With BBQ season in full effect, I for one have been enjoying the sun, the burgers and the beer (maybe a little too much), yet over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. A void, one that was particularly felt on those lazy Sundays. It is a void that could only be caused by a lack of football. That void has finally been filled and we can all rejoice as football is back with all 32 teams deep into training camp and the preseason well underway.
This is the greatest time of the year, as it brings us a fresh beginning with all 32 teams on level footing. Even if it’s for the briefest of moments, every team has hope and a chance to be crowned this year’s Super Bowl Champion. Not only is this a great time for football, but it is a particularly special time of year for the fantasy football faithful. This time of the year is the equivalent to a kid on Christmas, anxiously waiting to unwrap their gifts, as these are the weeks leading up to a day bigger and better than Christmas; Draft Day. Fantasy football enthusiasts know that the only thing worse than getting socks and underwear for the holidays is coming away from your draft with a team that just doesn’t stack up to the rest of your league.
It is known that you can’t win your league on draft day… but you sure can lose it. We’re here to make sure that you are not one of the draft day casualties who receives coal from the Fantasy Football Gods. If you follow these 15 tips you will dominate your draft and bask in the gift of success this season.
15 Read, Read, Read
In the weeks leading up to your draft, you should read as much fantasy football related literature as possible. Pick up magazines and read as many articles as you can online about sleepers, busts, bargain draft picks and strategies; if it’s related to fantasy football it doesn’t hurt to read it. Yes, you will read things you don’t agree with, but the more you read, the more knowledgeable you will become. This will help you formulate your own opinions and plans for the all-important draft day.
14 Know Your Scoring System
This might sound obvious, but it is essential to know your scoring system as some leagues award six points for a passing touchdown whereas others award only four. This would imply that in leagues that award more points for passing touchdowns, the elite group of QBs which includes P. Manning, D. Brees, and A. Rodgers will likely be selected earlier than in leagues where only four points are awarded. Therefore, this must be considered if you’re looking to feature an elite QB on your team this year.
13 Don't Draft a Defense or Kicker Early
I feel this has become common knowledge over the last few years yet I continue to see people do it. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT waste a high pick on a defense or a kicker. These positions should be drafted at the very end of your draft (Specifically last 3-4 rounds). The reason for this is simple, based on standard scoring last year the #1 ranked kicker – Stephan Gostkowski scored 168 points compared to 132 points scored by the #12 ranked Nick Folk, this translates to a weekly difference of 2.25 points, that being said you are better off spending you’re mid-round picks on a RB with high upside or a WR that has the potential to breakout. As for the defenses, unless you’re in a league that mandates that each team has 2 defenses at all times, you will be able to play the waiver wire and pick up a defense weekly based on their match-ups.
12 Watch Preseason Games
Take in as many preseason games as you can. By doing so, you will get to watch the players first hand, as well as being able to see who may be getting the lion’s share of carries for teams who use the RBBC (Running Back by Committee) approach. This will also allow you to see potential breakout candidates that may be buried on the 2nd or 3rd teams. The more you watch, the more likely you are to know who you want on your team and who you’d like to avoid come draft day.
11 Know When to Use the Strength of Schedule
It has been my experience that every year there is at least once manager who loves his statistics and pulls out his strength of schedule charts and bases the majority of his picks on this chart. The strength of schedule can be a very useful tool if used correctly, however it should be used with caution. When ranking, or deciding between two players who have similar projections or who you feel are similar talents, refer to the strength of schedule and see if one of them has an advantage over the other. Use it wisely and it will help you dominate your draft, base all your decisions on it and you may end up on the outside looking in come playoff time.
10 Don't Pick with Your Heart
This tip may be one of the hardest ones to follow for the football fan in us all. However, if you want to dominate your draft, you will have to put personal feelings aside on draft day and pick the best available player regardless of if he plays for a team you hate. I’m not saying not to draft players from your team, I’m just advising that you should temper your expectations and not select a player purely based on this fact. Taking the best player on the board sometimes will involve swallowing your pride and grabbing that guy from the team you hate, but this is what will separate the pretenders from the contenders.
9 Don't Ignore Training Camp
With all the news and reports that come out of training camp, it may be hard to follow it all, but the good news is you don’t have to. The key aspects to follow are; position battles, and injuries sustained in camp that could affect a player’s value come draft day. For example, if you were to draft a WR from the Rams as a WR 4 or WR 5, it would be important to know if you should be targeting Kenny Britt or Tavon Austin. Given the early reports out of the Rams camp, Kenny Britt is the WR to target as he is currently the WR 1 on their depth chart. Keep in mind these depth charts are going to change often during the preseason, so reading reports about camp battles will give you a better idea of who is likely to start come Week 1.
8 Be Aware of Injuries and Suspensions
It should go without saying but make sure you know which players are injured and which players are suspended prior to your draft. This is easy, print yourself an injury listing and a listing of suspensions. With many of the players on this list there is a high level of risk but there is also the potential for great reward. For example, given the fact that Josh Gordon’s yearlong suspension has been appealed and the results of the appeal have yet to be released, would you be willing to risk an 9th or 10th round pick in an attempt to add a 2nd round talent who may not play at all this year? I, for one would, but this is a large risk due to the fact that he will miss the whole season if the suspension is upheld. Similar decisions must be made regarding players who are injured heading into the season or coming off of a serious injury last year. The takeaway here is to include the injury or suspension into the value you assign any given player.
7 Don't be That Guy
You know exactly what I am talking about. At every draft there is always at least one manager who shows up with a case of beer and downs four of them before the draft even reaches the 2nd round, and continues drinking until the very end of the draft. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a couple of beers during the draft, but DON’T get drunk. Beer goggles are a real thing people and they don’t just apply to women, they can happen when you draft your team too. I’m sure drafting that kicker in the 10th round or Plaxico Burress in the 11th felt like a good idea at the time but when you wake up the next morning and see what you’ve done, you will be filled with regret.
6 Know who you Want as a Late Round Sleeper
As you get into the late rounds of a fantasy draft, the quality of available players takes an obvious dip. This is the time to take a chance on a player you feel has the potential to break out. The players typically drafted here are the players you will likely drop come waiver wire time anyway, so why bother taking a washed up star who is way past his prime when you can take a chance on a player with a high ceiling who is relatively unknown going into the season (here’s a little bonus: my sleepers include the likes of Khiry Robinson, Andre Williams and Kenny Britt to name a few).
5 Learn your Opponents Tendencies
This is a tip that is useful for leagues that have been around for some time and the managers are typically the same. Take an hour and analyze your last 2-3 fantasy drafts and attempt to determine if certain managers have specific tendencies. You’d be surprised how much you can take away from this exercise. I have recently done this exact exercise for my very own league and noted that one manager has drafted 3 RBs in the first 5 round in each of the last 3 years, while 2 other managers have consistently drafted a QB in the first 2 rounds in each of these 3 draft, which means I know if I want an elite level QB this year, I will likely have to use a 2nd round pick to get one. If you take the time to get to learn the tendencies of the managers in your league, you will have the advantage come draft day.
4 Practice Makes Perfect
Ahh technology, is there anything it can’t do? The internet provides you with all the tools to perfect your draft skills. Pretty much every site that hosts your fantasy football league has a Mock Draft option and what better way to prepare for a draft than to actually practice. For those who know what position they will be drafting from, use that spot in your mock drafts to try out different strategies and see which one results in the best team. This will also give you an idea of what round players are typically drafted in. For those whose draft order is determined live on draft night, it is best to try and get in a mock draft in every position at least once. Remember practice makes perfect so get in as many mock drafts as you can.
3 Pre-Rank your Players
Does this sound like a tedious task? Yes, yes it does. However, this is one of those things that will give you an edge over your competition come draft day. If you’re having trouble sitting down and putting this list together, try a one-man mock draft. You are in control of every team and draft each team as if it was your own; this is a helpful exercise that will have you ranking those players without even realizing it.
2 Don't Have a Set Strategy
Assuming you have practiced with a few mock drafts now, you have likely started to develop a plan based on the players that tend to drop to you at certain spots. I would agree that having a base plan is a good idea, however you have to be able to adapt come draft day. Assume your plan was to go RB/RB and you end up with the 6th overall pick that translates to Eddie Lacy and in the 2nd round you have the choice between Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall. If you have doubts about the RBs available, grab one of the elite level WR and adjust your plan accordingly. Make sure you don’t guilt yourself into making a pick just because that’s the strategy you had going into the draft.
1 Study the Draft Board
This is a little trick I find to be extremely helpful. Not all leagues use a large draft board that tracks all the picks made, so if your league doesn’t have one of these boards make sure you track the draft yourself. This will allow you to know exactly what needs every team has, and this will give you an edge. Even if your league does use a draft board, it is still very important to make your decisions based on what the draft board is telling you. For example, assuming you have the 9th pick in a 12 team league and are looking to draft a QB in the 7th round, yet when you take a look at the draft board it shows you that teams 10, 11, and 12 have all already drafted a QB, your best option would be to draft a RB, WR, or TE, whichever you were planning to pick on the way back, and grab the same QB you would have picked in the 7th round with your 8th round pick. All this to say, know what the other teams need and use this to your advantage.