It is officially fantasy football draft season and your draft will set the tone for the rest of the season. Grabbing some cheat sheet at the last minute isn’t enough; you need to prepare. Fantasy football is the only thing that could make spreadsheets interesting.
The First Step is to Know Your League
- Is it a home league or one you joined through a message board? This is going to influence your draft.
- For home leagues, you want to start fantasy discussions with your league. Learn the other owners’ favorite players and find out who is flying under the radar.
- Find out who they are using for their rankings. Are they making their own board or are they using a cheat sheet?
- If you know a player is using a cheat sheet, make sure to have a copy to help you determine what their draft preferences will be and when you may need to grab a guy early to snipe them.
- If the league is one you joined online, check out the other players. I recently joined a startup where one guy just smoked the draft. Several players were upset. If they had looked up who they joined the league with they might have realized the guy that did so well did the rankings for the cheat sheets that many of them were using and wrote strategy articles for that type of league. Of course he killed the draft. This is a gift, not a curse. I can actually look up his valuation of players and they even have a quantifiable value.
- Go ahead and check out your league. You can use someone’s posts on boards, articles or rankings against them. One of the guys I am in a league with is wise to this and we made a deal that we stay off each other’s boards (and I have kept my word). I know everything else I do is fair game. For everyone else, if I see them posting I want to read it. If they are a writer, I am checking in on their articles. People post draft and trade questions all the time. Use social media. With that said don’t stalk … that is just creepy.
- Know the scoring and roster requirements. Are you standard or points per reception? Are there bonuses for certain positions?
- Go to your league and pull up your free agent list before the draft. The free agent list should show the previous year’s scores. Take a look at how the scoring affects player standings as a whole and by position.
- Look for scoring dropoffs and note those. Create scoring tiers based on your system. You want to look at both average and total scoring for the player. You also need to account for fluke games and injuries. Tag boom/bust scoring players. Keep the page tabbed or make a spread sheet. You are going to need those points later.
- If this isn’t your league’s first year or the scoring is based on a standard system, look at team scores for the year before. What was the average amount of points it took to win games? What were the season highs and lows? You are going to want to find your number and build for it.
- The best way to understand your scoring is to see it. You need to know your lineup. Either write it down on a sheet of paper or use a spread sheet but create a list of spots. For example:
|QB||Bridgewater, Teddy MIN QB|
|RB||Bell, Le’Veon PIT RB (S)|
|WR||Boldin, Anquan SF WR|
|WR||Colston, Marques NO WR|
|TE||Rudolph, Kyle MIN TE|
|Flex||Flacco, Joe BAL QB|
|Flex||Lynch, Marshawn SEA RB|
|Flex||Murray, DeMarco PHI RB|
|DB||Burnett, Morgan GB S|
|DB||Weddle, Eric SD S|
|DL||Griffen, Everson MIN DE|
|LB||Kuechly, Luke CAR LB|
This is a list I was using during a recent draft. I also provided for bench spots in my spread sheet. It gives me the ability to visualize the spots I need to fill and plan for them.
Time to Gather Information
Yes, I said gather information. You want to use multiple resources but in the end you need to use them to create your own plan and your own personalized draft board.
- Start with some rankings and projections. Sites will often even let you load up your league scoring and will customize rankings to match. In the draft above, I heavily leaned on Wally Spurlin and Gary Davenport’s rankings (They are not responsible for the weakness in my defensive line … that is all me).
- Don’t just give a cursory review at other people’s takes, read them and/or listen to them. Whether it is someone in your home league or a fantasy writer, find out why they feel that way. Maybe they are seeing something you don’t or vice versa. If you disagree, you want to know why. Sometimes it’s just a “feeling” but many times there are facts not being considered or factors being overlooked or overinflated. When you take a stand on a player you want to be informed.
- Follow football news including the beat writers. They are out there watching practices and they are often talking to people within the organization. Start getting a feel for the players and what is going on with the teams. You want to start getting a feel for the forest that is the NFL, not just the trees. I start each season knowing: the starters, primary backups, and third down running backs; the “1” and “2” wide receivers (usually split end and flanker but options also include the slot and Rob Gronkowski); and the ‘move’ tight ends (tight ends more likely to catch a ball including guys not named Gronkowski). If you really dig football and you want to expand your knowledge, this is how you start. Quick, which running backs are the most important to look at in Tennessee? Did you have to look at a depth chart? Do you think it really matters where Dexter McCluster is on that chart? (no, really, Tennessee is going to totally use him more this year), you should have sighed immediately at that question and then debated where and/or if you would take Bishop Sankey or David Cobb.
- Pull average draft position (ADP) charts or auction value (AV) charts as a “guideline” but know your league and prepare a Plan B. There is always that one guy in the draft who gets all riled up when someone goes early. Don’t be that guy. Remember ADP and AV are based on other peoples’ drafts. They may not have the same scoring or roster requirements. Depending on what source the data is coming from, superflex leagues, dynasty startups and even rookie drafts could be influencing those rankings. They also may be influenced by the numerous mocks going on right now including writer mocks. Take them with a grain of salt.