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2013 Fantasy Football Strategy: What are the Limitations of a Public Mock Draft?

Jason Hunt strays from his usual topics to look at how some of the information you can learn from a public mock draft isn't as helpful as you may think.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t tend to stray into fantasy football coverage too much if you read my work here at Fake Teams. There’s a reason for that, and it’s a pretty simple one. I enjoy playing fantasy football and watching the games on Sunday, but my fellow league members will tell you that I’m no expert on it. So while I don’t pretend to know a ton about it, there are still things that having that perspective can help with in your league, and learning from mock drafts might be the biggest.

Mock drafts are everywhere this time of year, with experts participating on the major host sites, as well as being able to get into mock drafts on your own with other users on these sites as well. They can provide you with valuable information leading up to your draft. However, they are limited in helping you for a number of reasons, which you have to be mindful of when using them as a part of your preparation.

The Computer Reacts Differently than Your Fellow Owners

With most public mock drafts, I find that it is extremely unlikely that you are participating in one with humans manning all draft slots. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that even fewer players will stay all the way through a mock draft. As a result of this, the computer is making the selections for a large portion of the picks, especially the more critical late round picks. The computer is told to stick to the rankings it is provided with, which are the site’s default rankings generally. That is not, however, how the other owners in your league are likely to react. Add in that the computer does not always concern itself with roster construction (5 quarterbacks? Sure!), and it can lead to some very unusual looking teams, which can in turn cause your team to look drastically better than it really should.

Mock Drafts are Influenced by That Site’s Rankings

If you do a public mock draft at Yahoo, it is likely going to be drastically different than if you participate in one at ESPN, and drastically different than Mock Draft Central, and so on. It really does not do you any good to practice at a site that you are not drafting at, because there’s a reasonably good chance that some of the owners in your mock draft will stick to the default rankings in front of them. This tells you nothing if those rankings don’t lineup with your host site’s rankings, and can actually harm your preparation by causing you to believe that a player you like as a sleeper will be available rounds later than may actually be the case when you draft for real.

Mock Drafts are Influenced by That Site’s Standard Setup

There is limited bandwidth and hosting available at the end of the day, so host sites are going to try and provide mock draft options that will suffice as many of their customers as possible. So if you play in a league with settings different from standard leagues, the mock draft results may not help you as much. I play in a league that until this year was a ½ point PPR setup. As a result, my rankings for this league would look different than a standard league for our host site Yahoo, where there is not a PPR option. This also leads me to draft differently in the mock draft, which could potentially cause me to think a player may go sooner (or later) than they would in my real draft. Not necessarily a big problem, but one to be aware of when practicing.

People Do Crazy Stuff in Mock Drafts

This tends to happen more in mock auctions in my experience than in mock snake drafts, but it’s always a possibility that someone goes nuts in the draft simply because it doesn’t count for anything. You clearly (or at least would hope anyway) that someone doesn’t use $150 of a $200 budget on one player in an auction draft, but it happens unfortunately in mock auctions sometimes. The problem becomes that it is difficult to trust any future prices on players from other drafters, as a) there is less money than you would expect to be bidding on future players, and b) that team is extremely unlikely to build a roster that they would actually start in a league. Again, you are trying to get useful information when you participate in a mock draft, and seeing this happen keeps you from that usefulness. This still does happen in mock snake drafts, but tends to occur more with roster construction than anything (5 quarterbacks is a good idea, if you start only 1 at a time? Right?)

Overall, mock drafts can be very useful to give you an idea of what might happen in your real draft. Just be careful to remember that they aren’t the end all answer to help you succeed in your draft, and can hinder you if you aren’t careful.

Be sure to check out all of SBNation's Fantasy Football coverage as you prepare for your draft.

You can follow me on Twitter @jasonsbaseball, where I tend to not give very much fantasy football advice and stick more to baseball. If you're looking for fantasy advice, check out @sbnationfantasy instead.

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