For all the popularity of NFL season-long fantasy, it sometimes needs to be reminded that there’s an entire other universe of football games each fall, and with them, whole new avenues of fantasy play.
NCAA Football provides an exciting platform for season-long fantasy players, with 130 schools in FBS and nearly 1,000 players to choose from to build fantasy teams. The season might be a little shorter, but that only makes drafting that much more important.
Here is a handy guide for navigating the somewhat unknown world of college football fantasy football. Go, fight, win!
KNOW THE DEPTH OF YOUR PLAYER POOL
Because there are so many Division I football programs out there, it’s important to know just what your league will allow in terms of the player pool. Leagues can be as restrictive as only including players from a single conference, to all the Power 5 leagues to all of FBS. The larger your pool of players, the harder it will be to prepare, with the sheer number of sleeper possibilities. So know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before diving in, and be prepared to do some serious studying, now that you’re back in college again.
COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES
We’re going to highlight strategies that say which positions to take when, but no draft plan is so absolute that you ignore a huge value pick staring you in the face. Maybe you’re in an online league with a pool of Power 5 conferences, but leading up to draft day, you notice the avatars of your competitors are all Big Ten logos. Now you know that access to top-flight Pac-12 players in later rounds probably just got a little more likely.
If you committed to RB-WR in your first two rounds, and you drafted an RB in the first round, don’t be so rigid in your thinking that you allow a stud player to slip past you because it’s not the position you had pre-planned to draft. Crazy things happen in drafts and the ability to capitalize on them is critical.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Unlike the NFL, where scouting 32 teams is relatively easy, especially after a month of preseason. With the college game, you have well over 120 teams and no two are alike. Knowing how a particular team likes to play and what they’re good at on both sides of the ball goes a long way toward identifying which players to draft and whom to avoid.
For instance, schools the run the option is less likely to have high-scoring wide receivers, as both the QB and main running backs tend to soak up most of the yardage and touchdowns. Conversely, an offense that utilizes a high-powered passing game is the place to look for wide receivers, especially if playing in a fantasy league that includes conferences like the MAC, which tends to feature wide-open passing games.
Twitter is your friend, especially in the college game where there are no official injury lists. Looking for players off waivers can be maddening with so many options to choose from. Gleaning a little intel from a trusted team or league source online is gold. Take advantage of it.
That out of the way, let’s take a look at some draft strategies for 2019:
QBs ARE KING, ESPECIALLY IN 2019
Perhaps the biggest difference between season-long NFL fantasy and the college game, besides the sheer number of skill players to choose from, is the relative importance of those skill positions. In NFL, the quarterback is increasingly less important in terms of when to draft. In most NFL leagues, only Pat Mahomes is being drafted in the first three or four rounds.
It’s a totally different situation in the college game, where the quarterback is often far and away the biggest point producers, and having a high-octane QB is of paramount importance. This year, it’s Houston’s D’Eriq King that figures to be the consensus No. 1 overall pick in college fantasy drafts, with Texas’ Sam Ehlinger not far behind. Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa will also be popular early picks.
IT IS BETTER TO RECEIVE, ESPECIALLY EARLY
Quarterback might be key, but if you don’t get one of the top signal-callers, then it is the wide receiver position that should be the focus of your early-round drafting. Like the old RB-RB strategy in the NFL, a WR-WR approach in college is generally a winning strategy, as it’s the running back position that has the greater depth, while the elite wide receivers are less in number. It’s also a good idea to try and lock in an elite tight end early, like first 4 or 5 rounds early, as that position is often barren of impact talent. Wait too long there and it could be a drain on your lineup all season.
PUT AWAY THE HANDCUFFS, DON’T CALL FOR BACKUP
Even if you play in a league that limits the talent pool to the Power 5 conferences only, it’s still more teams than the NFL and that means more starters at individual positions. In NFL fantasy, with 12 fantasy teams and generally only 20-24 legit starting running backs, it’s wise to draft your starting running back’s handcuff. No need for that in the college game, where legit starting RBs will be on the waiver wire all season. Ideally, you should have RB1s and WR1s and 2s up and down your lineup.
MORE THAN EVER, SAVE DEFENSES AND KICKERS FOR LAST
Unless we’re talking about a Reggie Ho or a devastating defense, there’s really no need to prioritize either position, when you can play matchups by streaming. Some college draft strategists suggest not drafting a kicker or defense at all, and pick up what you need off waivers before Week 1, giving you extra time to evaluate your roster before making the necessary cuts to pick up the K/D.