Everything You Shouldn’t Do in Your Fantasy Football Draft
August will be here soon (or maybe it is by the time you read this post), which means it’s high time we all get ready for our 2017 fantasy football drafts. Few things are as exciting and stressful at the same time as your league’s fantasy draft, as it brings boatloads of possibilities with a new NFL season, but also carries serious risk.
Every pick you make could be the next great sleeper or the next major gaffe that your family, friends, co-workers or fellow competitive league managers hang over your head all season. To make matters worse, if you make too many mistakes, your fantasy team won’t make the playoffs and you won’t have a shot at your league’s title.
That’s what it’s ultimately all about; allowing yourself the chance to let that preseason trash talk morph into playoff dominance. Whether you’re in a friendly or competitive league doesn’t matter, as you still want to win and be crowned the champion of your league.
Getting there won’t be easy, but if you start by ruling out the things not to do during your fantasy football draft, you could put yourself in position to enjoy a rewarding year. Here are some fantasy draft mistakes you may want to avoid:
Drink & Draft
It’s fun to throw back some beers when you draft your team, but you probably shouldn’t. At least, you shouldn’t do so heavily. A casual drink during draft time should be fine, but if you think it’d be fun to get hammered while drafting, you could kiss a quality team goodbye.
That isn’t to say you can’t draft well while drunk or even buzzed, but it just isn’t wise. Maybe you fumble your phone en route to making a draft pick, you could fall asleep at your computer, you could experience a lax judgment – any number of things can go wrong. The point is you should have a clear mind. Save the drinking for a celebration following the draft.
Overlook Your League
This is a layered warning. You want to know your league from top to bottom, whether it’s the actual people (your competition) and their loyalties (favorites teams and players) and individual draft strategies, or the actual league settings itself.
Unless you are in a fantasy league where you just flat out don’t know anyone, you should do your due diligence to collect as much information as possible on the people you’re going against. Well, you don’t need to turn into a private investigator, but figuring out their homer picks, the top players they like, what positions they value the most and their general draft strategy can be very helpful as you try to gauge who will take what player and when.
On top of that, you’re definitely going to want to know your actual league, front, and back. This means knowing your exact league settings, how many teams are drafting, what the draft order is if there is one before the draft, and what the rosters/scoring settings are.
Drafts can and should go very differently based on what positions are rostered in the starting lineup each week, how many bench positions are awarded and how your players/team scores points. Above all else, how your weekly lineup is constructed (which positions you have to start) and how your team scores points is incredibly important.
Some teams roster two starting quarterbacks ever week. This would put a huge emphasis on attacking top flight passers early, as opposed to the top running backs and wide receivers in normal drafts. Some leagues also use Flex positions and others allow PPR (points per reception) scoring. Be sure to know where your league stands on these things and more.
Let Your Plans Be Known
You’re probably in a league with friends and/or family, but you still are drafting against your competition. While you want to talk football during your draft and you like these people, remember that you’re trying to gauge what they are going to do and it’s quite possible they’re trying to figure out what you are going to do, too.
There is nothing worse than seeing someone take a player you covet right before you pick, either because they liked that player, knew you liked them, took them out of spite or got enamored with them because you talked them up.
Keep your draft strategy and favorite picks to yourself. It doesn’t make for chummy draft day conversation, but it also should help to keep you from getting burned by your competition stealing your favorite picks.
Wing Your Draft
In addition to knowing the league you’re operating in, you’ll want to put aside some time to be fully prepared for your fantasy football draft in general. You can always wing your draft and sometimes that works out, but even several hours or a couple different days of collective research can give you an edge against the people you’re going up against.
ADP (average draft position), projections, rankings and mock drafts combine to give us a lot of useful information to help us draft. ADP clues you in on which players are being drafted in what rounds on average, mock drafts gives you a courtside seat to how your exact draft could play out and projections/rankings can help us gauge player value even before mocks and the actual draft.
You can dig deeper with research, but at the very least you should compile some type of cheat sheet or pre-set rankings that let you know where you stand on most of the players you could end up drafting. Your prep should include knowing player value, ranking your favorite options, understanding player roles on teams and also being aware of the latest NFL injury news.
All of this together sounds like a lot of work, and if you’re to be fully prepared, it very well could be. It should be worth it once a productive draft is through and you’re on your way to a winning season, however.
Bank on Last Year
During your research and while drafting, one thing to avoid is leaning too hard on what happened last year. Too often league managers draft players based on statistics they compiled the previous season, avoid players because of an injury they suffered the year before or stay away from other options because of a down year.
Circumstance is everything in fantasy football and each year should be treated differently. The top fantasy football options tend to be consistent and fairly reliable, but as you get to the middle and late rounds, you need to be careful to not rely too heavily on old data and instead rely more on projections.
Monitoring injuries, roles and changes in team offenses (big free agency acquisitions, draft picks or departures) is a great way to keep tabs on developing situations. The idea is to look forward and monitor trends that can help predict future development, rather than banking solely on previous production.
That doesn’t mean we should ignore it when fantasy players crush it the year before, but we can’t blindly select players simply based on those numbers, either.
Stack Homer Picks
While we don’t want to blindly draft players without looking at every angle first, we also don’t want to just take them because they’re a big name or play for our favorite team. These are “homer” picks, in that they’re players we like or follow or they play for the team we cheer for.
This can actually be a ton of fun if it works out, but you should at least make sure you’re specific homer picks come from a good source. Racking up homer picks from an explosive offense obviously isn’t the worst idea, but loading up picks from the Browns and Jets probably isn’t a winning philosophy.
It just isn’t a great practice to pick a ton of players from the same team in general, as running backs can cancel each other out and wide receivers can cut into each other’s targets. Playing said options together on a weekly basis can cap the consistency of our lineup’s upside.
You can still take the elite options from your favorite team, but be careful how many homer picks you take and when you take them.
Eggs in One Basket
Homer picks bleeds into another general idea of not putting all of your trust behind one team or player. From the team perspective, we can’t just fall in love with the Patriots and load up on New England players. That could end up working out just fine, but you always want to diversify your options in fantasy football and get the deepest and most balanced roster you can.
Ending up with a ton of Patriots can work out fine as a whole, but using them all together every single week might not necessarily be a winning strategy. The same goes for your early draft picks on a more singular level. Drafting at the #1 spot lands you a rock solid stud more times than not, but you can’t then coast from there.
Never assume landing a few elite fantasy options means you can then take unnecessary risks or avoid planning for the middle to late rounds. The rounds beyond the first 2-3 are obviously making up the majority of your team and you’ll greatly regret not mapping out a better roster if your would-be sure-fire elite picks don’t pan out.
Reach at Will
This also plays into the idea of reaching in your draft. Whether it’s a homer pick or just a player you love, the aforementioned research (namely ADP and rankings) should be leaned on to avoid bad reaches.
Reaching can get you a player you covet and sometimes doesn’t hurt you, but if you plan it out better, you can wait on that player and get that option and another strong option before you make that move.
This applies to taking players well ahead of their ADP, as well as taking devalued positions in spots where it doesn’t make sense. You don’t want to take a backup running back before the middle rounds and you shouldn’t be drafting your kicker or defense until the late rounds.
Finite Draft Strategy
The last thing to remember is to be flexible at all times and learn to adapt on the fly. You certainly want to enter your fantasy football draft with an idea of which players you want and how to get them, so a base strategy is encouraged. However, strictly sticking to that strategy can cause you to reach or bypass players that open up amazing value.
Reacting appropriately to how your draft unfolds will keep your fantasy draft strategy relatively open, which really puts an emphasis on value drafting. How to best do this can slowly be assessed the more you mock your fantasy draft.
Your exact draft strategy can differ depending on your personal preference and how your league is set up. Just be prepared to adjust it on the fly if a certain position goes on a wild run, if some of your favorite players get snatched up or people start to bypass a player that could return immense value.
You are going to have a successful fantasy football draft if you at least loosely abide by these guidelines. The most basic tip that continues to be the most helpful, however, is simply being prepared.
Knowing your league settings and how you can maneuver through the draft from your exact draft slot is extremely key to a strong draft. Everyone knows who the big name players are in the NFL and everyone else has access to rankings, projections, ADP and last year’s data. It’s up to you to put in the extra time to nail your draft down from all angles.
Even a slight edge in draft prep should open up extra value to you that your competition won’t see. If you can do that, you should be well on your way to a balanced draft and a shot at a run to the fantasy playoffs.