Brace yourself everyone… It’s almost here.
I’m not a huge fan of holidays. Aside from the gifts at Christmas (Let’s face it, everyone likes that!) I could care less about the day. Thanksgiving is ok. But any day that I can drink and eat like a king AND watch football is bound to be a winner. Easter, Valentines Day, Halloween? Meh… meh… and meh.
What is it that could make this normally unflappable man become giddy with excitement you ask? Fantasy Football Draft Night… that’s what.
Every fantasy player, from the hardcore to the casual, goes into the draft with lofty goals and expectations. Most think that this is their year. This will be the season they study up before the draft. They have read all the websites, looked at all the player rankings, and participated in dozens of mock drafts. This is the year that they will finally be able to laugh in the face of his friend’s girlfriend who continually beats you despite her complete lack of football knowledge! Sorry, that got a little personal for a second.
If your draft is anything like those that I have participated in, and I have come to realize most off-line drafts are the same, then you know that it can be a tense environment. Trash-talk abounds, there are typically alcoholic beverages involved, and sometime in the sixth to eighth round some asshole keeps asking, “Is so-and-so taken yet??? What? When did he go?”
So unless you feel like finding either a new league, or new friends, it would behoove you to have a solid plan-of-attack going into draft night. Fortunately for you, I have such a plan, which I will share with you now.
I will add this disclaimer: Fantasy Football can be an evil mistress (or whatever the male equivalent of a mistress is?). Players get hurt, are poorly utilized, take a backseat to younger/more talented players, or fall victim to a terrible offense around them. Please understand that I cannot control those circumstances. I can, however, help you be better prepared to handle the inevitable speed bumps in your fantasy season.
So, without further ado, I present to you a solid draft day strategy.
1. KNOW YOUR SCORING SYSTEM!!!
This might seem like common sense to most, but lets face it, there are those that are bound to ignore the point system entirely. I cannot overstate this enough. I have been in leagues where QB points are nearly non-existent and others that have QBs scoring so high that most of the first round is dominated by signal-callers. PPR leagues, IDP leagues, TD only leagues. Every league has its own caveats. These are a few nuances that could alter you draft strategy:
- Negative points for Sacks/Fumbles/Fumbles Lost/Interceptions. Don’t just pay attention to how you score points; also know how you lose them.
- If you are playing in a PPR league, know your values for receptions. Some leagues reward points for every reception, while others reward groups of 3-5 receptions with points.
- Know how you defense scores. We can debate when to draft a defense later, but for now, know what scores biggest with your D. This is especially important in leagues that reward kick/punt return yards.
Those are the areas that are most often overlooked by fantasy players. It pays to know how positions score. This will, after all, affect your end result.
2. DON’T FRET THE BYE WEEKS.
Don’t pass up on good players just because they share a bye week with another one of your players… that’s just stupid! In fact, there are some that would strongly sing the praises of “bye-week-stacking”. The theory behind this is that you are only depleted one week and are at full strength for the rest of the season.
My best advice to you would be this. Don’t pay (that much) attention to it. Sure, if you drafted Aaron Rodgers and wanted to take a QB to cover his bye, then by all means pay attention. Outside of that, take the best players available and let the chips fall where they may. After all, there are no bye weeks in the fantasy playoffs, wouldn’t you rather have the best possible talent for the home stretch?
3. THERE ARE VERY FEW FEATURE-BACKS IN THE NFL. DRAFT RBs EARLY & OFTEN.
I have gone back-and-forth on this with many people throughout my many years of playing fantasy sports. Here’s what it comes down to with me. There are a handful of backs (Peterson, Foster, Rice, Martin, Jones-Drew, CJ1K) that are fortunate enough to not have a “change-of-pace” guy waiting to vulture carries. The rest of the league is ripe with guys that are just waiting to have one breakout game which could result in more touches. And injuries, oh the injuries… don’t even get me started.
The reasons to load up on RBs is a three-part argument for me:
Trust me, there will be a WR out there on the waiver wire that has a decent matchup to plug into your lineup in a pinch, but I can almost assure you that by week 3 all the backs that are worth carrying will be snapped up. Get ahead of the curve. Thank me later.
4. DRAFT THE BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE… WORRY ABOUT FILLING YOUR ROSTER LATER.
I will say this. In the 15 years that I have been playing fantasy football, I can count the number of times I ended the season with the TE I drafted on one finger (It was Antonio Gates in his prime). It would take even less phalanges to calculate the number of times I finished with the K or DEF I drafted.
Those positions can be filled via the waiver wire, by looking at the matchups and choosing wisely. Finding a QB you can start every week after your high-round-selection goes down with a concussion is a little trickier.
Use this as a good barometer… If you say to yourself, “Holy shit… what is that guy still doing on the board. Damn, if I only needed a ____,” then quit playing around and take him! Last I checked, there is no penalty for stacking your roster. There is, however, a cloud of shame that will haunt you for an entire season if the player that you passed on turns out to be a stud!
5. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD… WAIT TO DRAFT A KICKER.
I don’t think this needs much clarification. If you are taking a kicker with ANY pick other than your last one, you are an idiot. Plain and simple. I don’t care if you think Sea Bass will set a record with FG Attempts. Save it moron. I’ll take someone who will actually make a difference on my roster. Thanks.
6. DON’T GET TOO HIGH ON ROOKIES.
I get high on a lot of things… but rookies aren’t one of them. We all want to be that guy or gal that snapped up a rookie phenom when nobody else expected it, a la Alfred Morris last season, but those options are few-and-far between. For every Alfred Morris there are 5 C.J. Spillers. While Spiller is a fantasy force now, his rookie season left a lot to be desired. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t draft a rookie, just understand that there is a learning curve in the NFL, and that even the most talented players take time to adjust.
This point can be ignored by those in dynasty leagues. You know why.
7. THINK ABOUT THE GUYS JUST BELOW THE “ELITE” LEVEL.
Aaron Rodgers is good… we all know this. Anyone would be happy to have him on their roster. But sadly, there just isn’t enough Rodgers to go around. While everyone else is busy snapping up Brady, Rodgers, Peyton, and Brees, you can be busy drafting higher ceiling RBs and WRs. Guys like Stafford, Ryan, Romo (Although not my first choice), and Eli will be more than enough to carry your team if you have better productivity from other positions. Consistency is the key when it comes to these “second-tier” guys.
8. DO SOME MOCK DRAFTING.
As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. Doing mock drafts helps you to get a better idea about what value others put on certain players. This can dramatically change your approach sometimes. Try drafting from different positions. Try taking different players early. Try whatever you like. Just realize that mock drafts are the perfect time to try things out and make mistakes. Figure out what works for you early. There is no feeling worse than leaving your draft knowing you have a shitty team.
9. DON’T BE A HOMER.
I’m a Chiefs fan. I really want Alex Smith to do well this season and help the team return to prominence. That isn’t a good reason to artificially inflate his value and confidently call his name in the 3rd round (trust me, people will snicker). Likewise, don’t devalue guys just because they play for a team you despise. So, just so we’re clear Chiefs fans, picking Peyton Manning to be your signal-caller isn’t a sign that you are a closet Broncos fan. I absolutely HATE the New England Patriots, but that’s not going to stop me from drafting Tom Brady. Use your head people… not your heart. There is no room for “home-town pride” in fantasy sports.
10. TRY TO HAVE FUN!
This will sound corny, but it’s just a game. Seriously… it’s just a game. Most of you will play in a league with family, friends, or co-workers. Don’t let the fact that Uncle Max took your guy right before your pick be the reason you don’t talk at Thanksgiving. Not only do you look like a dick, you ruin the fun for everyone else. Don’t be that person.
That’s about it. I’m sure I could make this list twice as long, but these are the things I notice a lot of fantasy players overlook. Of course, it’s important to do your research on depth charts and know what types of roles players will have, but this will give you a guideline for effective drafting.
There is only so much I can get to at a time, but if you have any questions that you want addressed you can catch me on Twitter @RDubb45.
I hope everyone has fun with their drafts. Some of my best friendships have been forged in a fantasy leagues. Each season is the start of a new chapter. Everyone is undefeated on draft night. Enjoy the prep and Merry Draft Day!