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The Dos and Don’ts of Drafting Under Pressure

Drafting under pressure will be easier with these tips.

If you’ve been playing fantasy football for any sort of extended period of time, you’ve experienced one of the worst feelings in the fake game: getting “sniped” while drafting. The guy you didn’t expect to last to your pick all of a sudden starts to slip. In a matter of seconds, you’ve morphed from a well-prepared pigskin prognosticator to a cheerleader in front of a laptop. Ten picks away. Five picks away. Three picks away. Your steal of the draft is a mere 30 seconds away from gracing your future-championship roster with their presence.

That is, until your league archrival, Cousin Johnny, snaps him up right in front of you. Instantly, your overflowing excitement is exposed as silly optimism, and you break into a sweat as the screen flashes “It is your turn to draft.” You openly question why the commish set the timer to only half a minute while you scramble through pages of cheat sheets and draft guides. “Why didn’t I make a backup plan in the last five minutes?” You second-guess yourself. With only five seconds left, you panic and take the player at the top of the host website’s rankings. This future bust ends up haunting you from the moment you select him until the start of next year’s draft.

Just because everyone endures this at one point or another doesn’t mean it has to happen again. First of all, don’t spend your time dancing while Doug Baldwin creeps his way down the third round. Not only does it waste time that you could be using to prepare, but it also won’t help when your significant other sees that you get more excitement out of Doug Baldwin’s headshot than theirs. But seriously, for those who are trying to plan but can’t seem to find the right process, check out these Dos and Don’ts of drafting under pressure.

Note: All ADP information via fantasyfootballcalculator.com

DO: Draft players that have proven track records of production.

One of your goals should be to make your selection as simple as possible. One way of doing that is by just picking the players that have already done what you expect them to do. Those who have recorded multiple seasons at or near the top of their position are likely to do it again, as Jacob Rickrode’s research proves again and again.

Example: Take Demaryius Thomas (five straight seasons of top-15 production) over Tyreek Hill (zero seasons of top 30 production) in Round Three.

DON’T: Draft the “special cases.”

This one may be a bit of a buzzkill, but trust me, it’s for the best. As enticing as visions of Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch) and Alien (Martavis Bryant) scoring touchdowns and winning us fantasy matchups may be, the smartest course of action would be to let others draft these red-flag-littered players at their optimism-inflated ADPs. Call me crazy, but I just can’t find it in myself to reach for two players that missed a whole season of football. Betting on where their minds and bodies are at this point is too risky a proposition at their prices (however, I wouldn’t be opposed to going after Josh Gordon at his Round 13 ADP, if you must).

Example: Take Lamar Miller over Marshawn Lynch in Round Three (I do not like Miller one bit, but the RB landscape in rounds three through five is horrendous).

DON’T: Draft players with re-exploitable preseason injuries.

(Yes, re-exploitable is a weird word, but I was trying to describe injuries that could be reaggravated without making the header too wordy. Sorry.)

This mini-strategy was brought to my attention by my friend Jeremy Funk of Dynasty League Football. According to his work, lengthy injuries in preseason increase the odds of missing four regular season games by 66%. Hamstring and other tissue strains should be among the last injuries you want to hear a player has suffered (aside from a catastrophic injury, obviously).

Example: Take Todd Gurley (healthy) over Leonard Fournette (foot problems) in Round 2 (actually, I wouldn’t take either of these guys in Round 2, but if you must, a healthy Gurley is a much better bet than a hobbled Fournette).

DON’T: Draft players from terrible offenses.

Of course, every player turns into a value at some point in the draft, but early on your preference should be to collect players in offenses that don’t consistently score less than 15 real NFL points. Every fantasy owner that had DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, or Todd Gurley last year knows what I’m getting at here. Unfortunately, all three seem to be in sub-par situations yet again, with the first two possibly in worse environments than they suffered last year. I’m not touching any of these guys in redraft unless they fall much further than their ADP suggests.

Example: Take Jamison Crowder (high-scoring offense) instead of Sammy Watkins (low-scoring offense) in Round 6.

DO: Draft players with guaranteed touches over backups/role players.

This strategy is more focused on the middle and later rounds of the draft (as nearly everyone being drafted earlier has some capacity of a large role), but is worth mentioning nonetheless. I’ve never understood the craze to hoard “handcuffs” every year. Those selections end up being the reason why a fantasy team has zero depth. Every team needs depth with the violent nature of the game of football. Alternatively, players that begin the seasons as starters (mainly RBs), or at least as a 1B, have a much greater chance of running away with a prominent role in their respective offenses, and they still provide the value of a handcuff. Those are the players that end up being steals of a given draft.

Example: Take Tevin Coleman (1B in a good offense + receiving value + handcuff upside with a Devonta Freeman injury) instead of Derrick Henry (backup to DeMarco Murray + no receiving value) in Round 7.

Other valuable middle-round players: Danny Woodhead, Darren McFadden, Terrance West, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore.

DON’T: Use the hot website’s pre-draft rankings (if you did any preparation).

This may seem obvious now, but when there are nine seconds left on the draft timer and you’re on the clock, nothing is obvious. But seriously. Don’t do it. As my one league likes to say, “The three blind guys at Yahoo can’t run a fantasy team better than you can” and they’re right (well, if they can, fantasy football just might not be your thing). The computer will get humans that are in the National Football League on your team, and that’s about it.

Example: Whomever the computer tells you to take, don’t take him (not really. Just don’t let the computer influence you at all).

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