At the age of 14 I first started playing fantasy football in 2006. As an avid player of fantasy football the game has drastically changed since LaDanian Tomlinson lead me to a fantasy crown with his recording breaking touchdown season almost ten years ago. You’re drafting game plan will defer whether it’s an auction or snake style draft as well as your leagues rules. For today I will offer some advice for a potential snake style strategy guide on winning your fantasy league in 2015.

Golden Rule 1: Do your Research.

Often times people prepare for fantasy drafts by seeing what the so called fantasy experts have to say and follow their rankings to a T, but not me. The start to a successful fantasy season starts in the offseason. Pay attention to where to free agency, the draft, and maybe most importantly the coaching changes. The preseason is another great way to catch up on stuff you missed.

Free agency is often times the easiest thing to track but I challenge the reader to take it a step further. Sure everyone knows that Jeremy Maclin singed with the Chiefs earlier this offseason but did you know Alex Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass to a receiver since December of 2013! Even paying attention to a player as insignificant as John Kuhn could have big impact to Eddie Lacy as Packer fans know all to well how many times the full back from Shippensburg can snag a one yard score that should have went to Lacy. DeMarco Murray showed us all last year how valuable a team’s offensive line can be to ones success.

The draft is a different story but one to monitor as rookies can prove to be sleepers at times as we saw last season in Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham. As important as it is to monitor the draft and the players landing spots its important to remember previous drafts. Running backs often times peak in their second season while receivers normally hit their stride in year three. Could Jeremy Hill be in for a monster season? Could 2015 finally be the year that Cordarelle Paterson develops as a pro? Pay attention to the draft.

Finally pay close attention to coaching changes. The 49ers for example lost head coach Jim Harbaugh and play caller Greg Roman. That negatively affects quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the rest of his supporting cast as we will finally see Kaepernick’s true colors. (Hint* Harbaugh made Kaepernick look 100 times better than he really is) Coaching is often times over looked and more important that one realizes. Naturally it is better to target players in well-coached offenses. Taking a flier on a player like Tevin Coleman running in Kyle Shanahan’s zone reed offense could pay dividends.

Ryan Fitzpatick
Are you really willing to put your fantasy championship in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick? (NJ.com)

Golden Rule 2: Avoid players on bad teams/ bad quarterbacks

This one cannot be stressed enough. Sure Doug Martin is the starting back in Tampa but is there any chance he sniffs a spot on my team? No, a perfect example of this from last season is Toby Gerhart. Fantasy experts could have fooled you to take a chance on Gerhart in the first or second round despite the fact he plays for the Jaguars. Learn from these mistakes. Having a difficult time deciding between Alfred Morris and Justin Forsett? Don’t one plays for a Super Bowl contender and will put up points while the other is stuck with the lame duck in RG3. Just make sure you handcuff Forsett with Lorenzo Taliaferro before the draft is over.

Additionally pay a close eye to the quarterback situation. Last season I was able to capitalize on this with Emmanuel Sanders as even a small upgrade from Roethlisberger to Manning made the world of difference. Brandon Marshall is a phenomenal receiver but there isn’t a chance I’m drafting him because his quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brandon Marshall is absolutely a better receiver than Donte Moncrief but I am more intrigued with Moncrief and one blow to Andre Johnson makes Moncrief a potential top 15 wide out because of Andrew Luck. You will see more examples of this, as I will explain later.

Golden Rule 3: Don’t panic

Notice there is a run on quarterbacks don’t be that guy who panics and drafts Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. I won a league last year with Matt Ryan who by all accounts didn’t have the year some other guys did. Is it possible Mathew Stafford is ranked 3 rounds to low after getting a healthy Calvin Johnson back this season? Could Sam Bradford be a fantasy superstar in Chip Kelly’s offense? Is Teddy Bridewater ready to take the NFL by storm in his 2nd year? Maybe waiting for one of those guys is smarter than reaching for a quarterback to early missing out on a play-maker earlier in the draft. Often times it is better to draft for value instead of need. If you Drafted Jimmy Graham earlier and noticed stud tight end Travis Kelce is sitting there a little to long draft him. Your buddy sitting next to you may offer you an enticing deal later in the year.

 

eddie lacy
Eddie Lacy is my number one pick headed into 2015 (getty images)

Picks 1 – 4:

Snake style drafts often times are boring and offer little fairness for players picking 11 or 12 which is a big reason I prefer auction style leagues. Nevertheless if you are fortunate enough to land a top four pick this year it is important to capitalize with your first pick. Your league rules will often determine this as a PPR league would obviously differ than a standard league. In my opinion there are 4 players worthy of becoming the first overall pick Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, Le’Veon Bell, and Adrian Peterson in that order. There would be a 5th as Jeremy Hill is set for a big year but Giovanni Bernard scares me to death and could wind up stealing a number of touches. Jamaal Charles of course becomes a no brainer in PPR leagues as he will catch a number of balls in Andy Reid’s offense. With Lacy, Lynch, Bell, and Peterson I just simply can’t see how one can go wrong depending on health of course. Backs are hard to come by and if you get a chance to get one you take him no questions asked.

 

Antonio-Brown-New-York-Jets-v-Pittsburgh-Steelers-Tl7HiV1HWprl
Hesitant to take Antonio Brown early in the first round? Think again (getty images)

Picks: 5-8

The middle picks are often the hardest to make as they involve the most risk. If your fortunate enough to land one of the previous four you should count yourself lucky that your buddy foolishly feel in love with C.J. Anderson or Matt Forte. If he didn’t you have a tough decision to make my friend. Often times the receiver you want is going to be there in the back half of the first round but I suggest you should almost avoid running backs entirely outside of Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Hill. It’s no secret it is a passing league as fantasy should be treated as such. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on guys like Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas as you known those guys will produce. At this point you should be attacking the best receivers you can as everything often times falls in place. Big fan of C.J. Anderson? Take him just don’t come crying to me if he finds himself in the dog house with an costly fumble or two. Let’s not forget your willing to draft a guy in the first round who was third on the depth chart a year ago and climbed due to injuries. Don’t get me wrong Anderson could be great in Kubiak’s offense but you won’t find me grabbing a back in the first round if his name isn’t Lacy, Lynch, Bell, or Peterson. Want to minimize risk grab the best wide out you can. Is it so crazy to grab Gronk this early? Maybe not if he can stay healthy for 16 games. The NFL is a passing league, don’t make the mistake of drafting a risky back who ruins your season.

Dez-Bryant
Want to minimize risk? Who’s a safer pick than #88 (getty images)

Picks 9-12:

Congrats you have been stuck at the back end of the draft but this may not be a bad thing. Often times you can have you pick of the litter between any receivers but I advice taking one with a trust worthy quarterback. Do you love Alshon Jeffery? Maybe you shouldn’t, as there isn’t a chance I’m putting my championship aspirations in the hands of Jay Cutler. The same goes for Odell Beckham. Is he really going to put up the numbers he did a year ago? Probably not but having Eli Manning doesn’t help as one disastrous game by Eli during fantasy playoff time could end your season. Guys like Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green should all be considered here as well as earlier names if they have not been already selected.

Fantasy Players I L<3ve (Love) in 2015

Jeremy Hill, Julio Jones, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Mathews, Todd Gurley, Darren McFadden/Joseph Randle, LeGarrette Blount, Andre Johnson, Ryan Mathews/Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater

1. Jeremy Hill: What’s not to love. Only 3 players have averaged over 5 yards per carry on over 200 attempts as rookies. Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis are two making Hill the 3rd. Some high praise for the 2nd year guy from LSU.

2. Julio Jones: Contract year! You better believe he wants his money.

3. Jimmy Graham: Think he is tired of being called soft? Do we really think he is 3 rounds worse than Gronk this year? Probably not could be in for a big time year.

4. Jordan Mathews: Blood relative of Jerry Rice is good enough for me. Add him to Chip Kelly’s offense and he has every chance to become a top 5 wide out in the league.

5. Todd Gurley: May not be healthy for weeks 1-4 but look out after that. Best college running back I’ve ever seen play since 2007 and Adrian Peterson. Dynasty owners better pick him now before he’s a perennially top 3 pick every year.

6. Darren McFadden/ Joseph Randle: Somebody has to take advantage of Dallas’ offensive line. Only real question is who? Maybe it is somebody they pick up later.

Fantasy Players I H8 (Hate) in 2015

C.J. Anderson, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Alshon Jeffery, Jonathan Stewart, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Colin Kaepernick

Runningback Busts are only inevitable in the first round. At least 1/3 will flop. Any additional wide receiver with quarterback issues can surely be added to the hate list.

Deep Deep Sleepers in 2015

Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, Ryan Mallet, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ronnie Hillman, Jay Ajayi, Chris Johnson, Matt Jones, James White, Jeremy Langford, Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Breshad Perriman, Devin Funchess, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Cole Beasley, Josh Huff, Justin Hardy, Kamar Aiken, DeVante Adams, Martavis Bryant

 

Top 10 Quarterbacks

  1. Andrew Luck
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Peyton Manning
  4. Ben Roethlisberger
  5. Mathew Stafford
  6. Tony Romo
  7. Russell Wilson
  8. Drew Brees
  9. Matt Ryan
  10. Sam Bradford

 

Top 10 Running Backs

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Marshawn Lynch
  3. Le’Veon Bell
  4. Adrian Peterson
  5. Jeremy Hill
  6. Jamaal Charles
  7. Justin Forsett
  8. DeMarco Murray
  9. Matt Forte
  10. Carlos Hyde

 

Top 10 Wide Receivers

  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Deymarius Thomas
  3. Dez Bryant
  4. Julio Jones
  5. A.J. Green
  6. Calvin Johnson
  7. Randall Cobb
  8. Y. Hilton
  9. Emmanuel Sanders
  10. Jordan Mathews

 

Top 10 Tight Ends

  1. Jimmy Graham
  2. Rob Gronkowski
  3. Travis Kelce
  4. Greg Olsen
  5. Martellus Bennett
  6. Zach Ertz
  7. Jason Witten
  8. Tyler Eifert
  9. Kyle Rudolph
  10. Charles Clay

 

Top 10 Kickers

  1. Justin Tucker
  2. Stephen Gostkowski
  3. Dan Bailey
  4. Steven Haushka
  5. Cody Parkey
  6. Adam Viniteri
  7. Matt Prater
  8. Blair Walsh
  9. Connor Barth
  10. Matt Bryant

 

Top 10 Defenses

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Baltimore
  4. New England
  5. Louis
  6. Indianapolis
  7. Miami
  8. Buffalo
  9. Houston
  10. Denver