Scott Engel is beginning his 11th season as the official Fantasy Football writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 10-time nominee, including being a finalist for the 2020 FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award, which he won previously. You can find more of his fantasy football analysis, including early 2022 player rankings, at The Game Day this season.
We are now at the point of the year where fantasy players are seriously starting to think about how they will approach their upcoming drafts. We get you in the proper mental shape to draft a championship roster. Here are 12 key tips to consult and absorb that will fully get you into winning form before, during and after the draft.
1. Start getting your reps in now: As the Seahawks participate in training camp, you should be getting your mental reps in as you start to get ready for the upcoming draft. One of the best ways to start preparing for your actual draft is to participate in mock drafts at NFL.com and on other fantasy platforms. You will get a good feel for where certain players may be picked, and how to formulate a plan for the real draft day. Mock drafts also remind you that no two drafts are the same, and will put you in a mindset of "being ready for anything" on draft day. You have to go with the flow, as every draft takes its own unpredictable twists and turns.
2. Build a plan, but be ready to adjust: Because every draft is unique, you cannot formulate a rigid strategy for how to approach one. There is no "set order" in which to draft players, such as two running backs first, then two wide receivers, etc. You have to remain flexible throughout the draft process, as certain players may unpredictably fall to your slot, or a player you projected to be available when it's your turn gets taken earlier. In the first round, focus on taking the best running back or wide receiver available. In the first few rounds, try to build out your starting lineup at the key skill positions of running back and wide receiver, but remember you don't have to pick those players in any certain order. Unless you get an elite tight end, don't take one before your primary RBs and WRs, and wait on quarterbacks because the position is deep. You should enter the draft with a "shell" of a plan, but not a firm guide to stick to.
3. Seahawks RBs represent values at the position: Running backs will still fly off the board early in many drafts, but there are also value plays available later on. Two of them are Seahawks RBs Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker III. Penny was the best player at the position in fantasy football in Weeks 14 to 17 in 2021. He scored 85.2 fantasy points in Points Per Reception formats during that all-important fantasy span. Walker should be one of the top rookies at the position this season. Either RB is capable of operating as a very productive fantasy starter when seeing a healthy amount of carries. According to fantasypros.com, Penny and Walker are the 33rd and 34th RBs off the board in early PPR drafts, making both of them strong potential value plays. Other RBs who may exceed expectations include David Montgomery (RB18), Breece Hall (RB22), Tony Pollard (RB32) and Chase Edmonds (RB35). You can find a nifty potential RB starter after the top 15 are taken.
4. Maintain your queue consistently: Good drafters focus on groups or players in every round, rather than intending to hone in on specific players ahead of time. You should start loading up the online draft room queue prior to the first round and refresh it with more potential selections. For instance, if you are picking eighth in the first round, list the top eight targeted players in the queue before the draft starts and then simply take the top player remaining when your turn comes up. Then start queueing up more players before your second round pick, and repeat the exercise after each selection thereafter. Compiling groups of players to be drafted in each round will make sure you are ready for what's next all throughout the draft process. You won't be caught off guard or thrown off course.
5. Wide Receivers are gaining more prominence: The first round used to be dominated by running backs, but now the best wide receivers are nearly on equal ground in the earliest parts of 2022 drafts. The latest Average Draft Position reports from fantasypros.com indicate that five of the top 12 picks are now wide receivers, with Cooper Kupp going fourth overall, Justin Jefferson sixth, and Ja'Marr Chase ninth. Davante Adams (10th) and Stefon Diggs (12th) are also first-rounders. Some experienced fantasy players are preferring to pick WRs first and will be confident in taking their first RB in the second or third round. If you can start with a combination of Chase and Tyreek Hill, for instance, that is hard to resist. Opening a draft with Kupp and Leonard Fournette, as another example, can be a solid start.
6. Know how to approach QBs, TEs and defenses: Newer fantasy players may be tempted to take a quarterback very early because it's perceived to be the most important position in real football. But in fantasy leagues where you have to start only one QB, it's best to wait to address the position in the sixth to ninth rounds. Most leagues will require participants to start some combination of five or more RBs and WRs when you consider flex positions, so you will have to focus on those areas of your starting lineup first. You don't need to draft the very top QBs to end up with a good starter. Kyler Murray has an overall ADP of 64.2, and Dak Prescott is at 76.0. Tom Brady is at 85.2. If you don't land one of the top 5 TEs in the first 45 picks, Dalton Schultz (65.2) and Dallas Goedert (84.0) are two of the quality starters that are available later on. As for defenses, keep in mind that most of us stream them every week. So rather than drafting the top defense for the season, select the unit with the strongest early-season matchups, because most of us will likely rotate defenses often based on matchups.
7. Seahawks wide receivers can be value targets, too: As Drew Lock and Geno Smith compete for the Seahawks' starting QB job, there should be an obvious transition for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But both are proven star wide receivers who can still deliver good production as fantasy starters. Metcalf is the 18th wide receiver off the board in early drafts, and he certainly has the upside to outperform that early ADP. Tyler Lockett could prove to be even more of a value play at an ADP of 86.8. He is going to be a very important target in the Seahawks passing game in terms of making key catches and keeping the chains moving. If either Metcalf or Lockett slip too far in your drafts, take advantage of the possible hesitancy of others.
8.Don't get caught up in schedule analysis: When you are drafting, don't look ahead to Weeks 15 to 17 for perceived playoff matchup advantages, because so much will change between now and then in fantasy football and the NFL. Your roster will be reworked frequently throughout the season, and many player outlooks will be significantly altered. Also, do not overemphasize bye weeks, because you will always be tweaking the roster throughout the season. Additionally, remember that much of schedule analysis to determine who has better matchups is often heavily based on last year.
9. Be bold and unique: After studying up for draft day, if you find a certain player more appealing than ADPs or groupthink indicates, be aggressive and take him earlier than some others would. Taking such an approach to upside performers can lead to winning a league. You don't have to listen to what others in the league might say. Be confident and trust the research. Taking a player above where he is projected to be picked can also guarantee that you land him. If you believe Noah Fant is going to have a breakout season, then tab him as a top 12 tight end rather than aiming for him as a top 16 guy according to the most recent ADPs.
10. Don't be a homer: We have made good cases for drafting the Seahawks top RBs and WRs as value types, and Fant should definitely be on your radar as a higher-end fantasy TE2. But you should always take the player that best fits your needs at every point in the draft, over fan favorites, whether they are from the Seahawks or another team. Rooting for players won't boost their fantasy performances. Cheering against them won't stop them from compiling statistics either, so do not avoid players from teams you root against. Being a fan and managing a fantasy team are separate endeavors. It is also possible to hope for a Seahawks win while also getting a fantasy victory.
11. The draft is just the beginning: Drafting a fantasy team is only the first step on a road to a potential fantasy championship. Don't get too attached to the full roster that is drafted, because it's going to change a lot during the season. Injuries, waiver moves and trades will also shift the weekly outlook of a roster throughout the season. When reviewing the draft board, do not get too high or low. The drafted roster is the foundation of the team, but how it is managed throughout the season is what truly determines fantasy success.
12. Always Compete: It is the mantra of Pete Carroll and should apply throughout the fantasy football season. Maintain a competitive edge by studying up more than your opponents before draft day. Join mock drafts regularly and review drafts from experts online to see what they do. Stay on top of NFL player news every day. Absorb advice from fantasy experts and ask questions. I am always available on twitter @scotteTheKing.
It is also important to know "how" to compete as well. Make trades that fill needs or provide significant upgrades. It is fine to go with the roster that has been constructed and not make a trade, too, once your team looks ideal. Don't worry about who your opponents drafted or who they will start. We can only control our own teams, and if we focus on optimizing our rosters when drafting and setting lineups, then we have done our best to win. Be concerned with what you can control, not what we can't.
Scott Engel's early 2022 Fantasy Football rankings are now available at The Game Day. Check out his full Top 330 overall and in-depth positional analysis.