There are two strategies here. One says that no more than two of your starters should have the same bye week so that you're not caught with a depleted roster at any point during the season. The other belief is that stacking players with the same bye week is the right move; that way, you're going to have your full roster every week except for one, whereas the other owners will have a starter or two missing every time.
So, who's right? In my opinion, both are. Or neither, depending if you're a glass-half-debacled or glass-half-undebacled kind of person.
As far as your starters and top backups go, don't worry about byes. Seriously. If your entire starting lineup has the same bye week, so be it. If every player in your lineup has a different bye, that's fine too. The bottom line is that when you're assembling your starting lineup, you should be drafting the best talent on your board regardless of bye weeks.
Bye weeks should be factoring in during the later rounds of your draft. Let's say that your top two running backs both have Week 8 byes. If you're searching for a third back, you should avoid runners who have a Week 8 bye. The exception is if a player with a Week 8 bye is far and away the top player remaining on your board. If so, take him.
If you do that and you now have three running backs with Week 8 byes, your RB4 and RB5 must have different byes. If you're stuck with this type of scenario, you should consider your RB4 and RB5 a bit earlier than you normally would, and you'll probably want to have a semi-capable RB6 on your roster (13th-14th round) just in case.
2. I really like a sleeper. Do I take him a bit earlier than I should, or do I wait for him?
I don't think it can ever be too early if you really like a player and you believe someone else has their eyes on him.
If you really like a player as a huge sleeper, don't worry too much about taking him a round earlier than you should. Reaching a bit is a lot better than hoping he falls to you at the end of the next round, only to have someone else take him off the board. Why get stuck with someone else whom you don't like as much? Take your guy.
I followed a similar strategy last year. Calvin Johnson was a fourth-round player in most leagues. However, I took him very early in the third in one league because I knew other guys in the league liked him too (one guy even printed out my cheat sheet.) It definitely worked out for me, as Johnson helped me become the league's second-highest scorer.
Oh, and I smoked the guy who printed out my cheat sheet at the end of the year, so I got my revenge.
3. When should I take my defense?
In almost every fantasy mock draft or real draft I've been a part of this summer, the first defense (usually Pittsburgh) has gone off the board in Round 9.
Personally, I think that's a bit too early, as I usually don't consider a defense until Rounds 11 or 12.
At that point, you're not going to land the Steelers, Ravens, Giants or Eagles, and that's fine. What I usually like doing is finding an undervalued defense that will overachieve because of its schedule. Here are some candidates:
1. San Diego Chargers - In a recent 2009 Fantasy Football Draft I was a part of, the Chargers weren't drafted until the first pick of the 14th round. Yet, San Diego will have Shawne Merriman back from injury.
The Bolts will also have the luxury of beating up on Josh Mishandle's Broncos, the pathetic Chiefs and the dysfunctional Raiders twice this year. Also on the docket is Cleveland and Dallas (the Chargers play the Cowboys in December, which is when Tony Romo has his annual meltdown.)
2. New England Patriots - I don't know where the Patriots' pass rush is going to come from. Apparently, no one else does either, because I was able to obtain this stop unit in the 15th round of that aforementioned draft.
Given the state of the AFC East, New England definitely deserves some consideration. The Jets have a rookie quarterback. The Dolphins could be using a first-year starter of their own if Chad Pennington struggles during the team's early brutal schedule. The Bills, meanwhile, have major issues on their offensive line. Oh, and keep in mind that the Patriots get to clobber the Broncos, Buccaneers and Panthers (good chance Jake Delhomme's son is kidnapped again.)
3. Oakland Raiders - I assure you, I'm not possessed by Al Davis right now. The Raiders have a talented linebacking and cornerbacking corps. Trevor Scott, who had five sacks as a rookie, could reach 10 sacks in 2009. Plus, Oakland's special teams are very good (5 return TDs in 2008).
Looking at the schedule, the Raiders get the Chiefs and Broncos twice each. Yes, they also have to tango with the Chargers on two occasions, but they also get the Jets (rookie quarterback), Browns and Redskins (Jason Campbell vs. Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Johnson) as compensation.
4. Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks have a talented defense, now featuring Aaron Curry, who will make an instant impact as a rookie. Patrick Kerney, who played in only seven games last year, will be back from injury.
As long as Seattle stays healthy, the defense should put up solid numbers versus St. Louis (twice), San Francisco (twice), Detroit, Minnesota (Sage Rosenfails) and Tampa Bay.
Defenses are pretty difficult to project. You may say that having Pittsburgh, Baltimore or Philadelphia gives you a guaranteed top-10 stop unit, but that's not true.
Take a look at Sports Illustrated's top 10 projected fantasy defenses a year ago:
1. San Diego (fail - Shawne Merriman injury)
2. Minnesota (solid numbers, but didn't live up to the projection)
3. New England (fail - no pass rush)
4. Dallas (self-destructed at the end of the year)
5. Green Bay (epic fail)
6. Chicago (fail - no Devin Hester returns; no QB pressure)
7. New York Giants (solid production)
8. Jacksonville (debacled fantasy teams everywhere)
9. Pittsburgh (great success)
10. Seattle (epically debacled fantasy teams everywhere)
As you can see, if you spent a ninth- or a 10th-round selection on one of those fantasy defenses, you essentially wasted a pick. Wait on your defense and draft for upside.
4. Should I go RB-RB, RB-WR, WR-RB, WR-WR or RB/WR-QB?
Just stop it. You're going to give yourself an aneurysm.
There's a simple solution to this. Print out a cheat sheet or make one of your own, and draft the highest-available player. If you go RB-RB, you might be able to land Marques Colston in Round 3. If you go WR-WR, your two running backs could be Knowshon Moreno and Kevin Smith with some luck (though I'd caution against WR-WR; if your fellow league members are smart, you could be screwed at running back.)
I prefer to use a RB-WR or WR-RB strategy, but I'm not going to pass up on a superior talent to make that happen.
Remember, don't worry about what sort of strategy you're going to use - just stay true to your cheat sheet and take the top guy.
5. A guy I didn't want has slipped. Should I draft him?
Story time - In 2006, I was part of a fantasy draft. Fred Taylor, who rushed for 787 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games the year before, was still available when I was on the clock in Round 9.
Taylor's average draft position that year was Round 6-7, but apparently, no one in my league liked him, including me. After all, the Jaguars just drafted Maurice Jones-Drew, so it was only reasonable that the 30-year-old Taylor wouldn't get the ball as much in the upcoming season.
That said, Taylor presented way too much value in Round 9, so I opted to select him as my RB4. I didn't expect much out of him, but I was completely wrong. Taylor ended up starting for me throughout the season, as he finished with 1,146 rushing yards, 242 receiving yards and six total touchdowns.
I took Taylor because he was the top player on my board at that point. I never imagined he'd fall to me because I had him lower than most people, but once he did, I picked him up.
Once again, stay true to your draft board. Even if you don't like a player, you put him in a specific spot for a reason. Don't forget that during your fantasy draft.
Be sure to check out my 2009 Fantasy Football TRAINING CAMP STOCK REPORT and articles, which will include mock drafts, rankings, sleepers, busts, cheat sheets and other things.