Oh yea, the joy of draft day is here. If you’re like me, you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off. As you count down the hours, you are checking all the latest injury news and last-minute tips you can find. You’re getting all your snacks and refreshments ready for the trip to the draft room. That draft room might just be your computer room that you are preparing for an online draft in, or it might be a house that will be the host of a real live draft with friends. It makes no difference either way, because you are prepared. You have your cheat sheets updated and locked in. You know your draft slot and have your game plan down pat from all the mock drafts you have completed. You are stoked, and ready to feed with the Sharks. Right as you’re about to begin feeding … I mean drafting, a look of fear comes over the draft room. A Great White has decided to join the festivities. Now, don’t panic, sit up straight and compose yourself. This is the perfect time to execute your draft strategy to perfection and show the big boy what you can do.
These common sense tactics will help you complete your draft in a successful way. I, once again, am going to use my own hometown league as a guide on what to do during your own draft. My draft is a regular, 12-team, serpentine style draft, but I feel like you can use a lot of these tactics in almost any draft. I’ll throw in a few tips, but nothing too detailed or earth-shaking. If you have been living at Fantasy Sharks (like I have), you will have an abundant supply of tips and draft strategies from much more knowledgeable and experienced people than me. The first thing I want to point out is the main difference in online drafts and live drafts from my past experience. Unlike my live draft, online drafts seem to follow ADP pretty closely.
Hence, the main reason I have the ADP on my cheat sheets. In the computer age we live in today, online drafters are seeing the popularity of computer-added drafting tools grow each day. Now, more than ever, they use these tools while doing online live and slow drafts. Many times, without doing any research at all, they just plug in projections from whatever site they got the draft tool from and start drafting. This may save time and be very convenient, but it makes them way too predictable. I have been in many online drafts where I can tell you who the next player picked is going to be nine out of 10 times. Trust me, predictable is something you don’t want to be during your draft. However, when they are predictable, that is when those mock drafts you did will really pay off.
Ok, back to the draft rooms. I commish my league, so I usually get there an hour or so before the draft actually starts to get things set up. We use a big draft board that my neighbor and I built the first year the league was formed. It is cumbersome, and probably out-dated, but I think it adds character to the atmosphere of the draft room. Eventually all the other guys show up one by one, and usually someone is late. They are all the different characters that I talked about in my past articles, (ATMs, Chums, Mr. Competitives, Sharks, etc.). Each has a certain way he likes to draft. Some like to take the new hot rookies, others like to fill out their starters first. One guy likes to take a TE early every year, and another waits as long as he can on a QB. That brings up a good point: know your league mates’ draft tendencies; it can help you in your draft. I realize that might be difficult in online leagues, but I gave the tendencies of online leagues in the paragraph above – they draft using ADP for the most part. In my league, you can pretty much throw ADP out the window; they may take anyone anytime, but nothing real crazy, at least in the first 12 rounds. By the time the draft actually starts, we have already got a few jabs in on a few guys, and broken out the grub and beverages. Once the draft begins, things start to get a little more serious. I, for the most part, already have a game plan formed from my preparation before hand. It is not a strict plan, but it’s flexible. I may think I want to go RB/WR/WR in the first three rounds, but I will still be flexible. I never know who might fall to me unexpectedly, or be taken way before I thought. I know I have done all my real preparation before the draft, so I am confident with my cheat sheet in hand. Most times, we will fly through the first seven or eight rounds, and then it never fails some guy will pick someone that has already been picked, or is injured and he didn’t know it. We all laugh, and usually take a quick break for more food and drink.
Here is what I do during that first half of the draft. Remember this is just me, so there may be better ideas, but this will keep you from getting hurt too bad. I use the back of my cheat sheet to keep track of what other owners have drafted. I also keep a more detailed track of whom I have taken. The first obvious thing I do is cross off the players that have been taken right when they are picked. I stick to my cheat sheet for the most part, and I am always looking to capitalize on value by taking the best player available after the first few rounds. I try to avoid having a lot of players with the same bye weeks. If I’m targeting a WR in round five, and already have one on my team with a bye in week four, I try not to take another WR with a bye in week four also. That’s were the tiers can help you. I just pick the top WR in the remaining top WR tier that doesn’t have a bye week in week four. If, however, I only have one WR remaining in a higher tier with the same bye week, I will generally take him, as opposed to a lower tier WR, especially in the first half of the draft. In general, I wait on QB and TE in most drafts. This will sometimes burn me, especially in the QB department. This is when recognizing the advantages and disadvantages of your draft position can help you. If you’re drafting at the corners, it is very easy to get caught on the wrong end of QB run, or any positional run, and end up with much lesser quality players when your turn comes back up again. This is because you may have to wait for 20-plus picks before you pick again. Then you feel like you have to take what is left, which at the time seems logical, but is probably the worst thing you can do. If every other team already has a QB, the QB position has stabilized, and thus lost some value relative to other positions. For these reasons, QB’s probably won’t be drafted again for a while, giving you the same opportunity to get that lesser talented player later on in the draft. The best thing to do would be to take value at other positions, hoping you force the hand of the other owners. If you’re in the middle, it is much less likely to happen because your pick gets back to you sooner. I don’t like to follow the flow when I draft for the most part; if possible I want to dictate what the other owners have to do. If I see, by looking at my league draft tracker on the back of my cheat sheet, that a run is about to start on a position, I will snag the best player available at that position. I want to start the runs, not end them. If you are drafting at the corners, this is critical. In an Auction draft, this is one factor you don’t have to worry about. I stock up on RB and WR in the first few rounds usually and then start looking for a quality QB in round five or six. However, I am not opposed to waiting until the second half of the draft, rounds eight and beyond, to draft my first QB. If value at WR or RB presents itself in rounds four through eight, I will take the depth at those positions in most cases. I probably won’t take a TE until the second half of the draft, unless of course, value falls to me. Most of the guys in my league, with the exception of myself and a few other owners, will have at least taken a starting QB, three RB’s, three WR’s, and a starting TE by the end of round eight. For the most part, the first part of the draft is filled with the core players on each owner’s team. They are the same players taken from draft to draft, but just in different configurations. Most of them will be good players. Just stick to your cheat sheet.
After we take our food and beverage break, we get back at it. The second half of the draft starts, and things move slower. During the break, you should have been looking over the other owner’s rosters. Especially the guys drafting close to you. Try to figure out what positions they are weak at, and at what positions they are strong. If they are strong at one position in particular, they probably won’t be targeting it in the next few rounds. If they are weak at a spot, they will, and that is when you can snag those players just ahead of them. Also, look for that owner that doesn’t have a starter at a certain position yet like QB or TE. He may be the owner from above who is waiting to draft a QB, because the other 11 teams already have one. He is holding out and taking value at other positions. You may already have a QB, but if that number 12 QB is the best value, go ahead and take him and watch that owner squirm in his seat. That number 12 QB may end up being great trade bait during the season.
Obviously, if I don’t have a QB or TE, I will be looking to draft two QB’s fairly quickly, (taking the second one in hopes of starting a run on backup QB’s), and a TE shortly after that. Now is also the time to start covering your bye weeks with players if you have not done so yet. I will be looking to secure that key backup to your star RB at this point also. The key with that is make sure the backup is good enough to be a quality starter while the other guy is out, or don’t draft the backup. I would probably take Adrian Peterson’s backup (Chester Taylor), but I probably wouldn’t draft Larry Johnson’s backup. A lot of this depends on your roster size also. We only draft 16 spots, so space is limited. Now throw in a few of your high upside sleepers. Maybe a young guy who is just now getting a chance to start or a veteran coming off an injury. These should all be figured in your cheat sheet already, so you don’t have to worry. Finally, I draft my defense and kicker in the last two rounds. Owners that take a kicker before the last pick, for the most part, are wasting a pick. I never take a backup defense or kicker either. They can be picked up on the waiver wire during the season to cover byes. Instead, use those spots to add depth at other positions.
Once again, you’ve done all the preparation for a successful draft when you prepared your cheat sheets. Finally, take the players you want, even if it means you have to reach a little to get them. In most cases, you already have them adjusted in your rankings anyway. Don’t panic when a run starts, and try to capitalize on other owner’s tendencies to do certain things. Be confident in the information you have right in front of you, and be flexible. That Great White that showed up at your draft may soon think he is looking straight in the face at a Killer Whale!