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Tips and strategy for winning your 14-team fantasy football league

Here’s a breakdown of the best strategies for a 14-team fantasy football league in 2023.

Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Fantasy football season is here and if you’re in a 14-team league, the importance of a good draft strategy cannot be overstated. The deeper the league, the more important it is to start out with the right foundation for your roster where you can make moves without sacrificing your entire season.

Settings

For this article, we’re going to assume a standard 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 D/ST and 1 K as the starting lineup. As always, make sure to check the settings for your specific league. You should always fine-tune your draft strategy to your league’s specifications, so know the settings and rules.

First-round pick

The general rule is to draft either a running back or a high-end receiver in the first round. In a 14-team league, you should probably stick to that formula. There are some players like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce who may be worth taking at the end of the first round, but usually, you should go with a running back or receiver.

When to draft a QB?

Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson are likely going to be consensus top-5 quarterbacks in fantasy drafts. You’ll get players like Justin Herbert and Justin Fields in the mix as well. Mahomes can probably go late in the first round since you can pick up a running back or receiver coming back around in the snake draft. Allen, Burrow, Hurts and Jackson are probably worthy of a second-round pick if you’ve selected a running back or receiver in the first round. After that, you can probably wait until the fourth round to select a quarterback without losing much value.

When to draft a TE?

Kelce is a first-round pick, but there’s not much to worry about after him. George Kittle, Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson and Mark Andrews are all familiar names but you can hold off on seriously considering them until the late third round. You can always wait until the very end of the draft and take a chance on someone like Cole Kmet or Dalton Kincaid. If you go that route, you’ll likely be shuffling this position a lot during the season. If the rest of your roster is solid enough, you can also make a trade for a more stable tight end if you wait. If you aren’t drafting Kelce early, your best option might be to wait until after the 10th round.

Sleeper picks

Kincaid is a good one, as he could overtake Dawson Knox in a strong Buffalo offense. Running backs who are backing up players with injury concerns, like AJ Dillon and Matt Breida, are good pickups later on. There are players like Miles Sanders and Alexander Mattison who could have larger roles than some foresee and could be some names others overlook. Rookie receivers who could immediately be the No. 2 option on their team also stand out. Players like Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison, Jaylin Hyatt and Josh Downs are all names at that position who could break out.

Players to fade

There are not many players who are outright fades, except for those who end up as the No. 3 or No. 4 players on a team. Backup quarterbacks shouldn’t be rostered, even if you have the starter. Everything is based on the draft position. Saquon Barkley might be injury-prone but if he slips to the second round he should be immediately drafted. Josh Jacobs might be a malcontent due for a regression but if he’s available in the second or third round he should be drafted. You may discredit a player but that doesn’t mean everyone in your league does. It’s important to roster as many high-level guys as possible so you can make moves when necessary, even if you don’t believe all those guys will be good.

Summary

There are three important rules in fantasy football. The first is that you can’t win your league on draft night but you can certainly lose it by attempting to get cute and take players who aren’t highly rated but you believe will break out. The second is that injuries will happen, and it’s important to plan for them. The third is this is a game of luck as much as it is skill, and you don’t get any bonus for winning by 25 instead of winning by .25.

An honorable mention here is to know that the team you start with is probably not going to be the exact team you end with. If you drafted well, you should have relatively the same group with a few upgrades.

In a 14-team league, depth is important. You are only going to start nine players but the more depth you have, the more variety you have in your lineups and the more options you have when it comes to trades. You can start to go after your personal sleepers and breakout players in Round 7, but stick to the basics in the first six.