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Article 1: The Golden Rules

As a number of people have asked for it, I’m republishing this set of articles that were originally published in 1999. I cleaned them up a little as I went. There are a total of four articles in this series and I never did finish the fifth article that was planned. The reason why the fifth was never written was because I just didn’t have enough to write it but I feel like I now have a fifth article in me with what I’ve added to my bag of tricks over the last six years since these were crafted. It’s an article many of you have asked me to write, I think it’s a perfect time to do it, so let’s! Here’s a little refresher:

The new season is almost upon us and we here at Progno Central strive to once again bring a little cheer, a little merriment and an occasional tip you can use to win your fantasy league. Whatever your pleasure, The Progno strives to be a regular entry on your weekly information shopping list.

The folks that are stumbling across me for the first time, welcome, sit down, pull up a chair and let me tell you a little something about my world. The Progno really kicks in Week 1 but here in Progno preseason, we bat around a thing or two about this and that.

It is mid-July and soon the majority of drafts for the fast approaching season will be underway. My football-drafting season begins in May. Along with various redraft leagues I also participate in many dynasty leagues. For those unaware what the term dynasty refers to, it simply means ALL players are kept from year to year and we draft out of college. I completed three of those drafts in May and have already participated in several expert drafts like the FanEx FAD.  My experiences with all these drafts left me with some impressions about this 2005 class of draftees which in turn got me thinking, there is so much that goes into having a successful draft why not start an Internet Learning Series on that very topic? For some reason a great many ask me what I think, well here’s your big chance folks, sharpen that pencil, open that notebook, and lets get cracking, there’s a lot to do before August. I am not going to give you a fish, I am going to teach you how to fish, Progno style.

I am an unorthodox drafter, I admit it. Most of the leagues I participate in are against the best this business has to offer, yet I hold certain beliefs to be true that most my opponents appear to disagree with; as evidenced by the fact that their draft style does not support my basic principles. I would argue, my sometimes unique approach to a draft is what makes me successful at this game. Many times a showcase league will have a guest commentator analyze what us “experts” have done and frequently the guest analyzer is confused by what Im doing. I know I’m having a good draft if the folks analyzing my draft have a tough time getting their head around what I’m doing. I have been drafting in many leagues, for many years, against some of the blood thirstiest, knowledgeable folks in this hobby and I do just fine thank you very much. I do well mainly because I believe in my draft style. I know as I select each player that I am filling positions at the proper time and leaving other positions to be had later. A major key to drafting is to not take a player if theyll be available next time you pick. The more guys you can let slip a round, the better youll have done for yourself. Always zig when they zag, or in other words, do not jump in on a player at the end of a run. If 5 kickers suddenly just got drafted, do not be the fool and draft the 6th one. Look at what others need and take a player from that position. You ALWAYS want to play offense in a draft, be the owner that starts the run. If you start playing defense by finishing runs, you will lose the draft game.

As Albert Einstein found out, perception is an odd thing. Obviously I feel I am having a good draft, according to my draft list I am. Each owner after every fantasy football draft thinks they had the better draft. Obviously, according to their draft sheet they did. Relative to each owner, their draft success perception is skewed. In other words, the cheatsheet theory of relativity.

Use this to your advantage by realizing the bulk of your opposition truly believe the next must have guy on their list is the difference between winning and losing. It’s a fools play and one you should exploit. This is a rule I also like to call “Wizards First Rule” from an excellent book by Terry Goodkind. Basically, and Im paraphrasing, the wizards first rule is that most people aren’t that smart and because of their inability to perceive their surroundings as well as others. As a result they are gullible and can be exploited. You be the smarter drafter and realize you are a fool if you really think the next guy on your list is a make or break kind of player. This point is important because it puts you in the proper frame of mind when approaching a fantasy football draft. Never believe Player A is better than Player B, you have nothing but a couple scraps of news from a web site that you think reported and interpreted the story properly in the first place. Most of the news we get has been passed through so many hands the meaning gets lost as others interject their casual thoughts. The superstar in the wings is next on your list, because a statistically likely gullible person put it there. You getting a warm fuzzy yet?

A good draft is an art-form, dont let anyone tell you different. You need the proper materials, organized for efficiency (more about this in Lesson 3 The Pressure Cooker) and more importantly, you have to have a plan. A plan you believe in and stick to. This sounds like such an easy thing but once youre in a draft, with your emotions running high, you will be tempted by that last remaining top tier kicker, or the backup to your other RB that will probably be there next round but you dont want to take the chance. Ive made all those mistakes too, thats how I know they are mistakes. A very important rule is to always believe in your strategy, yourself and your intuition. You will grow faster and better as a fantasy football player.

Every draft you run, spend time before hand to think of your opponents, their draft styles and their tendencies. You need to know your opposition if you are going to add any weight to your calculations on whether you can let a guy slide and get him next round. Based on your knowledge of your opponents, create some draft golden rules BEFORE you get caught up in the emotions of the draft. Never ever draft without some basic ground rules for yourself that you can stick to all draft long. My basic set of annual golden draft rules that I will not break are:

1) No rookies. This season, I will not draft a rookie. Even if I think the guy is the second coming of Randy Moss, I will not draft him. The only time I make an exception is at the RB position though the majority of the rookie RB’s are long gone before I would consider them a value play. I start every season not expecting or targetting any rookie player to be on my team. I drafted Edgerrin James as a rookie and was glad I did. But when I diverge from this self imposed policy it always comes back to bite me. Repeat after me, NO ROOKIES! This season, on all the draft boards across the internet, realize that all rookies are over valued. Let the other teams get stuck with them. 10% 15% of them will work out, the others will be busts. Those are awful odds to take a chance on. Koren Robinson or Curtis Conway? Give me Curtis Conway every time. (Editors Note: This statement was made a few years back)

2) I will not trade up to acquire a player. In leagues that allow trading of draft picks it makes no sense to me why people wish to sacrifice the rounds that actually matter. Everyone knows the middle rounds are where drafts are won and lost, why sacrifice that part just to get some players early? On the inverse side of this coin, Ill happily trade my pick to the over zealous owners that think their draft list is 100% correct this season and they think they have a sheet of can’t miss players.

3) QBs can be had late. There are usually enough good QBs with questions to have a bunch lying around for you to take late. This is an area I never understood. Why draft a QB early at all? Only 8 teams finished the season with their starting QB two years ago. Last year was not that much better. Why burn a high pick on a player that has a 25.8% chance of still being there for you at the end of the year? Doesnt it make a ton more sense to just load up on cheap QBs late? Its a crap shoot that the guy will even finish the season anyway? In a QB, you arent looking for a stud, youre looking for a guy that can be there for you. A stud QB that only lasts 10 weeks is not as valuable as a mediocre one that lasts all season. You have to get a fresh read on this rule every season but most seasons I put off getting a QB and grab a bunch late.

4) Kickers and team defense are about as predictable as Charles Manson. Various cheatsheets have to rank Kickers and defenses because the public demands it but understand, the people making these lists do not put much time nor effort into their kicker and defensive rankings. Anyone who has been doing this for a long time simply knows it is time foolishly spent. Let the other guys draft Vanderjagt, Elam, Stover etc. It is 100% fine to grab a guy like David Akers later on. (Editors Note: Again, any player references in this article were made in 1999/2000). If your league drafts team defenses, let other owners draft the Ravens, Bucs and Titan Defenses. Know before you draft, those defenses will not be on your team this season, it avoids a false sense of disappointment later that may cause you to do something foolish. If you have free agency in your league, do as little as you need to do to satisfy the draft requirements in the K and D department. Kickers and defenses are your second to last picks no matter what. Second to last? For an explanation on that please see Article #5 in this series to be release shortly as we talk about the little things that make a big difference. A defense or a kicker will tempt you; it is you that has to be strong enough to pull the trigger on Darnay Scott instead of taking the Titans D. That can be a very hard thing to do with time pressures staring you in the face. Once again, this is where your golden rules will come into play. Reference them every time you need to make a decision to be sure you have not compromised one or more of them. If you trade up to draft a rookie kicker, well, god help you.

Next week I plan on releasing another piece detailing how I evaluate talent entitled “Eagle Scout”. It is one that you will not want to miss, just like the Golden Rules, the Progno looks at things quite differently when evaluating talent. We will delve into what numbers really mean the most to be sure you are drafting a solid player. You may be surprised to learn the categories we look at are not things like yardage and TDs. The Golden Rules above need to be understood before we move on class. Memorize them, know them, be them. For this is the Prognos fantasy spiritual path to inner harmony.

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