"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." – Abraham Lincoln
Honest Abe had it right. If you want to CRUSH your next fantasy draft and by that I mean absolutely CRUSH it, you’ve got to have a plan. Spend some time on sharpening the axe with these easy steps and you will be the Ulysses S. Grant of your fantasy football league while leaving the other teams in the dust like Robert E. Lee.
First step: YOU’VE GOT TO KNOW THE RULES!
Study the rules of your league. Knowing the rules inside and out gives you a great advantage over the less studied owner. For example – the first year our league switched over from ESPN to CBS Sports many had not realized that CBS has a default setting of 6 points for a passing TD. ESPN has passing TDs worth 4 points. The savvy owner who drafted Aaron Rodgers had a huge advantage week after week that year as Rodgers was on his way to a 45 passing TD year in 2011. Of course the next year when our league rectified the situation and manually set QB passing TDs back to 4 points the owner who selected Aaron Rodgers first overall based on 2011 performance was disappointed to end up in dead last while the likes of Shady McCoy a consensus number 3 pick in 2012 fell to me at number 4 in the snake and led me to the Super Bowl until he was injured at the end of the season.
KNOW THE RULES! Are you in a 10 team league or a 12 team league? In a 10 teamer you can take a few more chances on that long shot that can win you a league rather than playing it safe. In a 10 team league you can take chances because of the multitude of players left over on the waiver wire after the draft. Remember in a 12 team league 30 less players are available on the waiver wire based on a 15 round draft. (180 players selected vs. 150 players selected)
KNOW THE RULES! Is it PPR or non PPR? In a PPR draft obviously Darren Sproles is more valuable than in a non PPR but there are other less obvious implications. The gap between Reggie Bush and Joique Bell is much smaller – especially this coming year. Reggie will catch a ton of balls but Joique gets the goal line stuff and will handle the rock more often this year on 1st and 2nd down. Nothing frustrates me more then watching my 11 year old son and his friends hold their annual fantasy draft and half the boys are using the wrong cheat sheets. Even the fact that Stephen Gostkowski may go in the 5th round doesn’t frustrate me as much as half of the boys using non PPR cheat sheets for a PPR draft. Even 11 year olds need to know the basic rules!
KNOW THE RULES! And once you know the rules you can move on to step number two: DRAFT TO WIN!
Don’t draft a team just to make the playoffs. Don’t draft conservatively. The object of Fantasy Sports is to WIN THE MONEY! If I have a late round choice of taking Sammy Watkins in his rookie campaign versus taking a back up QB in a 10 team league – Guess what? - I am taking Sammy every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I can easily pick up a bye week QB on any given Sunday. However, the thought of Sammy Watkins catching long balls in an Alshon Jeffrey-ish manner is too much to pass up. That is a move that wins leagues. Taking Eli Manning in the 11th round as my QB2 to play in the bye week when I have just as good a shot of streaming Ryan Tannehill, Mike Glennon (or Josh McCown) for any given week is playing for 2nd place - and as the immortal Vince Lombardi said – "There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place."
Step number three in CRUSHING your next fantasy draft is to HAVE DISCIPLINE! As President Lincoln also said "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." No matter what you have to have a discipline. Why bother spending the time preparing for your draft if you are going to panic half way through? Setting your discipline keeps you from veering off course and overpaying for talent.
If I am in a SNAKE DRAFT I like to build tiers of players. There is a ton of great fantasy advice to help you with your tiers. Don’t follow anyone’s advice verbatim. Just like in the stock market or picking presidential elections, no one can predict the future. There are a few "experts" that I like to read - Evan Silva, Paul Charchian and his gang at League Safe Post or Matthew Berry - but I form my own opinions based on their analysis. I set up tiers a little differently than others. Instead of building out tier one through six I like to build the first three or four tiers of each position then build a tier of guys I wouldn’t draft in ANY situation. The last tier is guys I want to take a flyer on late in the draft. For example – Cordarrelle Patterson was in my "flyer" tier last year and I am glad I grabbed him late because he won me a few games at the end of the year. He scored 3 TDs in the last four games last year including a 5/141/1 line against the Ravens. That is an example of the "DRAFT TO WIN" strategy described above. So in a snake draft – build your tiers –
Tier One: The elite. The best of the best
Tier Two: Next Level. If I can’t get a tier one – I MUST get one of these guys
Tier Three: Guys I am comfortable with
Tier Four: Guys I am NOT DRAFTING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES
Tier Five: Flyers – Guys who have the potential of winning me the league
I build my tiers and I rarely waver.
In an AUCTION DRAFT I use those same tiers, however each player has a price I am willing to pay next to them. In an AUCTION DRAFT it is very important not to break your price discipline. Let the other teams over pay for Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and David Wilson (last year’s analyst darling) – How did that work out? According to ESPN, some prices paid for RBs last year were –Arian Foster ($57) and Ray Rice ($55). While the other owners were overpaying for guys on my NOT DRAFT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE tier, I could have quietly scooped up Jamaal Charles for $52 or even Matt Forte for $39. The key in the auction draft is preparation of prices then sticking to that discipline. For me, the only time I break that discipline is if we are getting through the first or second round and I have no one off the board. I might step in and break price discipline for a guy I really like just to let the other owners know I am a serious bidder. The key – for me – in an auction draft is to put enough on the board early to scare some owners but leave enough on the table to out bid others for the guys I really want at the end.
The other critical thing about auctions is having a list of $1 guys ready for the end of the draft so you can execute the DRAFT TO WIN strategy. If we get down to the point where every owner’s max bid left is $1 and I am going strictly by the default ESPN or CBS rankings, I am going to end up drafting guys in that GUYS I WOULDN’T DRAFT IN ANY SITUATION tier. At that point in the draft I want to be in the FLYERS tier. That takes preparation because when the clock is winding down on your pick you don’t want to be in panic mode. The prepared drafter picks up Knowshon Moreno for $1 instead of Jacquizz Rodgers.
The last step to CRUSHING your fantasy draft is KNOW YOUR COMPETITION. The guys I draft with in my football league of record like to play it safe. I knew that they would draft BenJarvus Green-Ellis before they drafted Giovani Bernard last year. I know them. I knew that from years of drafting together. This way I know I can wait on certain players but have to pay up on certain guys if I want to get them. In my most recent baseball auction I was very high on Brian McCann – which by the way so far has been disastrous. I knew as we got down to most owners having a $1 max bid that I would have to save some powder to outbid another owner for him. I KNEW the other owner wanted him because I know the guy and I know his philosophies and tendencies. He had a $6 max bid left and I had to keep myself in a situation where I could bid $7 for McCann if I really wanted him. I lost out on other guys I wanted because I had to get McCann for $7 but I stuck to my price discipline. Oh – and by the way – I am crushing in that league right now. Gaining the psychological edge by KNOWING YOUR COMPETITION is critical to draft success.
So there you have it. These are the four steps to CRUSHING your next fantasy draft. First – KNOW THE RULES. Second – DRAFT TO WIN. Third – HAVE DISCIPLINE and fourth – KNOW YOUR COMPETITION. Remember fantasy football and fantasy baseball (or any sport) is FUN. Do your homework but don’t take yourself too seriously. Another thought from Honest Abe: "I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser than he was yesterday." If you follow these four steps you are likely to be a little bit wiser – and less likely to be defenseless in the Ford’s Theatre of the draft room. (Too soon?)