Peyton Manning Broncos
Peyton Manning should be among the top fantasy football players in 2014. Reuters

The 2014 NFL season is quickly approaching, as teams have already begun playing preseason games. With the start of exhibition contests comes many fantasy football drafts.

Millions of fans will play fantasy football in 2014, including countless first-time players. While there are are number of different kinds of leagues, there are some tips that all beginners can follow to give them a better chance of ending the season as fantasy football champions.

Draft a Top Quarterback

Having a late pick in the first round might make this an impossibility, but selecting an elite fantasy quarterback can almost guarantee you success at the position. As long as they remain healthy, the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will provide your team with consistent points. Waiting until after the first few rounds and taking a risk on players like Robert Griffin III or Nick Foles could backfire, as they haven’t had a run of success for consecutive years. Running backs are often injured and have a short shelf life, but the top quarterbacks can put up big numbers for years.

Draft Your Defense and Kicker Last

Week to week, the performance of your defense can mean the difference between a win and a loss. The problem is that it’s hard to predict what fantasy defense will be the best each year. The teams that give up the least amount of points might not be as good as some other options, because factors like defensive touchdowns and turnovers are the source of a lot of fantasy points. The production of kickers is largely based on luck and who gets the most field goal attempts. Take a defense and a kicker with your final two picks and drop them both when their bye weeks arrive.

Listen to Experts

It can be fun to take chances in a draft and try to find the sleeper that nobody is talking about. There’s a chance you can get lucky and have bragging rights at the end of the year, but it’s more likely that you’ll waste a pick on a largely unproductive player. There are a number of websites that feature experts who study fantasy football for hours every day. If you’re intent on winning your league, trust the experts who get paid to do what fans do for fun.

Be Cautious with Rookies

A lot of college football players enter the NFL with a lot of fanfare, but few live up to the hype in their first season. Last year, Keenan Allen was the only rookie to finish in the top 40 in receiving yards. Rookie quarterbacks had virtually no impact, and drafting big names like Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater might not be the best idea. Running backs are the exception, as both Eddie Lacy and Zac Stacy finished in the top 15 during the 2013 season.