July 22, 2008

The following article is a free preview piece from RotoExperts.com 2008 Fantasy Football Draft Central. The kit includes nearly 70 strategic advice columns, positional analyses, team previews, and draft tools, so register today at Roto Experts to see the full range of coverage.

Many fantasy owners spend a lot of time thinking ahead to their first-round pick, but executing a successful approach means having a clear, focused plan from start to finish, in every round. Here's a clear, in-depth guide on how to approach your pick in every round of your 2008 fantasy football draft.

Round One: This is where you build the cornerstone of your franchise, and that's why you may obsess over this selection for most of July. You want the most peace of mind possible with that first pick if you can get it, so don't hesitate to grab Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the first five picks. Grabbing running backs immediately is not a hard and fast rule anymore in fantasy football, especially when you can take two players who are the closest things to high-level guarantees. Once the very elite RBs are off the board, take that shot on Randy Moss, and you will not regret it. Most of the other picks will be running backs in the first round, and you simply have to take the best one on the board when you're up, instead of speculating about who will be available when your turn comes in the next round. Someone will often make a baffling pick, leaving a more pleasant surprise when it's your turn. If you pick first, it doesn't get better than LaDainian Tomlinson, who edges Brady in a close race. Adrian Peterson has great upside, but he plays in a less balanced offense and is perceived as more of a risk.

Round Two: If you took someone at a position other than running back in the first round, it's a good idea to get your RB1 now. Remember, you don't have to stick so tightly to the old running back rules like in the past, but you still must start at least two guys at the position. You should begin building quality depth and addressing the position by this point. Otherwise, you should take the best player available, as there are going to be a lot of top-notch wide receivers you can grab. You can't pass up top-quality guys who are among the best at their position here. It's also just a bit early to target one of the quarterbacks outside of the top two at the position.

Round Three: If you took two running backs in the first two rounds, you have to take one of the best wide receivers available here, so you can still get in on the run for the best guys. If you still haven't taken a running back by now, you should not wait much more. There may still be some decent No.1 guys you can grab, but they won't last too much longer, and you really don't want to start a true No. 2 RB as your No. 1. If you already have a top RB and WR, then it makes perfect sense to start thinking Drew Brees and Tony Romo.

Round Four: If you have one top player at every position besides quarterback, now is the ideal time to go for Brees or Romo. You simply cannot wait any longer than this to grab that first running back, assuming you have waited this long. If you can't get Brees or Romo, it's a little early for the next tier of quarterbacks, You can make the call here between the second running back and second wide receiver if you have to, and in many cases, the second wide receiver will look more appealing. Late in the round, it's time to start thinking about the elite tight ends.

Round Five: This is where I believe you fill out that last important position in your starting lineup. Yes, you will start heavily considering the top tight ends, but otherwise, you have to come out of this round with two starting running backs, two starting wide receivers, and a starting quarterback. Many owners will have two RBs and two WRs by this point, so here is where you pounce on a guy like Carson Palmer or Derek Anderson. Don't get cute and load up at one position thinking about trades. You don't draft to trade. You draft to build your team.

Round Six: If your league uses a flex position, this is the round to start targeting the top players for that slot. If you have already addressed the "big five' starting positions, a lot of top-level tight ends will catch your eye as well. If your league requires three starting wide receivers, now is the time to grab that third starter. In many cases, a player will have fallen further than you been expected him to fall, and you can consider that sort of outstanding value over need in round six.

Round Seven: I really would not want to wait any longer than this round to select my starting quarterback. If you do, you may be uncomfortable with your projected starter after the draft concludes. If you have filled out all the other top starting positions and need a tight end, you can still get a pretty good one here. Of course, this is where you start tabbing running backs with upside. If you have taken an apparent gamble on a risky guy in the early rounds, you can make a quality "insurance" pick in this round.

Round Eight: Round eight is still to early to consider a backup quarterback, unless a really good one has fallen further than they should have. Heck, I'll take Tom Brady if he is still waiting to be picked. If you don't have one by now, you can't wait much longer on a starting tight end. Otherwise, start picking off those sleepers, and start building depth at running back and wide receiver. Please don't take a defense/special teams unit or kicker yet. Don't be that guy or gal in your league...

Round Nine: The sleeper running backs will starting to disappear at this point, and I'd rather not start thinking about veterans with little upside or guys who won't offer much at the position. The inexperienced or less-prepared owner may go for Ahman Green or Tatum Bell here. I'll pass. There will still be some gems at wide receiver, and you also have to consider building depth there. This is a fine round to start grabbing backup quarterbacks. Please, again, no D/ST or kicker yet. Stop looking at those defensive stats from last year. There's too much potential elsewhere to be burned by a pick that may turn into a disappointment or free-agent fodder.

Round 10: Personally, I'm not waiting much longer than here for my backup quarterback, and I'd go get him by now. I'm concentrating on building more depth at running back and wide receiver, and now I'm watching very carefully for any sleeper possibilities to fall into my hands. I'll also start thinking handcuffs here, especially if I took a chance on a starter with a bigger risk earlier. Again, don't start thinking D/ST or kicker yet. Avoid taking another TE if you already own a starter -- who needs a backup TE when you can just grab one off waivers--unless you see a real value slip.

Rounds 11 through 13: This is where preseason studying comes in very handy. I love these rounds for picking off my top sleepers and building depth, or for going after upside at running back and wide receiver. I can still get a very good D/ST and kicker in the very last rounds. Even better, I don't need a backup K or D/ST, because I'll pick up one-week fill-ins from the free agent list to cover both bye weeks. Maybe a backup tight end will work here, but only if he's a real sleeper.

Rounds 14 through 16: I am assuming many drafts won't go longer than this. If they do, e-mail me and I will help you adjust accordingly if you like. I'll get that final sleeper/depth pick in the 14th, then the D/ST in the 15th and the kicker in the final round. Like I said before, I don't bother with backups at the position in the preseason, and I can just about guarantee you'll see a pretty good D/ST on the board in the 15th. If you have studied hard, you know who they are. As far as kickers go, throw a dart and pick one with your last selection.

You can catch Scott Engel when he is not doing a mock draft or playing Madden on his Xbox 360. E-mail Scott at scotte@rotoexperts.com.

You May Like