By Adam Harris-
(CBS) In fantasy football, you must find an edge on your opponent, which isn’t too hard dealing with just one foe each week. The tough thing about finding an edge when drafting, however, is you need to get that upper hand on anywhere from nine to 13 other teams at once.
All you can do while drafting is develop a strategy and stick with it. Over the next three weeks, I’m going to highlight some strategies I will be using during my drafts this year, and each article will highlight one particular area and idea.
This week’s lesson? Stay away from the NFC West.
While this is a very interesting division, with many storylines and good, all-around football, everyone should stay away from drafting any offensive players from the NFC West. This rule of thumb should be used when deciding between two or three players who are “toss-ups” during the draft. If one of them takes snaps in the NFC West, rule them out.
The NFC West is full of good-to-great fantasy options and offensive weapons, but it’s also full of stellar defenses and smash-mouth, schematic football. Last year, the Seahawks gave up fewest points to quarterbacks at 10.89 points per week, the second-fewest to running backs at 12.32 per week, the second-fewest to receivers at 14.79 per week and the fourth-fewest to tight ends at 5.89 per week.
The 49ers were in top 10 limiting all opposing fantasy offensive positions as well, rating sixth against quarterbacks (14.95 points per week) and seventh against running backs (14). The Cardinals were the best defense in keeping fantasy running backs under wraps, giving up just 10.75 points per week. They also gave up the eighth-fewest points to receivers (18.25).
Even the 2013 Rams, at 7-9, were eighth-best against fantasy quarterbacks (16.25) and 13th-best against wideouts (21.25).
All four defenses ranked in the top half of the NFL in total defense, with the Seahawks first overall, the 49ers fifth, the Cardinals sixth and the Rams at 15th.
All in all, these defenses can and will stop offensive stars, including those on their division rivals.
The Cardinals did lose their linebacking core — Karlos Dansby to Cleveland and Daryl Washington to suspension — but 13 Pro Bowl appearances remain on that defense in Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, John Abraham and Darnell Dockett (excellent Twitter follow by the way). I would hate to have a fantasy player that is guaranteed to face this defense twice this season.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald will see Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman twice, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will face that reigning top-ranked run defense in Arizona twice, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will battle twice to get 11 points against the Seahawks’ reigning top-ranked fantasy defense — and so on.
All these offensive weapons will probably see these NFC West defenses four times during the fantasy regular season, which often lasts 14 weeks. To be fair, every NFC West team sees a divisional opponent in Week 15 and Week 17, so that eliminates two tough matchups for the regular season, but the playoffs will be tough for these offensive weapons, if you get there. You don’t want to be staring such a challenge down in the biggest game of your season.
Any way you slice it, limiting one of your reliable and studly offensive options to just 10 effective weeks based on matchups is not smart entering the season.
A few other quick draft strategies…
— Keep track of what positions your opponent still needs to select as the draft commences. This will give you an indication on whether you can wait another round to draft that quarterback you have been holding out on.
— Wait until the last two rounds to draft a defense and kicker. I would rather have an active player with more bust value.
— Don’treach for a quarterback. You can wait on a quarterback until at least the second or third round.
Thanks for reading, I’ll have more to come next week!
Adam Harris is a producer for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @aharris670.