafting after the pivotal third week of the preseason. That week tends to give us the best information on how offenses and players look, because it is generally the teams' dress rehearsal for opening day. Keep that in mind, as well.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).