Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I've come up with five basic strategies which I have seen being used over my 30 years of playing fantasy football. Some work a lot better than others, but I'll let you make that decision.
"The Classic" -
It's the ultimate dream of every fantasy owner - to have two stud running backs in the backfield. It's the same theory that has been used since fantasy football got its start many years ago and it can still work today. The strategy is to draft two "workhorse" running backs in the first two rounds.
Many fantasy owners will tell you that in today's game, what with the dreaded "Running Back By Committee (RBBC), the west coast offense and new NFL rules to make it much easier to pass the football, you can't use this theory. They will tell you that it's a pass-happy world in 2011, but I disagree.
Fact - There were 13,920 rushing attempts in 2010 for 58,607 yards versus 13,666 and 55,440 in 2001 and 12,279 for 48,237 in 1991.
Fact - In 2010 there were 16 running backs who averaged 15+ carries-a-game and 17 running backs who rushed for 1,000+ yards.
Sure, you may not be able to put together a "Terrell Davis/Barry Sanders" backfield like I did in 1997, but you can still line up two quality backs. If you have one of the top-three picks, we're talking Chris Johnson and Matt Forte (fantasyfootballnerd.com ranking of 20) or in the back half of a 10-team league you can easily have a backfield consisting of Rashard Mendenhall (9) and Michael Turner (13).
Add in a couple of solid receivers and one of the many fine quarterbacks you can still get in the fourth or fifth rounds (example Tony Romo ranked 40th) and you have the core of a winning team.
"Best Player Available Theory (a.k.a. stockpiling)" -
Just as it says, you select the best player available when it's your turn to pick, regardless of position. Unfortunately, you frequently end up with an unbalanced roster. Five receivers, when you can only start two or three, is a waste of talent. In leagues where owners like to trade, you can still succeed, but you're dependent on your ability to "wheel and deal."
The fantasy owner who uses this method is frequently at the mercy of injuries; both his own and his opposition. An injury where he has only one good starter can ruin the plan. On the other hand, an injury to another owner's key player can have him paying through the nose for your surplus.
"Biggest Variance Theory" (tier theory) -
If you have done your homework, this is the most reliable strategy to use and the one I have employed successfully in both football and baseball for many years.
The strategy is all about determining which player will produce the largest margin over the next player at his position. You are not selecting the player who will score the most points, but the one who will give you the biggest advantage over your next available option.
For example; You need a receiver and a tight end in the fourth and fifth rounds. There are six receivers in the current tier all of whom will score about the same amount of points, but only one tight end left at the tier and then it drops significantly. Even if all the receivers average more points than the tight end you are going to select, you must select the tight end in the fourth round and a wide receiver in the fifth round.
Possible Fourth Round Choices
* = last year's points-per-game average
Here's the math - If you select the highest production in the fourth round, Colston 12.2 ppg and end up with Finley at 8.6 ppg with your next pick you total 20.8 ppg. If instead, you pick Dallas Clark at 11.3 ppg and end up with Wes Welker at 10.1 ppg in the next round you total 21.4 points-per-week from the pair.
"The One Loss Theory"-
I tried this one about four years ago and it worked perfectly as I went 15-1 and won the championship. In this strategy you intentionally draft players who all have the same bye week.
The theory is that while you will obviously lose the game when all your players have a bye, the payoff is that you will be at full strength in every other week while the opposition will likely be playing short-handed.
This season the Eagles, Giants, Patriots, Bills, Bengals and 49ers all have Week 7 off and the Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets. Raiders and Buccaneers all have a bye in Week 8. They would seem to be the best bye options for this strategy.
"The Contrarian Theory" -
The Contrarian always goes against the grain. While you are picking running backs in the first few rounds, he's trying to get the best player at other positions and his first two picks are likely going to be a receiver and a quarterback. He's trying to get the best player in as many positions as possible.
The problem with this theory is that he's usually scraping the bottom of the barrel for running backs. He'll be looking for his two starters in rounds four and five and that means a starting backfield like Jahvid Best and Daniel Thomas is about as good as he will likely find.
Frequently you'll find the guy who uses this strategy is also the kind of guy who loves to draft rookies and sleepers. If he hits it big with one of his sleepers or first-year running backs, he can win the title, but its usually a long shot.