That’s the number of players I selected on draft day last year who ended up the fantasy season still on my team. Out of 16 players, that’s pretty darn good, I’d say. Considering my first round pick was Todd Gurley, I’d say that was fantastic. Add in that I was in my league championship after a record of 7-6 and you can see how fantasy football is a war of attrition, but one that can be “won.”
For more than a decade I have been drafting fantasy football teams, and while the adage is true that you have to be lucky along the way, it’s really all about skilled drafting. For me to end up with half of my initially drafted team and still make the league championship, it wasn’t luck. It was a combination of solid drafting (despite Gurley), of timely waiver pickups, and of trusting the process.
Last year I posted “7 Helpful Hints For a Great Draft,” which was all about making sure your draft was as successful as it could be, but in order to “win” the draft it’s not about the team you have around you when the night is done. It’s about how those individual players can help you from week to week. If they do that, then they’ve done their jobs. If you draft correctly, then you’ve done yours.
Now, there’s been a lot of talk about the “wide receiver revolution,” the “zero-RB technique,” and the “waiting on a QB theory,” but the truth of the matter is that old school still works. Over-analyzing doesn’t bring you championships. It just makes your brain hurt. Keep it simple.
So, to that end, here are my 7 Ways to “Win” Your Fantasy Draft…
- Mock. Mock. Mock. It’s more than just a turtleneck. Mock drafting can give you a real insight into how others are thinking, how fast you can expect certain players to go, and how quickly you will really have to think between your picks each round. Especially if you’ve never played fantasy before, but even if you’re a grizzled veteran. Get in as many as possible before your draft day, and be sure to pick mocks that closely resemble your own draft type.
- List It and Love It. This is what I meant when I said go old school. Maybe you have serious reservations about picking Rob Gronkowski when he’s so oft-injured, so leave him off your list. Perhaps you don’t trust the offensive line in Carolina, so you can’t trust Cam Newton. Leave him off your list. And make sure you have one big list, and several by-position lists. You’ll thank me later.
- Check Draft Positions. Never reach for a player unless you absolutely believe he can carry your team (note: NO one player can “carry” your team). Each player has an average draft position for a reason. If you’re drafting third and you choose Tevin Coleman in the first round, that’s called reaching. I don’t care how much you love him, or how much you think he’ll be a monster this season. Later in the draft you’ll have a lot of big decisions to make, and knowing your draft positions can shore up your team.
- RB Early and Often. I know last year I told you about the shaky value of today’s RB (and after drafting Gurley first round you’d think I would double down on that notion) but this year is different. Wide Receivers are plentiful, but quality running backs are few, so RB value is on the upswing again, especially in the first two rounds. If you have a chance to grab David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliott* (prior to his suspension), go for it over receivers like Julio Jones or A.J. Green. And in the latter stages of your draft pick up as many running backs as your bench allows. Odds are one of them may be the next Jordan Howard.
- Haters, Don’t Hate. It’s easy to get twisted up because of real life hatred for teams or players. Maybe you’re a Texans fan so you hate the Colts with a burning passion. You don’t want any Colts on your fantasy team, so you skip over them any time they show up, thinking you’re showing solidarity. But, get this… THE TEXANS DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVE COLTS PLAYERS ON YOUR FANTASY TEAM. Draft the best player available, regardless of how you personally feel about his team. The same is true in reverse as well. I’m an Eagles fan, but I won’t be rostering Nelson Agholor on my fantasy team.
- Position is Everything. Don’t leave anything up to chance, or wait until the last minute to get into the draft room. Most draft rooms open an hour before the draft. Be the first one there so you can check your draft position. I guarantee your selections, and your lists, will be completely different if you’re drafting 3rd or if you’re drafting 12th. Keep in mind your process, but don’t forget how long it will be between your picks. The sooner you know your position, the easier it will be to make a game plan, to adjust your game plan, and to be ready when the gun finally goes off.
- Act. Don’t React. I say this every single year, and yet every single year the speed and complication of the draft gets people off their well calculated game plan. The guy who drafts in front of you just stole your QB. What do you do? Reach for a QB who isn’t very high on your list or go with the next guy you’ve got that high? Switch your whole game plan because you didn’t get Drew Brees? No. Take a deep breath and focus on what’s next for you. I know that guy isn’t focused on anything else but his own team. You do the same.
The later your league’s draft the better. That way you can avoid most of the injury decisions and issues that come from drafting a player who then gets injured in the preseason. As a league manager, my draft is always on Labor Day, which seems to work out because most team owners have the day off, and/or are relaxing after a good barbecue. But if you happen to be involved in an early draft, keep apprised of any injuries that might affect draft position.
A fantasy draft is not easy. It is akin to juggling fiery swords while trying not to either burn or cut yourself. But when it’s over, and you exhale, hopefully you like the team you’ve created out of the frenzy of the draft. Hopefully you’re satisfied because you stuck to your game plan. If you’re not, though, don’t forget there are the Jordan Howards out there if you can only figure them out before anyone else in your league does.
Good luck, and happy drafting!