Every year, bags and bags of articles are posted about what positions should be drafted, when, and who the best players are, but few stop to talk about how draft position can really change how you look at the draft and the way in which you draft. I will.
Drafts aren't so much about getting the flashiest players but getting solid production and value is the name of the game there. However, with the "snake" draft, your draft position greatly affects how much you can let someone slide before choosing them.
For instance, if you're like I am and draft last, it also means you draft first in the second round. Congratulations, you're the first team able to pick two players. Picking back-to-back or nearly back-to-back allows you to account for certain blocks of players while pretty much completely ignoring others.
If you're drafting in the middle..say 5th-7th instead of 12th like me, you're in the middle of things. You won't have consecutive picks anywhere close but you'll never be all that far away from your next pick. This position pretty much opens up the entire draft board by the fifth round for small reaches/value picks, but doesn't force you to take someone 20 spots early simply out of positional need. Managed well, the middle area is the best place to draft if you want to have the most choices available.
It also means more work for you, and a misstep can be amplified. Drafting back-to-back often means there are positions you double up on so a single miss may not hurt you at all if you have the depth to cover for it in the long run.
Wherever you're drafting, it's best to log on to NFL.com or ESPN and do several "mock" drafts with league parameters similar to your own league as possible in order to get a feel for what players are being taken and when. This is especially important the longer the wait between picks you have (as I do on the edges of the draft) as you get to be able to judge just how far or how long you can wait for someone to stop sliding before you have to draft them. Sometimes, it means yes, you have to reach a little to get that WR3 you need because it's 23 more choices until you get another shot at it. Check your positions and plan accordingly.
Bye Week Blues
I used to worry about trying to balance my bye weeks around evenly, but it's really not worth the hassle overall. What you gain one week you're going to lose another week any way you slice it which is why being 3-deep with quality at WR and RB is so important. It IS worth looking at who is playing whom on your starting QB's bye week and choosing an average backup with an easy matchup that week. Alternately, grab the best backup QB available and hope he doesn't play at Seattle on that bye week.
Believe me, been there, done that, and worrying about bye weeks isn't worth the worry & should only come into play during a "tiebreaking" situation between two guys playing the same position. If you have similar prospects for say your RB4 spot, then that's when you start factoring in bye weeks. Don't worry about them much until you hit your 2nd off the bench guy at a given position just so you'll at least have someone to put in your lineup that week at that spot. It's a player that won't see much action at all otherwise, so that should be the angle there. It's pretty rare that draft order is going to get in the way navigating your bye weeks.
Draft for Value, not for Need
There are always exceptions, like the last two rounds where you should be drafting your D/ST and PK, respectively, but you pretty much need to roll with the talent that's on the board. This means more planning if you're drafting on the edges and being more nimble/open-minded if drafting in the middle.
You middle-men (and women) should have a running list of top-6 at RB and WR and keep it updated so you'll be one round ahead and thus, unable to be snuck up on unawares. Make sure you get that TE in the 6th or 7th round if you didn't pick one up before then if for no other reason so that you won't be pigeonholed into drafting one late, when there's a sliding sleeper at another position you REALLY wanted to get.
Keeping the RB/WR positions more or less in-balance throughout the draft can help so long as you don't let it get in the way of value drafting. Choose the positional need only as a "tiebreaker" over matching value much the same way you use bye weeks. Both are secondary considerations, but considerations nonetheless.
Avoid the Early Waiver Wire Temptation
If you scouted and drafted well, you shouldn't need to dump anybody and pick up someone off of waivers between your draft and the first game of the season. If you do and you use waivers, you put yourself at the back of the line on the week you need it the most -- after that first week of play when the surprises come out for real and you're scrambling to grab the Hottest Thing.
The other situation is one where someone actually drops a star out of ignorance. Yep, we had someone DROP TODD GURLEY after the draft & before the season started because he was injured. WOW. I wanted to pick him up but was 11th out of 12th on waivers and didn't have a prayer. If I hadn't goofed around, I might have been in position to snag him. Lesson learned. Drafting 12th means you're tops on the waiver wire, and that #1 waiver wire position is GOLD after week one. You might be tempted; DON'T BE! Wait for Week One to finish -- you'll be SO glad you did!
A Few Hours of Work Helps
Just go online, look for the consensus best picks by position from at least 3-4 different sources/sites, and do a few mock drafts in same-sized leagues with PPR or Standard rules, whichever matches yours. After a few, you'll get a feel for the flow of who is normally around when you draft and who should be a value and where you can get them. It makes a difference when you think you need to draft someone in the 5th round but could actually be had in the 7th. Take note of these players & their highest draft position in your mocks, then do your planning from there.
Lastly, ALWAYS pre-rank your players. It really sucks to get all prepared & excited then have a drunk driver crash into a light pole and there goes your Internet on a lazy Sunday night. No, they won't be in a huge hurry to fix it on a Sunday night, and you'll be S.O.L.
Think of the pre-rank as your draft (and your season's) failsafe, take the half an hour to get the top 50 or 60 right, and that should make certain you don't wind up with the Matt Joneses of the NFL.
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye