The time of the year has come, my friends. Football is upon us (preseason anyways) and that means that in the next 2-3 weeks, fantasy footballers everywhere draft their teams for the upcoming season. It’s high time that I laid some draft tips on you. Knowing the redundancy that can happen with this subject, I thought up a fun way to provide quality tips: one for each letter of the alphabet. Literally the ABC’s of drafting. Let’s get to work and have a little fun!
Access materials published with fantasy research–most of them are free (just like TFA)! Many sites have plenty of content, rankings, and stats to help increase your knowledge about relevant players and strategy. We did the legwork, so why not capitalize on it? There’s a lot out there, so find fantasy sites and voices that you trust and then make your own decisions. We aren’t going to be there to take credit/blame for the final result, so make sure you take ownership of the guys that you land on.
Bye weeks shouldn’t impact your picks drastically, so don’t draft a lower value player just because they have the same bye weeks as your existing starters. You have plenty of bench spots to spend on guys who you can plug in or stream (especially QB and TE positions) and it just doesn’t pay to pass on a better value because of this perceived problem. With that said, don’t draft all your starters with the same bye week, OK? Along those lines, drafting two fantasy players from the same team also isn’t a huge problem. Time and time again, we see offenses support multiple fantasy stars that produce for their owners. Obviously, better offenses have a higher likelihood of this, so keep this in mind. This is a bit obvious, but just to be sure: don’t draft a back-up QB or TE with the same bye week as your starter at that position. That just negates the pick.
Capitalize on the draft mistakes of others. Instead of getting pissed about the guy who took the defense in the 8th round and trash talking, keep quiet and stick to your strategy/ranked tiers. Don’t bring attention to the fact that you think it was an idiotic move. Maybe someone else will think it’s a good idea and do the same, which can only benefit you. Know that you will have the advantage on your roster when you take the high value/upside players that they passed on. It sounds competitive because it is. If you’re more about fun, go ahead and call them out but it won’t change their pick, it will only affect how far the ripple goes moving forward in the draft. When someone else accidentally gives me an advantage, I take it and run.
Drafting two QBs and TEs in redraft is not necessary. Since you only have to fill these positions during your starting QB and TE’s bye weeks, there is really no reason to spend high draft capital on a back-up. If you must do one of the two, don’t pick two TEs. There is great value that will end up on the waivers and it hurts me just thinking of a TE taking up a valuable bench spot. Outside of the top tier of tight ends, you just won’t get the return on your draft capital.
Easy on the “homer” picks. I know you love your team. Hell, I love my Steelers, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll take Eli Rogers over Randall Cobb. This is your team, yes. If you want to win (which, granted, it might not be a priority for some), drafting picks just because they’re on your fav team isn’t the best strategy. Plus, one of the best parts about fantasy is that it opens up the group of players that you invest in, get to know, and root for all season. Instead of only having an interest in one team, you see and appreciate other NFL teams and players that you never would’ve before. I know it’s hard to admit, but your player is not always the best value for your fantasy roster. (Don’t cry. It’ll be ok. You can still wear your jersey proudly.) PS. Never root for your fantasy team over your favorite team. Loyalty, my friends.
Finish strong. Don’t “ghost” halfway through the draft. Leagues are won in the later rounds. If you league mates don’t know the top handcuffs, sleepers, or high upside guys, then let them throw their picks away or auto-draft. Don’t make this mistake yourself. Sit there and proceed the exact way you did in the beginning of the draft and it will pay off later.
Generate overall rankings and then develop tiers (groups of players ranked positionally) to help you differentiate who to draft when you are on the clock. This way, you know the RB and WR equivalents (both “3rd tier”, etc.) and can pick the player that is the best value at ADP or your favorite of the bunch since you perceive them all as having similar fantasy profiles. By crossing off players in your tiers as the draft progresses, you’ll also be able to gauge which position might be getting slim (You have 5 RBs but only 1 WR left in a certain tier). Sure, go grab a beer from the fridge in between picks, but then update your sheet once you’re back!
Having your own rankings (and importing them before your draft if desired) also helps prevent confusion/difficulty when drafting with different sites. Yahoo and ESPN could rank/list ADP completely different. When you are searching for your next pick, a site will show you THEIR next top ranked players unless you imported your own. A player you really want could be down further in their rankings, so you miss him and only later realize he was still available after your friend snags him out from under you. Use your queue (see later for emphasis) to help.
Have fun! Help someone else learn to play fantasy and don’t freak them out by how competitive you are and how serious some of us take this amazing thing called fantasy football. For the first time since I started playing, I participated in an in-person, live draft last season. Super fun. I recommend it, as it increases the trash-talking level and overall comradery. You can still take it seriously while having a blast. Don’t forget that!
Internet glitches and computer issues represent problems often overlooked, but very impactful to your draft. I’ve heard stories and witnessed computer/internet issues cost players top picks and force them to fall mercy to auto-draft. One friend of mine even set up his queue with a couple of deep sleepers to start his draft so he wouldn’t forget about them later. Unfortunately, he didn’t use the queue for his upcoming picks, so when his internet disconnected, his #1 draft pick went to some no-name deep sleeper. It’s a nightmare to experience and HILARIOUS to watch happen to someone else. Don’t let it be you. Have your phone ready or, as I’ll mention again later, place players in your queue (in rank order).
Join a league with your friends or people that you can interact with/watch football with throughout the season. If you are only drafting on Yahoo or ESPN open leagues, you’re missing out on some of the best fun during the season: talking about the teams you drafted and their performances each week. Lone fantasy lover in your group of friends? Build some relationships on Twitter with other fantasy footballers that you can tolerate, and try to initiate a league. Get into a “listener league” on free sites with the analysts (TFA does this, ESPN as well). The fantasy community is amazing–jump in!
Keep your cool. Know how much time your league gives for each pick once you’re on the clock (OTC). A pick in desperation or high anxiety (usually the result of a “snipe” by a player right before you), most likely won’t be one you’re thrilled about later. It’s like that comeback that you wish you said in the moment, but you flubbed. You’ll be thinking about the move you should’ve made the rest of the fantasy season.
Look into the coaching changes throughout the league and how these changes might impact (both positively and negatively) your fantasy targets. Our own Jeff Donovan created a table tracking the split of calls from the Offensive Coordinator of each team in 2015 and 2016. I don’t rely too heavily on coaching when I’m analyzing players, but it certainly can have an impact if a coach shows a certain pattern across multiple team placements.
Mock draft until you can mock draft no more! It’s fun and informative since you can choose different strategies and draft positions to see which end up with your ideal roster. FantasyPros.com ‘s Mock Simulator allows you to complete a full draft in minutes using the ADP data and league set up of your choosing. I would, however, also do a few mock drafts on sites like Yahoo and ESPN (whichever sites you will be using for your actual drafts) to not only get the feel for real people and the way they might draft, but also to get used to the format on that particular site and their draft tools.
Never get drunk. Haha, just kidding. Let me qualify that. Never get drunk during a draft if you are super serious about winning. If not, have a blast! Don’t be surprised when you lose track of the picks, your turn, and why your bill at BW3’s starts looking like you bought a keg. The gifted know the optimal consumption rate that allows for smart drafting while also having a relaxed, good time. I can’t reveal those secrets.
Overcommitting to leagues will bite you in the butt later, or possibly take away from the fun because you have so many teams to track at once. If if you are a serious fantasy footballer and have money invested in these leagues, it will take time to manage each roster and waiver wire as you work throughout season. Participating in MFL10 or best ball leagues could be an option for you if you are itching to keep signing up for teams but know you may be getting in over your head. These leagues are set from draft day forward and require no roster management. Check out myfantasyleague.com to check out MFL10s and MFL25s. My personal guidelines are 4-5 money leagues and a couple of “just for fun” ones to keep the balance. For those just jumping into redraft, you might want to keep it to 1-2 your first year.
Pay attention to your league mates. How do they tend to draft? QB or TE early? RB/WR heavy? No one can know for sure how someone will draft, but you can definitely have a general idea especially if you’ve played with these people for several years. Use this information to your advantage as you try to predict runs on a certain position or when deciding if you should risk that a certain player will fall to your next turn.
Queue the handful of players that you’ve got your eye on as your pick approaches. Be sure to rank them in the order that you would draft them. This eliminates the panic when you get sniped right before drafting and the tendency to scramble. It also is great preventative measure just in case your computer or internet disrupts your draft–it will auto draft from your queue and save you.
Remember to be flexible with your draft strategy. Have a plan and your tiered rankings, but if great value falls into your lap, don’t pass it up. This goes across all positions. If the value is insane, veer off your path and pluck up that opportunity. Trust that you can adjust your strategy afterward to obtain the overall team that you want. I’ve put out research on two popular draft strategies Zero WR and Zero RB, so take a look and see what fits best for you.
Scoring and league rules in your fantasy leagues are important. At least check to see if it is PPR, how many points for a throwing TD, and how many starters in each position you can play each week. These aspects should be important to your decisions during your draft, your rankings, and your strategy. For example, in PPR, you should be prioritizing receivers and RBs involved in the passing game. Sometimes, a league rewards points for return yards, so targeting a fantasy player that is involved in special teams as well can give you an edge. This typically comes into play when you are throwing darts at sleepers late in your draft.
Track the positions that your league mates have already filled on their rosters. This isn’t full proof of course because they could load up on one position or wait super late to snag others, but it does give you a sense of when runs of a position may come. When to wait on a target and when to act should be informed by this information. The Pick Predictor on FantasyPros.com (you can link to your live draft) is an excellent tool to help you predict the picks between one of your turns and the next (those waits can be unbearable!). For example, if I have my eye on a QB but would rather pad my bench and wait, I’ll go look to see how many teams have not drafted a QB yet either and try to predict the chances of my guy going before my next chance to draft.
Upside. You’ll hear it all the time. Late round fliers and sleepers represent the possibility of a surprising break-out star or a back-up who is given a chance to shine, and to boost your fantasy roster. It is OK to “swing for the fences” with some of your picks, especially if you are pleased with your early round decisions and have a solid foundation of starters. Not to mention that you aren’t spending top draft capital on these guys, so if they end up doing nothing, you drop them and pick up some waiver wire diamonds later on.
Verify that the research/articles/rankings that you are trusting really are legit. This sometimes takes a year or two before you know which experts and sites are consistent and share their logic/reasonings/stats to prove their points. No “expert” can predict the future. We do our best to pay attention to all the details that you don’t have time to track and summarize them for you in our articles and podcasts. Analysts will be wrong. But, if we are right or accurate more often than not, you learn who to trust. Being active on Twitter and finding some analysts that are responsive can also be very helpful when setting lineups and being up on the most recent news. Beware of the trolls that are just out there for followers on Twitter and to boost their own egos.
Willingness to “reach” for your player is OK. Would it always be advisable? No, probably not. But this is YOUR team. This is a part of being “flexible” during drafting and also just acknowledging that you might have more fun if you get the guys you believe in and root for rather than another player. Know the ADP of your “targets” and if you really want him, be OK with the possible consequences of snagging him too early before someone else does. You’ll kick yourself if he goes one pick after you. For a personal example, I reached for Martavis Bryant often in July best ball drafts before I knew if he would definitely be reinstated or play out the year. Right now (fingers crossed), I’m glad for my risk taking.
X out those players that you don’t want to draft (that’s right, you thought I wouldn’t be able to find an X!). You typically know (if you’ve done your research) those players that I couldn’t pay you to draft. Someone leave a bad taste in your mouth after last season? Don’t want someone with high injury risk? Take them out of your rankings/tiers and rely on the research you’ve completed/your gut.
YOLO. This is your team, so draft the one that you feel good about and can picture success/enjoyment for the season. Keep your strategy to yourself and execute it. Swing for the fences if you feel confident and want to take a chance. Yes, calculated risk/reward is important, but so it taking a chance on a guy you think will break out. You’re the only one that will be sitting with your wins/losses –so why not?!
Zig while others zag, my friend. This is one big way to take advantage of the flow of your draft and isn’t something you can predict before draft day. If most are going one way (one position), at least consider an alternative and what value that could get you. If you see an elite RB fall into the middle of the 2nd round, you have to consider taking them even if you planned to go WR-WR-WR. Flexibility.
Don’t let this be you! Now you know your ABCs…Goodluck with your draft! As always, check out all the stellar content at The Fantasy Authority and read up on the Zero WR and the Zero RB strategies for more specific ways to draft. Follow me @FF_Female920 on Twitter and use #AskTFA for any fantasy football questions, anytime. Happy Fantasy Football Season!