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5 Draft Strategies, and How to Take ‘Em Down

Knowledge is power. Knowing what’s going on with the guys that are actually on the field is key. But knowing your enemies (your league mates) can be just as beneficial. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Sun Tzu
Art of War on you … just a little G.I. Joe. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Say it with me now, “and knowing is half the battle.
Go Joe!” My inner child would have given me an atomic wedgie if I hadn’t included that last part.

Whether you’re in a league with guys you’ve known since they got their first armpit hair, or even if it’s a league with complete unknowns, here are five common draft strategies you’ll see and how you can destroy them like a Denny’s menu after an all-night bender. After all, what good is knowledge if you don’t abuse it?

Buried Alive (hoarders)

This guy is one of the easiest to identify. He loads up on one position, trying to corner the market, and then trade at a premium. His first six picks … all running backs. Why? Because when one of your running backs goes down with an injury, he’s ready and waiting to offer you one of the “starters” on his bench for one of your top players. “Sorry to hear about Arian Foster bro, but I’d be willing to give you Ben Tate for Jimmy Graham.” Whether it’s a running back, quarterback, wide receiver or tight end, the strategy is still the same. He didn’t draft Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Eli Manning in consecutive rounds to boost the points on his bench. He did it to take advantage of you in a trade.

Your move is to wait. Do not, I repeat do not, pull the trigger on a deal with this owner right out of the gates. Wait. When bye weeks roll around, he’s not going to have the depth at other positions, and he’ll either have to cut bait with some of his talent or drop his asking price. Another reason to wait – if he’s sacrificing value at other positions to stock up at one, odds are he’s not going to be off to a blistering start and might become desperate. That’s when you swoop in.

Interview with Dateline’s Chris Hansen (rookie enthusiasts)

A frequenter of Keeper Leagues, Dynasty Leagues and Chuck-E-Cheese, this guy is all about the newbies. If a player is over the age of 25, he’s not interested. He’s always looking for the next big thing. He doesn’t want Maurice Jones-Drew, Calvin Johnson and Aaron Rodgers. He wants the “next” Jones-Drew, Johnson and Rodgers. Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and Robert Griffin III are all at the top of his draft board, and he’s targeting them early.

Your move is to vet it up! Let him gamble on the rookies and second-year-slumps while you scoop up guys with proven track records. Some of his gambles might pay off, but most of them won’t. Meanwhile, you’re racking up wins with your greybeards. Eventually he’ll get tired of waiting and be willing to package some of those whippersnappers for one of your higher-mileage models that is consistently out-producing his guys week in and week out. So you toss him a bone, swap out one of your veterans for a couple of his stashes, and, lo and behold, you’ve got fresh legs for the stretch run.

Idiot Savant (best player available)

His strategy is not having one, and he’s perfected it. The day of the draft is this guy’s preseason. When draft day rolls around, he either prints up a rankings sheet before leaving the office or picks up a fantasy football magazine at the grocery store (while grabbing a six-pack of wine coolers), and he’s good. When he’s on the clock, it’s simple … take the best player available at an open position. Enough said. And here’s the kicker – this guy is going to start off 3-0. Why? Because he has the best possible starters he could at every position.

Your move is to yin his yang. Do what he isn’t. First off, if you’re drafting next to one of these owners, it’s a little easier to predict his next pick. Then you zig before he zags. Also, if he’s taking the best player available regardless, lack of depth will hurt him eventually when it comes to bye weeks and injuries. Snatch up quality backups early, even if you’re set at certain positions, and in some cases even consider cuffing some of his studs. He will end up needing/loathing you, and then you’ve got the upper hand. But, whatever you do, do not be the one to give him CPR. If he’s off to a great start but has a tough road ahead, don’t be the one to keep his streak alive. Take advantage of the situation. Don’t provide him the shortcut; make him take the toll road. If he was unprepared, it’s OK if he gets squeezed for it. He probably won’t even know what happened.

Hibernator (all about sleepers)

This guy already knows who his team is. The fact that the draft hasn’t actually taken place yet is only the difference of a few days/months on a calendar. He is tuned in. He’s done his research and knows who should be available each round of the draft. He’s got his list of favorite players (
hint: they’re the ones not highlighted on his cheatsheets as to not draw attention to them). When Round 2 comes around, he’s grabbing a player projected deep in the third roun. When Round 10 hits, he’s taking a guy from the 13th. They’re all destined to be studs, “just wait and see.” Sure they are.

Your move is to sit and pick. Trust your rankings. He’s passing up nuggets for lumps of coal that he swears are diamonds. Reaching for a player here and there is all good, but do it too often and you end up with more downside than upside. Any patron of a less-than-reputable establishment knows full well that if you go for a reach-a-round too many times it’ll end up costing you. Am I right?

Marty McFly (stuck in the past)

This dude’s mantra is, “If they did it before, they can do it again.” He’s the fantasy football equivalent of the former prom king with a skewed and unhealthy attachment to the past. He drafts off of last year’s stats with a special eye out for his buddies (last year’s team). This guy would still draft Marshall Faulk if he could … and in severe cases will still waste valuable time sifting through players’ names just to make sure it really isn’t there. If this guy ever wins the championship, God help you. All of his conversations about fantasy football will begin with, “Hey, you remember when …?” Yeah dude, how could we forget?

Your move is to sleep with the prom queen … if she’s still hot. If you’re able to grab one of his favorite players ahead of him, he’ll be ready to throw his Iroc-Z into the deal to get him back. If you’re not in that position, at least make sure to talk up the highlight reels and killer weekends of his players from years past in an attempt to convince him to re-up with them rather than using a pick on one of your favorite up-and-coming players. Maybe even queue up a little, “It’s so hard to say goodbye” by Boys II Men if need be. It’s dirty pool, but you came to win.

So there you go. Keep up-to-date with everything going on in the league. Know your ranks and depth charts. But also keep an eye out on your competition. Learn their weaknesses, and then sweep the leg.

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