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Draft Strategies: How To Prepare For Your Draft So You Have An Edge

As draft day gets closer, fantasy websites will inundate readers with draft strategies, cheat sheets, sleepers, etc. Some of the same strategies are rehashed year after year. Some strategies are new, but unproven. How does one sort through this overload of information to have a successful draft? There is no right answer, but here are some suggestions that you might want to consider prior to your draft.

Your draft success depends on numerous factors including the following:


Start Early
– You should start preparing for your draft now if you haven’t already. If you wait until the day or week before your draft to start preparing, you are probably a dead man walking. Starting now will allow you to get a jump on your draft and require only minor tweaking over the next 5-7 weeks until your draft.



– The more knowledgeable you are about football, the better you can perform at your draft. Duh! This may sound overly simple, but if you don’t know that there are two Steve Smiths or what a RBBC or a PPR is, you can still play fantasy football, but your chances of succeeding are going to be greatly diminished. Reading everything you can about fantasy football, such as magazines, websites, blogs, etc., can only benefit you, no matter what your knowledge level is.



– Once you start to obtain knowledge, you have to start organizing these pieces of information where they will become useful to you and not bury you. Keep notes on interesting pieces of information you obtain about players, teams, positions, etc., so they will be useful to you in the future and not lost in the shuffle.



Cheat Sheet
– Your goal on draft day is to show up at the draft with two pieces of paper, one cheat sheet with rankings for every position and one blank roster sheet with room to add all the players drafted by your team and the other teams in your league. What? No laptops, stacks of magazines and pages of

’s stats? You’ve got to be kidding me! I want to show you how going into your draft with just two pieces of paper will give you the winning edge.



– Being flexible means having the ability to anticipate other owner’s moves, jump on opportunities and avoid common draft day mistakes. You can’t do these things if you are fumbling through stat sheets, missing names that are called out and having to whisper to the guy next to you to find out if it is your pick yet.



– There is always an amount of luck involved in any fantasy draft.  But, I believe that the harder you prepare, the luckier you will be.

Building Your Cheat Sheet and Simplifying Your Life

Not all cheat sheets are created equal. The best place to start is on a website that has projections that can be rearranged based on the scoring system that your league uses. If a cheat sheet is based on a different scoring system than yours, it is basically useless to you. If you go to the

Player Projections
tab at the top of this website, you can modify those projections based on your league’s scoring system. This is an important first step.

Now, you need to copy these player lists to a data spreadsheet like excel. You should have a column for each position and the information for each player should include only his name, team and bye week. I suggest you not worry too much about projected yards, touchdowns, fantasy points, auctions dollar values, etc. This information will vary from website to website and is very subjective. Keep this information in mind as you adjust your rankings, but don’t clutter your cheat sheet with a bunch of information. Your cheat sheet will extend to 2-3 pages initially, but that is OK to start. Save this spreadsheet where it is easily accessible, like your computer desktop or a docs file. I suggest you keep a fantasy football file on your desktop where you can easily drop your cheat sheet, articles, notes, etc. as you come across information on the internet.    

Now, it is time to make your cheat sheet your own. Make adjustments to your sheet based on your preferences, feelings and the knowledge you’ve obtained. If two or three players have essentially the same projections, arrange them in the order that you would like to take them. This is your sheet.   As you gather information in the coming weeks, make tweaks to player’s positions on your list. How does an injury to a player affect his position on the list and the positions of others on his team. A quarterback change or injury affects

wide receivers
and vice versa, as well as backups. A

runningback injury
may create a runningback by committee or eliminate one.  A key signing (

Terrell Owens
) or hold out (

Vincent Jackson
) can affect numerous other players and their values. Make your adjustments as they occur. Other adjustments may include moving up a player, with huge upside, a few notches over players that have consistently put up average number for a few years. Maybe you have a gut feeling about a potential sleeper. Make an adjustment on your list.

You are almost there. A couple of days before your draft, it is time to shorten your list and adjust your player columns so everything fits on one page.   If your league has 12 teams and you only draft two quarterbacks, shorten your quarterback column to the Top 24-25 players only. The rest don’t matter and they are just taking up room.   For

, 12 x 4-5 players = 48-60, and so on for wide receivers, tight ends, etc.

Now, separate your players in tiers, based on the round in which you would draft them, by highlighting them with colors that correspond to each round. Round 1 players – blue, Rounds 2-3 players – green, Rounds 4-5 – red, and so on.  Create a second page with columns for all of the teams in your league and blank spaces to write in the team names and players names as they are drafted. Next to the blank player lines, put the anticipated positions that will be drafted – quarterbacks, runningbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, flex positions, kicker and defense/special teams. Leave the team name at the top of each column blank until draft day or write in the team names by draft order if it has been determined prior to draft day.

Finally, it is draft day, the day you’ve been waiting and preparing for over the past several weeks. You show up with a clipboard, two sheets of paper and a pen. Now you can look around and laugh as your fellow owners fumble in with masses of papers, magazines, laptops and the like. If the draft order is drawn on draft day, label your columns on sheet two in the order that teams will be drafting. As names are called out in the draft, strike a line through them on your cheat sheet and write the name and bye week number on the second sheet under the corresponding owner and next to the player’s position. (If you are using an auction draft, also write the player’s auction value and subtract that value from the auction total allowed that you’ve written next to the owner’s name.)

When it is your turn, select the player you want, this time circle the name on your cheat sheet, and write the player name and bye week number on the second sheet under your team’s name. You will be selecting one of your blue players in round one. Continue this process until it is your turn again. In the second round, you will be selecting a green player from your list, unless one of the blue, “first round” players is still available. Now you can see the advantage of color coding your tiers. By writing the players on Page 2, you can keep track of your needs and bye weeks, and just as importantly, the needs of the other owners surrounding you in the draft. This allows you to anticipate the players that others will draft between your picks, and is especially helpful if you are picking somewhere near the turn. If someone calls out a name that isn’t even on your cheat sheet, don’t worry about it. You didn’t want him anyway. Just write him on Page 2 and move on.

As you can see, this system can greatly enhance your draft experience and results. You don’t need all of that other information, because you’ve built that into your spread sheet prior to draft day. Color codes allow you to quickly identify opportunities when it is your turn to pick. The second sheet allows you to track your players and their byes, as well as the players on other teams, anticipate other owner’s needs, and more easily adjust your draft strategy on the fly.

Never again will you be the guy that tries to select a player that was picked three rounds earlier. You’ll be amazed when you can predict the position and/or player that another owner will select, even before he has made up his mind. Stay quiet when you see him pick two quarterbacks with the same bye week, then maybe you can point it out to him in a later round, after you’ve selected your two quarterbacks. I’ve developed and enhanced this blueprint over the last 19 years I’ve been participating in fantasy football. If you use it, I can assure you that your draft experience will be more enjoyable and efficient.  Good Luck!

Up Next: How to Identify Players with Upside or Downside On Your Own.

About Fantasy Sharks began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.