If there’s one thing I know, it’s that no two drafts are ever the same, so coming up with a strategy in a mock draft and thinking you’ll be able to use it when draft day comes is about as ludicrous as a unicorn granting wishes. It just doesn’t happen. But another thing I know is that even though drafts aren’t the same, your strategy should be, to get the best balanced, most consistent team for the fantasy season. And that’s where draft prep comes in.
Here are my six simple rules to prepare you for draft day:
- Have a Plan B. Since there are no guarantees, coming up with the exact players you want on your fantasy team isn’t enough. If you base your team around Jamaal Charles, then you end up drafting 8th in a 12-team draft. No way will you be getting Charles with that pick, and the tendency might be to panic. Have a contingency plan ready. The second you know Charles is out of the picture you just move on to your second choice and you’re still set.
- Adjust to others around you. If you pick second (and in that spot you might very well get Charles in that scenario) in a 12-team draft your second selection won’t be until late in the second round. By that time many of the other teams should be selecting their second-tier running backs, and if they are then it’s ripe for you to grab a couple of top tier wide receivers, even though you had planned to get your second-tier running back as well. By the same token, if others are going heavy on quarterbacks in the first round don’t get dragged in. That’s your invitation to get a second top-tier running back with your second pick.
- Identify players you don’t want. If you’re concerned about Jay Cutler’s recent injury history you’ll never be comfortable having him as your fantasy quarterback. So don’t even keep him on your list of possibilities. The same is true if you’re concerned about the running back situation in New England. If from week to week you know you’ll be nervous trotting out Ridley or Vereen then eliminate both from your selection process. Note: don’t take players off your draftable list simply because you don’t like their NFL team. If they’re quality and consistent, at least consider them.
- Make a definitive list. After you’ve identified players you don’t want, make out a complete list of those that you DO want. Last year my list included a lot of Broncos players, and it helped me out in a major way, but it took a lot of guts to make a list like that. It paid off, though, when I had players who had phenomenal singular weeks (Decker), and phenomenal running numbers (Moreno), and surprise production (J. Thomas), as well as one of the top receivers in the league (D. Thomas). By picking Manning in the first round as well, my team was well-rounded. If you’re so inclined you can go with that approach this year too. Or just find a list of the top 300 on any reputable fantasy site and create your own list based off that.
- Be sure every pick counts. It’s really easy to pay close attention in the first 9 rounds, and then to grab whomever’s available from that point on. In fact, most fantasy drafts look pretty messy after that 9th round. But the difference between good fantasy teams and championship caliber fantasy teams is the value of those lower picks. With one of those lower picks last year I picked up Fred Jackson, and he paced my rushing attack for most of the season. And that’s because I did my research, and because I was just as focused in that 11th round (when I picked him up) as I was when I made my first selection ages before.
- Get your kicker last. No matter how tempted you are to go with a kicker early, don’t do it. No matter how many other owners grab their kicker between the 7th and 12th rounds, don’t be tempted. It’s just not worth it, and keeping in mind #5 above, all it does is rob you of a solid option you could have on your bench, and puts that player quite possibly on someone else’s bench instead. That bench player is just a step away from being inserted into your lineup and being the surprise of the season. And you could waste the opportunity on Stephen Gostkowski or Matt Prater. Don’t do it. The best kicker in fantasy is not so far above all other kickers that you couldn’t get close to his production from your last round kicker.
Believe me, it’s easy to sit down for a draft with absolutely no plan in mind, but then again it’s also easy to lose most of your games and end up out of your league’s playoffs. In order to be a real force all season, and hopefully also a championship team, you have to be focused and follow the six rules for drafting a fantasy team. Winning is all about strategy and setting yourself up to win more than the other teams in your league, and that’s the way you do it.
The Fantasy Ace