Fantasy Football Draft Strategy
Learn fantasy football draft strategy
by Mike Laverdure, Guest Writer
Updated: July 3, 2012
Original Release: September 4, 2004
OK, you've done your homework. You've made your
predictions. You've evaluated your fantasy football sleepers, reviewed the NFL schedule,
and you have checked out plenty of Fantasy Football Mock Drafts.
Draft day is rapidly
approaching and you're feeling pretty confident. Now comes the test.
How do you make sure that you have a successful draft? With a good fantasy football draft strategy. There are
several general recommendations that you can see on various fantasy football
websites or fantasy football magazines. I will mention these in passing,
but I want to provide new thoughts and ideas instead of the canned suggestion
box material. Obviously, you should take the best player available
in most occasions; however, the hard part is how to make a better player
available when it is your turn to draft. In this article, I am
going to divulge my recommendations on how you can improve your draft. You may not
be Mr. Popular at your draft (especially if you perform Steps 4 and 5 well),
but hey, you will be on your way to dominating your league, and which is
more important? Exactly.
Fantasy Football Draft Strategy - Recommendations on Improving the Results of your Draft:
STEP 1: Re-evaluate your league setup / structure
Do you know your scoring system inside and
out? What are receptions worth? What are completions worth?
Are there points for Running Back Carries? You should have this info
cold. You also need to know your starting lineup requirements inside and out.
Do you start one Quarterback or two? Is a Tight End required? Do you have a flex position in your league? ... etc. I participated
in a 12 team league a few years back that started three running backs, and I drafted
five. Do the math - there are 12 teams in the league drafting five running
backs. That's 60 Running Backs drafted and 36 required to play each
week per team. With only 32 NFL teams, at least four starting RBs were going
to be backups on their respective NFL team with limited action.
I made a HUGE blunder here that cost me the
season a few years ago. Drafting in the #7 spot, I saw all the premier
running backs disappear. Six picks and
six running backs come off the board. So seeing the run on running backs, yours-truly goes with
the best quarterback in the game at that time. With my second
pick, seeing the best wide receiver on the board still available while the best
running back was only of middle quality, I grab the best receiver. I did grab
a running back in round three, but at that point things were very nasty on the running back front and the damage was done. Although my
receivers and quarterback outscored the opposition every week, I was clobbered in
the running back department, which also had more weighted points available.
I failed to understand the scoring system and the impact of drafting so many
running backs, and I was the 8th seeded playoff team and ousted in Round
One. Disappointing to say the least. Sometimes it is indeed OK to continue
the run on a position during your draft if it is a position of value for your league setup.
STEP 2: Know your opposition
I liken the draft to a poker game. You need to be able to read
your opponents' body language and figure out their draft strategy. You should
know everyone's favorite teams, players, and how they tend to draft.
Let's face it, at least one guy in the league comes to the draft wearing
his favorite player's shirt. Guess who he is looking for in round one or two?
A guy who typically takes a quarterback early will tend to do it year in and year
out. I always keep a list of who was taken by each league member in the first three rounds.
You can see who was picked, and who was left on the board by each of your
opponents, as well as what positions are favored by certain people in your league. After a couple of years in the same league, such
a historical list can expose tendencies you can use to your advantage during the draft. We had a guy who was
a huge Bucs and Jets fan. His first picks were always Jets or Bucs
players. I knew I would not have a crack at those players if he wanted them,
so I needed to act a little earlier if I wanted them.
Checkout the Fantasy Magazines and website information each member in your league is using.
If a guy is using your magazine or website info, chances are, he knows all
the sleepers that they recommended. If you were seriously considering
those players, your opponent has his eyes on them as well, which may require
you acting a little earlier than you originally thought. You should
definitely have at least two magazines and a questionable, unreliable
website openly displayed so you can disguise your draft strategy, but at the
same time you can monitor the sleepers the other guys are thinking about.
STEP 3: Do not overrate sleepers and rookies
Every year there is someone on my list that
I denote the ultimate sleeper. I am always tempted to take this
player earlier than I should. My rule of thumb is this: when you
are ready to take your sleeper pick, wait one round. If he truly
is a sleeper, he will still be there. I don't recommend waiting
much more than one round, as I have lost many a sleeper by waiting two
or three extra rounds. My "one-round rule of thumb" has worked quite
well so far. Rookies are typically tough to predict and bring risk to the table.
More often than not, rookies play like, well rookies, with exception to one position. Note from Docs: Learn what that position is in our article,
NFL Rookie Fantasy Football Draft Strategy, as well as see who all the new
rookies are for this season in our article, NFL Rookies
STEP 4: Psych-out your opponents
You need to pay close attention to whom they are talking about.
Now this is the real trick: You want to be disruptive without being obnoxious,
and you can't go to the well too often or they will catch onto your plans.
Try picking on one or two guys in the league and focus on them.
I am always willing to chime in with a "I don't know about that one - Third
Round is a little early to be taking Player X." In this case, "Player X" should have indeed been taken in
the third round, but I am trying to plant seeds that could yield fruit in later rounds. If I am lucky,
the next time that guy drafts he may wait a little
longer on a player thinking it's "too early". I always come up with
at least one "What the heck were you thinking with that pick?", followed
by mocking laughter. Once you break someone's confidence, you own
them for the rest of the draft.
I also recommend offering trades as it is
getting close to an owners time to draft. I shoot for at least two
trade offerings during the draft, possibly three. Again, the key is
to disrupt without being too obnoxious. Unless of course you like being
pummeled by nine or more of your closest friends. By setting distractions,
you can disrupt their focus, and at times help people into making a bad pick.
If you know someone is leaning towards a
player that you want, you can lead him away from him. If I hear someone
asking about a player, and its someone I am interested in, I always come
up with the phantom injury or that the coach isn't in favor with him.
The trick is subtlety: "I hear Player Z's hammy is really bothering
him -OR- I hear Player Z and his quarterback are really having issues... what have you guys heard?".
You direct it at the league and not the person thinking of drafting him.
Bingo, the guy passes on Player Z and you snake him a round later and justify
it by saying that you were willing to take that chance in round 6 but not
round 5. Always offer up an opinion when one is asked, and always
adjust your comments to whether or not you want to draft the guy. Never
give your true opinion (see step 5 below).
You can also use this technique to make someone
take a player earlier than they should. My league uses Individual Defensive Players (IDP), and one
of the guys is in love with a particular linebacker (see point 2). He comes to
the draft in one of his five jerseys of that linebacker. Now in our league this linebacker is
the #15 - 20 rated linebacker. However, someone always says earlier than you should consider him "Is it too early to take
him now? What have you guys heard about him?" Invariably, this linebacker is always one of the top
ten linebackers taken as the discussion forces the issue, and my buddy wearing the jersey panics. It never fails.
STEP 5: Do not help your opposition
The fact that I even mention this amazes me, but it happens all the time.
If you are in this to win, helping your opposition really hurts your cause.
Someone always says, "What do you think of this guy?" during the draft, and
someone always helps him! This especially sucks when it was a guy
you were ready to pounce on. Now instead of wanting to pummel one
guy, you have to vent your anger in two directions, and it's always tougher
to fight two battles than one. If someone asks you for help, lead
them in the direction you want them to go in. ALWAYS HELP YOURSELF
FIRST!!!! If someone says I'm thinking of drafting Player A,
what do you think?" If you want Player A, play the "role in the offense changing card" or "back-up pushing him for the starting job"
you don't want Player A, sell him on Player A because if he takes Player A, he doesn't take
your guy. Just be sure you can sell both sides of the story convincingly,
and you will have no problems.
STEP 6: Leave NFL team and player loyalties at the door
I am a HUGE Patriots fan (season ticket holder). I rarely have
more than one Patriot on my team. The Pats are a great NFL team, but more years than not,
they are Fantasy Challenged (I think that's the politically correct terminology).
I would never touch a running back on the Patriots; there are too many options
in the backfield that can get involved (The infamous Running Back
by Committee, RBBC). Drafting
players because you are a fan rarely works, as it gets your emotions involved, which typically leads to drafting these players earlier than they go. And it tips your hand (see Step
I also am a big fan of a particular player.
He is one player I tend to overpay for but not by much. If there
is a player you have to have prior to the draft, pick the earliest possible
round you would think he is a break-even value (not a steal, but not too
early either). You can select this player no sooner than one round
before that round via mock draft information and Fantasy Football Player Rankings. If
you think he is worthy of a 5th rounder, do not touch that player before
round four. In the fourth round, he is slightly overvalued, which is something
you should be able to live with, but you are pretty much guaranteed to get
him. If he is gone by the 4th round, someone seriously overpaid for him, and
it won't be you if you stick to this recommendation.
STEP 7: Keep track of the player positions drafted for each team
This final recommendation will require some work, but it is hugely beneficial. I use a basic
spreadsheet that has all the drafted positions under each person's name in my league.
I cross out each position as the picks are made. You don't have to do
it for every position, but I do. This information is huge. Let's say
you drafted with the 8th pick overall, and you are in the later rounds of your draft. Let's also say that the 9th - 12th guys all have taken a starting quarterback already.
You have not. Take some other player at a position other than quarterback as you send the draft to the 9th - 12th guys behind you. Odds are good your quarterback will still be there on the other side once it is your turn to pick again. In the meantime, you increased the odds you
were able to select a better player at another position than otherwise available after the 9th - 12th guys had a chance to pick. Be careful though, as this
can work against you if you take too much of a chance. Especially if you
have someone like me keeping track of this sort of information and looking to punish you for trying such a move, and there
are several players between you and your next pick.
Well there you have it. Hopefully these fantasy football draft strategy tips are helpful for you and improve the results of your draft.
Drafting is like buying a car: you want to get the most for your money without over paying. Good luck.