You’ve probably heard the mantra that “You don’t win your league on draft day, but you can lose it”. Fantasy drafts are riddled with land mines. The more mistakes you can avoid on draft day, the better foundation your draft will set you up with to start the season. Use that foundation and some in-season team management and you give yourself a great chance to walk away with a league championship at the end of the year.
Here are six common pitfalls to avoid if you want to leave your draft in the best position to succeed.
Mistake #1: Prioritizing your starting lineup
As your draft is going and you start to fill up your roster there’s something satisfying about watching your starters slot into place. However, the deeper you get into the draft the more those empty slots begin to look like massive voids on your roster. It’s tempting to fill in that missing quarterback or tight end in the fifth round when your starting running backs and receivers are secured, but there’s usually more value to be had by adding depth at RB and WR instead. In most league formats you have to start at least two at those positions, so you’ll be more hard-pressed to find useful options later in the draft or on waivers.
If you’re really set on locking up a tight end and quarterback early, you can be forgiven and still field a competitive roster. If you take your defense or kicker before securing any depth at running back and receiver, you’re likely in for a long season. Fantasy defenses are relatively easy to stream off the waiver wire if you pay attention to weekly match ups; kickers are annoyingly random most of the time.
If your platform allows for it, it you can even leave your draft without a defense or kicker. Which would allow you to take a few additional shots on high upside players to monitor as Week 1 approaches. When it’s time to finally set your initial lineup you can cut the two worst players on your roster, maybe even somebody who was injured between your draft and Week 1?
Mistake #2: Letting your fandom get in the way
There are two sides to this pitfall. The obvious example is drafting the quarterback, running back, tight end, and two receivers from the local team. It might work out for some teams; the Chiefs logged the QB1, RB11, WR1, and TE1 in 2018. If you’re a Dolphins or Redskins fan, however, please don’t let your irrational fandom drive your draft.
While over-drafting your favorite team could work out, the larger danger lies in avoiding players on the rival teams that you despise. My favorite example comes from my home league circa 2003. In a league full of Cheeseheads, the league champ drafted the Vikings stack of Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper which gave him the overall WR1 and QB1, both at great values. He may have “sold his soul for a championship” (his words) but he also walked away with the trophy.
Mistake #3: Living and dying by Average Draft Position (ADP)
ADP is a great tool to help guide your draft, but you can’t treat it as law. Remember, it is an average of thousands of drafts. That means that each player gets selected sooner sometimes and later other times. There are going to be outliers both ways. If you really like a player, it’s better to select him a round or two earlier than ADP as there’s no worse feeling at a draft than having your targeted player sniped a few picks before you.
Draft position also hampers the effectiveness of drafting by ADP. If you’re drafting at or close to the turn in a snake draft, where you get two picks close together, you almost have to throw it out the window as you’ll have 20 or more players taken between your picks.
A great example of this draft season is the tight end position. If you have a top-three pick you’re likely taking a stud running back first, then waiting until the late second and early third for your next picks. Travis Kelce will be gone. If you want one of the “big three” tight ends your going to have to reach a little for Zach Ertz or George Kittle, even though ADP says they are late third or early fourth-round picks. They probably won’t be there when your next pick comes up at the end of the fourth round.
The takeaway here is another common fantasy football slogan: “Get your guys.”