Fantasy Football Definition of "Elite"

"Elite" is a term used to describe certain fantasy football players who are regular difference makers in fantasy football contests. Some fantasy football players are steady performers you can expect to help your team out every week. Other fantasy football players are inconsistent, producing big totals one week and non-existent totals the next week. And then there are the elite fantasy football players, who consistently produce huge fantasy football stats and are the stars of your fantasy team. Elite fantasy players are the players your opponents fear and hate, and who you enjoy posting big numbers virtually every single week of the fantasy season.

Elite Fantasy Football Players

The status of an elite player can change from one year to the next, making the process of drafting fantasy football teams more difficult than it would seem. Every player in the top 2-3 rounds of a fantasy football draft should have the potential to be an elite fantasy producer, but that doesn't mean they always are. Almost without exception, every player drafted in the first round of a fantasy football draft was an elite fantasy football star last year, but that doesn't mean they will retain their elite status into the next season.

Tom Brady - Elite Fantasy Quarterback

Take Tom Brady, for example. In 2007, Tom Brady threw for 50 touchdowns in a 16-game NFL season. That's a staggering average of 3+ touchdowns per week, giving Tom Brady the all-time single-season NFL passing touchdown record. Beyond all fantasy football standards, Tom Brady had an elite 2007 season. Brady was such a lock to be an elite 2008 quarterback, that even normally sober-minded fantasy football owners who never draft quarterbacks high had to consider taking Tom Brady in the first round. In the rare fantasy football draft Tom Brady fell into the 2nd round, people considered themselves either lucky or genius or lucky geniuses to draft Tom Brady at such a value.

Well, sure enough, that didn't work out. Tom Brady looked great for the part of a regular season game he played in during the 2008 season, because a Bernard Pollard hit on a long throw put Tom Brady out for the remainder of the NFL Season. Teams that drafted Tom Brady are likely to have never recovered from Brady's injury, unless they drafted Brandon Marshall in the 4th round and Matt Forte in the 6th round and, heaven forbid, Kurt Warner (an NFL backup last preseason) in the 15th round. That's because, instead of Tom Brady being an elite fantasy player in 2008, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Kurt Warner were elite performers.

That's the way of the NFL and that's the fortunes of fantasy football. Nothing seems to stay the same very long, making the success of players like Peyton Manning and Ladainian Tomlinson and (before them) Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice all the more amazing.

Finding Elite Players in Fantasy Drafts

Drafting in a fantasy football draft therefore often becomes a process of trying to find elite fantasy football performers. If you get one or two of the top performers at their position, you're likely to contend for your league crown. That's why fantasy football owners face the yearly dilemma of drafting the 10th best rusher or drafting the perceived best player at another position (Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald) at the bottom of the 1st round. It's all about "drafting for value", or increasing your chances of fielding the starting lineup with the most elite players.

That's why it's conventional fantasy football strategy to draft running backs high, because an elite running back is the rarest commodity and among the most consistent performers. Fantasy quarterbacks score the most, but are often hard to predict. For instance, of the elite fantasy quarterbacks in 2008, I saw Drew Brees drafted usually in the 3rd round, Aaron Rodgers drafted in the 8th-9th round, Jay Cutler in the 10th-to-12th round and Kurt Warner in the 16th or later rounds. Most fantasy football owners have learned from experience that drafting a quarterback high doesn't guarantee elite status, and half or more of the elite quarterbacks every year come out of the pack of passers in the middle to late rounds. It's really better to draft several running backs and wide receivers (and maybe even one tight end) first, then grab three promising quarterbacks later in the draft.

If you don't hit on an elite quarterback, then you still have big name talent at the other positions and are better off than most teams. But if you do hit on an elite quarterback later, you are more likely to have elite performers at several different positions.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter where you find your elite fantasy football players in your draft, but you have to find a few. But when you "draft for value" or "wait on a quarterback", you are playing the odds. You're just more likely to draft the best fantasy quarterback in the 7th round than you are to draft the best fantasy running back in the 7th round, so it's better to wait on a quarterback. So drafting runners and receivers high and quarterbacks a little later, despite the allure of Drew Brees and Tom Brady, still gives you the best chance to hit on the most elite players.

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