Beginner Series Section IV: Starting Lineup Requirements
By Chris Smith
May 8th, 2012

"Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration and inspiration." -- Evan Esar

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Since you now know what fantasy football is, why we play it, and how various scoring rules can impact your fantasy roster. You are well on your way to doing well in this hobby but there is much more to learn still.

In this section, we will walk you through some different types of starting lineup requirements and the impact it can have on your fantasy roster. Starting lineup rules for a league is every bit as important as the scoring rules. The positions you will target early in your draft and directly impacted by these rules and your pre-draft and ongoing-draft strategies will shift and adjust based on these rules.

* NOTE: Later in the preseason, we will have a Draft Slots Study feature at Footballguys.com that takes a look at many different types of starting lineups and runs a mock draft and analysis to help our subscribers set up a good plan heading into the draft. In addition, David Dodds puts together a Perfect Draft series in August that is a must read every football season.

1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF

In the past, this was one of the most common starting lineups used in fantasy football. In this type of league, running backs are definitely the position that needs to be targeted the most. Breaking down each position really illustrates why drafting running backs early is so critical to a fantasy squad's success. We will breakdown these positions based on a 12-team league with performance scoring.

Let's start with the quarterback position. There are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Not all of them are worth starting in fantasy football but only 12 are needed within these rules. It is easy enough to find a serviceable starting quarterback later on in the draft unless exceptional value presents itself early on.

Also, only 24 starting receivers are needed each week and with many teams having two viable options at the position (Falcons - Roddy White and Julio Jones / Cowboys - Dez Bryant and Miles Austin to name a couple) it is not too difficult to find good value in your fantasy draft. At the running back position, 24 starters are needed as well but unlike receivers, it gets difficult to find worthy starters. Many teams utilize the dreaded Running Back by Committee approach and that is a fantasy owner's nightmare. When a team likes to share carries such as the Carolina Panthers (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert), often there is challenges picking which running back will get the lion's share of the carries week in and week out.

The tight end position can almost always be left until the mid-rounds of the draft unless terrific value presents itself with the top tight ends such as the Patriots Rob Gronkowski who has developed into a fantasy monster from the tight end position. The kicker and defense slots should always be filled in the back end of a draft where value can always be found.

In this type of league, it makes a lot of sense to take two running backs in the first two rounds to build your foundation. Only target a receiver or quarterback in those rounds if exceptional value presents itself such as receivers Andre Johnson, Roddy White, and Calvin Johnson falling to the mid-2nd round or quarterback Aaron Rodgers being available at the start of the 2nd. It is critical that a roster has three running backs on it by the end of round six or the owner will have to scramble all year to field a competitive squad.

Example of the Start of a Team's Draft in This Type of League

  • Round 1: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
  • Round 2: RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
  • Round 3: WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
  • Round 4: WR Marques Colston, Saints
  • Round 5: RB Shonn Greene, Jets
  • Round 6: WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
  • Round 7: TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
  • Round 8: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
  • Roster After Round Eight (starters in bold)

  • QB Ben Roethlisberger
  • RB Maurice Jones-Drew
  • RB Jamaal Charles
  • RB Shonn Greene
  • WR Brandon Marshall
  • WR Marques Colston
  • WR Jeremy Maclin
  • TE Jason Witten
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF

    This is a more common lineup. The strategy in this kind of league is quite similar to the first one except that receivers jump up in value somewhat due to the extra starting slot used in the position. It becomes harder to find a viable starter at the receiver position in leagues that must start three. In leagues such as this, it can make sense to pick up a receiver or two in the first couple of rounds but it then becomes absolutely vital that you target running backs in the next few rounds. For example, with the final pick in round one, you don't see any real value at the running back position but both Andre Johnson and Roddy White are available. It makes a lot of sense to grab both. However it is very important in rounds three through six if you use this thinking to pick up at least three running backs while there are still decent options to be had. Not selecting a running back early makes it extremely challenging to compete unless you get lucky with a late round flyer in your draft.

    In most cases, an owner should always emerge with at least one solid running back in the first two rounds. It becomes very difficult to find value at the position after the first few rounds. It makes sense once again to ignore the quarterback position early on unless value presents itself.

    Example of the Start of a Team's Draft in This Type of League

  • Round 1: RB Ray Rice, Ravens
  • Round 2: WR Roddy White, Falcons
  • Round 3: WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
  • Round 4: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
  • Round 5: TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
  • Round 6: QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
  • Round 7: WR Pierre Garcon, Redskins
  • Round 8: RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
  • Roster After Round Eight (starters in bold)

  • QB Philip Rivers
  • RB Ray Rice
  • RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
  • RB Johnathan Stewart
  • WR Roddy White
  • WR Hakeem Nicks
  • WR Pierre Garcon
  • TE Antonio Gates
  • 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR, 2 FLEX (RB/WR), 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF

    The flex position can add a lot to a league. It gives owners different branches he can head down during a draft. The most important aspect to remember for an owner in a league that utilizes a FLEX position is to remain flexible. Sure starting three running backs can be a major coupe but it isn't always possible to land three great backs. However in many cases, while other owners scramble to pick running backs, exceptional value at receiver remains on the board. If you can land a trio of receivers such as Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Miles Austin with the first three picks, do so and don't look back. Make sure to land a couple of decent running backs in the next couple of rounds and your team would be set for a run to the championship. Basically, be flexible enough to change your strategy on the fly (the VBD theory will be covered in the next section and it is perfect to help owners capitalize on value). Don't be afraid to go with a 1 RB / 4 WR starting lineup or a 3 RB / 2 WR lineup depending on how the draft falls to you each round.

    Two Different Examples of the Start of a Team's Draft in a Flex League

    Example #1
    Rnd
    Example #2
    Pos
    Player
    Pos
    Player
    WR
    Calvin Johnson
    1
    RB
    Chris Johnson
    WR
    Andre Johnson
    2
    WR
    Andre Johnson
    WR
    Brandon Marshall
    3
    RB
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    RB
    Chris Wells
    4
    WR
    Steve Smith (Car)
    WR
    DeSean Jackson
    5
    WR
    DeSean Jackson
    RB
    Willis McGahee
    6
    QB
    Tony Romo
    TE
    Jermichael Finley
    7
    TE
    Jermichael Finley
    QB
    Matt Schaub
    8
    RB
    Jonathan Stewart

    Example Rosters After Round Eight (starters in bold)

    Example #1
    Example #2
    Pos
    Player
    Pos
    Player
    QB
    Matt Schaub
    QB
    Tony Romo
    RB
    Chris Wells
    RB
    Chris Johnson
    RB
    Willis McGahee
    RB
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    WR
    Calvin Johnson
    RB
    Jonathan Stewart
    WR
    Andre Johnson
    WR
    Andre Johnson
    WR
    Brandon Marshall
    WR
    Steve Smith (Car)
    WR
    DeSean Jackson
    WR
    DeSean Jackson
    TE
    Jermichael Finley
    TE
    Jermichael Finley

     

    2 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF

    Some leagues like to incorporate a 2nd quarterback slot in order to give the position more clout in the draft. If you are in a league that does start 2 players at the quarterback position, it definitely should change your drafting philosophy. Once again, using the VBD theory is a great help in determining value at each position. In a league such as this, 24 quarterbacks must start in the league each week. It is very difficult to find 24 quarterbacks capable of putting up fantasy numbers in a given week and during bye weeks it can be almost impossible. Quarterbacks become almost as sought after in the early rounds as running backs and the receiver position definitely becomes the third option. In a draft like this, it could be very probably that an owner drafts three quarterbacks and three running backs before even considering the receiver position.

    Example of the Start of a Team's Draft in This Type of League

  • Round 1: QB Cam Newton, Panthers
  • Round 2: RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
  • Round 3: QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
  • Round 4: WR Wes Welker, Patriots
  • Round 5: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
  • Round 6: WR Vincent Jackson, Bears
  • Round 7: QB Matt Cassel, Chiefs
  • Round 8: RB Carson Palmer, Raiders
  • Roster After Round Eight (starters in bold)

  • QB Cam Newton
  • QB Tony Romo
  • QB Carson Palmer
  • RB Darren McFadden
  • RB Ahmad Bradshaw
  • RB Mark Ingram
  • WR Wes Welker
  • WR Vincent Jackson
  • In Conclusion

    "Inspiration and genius - one and the same." -- Victor Hugo

    As illustrated above, different starting lineup requirements can, and should, change an owner's perspective during his fantasy draft. It is vital to take the time to scrutinize both the scoring rules and the starting lineup rules and understand how both ultimately affect the fantasy league. Go into your fantasy draft with a strategy that involves your starting lineup requirements in addition to your scoring rules but don't be afraid to adjust your strategy if value presents itself. Just remember that if you do step outside of your strategy going into a draft, you must make adjustments going forward. If you are in a league that starts two running backs and two receivers and you scoop up Andre Johnson and Roddy White with your first two picks, make sure that you target running back over the next few rounds to maximize your chances at that position. You can certainly afford to wait on the receiver position with your two starters already sewn up.

    Just remember that understanding your league rules will go a long way towards your ultimate success in the league. If you remember that and do your homework, victories and championships will inevitably follow.

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