Written by Mikey Ostrowski

With the NFL season set to kick off in just two weeks, chances are you are only days away from finally drafting your league-winning team for 2020.

Obviously, you always want to go for gold, but have you ever exited a fantasy draft and thought to yourself “Wow, that could have gone much better”? If not, you’re either Matthew Berry or a liar… and if you’re actually Matthew Berry… hey man, hit me up if you wanna offer me a job, I’m only getting paid in beer here.

All kidding aside, there’s a reason why you clicked on this article… and that reason is probably because you need some advice before that draft timer starts ticking down. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.

Fantasy Tip #1 – Play it safe in round one.

I know that there are a handful of guys you don’t want to leave the draft without, but round one is no time to be a hero. For example, if you really love Joe Mixon but end up with pick #3 overall, you’re probably not getting Joe Mixon. This isn’t me daring you to take Mixon at pick #3, this is me setting an example of being smart… and the smart thing would be to NOT pick Joe Mixon with your first-round pick. Having a top-three pick means that there are realistically only a handful of guys you should consider taking, and those guys MUST be universally in the conversation for top three at their position. Guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Davante Adams are probably the only acceptable options here given that Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley are presumably off of the table. Don’t look at this as “Ahh shucks, I didn’t get Joe Mixon.” Look at this as “Hell yeah, I got Zeke!”

Fantasy Tip #2 – Get your starting two running backs in the first three rounds.

Ever heard of the “Zero RB” strategy? Well, it’s horrid and should be thrown out forever. Running backs are the absolute hardest things to come by in fantasy and grabbing your guys early is a clear advantage in any fantasy format. Sure, there are always a few running backs that go in the 5th round or later that end up being top-20 options, but your chances of grabbing one are slim. Wide receivers, on the other hand, are practically a dime a dozen by the 5th round. There were two total running backs in 2019 that finished as top-20 options despite having an ADP (average draft position) of the 5th round or worse. There were seven wide receivers that achieved top 20 at their position despite a less-than-stellar ADP as well. The lesson? Draft running backs early, the 5th round through the 8th round is going to have quite the handful of relevant receivers.

Fantasy Tip #3 – Don’t downplay an elite tight end.

I am one of those people that will always wait until double-digit rounds to grab my tight end. Truth be told, that’s a lottery ticket that I always have way too much confidence in. I know some of you may afraid to use a 2nd round pick on a guy like George Kittle or Travis Kelce, but it’s actually a really great idea that can put you in an elite position. These guys each finished with 206+ PPR points last year and were top five at the position. The guys who finished 7th through 12th at the position were at AT LEAST 50 points less than Kittle and Kelce. Those extra 3+ points a week can pay massive dividends, especially if you’ve followed my first two snippets of advice. There’s a realistic possibility of grabbing Alvin Kamara, Travis Kelce, Austin Ekeler, Adam Thielen, and Allen Robinson with your first five picks in your draft which has every ability to deem your team a top scorer each week. While this advice is not imperative, taking Kittle or Kelce if one falls late into the 2nd round or even to the 3rd round is a complete steal and will pay more dividends than you could possibly imagine.

Fantasy Tip #4 – Learn to pivot.

Do not come to draft day with a cemented plan like “Okay, I’m going RB-WR-RB-WR-WR-TE-QB…”. No! Never do this! It’s good to have goals such as “Okay, I want to have two running backs by the end of the third round” but it’s also okay to break your own rules. What happens if your plan is to go back-to-back running backs in the 1st and 2nd round, but then an elite wide receiver talent like Michael Thomas or Davante Adams slips into the 2nd round outta nowhere? Are you telling me you’re going to pass on Adams for Miles Sanders? This may be a bit dramatic, as one of these receivers will never fall to the 2nd round, but the point is that you have to be fluid. Don’t etch your goals in stone; write them in pencil. If all goes according to plan then you’ll be a happy camper, but don’t pass on proven talent at a good price if it’s there.

Fantasy Tip #5 – Make a mid-round player your “my guy”.

What I mean by this is to go out, do your research, and fall in love with a guy that’s slated to be picked later than the 5th round in most drafts. In the middle rounds of a draft is when it’s finally acceptable to reach on guys that you just don’t want to leave the draft without. For me, that guy is D’Andre Swift. Swift is currently being drafted in the early 6th round, but I will be taking him as early as the start of the 5th round in every single redraft league I enter this year. It’s one of those things where “sure, this pick could totally flop, but if it pans out I’m gonna look like a genius”. Worst-case scenario, I just wasted a 5th round pick… oh well, at least my top four guys are studs”. Plus, it makes everything that much more fun when you can pull for your underdog as the season progresses. It’s a fun aspect to bring to your draft, and if you have enough confidence in a guy like that, the reward will outweigh the risk in the mid rounds of a fantasy draft.

Fantasy Tip #6 – Shoot for the moon on your late-round picks.

Your late-round picks are purely for depth. Depth is something you’re only going to use one or twice throughout the entire season unless you’re unlucky enough to have a major injury to your starting squad (and even then, you’re probably just picking up their backup on the waiver wire). Don’t stash “safe” guys on your bench (well, maybe have one), stash the guys that have breakout potential. This is a long time ago type of example, but back in 2013, I took Alshon Jeffery in the 14th round of my 15-round draft and he went off for over 1,500 yards from scrimmage that year. While finding a guy of that caliber that late is extremely rare, it helps me prove my point; take the guys that have a clear opportunity to blow up. It’s easier said than done but taking a team’s less-than-mentioned WR2 or the backup running back to a fairly injury-prone starter can prove to be significantly more valuable than “the safe play for my BYE weeks”.

Fantasy Tip #7 – Use your last two picks on your kicker and defense.

Don’t be that guy. Good depth will forever be more valuable than Justin Tucker. Besides, these two positions are likely to be the richest on the waiver wire and will rarely be guys that you’re looking to “hold onto” through their BYE weeks. It’s also worth mentioning that the top defense you’re “reaching” to snag will more likely than not finish as even a top-three defense for a 2nd consecutive year. If you’re playing in a league that supports kickers and team defenses, just wait. Like, seriously, just wait.

Fantasy Tip #8 – Talk copious amounts of smack to your league.

This one is the most important, especially in a home league. Nobody wants to see the league’s biggest agitator win games; so, you should make it your mission to be that guy in the league. Trust me, it’s a ton of fun and if you haven’t done it yet you are missing out big time. Having a “league villain” is something that every good league needs; so step up and take one for the team… and then make fun of them when you win the trophy.

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we dive into the top-12 wide receivers for this upcoming fantasy season!

Mikey Ostrowski is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook