Thursday - Apr 25, 2019

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Last-Minute Fantasy Football Draft Wisdom

So here we are. You did it. You survived the lockout, the hold-outs and the injury scares. This is the Main Event. The Big Weekend. It’s time for your Draft, with a Capital D, no less. By now you should have done some prep work and have a decent plan for your draft. If for some reason this is the first thing you are reading about fantasy football, don’t panic. Keep on reading, and get yourself a solid set of rankings before the draft. (For free rankings I tend to use
FFToolbox
,
Yahoo
or
CBS
).

Let’s start with the Online Draft vs. the Live Draft

ADVICE THAT APPLIES TO EITHER DRAFT FORMAT

  • Go easy on the booze (if applicable). Being the first owner to get to a seventh beer might seem pretty cool, but it will have adverse affects on your fantasy team. Trust me. Instead, just don’t start drinking until a half hour before the draft. And try to get all the owners to go do shots (tequila) if possible.
  • I always like to have a list of my own rankings in front of me, whether the draft is live or online. That way I can cross each player drafted off myself. It helps me to always know who is available. Sometimes if you’re just looking at a computer screen or draft board, you can miss stuff.
  • Always have a different set of rankings then the rest of your draft. Players draft positions are always influenced by the default rankings, whether online or handed out at your draft. There was a
    phenomenal piece
    done by
    Adam Levitan
    over at
    Rotoworld
    about this. Well worth your time. 
  • Always be ready with the next three players you want to draft. Because the owners drafting in front of you are going to draft the players you want. Constantly. You do not want to have it be your pick and you have no idea who to select with only 60 seconds to decide. Again, it helps to have your own rankings on paper in front of you for this.
  • Do not be shook or influenced by a single word anybody else says at the draft. The constant chatter about who likes who, injuries and recent role changes? It’s all crap. Well, most of it is. Smart owners aren’t giving anything away before the draft. It’s a fine line to walk. If you just talk up players you don’t want, smart owners will figure out that you’re avoiding those players. Talk about the guys you like and the dumb owners will know who you’re targeting. I personally just spend the entire pre-draft emphasizing the importance of kickers. Sometimes I throw in “Jeff George just signed with X” or something of that nature. Something that’s pretty obviously phony and possibly even funny. It’s called deflecting. Ask any married guy you know about it.
  • If you don’t know the rules and scoring settings of your league by heart, print them out or pull that screen up. You need to know about every rule or scoring category there is. Otherwise you’re going to miss something.

ONLINE DRAFTS

  • Arrive at the draft room early. Add all of your target players to your queue so you will always be ready to draft. Use your other rankings list to spot players that are lower or higher in the online default rankings.
  • Keep the chat room reasonable. Don’t be that Internet Tough Guy who goes off on a guy about his mother because he just drafted Felix Jones. Some trash talk is great, but don’t get personal.
  • This might sound stupid, but if you think there’s any chance you might lose power or Internet access, try to have an alternative ready. Most smartphones can handle draft software these days.
  • Focus on your draft. Don’t be playing poker, checking email or watching TV while you are drafting. If you need something on in the background, don’t make it anything that will distract you.
  • If you’re going to require food and/or beverage, have it ready before the draft starts. Trying to make a mid-draft run to Wawa (7-11, what have you) is draft suicide.

LIVE DRAFTS

  • Show up on time, sober, with your draft materials and league entry fee. Be ready to draft.
  • Don’t show up empty-handed. If there is an arrangement where everybody pitches in a couple bucks for food and drink, fine. But if it’s a free for all, at least show up with a case of beer, some two-liters of soda, some chips, something. (Unless you’re drafting at bar. In that case you’re good). Somebody is having y’all in his crib and will have to clean up after you slobs. At least be decent and bring a little something to the table.
  • Don’t leave your draft material laying around before the draft. You work hard or paid good money for this stuff. Don’t let some unprepared owner piggyback off of what you’ve done.
  • Do a little fishing. There are probably some other owners with teams in multiple leagues. Ask them if they’ve draft already and how they liked their draft. Usually nobody wants to hear about your fantasy team, so when somebody asks, get ready for an earful. Finding out who other owners have already drafted and what they thought of those drafts should give you an idea of what they might do in your draft.

So there. All the philosophical nonsense is out of the way. Now for some honest-to-God drafting strategy.

  • Don’t draft a kicker until the last round. And I will guarantee you that one of these guys is available: (NOTE – New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley is out 6-10 weeks with a hip injury).
  1. Matt Bryant
  2. Alex Henery
  3. Rob Bironas
  4. Jon Kasay (will be the Saints kicker for at least six weeks)
  5. Jason Hanson
  • There’s not a fantasy defense worth reaching for. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears all have weaknesses. And guess what, there are still 24 other defenses to choose from. I personally like to play the matchups with my defense, and most weeks I wind up selecting from the waiver wire. This works far better than you think. Here are some other defenses worth drafting in the second-to-last round of your draft:
  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. San Diego Chargers
  3. New Orleans Saints
  4. Dallas Cowboys
  5. Arizona Cardinals (open season vs. Carolina, at Washington, at Seattle)
  6. Detroit Lions
  • This is the year to wait on quarterbacks. There are so many quarterbacks with high-upside that will be available later in your draft. If one of the Big 5 (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Michael Vick) drops to Round 5, great. But don’t go reaching for a quarterback in the first four rounds. (The only exception is 14-plus team leagues when there is an early quarterback run). Just look at the quarterbacks who will be available in Round 5 or later.
  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Tony Romo
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Matt Schaub
  5. Matt Ryan
  6. Matthew Stafford
  7. Sam Bradford
  8. Josh Freeman
  9. Joe Flacco
  10. Eli Manning
  11. Jay Cutler
  • That’s 11 legitimate starting quarterbacks. Granted, some are better than others. But in 10- and 12-team leagues, you’re going to be able to get two of these quarterbacks after you’ve filled in the rest of your starting lineup. Not to mention there are still more quarterbacks with some upside available:
  1. Matt Cassel
  2. Kevin Kolb
  3. Kyle Orton
  4. Donovan McNabb
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Jason Campbell
  7. Colt McCoy
  8. Cam Newton
  9. Mark Sanchez
  • Rodgers is going to be great. Vick could be transcendent. But you can absolutely find excellent quarterback options later in drafts. There is not this kind of depth at running back or wide receiver.
  • Everything I just said about quarterbacks? It applies just the same to tight ends. (In
    Fantasy

    Football Players Championship

    leagues where tight ends get 1.5 points per reception, this is different). There are the Big 5 tight ends:
  1. Antonio Gates
  2. Jermichael Finley
  3. Vernon Davis
  4. Dallas Clark
  5. Jason Witten
  • It’s not like any of these guys are completely rock solid. They all have some question marks. So it’s probably not worth reaching for them when you can draft:
  1. Jimmy Graham
  2. Kellen Winslow
  3. Aaron Hernandez
  4. Rob Gronkowski
  5. Greg Olsen
  6. Jared Cook
  7. Mercedes Lewis
  8. Zach Miller
  9. Chris Cooley
  10. Dustin Keller
  11. Tony Gonzalez
  12. Brandon Pettigrew
  • Here we have 12 guys that should all be pretty decent starting options. Again, they won’t be Antonio Gates. But there sure are a lot of options. Enough to draft two if you have the space. Or enough that you should be able to add a pretty decent tight end off of the waiver wire later on if necessary.
  • If you haven’t gotten the idea yet, it’s all about the running backs and wide receivers early in your draft. I’m pry taking five running backs/wide receivers in my first five picks.
  • Get your starting wide receivers early. Whether you have to start two or three, you need to get them early on. After about WR30, the position just
    falls off of a cliff
    . Unless an excellent running back is available in Round 2, I’m pry taking a wide receiver there. I would be aiming to get two wide receivers between Rounds 2-4.
  • Get yourself a running back in the first round. There are some exceptions where picking at the end of Round 1 in a points per reception draft, you might take a wide receiver in Round 1. But if you do that, be ready to take a running back in Round 2. You pretty much have to walk out of the first two rounds with a running back. You might have to deal the warts of a Frank Gore, Steven Jackson or Matt Forte. But you need a running back that’s going to get the majority of the carries. You have to have at least one.
  • After you get your starting lineup filled, swing for the fences. Once the running backs with any weekly value are gone, start picking up the high-upside handcuffs. These guys are just lottery tickets, but you can’t win the lottery without one. If you have to cut one of these guys when the bye weeks start, so be it. These players include:
  1. Kendall Hunter
  2. Delone Carter
  3. Ronnie Brown
  4. Javon Ringer
  5. Rashad Jennings (check injury status)
  6. Derrick Ward/Ben Tate (pick your poison, my money is on a split)
  7. Jason Snelling
  8. Toby Gerhart
  9. Jerome Harrison
  10. Marion Barber
  11. Issac Redman
  12. Montario Hardesty
  • Again, there’s not really any weekly options here. But somebody is going to get hurt. And if one of these guys gets a shot at the starting job, he’s probably a fantasy starter. You are going to want to draft as many running backs as possible.
  • Once you have your starting wide receivers, draft one or two backups. And that’s it. There are always wide receivers that pop up on the waiver wire. I’d grab one “safe” type and one “lottery ticket” type.

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