Fantasy Football 101:  How Saints fans can dominate their drafts in ten easy steps

Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football season is here, and we got you covered on how to win your league, whether you're a New Orleans Saints fan or otherwise.

New Orleans Saints fans, as well as fans all over the globe, are in the thick of fantasy football draft season, with this being the final week of preseason action, there are drafts aplenty. If you root for the Saints or anyone else, we got you covered with these ten steps to dominate your leagues.

1. Find the breakout BEFORE the breakout

Drafting in fantasy football is all about VALUE.  The skill, and the fun, in fantasy football drafts is to identify those players who will emerge as fantasy stars by the end of the season.  Let others chase the inflated draft positions of Josh Jacobs or TJ Hockenson. Rather, identify the next Josh Jacobs - a running back who will significantly outplay his draft position. One name to consider is Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert, who had performed admirably in place of an injured David Montgomery and now essentially has the backfield to himself.  Remember, the Bears elected to have Montgomery walk and passed on the top backs in the draft (they did draft Roschon Johnson in the fourth round) and only replaced Montgomery with a near-minimum contract offer to D'Onta Foreman.  Similarly, the next Hockenson breakout at tight end could be the CURRENT Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who has shined in offseason workouts in what should be an explosive Lions offense. 

2. Use but Don't misuse the average draft position (ADP)

Average Draft Position should be a data point in your decision-making on draft day but should not be the sole criteria.  Don't let ADP determine who you should take.  Rather, look at all the position groups and select a player whose ADP is within range.  The key is to be aggressive in getting the players you have targeted at the appropriate value.  The mistake many owners make is to wait on a player because the ADP is lower than the draft slot not understanding that he may not be available with your next pick.  Come out of the draft with the players you are excited about...not those that you took because the consensus rankings or ADP dictated their selection.

3. Study offensive lines when evaluating running backs

Finding the right running back in fantasy is markedly more difficult in the era of running back-by-committee systems.  The fact of the matter is that there are several truly talented running backs in the league and, often, their success is dictated by opportunity and OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY.  The Philadelphia Eagles boasted the top offensive line in the league last year, and whoever replaces Miles Sanders is in line for marked yardage and touchdown potential.  Taking a late-round flyer on Rashad Penny could pay dividends if he receives the bulk of the rushing attempts, while D'Andre Swift serves as the third-down back.  The return of Zack Martin to the Cowboys offensive line could pay dividends for Tony Pollard owners,  In addition, the Cleveland Browns have one of the highest rated offensive lines, and the loss of Kareem Hunt makes Nick Chubb a potential overall RB1 for the 2023 fantasy season. 

4. Evaluate target share when selecting the wider receiver position

Mirroring the changing landscape of the modern football era, fantasy football has become about accumulating solid wide receivers.  In years past, it used to be a staple to select a running back in the first round of fantasy drafts.  Now, wide receivers such as Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase sit at the top of draft boards, and the wide receiver position is the most heavily invested on draft day.  One deciding factor to consider when studying wide receivers is their target share, or percentage of passes thrown their way in game action.  Only three players last year averaged over ten targets-per-game: Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill.  Other high target-share wide receivers to target on draft day include Cee Dee Lamb, Garrett Wilson, Amon Ra-St. Brown, and Chris Godwin. 

5. Draft a tight end first or last

In leagues that require a starting tight end, Travis Kelce should not make it out of the first round.  Outside of that, let your league mates spend an early-to-mid round draft pick on the other starting tight ends, whose differential compared to Kelce will be massive yet who likely will fail to significantly outproduce those tight ends drafted later.  Stack your roster with high-impact starters and let tight end be the last starting position drafted. Players drafted as TE12 or later who could mirror production of earlier tight ends selected include David Njoku, Greg Dulcich, Chig Okonkwo, and of course the Saints' Juwan Johnson.

6. Fade the post-injury hype

Avoid spending precious draft capital on players coming off major injuries,  Most teams will ease those players back into their systems and will sit them out rather than risk re-injury.  For example, let others worry about the limited workloads of Breece Hall and Javonte Williams in this year's drafts.  Both players would require high draft capital to acquire and the reward is not greater than the risk given the other players that could be selected in those rounds. Focus on healthy players with good opportunities to outperform their ADP.

7. Gobble up running backs and wide receivers for your bench

Once your starting lineup is selected, focus should immediately go to the running back and wide receiver positions.  It is not necessary to even draft a backup quarterback if you select a solid starter.  Rather, you can scan the waiver wire for a backup on your starter's bye week.  In addition, if your starting quarterback goes down, drafting an excess of running back and wide receiver will allow you to trade for another quarterback likely better than a selected backup on draft day.  Same goes for tight end.  Don't be the fantasy owner that turns on autodraft at the end of drafts and ends up with 3-4 tight end. You can never have enough running backs and wide receivers on your bench.

8. Draft Upside in Later Rounds

Once your principal starters and primary backups are selected, focus for the remainder of the draft should be on upside.  Don't even queue a player with a high floor but limited upside for a bench spot.  Late-round targets such as Elijah Moore, Tank Dell, and Deuce Vaughn make for solid selections towards the latter half of the draft.  Avoid low-ceiling picks such as Damien Harris, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Allen Lazard.  Always think UPSIDE for your bench plays.

9. Always Handcuff Your RB1

This rule really depends on the roster limits of your league.  If you have enough bench spots, it is worth a late-round pick to handcuff your top running back.  A perfect example of this is Jerome Ford of the Cleveland Browns, a player who likely can be selected in the last round of drafts but would immediately become relevant for Nick Chubb owners if the latter were to sustain a significant injury.  If your league, however, has limited bench spots, use that precious space to draft targeted players who may have an opportunity to become starters on your fantasy team regardless of injury.

10. Make Your Own Tiers List

Too many fantasy players just look at the draft room listings when deciding who to take on draft day.  There is value in pre-work...namely, putting the four position groups in tiers that you can reference on draft day.  This allows you to make an informed decision when it is your turn to draft as far as what position may be scarce in relation to others.  Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.

Follow these ten simple steps and DOMINATE your fantasy draft.  Best of luck as you embark on the 2023 fantasy football season Saints fans.