Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I've come up with five basic strategies which I have seen used over my 30-plus 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 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 2013, but I disagree.
Fact - There were 13,925 rushing attempts in 2012 for 59,349 yards versus 14,102 and 59,459 in 2001 and 12,291 for 49,509 in 1992. As you can see, there hasn't been a big variance over the past 20 seasons.
Fact - In 2012 there were 23 running backs who averaged 15-plus carries-a-game and 16 running backs who rushed for 1,000-plus yards.
Sure, you may not be able to put together a "Terrell Davis/Barry Sanders" backfield as I once did in 1997, but you can still line up two quality backs. If you have the top pick, we're talking Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew or in the back half of a 10-team league you can easily have a backfield consisting of Ray Rice (fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP 8) and Steven Jackson (13.4).
Add in a couple of solid receivers and one of the many fine quarterbacks you can still get in the fourth or fifth round (example Matt Ryan's ADP is 49.6) 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.
The One Loss Theory -
I tried this one about many 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.
"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 Ryan Mathews and rookie Eddie Lacy.
Frequently you'll find the owner 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, like Doug Martin last season, he can win the title, but its usually a long shot.