Unit Two: Team Management
Chapter Two – The Draft
First, a warning. This article will deal with Draft Day. Not Auction Day, and not The Extended Online Draft Experience. Of course, there are many topics that I will cover here that can be applied to an auction or online drafting through e-mail.
A live draft or live auction pose the greatest risks and opportunities for any owner. Being able to think on your feet is key. Even more important, however, is to do your homework ahead of time and have a plan going into the draft. We covered some ways to do research ahead of the draft in the last chapter. If you arm yourself with the basics covered there, and do the work ahead of time, you’ll have an immediate advantage over some of the other owners.
Going back to Unit One, I want to propose the one commandment for commissioners for a live draft. Get a draft board. Draft boards make the draft go quicker, and immediately make your draft more organized. The amount of players ‘taken’ twice will be cut down dramatically. There will still be owners who speak aloud a player already taken two rounds before, but those occurrences will be much less with a draft board. It can be paper and stickers, or projected from a laptop (if you don’t mind risking your computer and projector), but get a legible draft board.
I first want to cover what you should bring to the draft (or online draft room, if a live online draft):
One master list of players to mark off who has been taken. This list should be your one ranking list. Plenty of owners bring a couple handwritten lists, maybe a magazine or two and projections printed from a site. This is all fine and dandy, but you should only have one master list. Please note, this list should include up to date injury news. This is especially important if you are drafting in August. There are lots of injuries in August, stay up to date. This list should be your final ranking by position, have a separate sub-listing for each position. Do not have one master list with all positions grouped together.
A couple pens to mark off who has been taken on your list.
I do suggest bringing a magazine…you need some sort of hard surface to write on, a magazine makes a good surface to write on.
A list of bye weeks, this is mostly an issue for kickers, tight ends, quarterbacks and team defenses. All of these positions usually have just one starter per team/week. So, more than RB or WR, it’s important that any back up QB, TE, K, D/STs you take have different bye weeks than your starter for that position. Bye weeks are important for WRs and RBs too, but usually you have enough backups for those positions where a bye week’s consideration isn’t nearly as important as it is for the positions mentioned above.
I want to share with you a couple tried (and usually) true rules I follow when drafting. These are common sense rules, and there are always exceptions to the rules I will prescribe below. As a matter of fact, there are two main reasons to not the first two rules that will follow and they are…
Your scoring rules heavily favor QB passing touchdowns. If you get 5 or 6 points for a touchdown pass, you want to get a top 4 or 5 QB, if you don’t you are handicapping yourself and are due for a long year. Getting over 4 points for a touchdown pass (assuming you get 6 points for rushing for or receiving TDs) is grounds for two actions – taking a QB early, and changing your scoring system.
If you are in a league with 8 teams or less, I think the strategy changes so much due to the abundance of resources (especially with QBs in mind) that the few tips I will provide below (and most drafting/auction common sense) need to be rethought. With leagues that small you can wait a very long time on QBs, unless your league awards 5 or 6 points for TD passes. As far as WRs and RBs go, unless you start a large number of RBs and WRs each week, you’re going to have consistent point producers for you first 2 or 3 RB bench players, and your first 3 or 4 WR bench players. So drafting for value is still important, but the dynamic is so different, I think an owner can draft almost exclusively by Value Based Drafting, with very little attention paid to starting roster versus reserves.
One note about Value Based Drafting, this is a philosophy of valuing players and drafting based on player projections and scoring systems. Many people swear by this method and draft only using this method. I think knowing the principles of this method are very important to understand (type in ‘Value Based Drafting’ in a search engine, you’ll find plenty of information) but you need to take more factors into account when drafting.
The next four points I share with you are rules I swear by, and if you do these four simple things, I think you’ll have a better team.
Take at least 80% of your needed RB/WR starters before you take a QB. This means that if your league requires that you start 2 RBs and 3 WRs, you should take at least 4 of those positions before you take a QB. Yes this means you will not have a top flight QB most likely (more on this later), but you should have a good solid set of starting skill position players.
Scour the Net for breakout QBs. QB should be the position you do your most research on qualitatively. You can rank RBs and WRs using rankings you find on various sites; but to find that hidden QB gem (assuming you hold off on drafting a QB per the above) and taking him in rounds 7-10 can really give your team a helping hand. It takes more legwork than any other position. I have been pretty good at finding QBs who I think will breakout the last few years, and have been able to get some real steals. These are usually QBs who have been in their system for at least two years, and had a good latter half of the previous year. One last word – breakout QBs aren’t always young (Rich Gannon a few years ago), and they’re not always on good teams; but to find an undervalued QB you can start week in and week out is a real boost to a fantasy team.
The longer you wait on a QB, the sooner you should take a backup QB. You’re not always going to be right on your breakout QB prediction, so make sure you have insurance in case you’re wrong. If I wait until round 7 or later to draft a QB, I will often take his backup the next round or the round after. A good rule of thumb is what I call the 28 Rule; you don’t want the sum rankings of your top two QBs to be more than 28. So if you take the 12th ranked QB on your list, try to ensure you get at least the 16th QB on your list. Why not the 25 rule or 27 rule? Eh, I simply don’t see a huge difference between QB projections between 12 and 16…projections, not results (obviously when the season’s done the actual results between the 12th and 16th best QBs can be significant).
Watch the draft board!! I can’t emphasize this enough. You need to see what resources your competitors are lacking. If these resources happen to be the same resources you are lacking; you may want to move on taking that position. This is more important as you get to round 6 or 7, before then most owners are usually taking their highest value players with less attention paid to roster needs. So if you are about to draft and notice that a couple other owners are missing that position (say QB), you may take that position to ensure the other owners don’t leave you wanting for that position. Keep in mind, if you are involved in a serpentine draft owners drafting after you in any round will draft twice before you draft again (assuming you haven’t traded to get another pick in that round). The draft board is the most important resource you have besides your master list of ranked players. Remember, the draft board is your friend.
Some other thoughts about Draft Day…
There is a semi-serious debate in the fantasy football community about whether owners should drink or not during the draft. Why not? Assuming you are responsible and safe, you’re there to have fun. Depending on your age, you probably don’t get to see the people you draft with that often – relax. As long as you have a plan, are organized and don’t get completely slobber-knocked, you should do fine.
Studies have shown that 78.9% of live drafts feature at least one owner who goes begging for a list of players to use to serve as his master list on Draft Day. You know who these lowly creatures are, they show up to the draft and either say they forgot their information or have the audacity to not even make up an excuse. If you have a particularly bad magazine on your hands you may want to offer that bad magazine to one of these wretches. Hopefully they make some truly awful picks.
Now is the time to right all the wrongs perpetrated upon you by the other owners in your league. Get your insults in now; because Draft Day may be the only time you have no losses in your league. No matter how good or bad your team was last year, for one day all teams are equal in the standings. Talk trash early and liberally. You may not get another chance until next Draft Day.
In the last chapter of this series, we’ll investigate managing your team after Draft Day.