It’s never too early to start preparing for fantasy football drafts. Keeping your finger on the pulse of what is going on will help you be more prepared then your league mates and a step ahead. Below I will list strategies that will help you win your draft regardless of the league you play in.
Have A Plan
Every great execution starts with a plan. Last year many people went zero running back or at least waited 2-3 rounds to draft a running back. After the running back resurgence (which was a myth, by the way) it seems likely many people will draft running back heavy this year. The problem with either of these strategies is they only work for certain leagues.
For instance, if you are in a full point PPR league with 4 wide receivers, 2 running backs and 1 flex, then zero running back will likely be very successful. In a league like this even if you have 2 stud running backs that you drafted early, your wide receivers and flex will likely be far behind your league and will put you at a big disadvantage. A team with 4-5 good to great wide receivers will dominate a league like this even if they are weak at the running back position. Conversely if you are in a standard scoring league that plays 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers and 1 flex having 2-3 stud running backs gives you a big advantage over your league.
Covering every possible league would be well beyond the scope of this article and really isn’t necessary. As long as you have a plan for how you want your roster to look you’re good. That doesn’t mean what players you want. It means looking at your league settings and determing what positions are most important. Once you do that you will know what position(s) to draft early and what positon(s) to wait on. There is no one-size fits all drafting approach. Have a plan for how you want your roster to look and you’ll feel much more confident come draft day.
Be Flexible With Your Plan
Most fantasy football leagues are top-heavy. That means the money goes to the very top teams while everyone else loses out. Because of this structure leagues really are win or go home. You’re playing for first and nothing else matters. It doesn’t do you any good to finish 2nd when it pays out the same as finishing 12th.
Due to the top-heavy nature of most fantasy leagues you’re going to have to be flexible with your plan. You want to be zagging while everyone else is zigging. What does that mean you ask? Let me give you an example.
It’s the day of your 2017 fantasy draft. You’re the most prepared you’ve ever been in your life because you read this article and followed the advice. Based on your league settings you’ve decided that you want to build a team of stud running backs. As you enter the draft lobby you see that you are picking 11th out of 12th. No sweat, you think, because you have been mock drafting (more on that later).
As the draft starts running backs are flying off the board. By the time it gets to your pick 8 running backs, 1 wide receiver and 1 quarterback have been drafted. The clock is ticking and you’re wondering what happened to your well thought out plan? This is where you have to zag.
Instead of sticking to your plan and settling on a first round back that you’re not that excited about, you should change your plan and go wide receiver heavy. There is obviously tremendous value at the position now and having 2 of the next 4 picks increases the chances that you could nab 2 top tier wide receivers. But more importantly it separates you from the pack. If everyone is drafting running backs then it really just comes down to who gets lucky and hits on their picks. If your wide receiver picks pan out you have something no one else in your league has. If the running back position regresses you have a HUGE advantage over everyone in your league and your chances of winning go way up. If you whiff on your picks or the running back position has another good year you will likely be behind. But that’s ok, the goal is to win or go home. Separating yourself from the pack increases your chances of winning but also increases your chances of losing. This is called variance and this is what we want.
Mock Draft All The Time
Mock drafting is my favorite way to prepare for a draft. It is my belief that the more mock drafts you do the more prepared you will be and the better your draft will turn out. Of course you can’t just mock draft a few rounds and then log out. You have to mock draft with a purpose and you have to do it correctly. Here is how to mock draft correctly:
- Mock draft on the site you will be using for your league. This allows you to become familiar with the interface so you aren’t caught off guard on draft day. Most leagues only allow 30 seconds per pick so you don’t want to be caught scrambling when it’s your turn.
- Pay attention to how the site ranks the players. This is very important. Most drafters will leave the list of players in the default rankings view. When it’s their turn to pick they are going to look at the players towards the top of the list and pick from that. By learning how the players are ranked you will know what players you need to reach on and what players you can wait on. This is an enormous advantage.
- Make sure your mock draft mimics your league as closely as possible. That means the right amount of teams, scoring settings, positional settings, etc. Obviously there are some crazy leagues out there that you won’t be able to mock for but just try to get it as close as you can.
- Mock draft from every possible draft slot multiple times. Don’t just mock draft from the first spot because it is fun. Let the site randomly pick your drafting spot so you get a feel for how to attack the draft from all different draft slots.
- Experiment. Try different stuff. Get crazy. See what works and what doesn’t. This will help you formulate a plan.
- Lastly, mock draft as often as you can. As it gets closer and closer to the first week of the real NFL season rankings and perceptions will change greatly. By mock drafting often you will see how you need to adjust how and when you pick your players.
Don’t Be Afraid To Reach For Players
Many drafters think it is bad to reach for a player they really want. This is absolutely not true. It is better to get the player you want then miss out on him because you wanted to squeeze out every last bit of ADP. If there is a player you feel very strongly about go get him. Now that doesn’t mean drafting him in the first round if he has a 4th round ADP. I would never draft a player more than 2 rounds higher than his ADP and ideally just one round higher. Trust me, you will feel much better that you got him a round higher than his ADP rather than miss out on him all together. Especially if he performs the way you expected.
Follow The Latest News On Twitter
Many things change in the NFL off-season. Players sign with new teams, rookies are drafted and every so often a trade is made. Keeping up with this is crucial as a change of scenery can turn an average player into a stud. Some of my favorite twitter follows are @AdamSchefter for breaking news. @JeneBramel for injury analysis. @allinkid, @MikeClayNFL, @RMSummerlin, @FG_Dolan and @LordReebs for fantasy breakdown. If you play DFS @ChrisRaybon and @ScottBarrettDFB are great follows as well.
Lastly, Have Fun
The draft is not the end of fantasy football, it’s just the beginning. Rarely will you see a championship team that looks the same as it did on draft day. Working the waivers and trades is a huge part of winning fantasy football leagues. Here is a quote that accurately sums up a fantasy football draft:
The draft is the foundation a championship team is built on. The waiver wire and trades are the walls and roof. You can’t win a championship with a bad foundation. The draft sets up your foundation so you can work towards building a championship team and taking all the monies.
Make 2017 your best draft ever by being prepared. Follow this advice and build the foundation for a championship winning team!