Finally the draft is here and all of my hard work is ready to pay off. The endless hours of research, the combined knowledge of multiple magazines and websites, the relentless following of offseason happenings and rookie development analysis will culminate in the greatest draft known to man.
My selection spot is 10th out of 10 in a snake draft due to a championship last season – thank you Matt Forte and Chris Johnson. My strategy was to secure a top quarterback, two top receivers and my running back with my first four picks. This had all gone to plan: Peyton Manning was resting nicely at my top spot with Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston and Marion Barber for company. Now I just had to wait 18 more picks to unleash my sleeper at running back Ray Rice. All my research had shown it was going to be a big year for him and the average draft position had him leaving in the sixth to seventh rounds. I was confident that he would slide back to me.
The majority of the members of our league are not diehards like me. Their football knowledge is good, but they don’t exactly spend hours preparing for domination. Most of them carry in one magazine and use the rankings provided to them by the commissioner to make their selections. They may take a flier out on someone if their magazine of choice tells them too and sometimes they even strike gold when fishing down the rankings to select the next player, but for the most part, save one, it’s pretty uniform to the norm.
Three guys left to pick and Rice is all mine, “And with the fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, the Philly Phanatics select Ray Rice.” What! He has no business picking Rice! Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb are still on the board and he can’t resist Eagles players. I made it past the only guy who might pick him so how did I lose him? I got so flustered I selected Ronnie Brown with my next pick and we all know how that went.
OK let’s go back to the beginning of the draft and see where I went wrong. As we entered the war room, my usual plan before the gun goes off is to float some misinformation out there, sleepers and busts that I don’t like in an effort to entice some picks from my league members or at least throw them off their game a bit. I am not a fan of loud mouthing or intimidation as a method to get in their heads. I prefer the subtle suggestions sneaking in and wreaking havoc while they try to decide between receivers and then give them evil smile coupled with the wide-eyed look around the room like “is this guy crazy?” to finish them off. OK, maybe I have issues and maybe I take it a little too far, but as far as I’m concerned all’s fair in love, war and fantasy football.
But I digress. This particular time it was my lack of defense (not my offense) that stung me. This year the Philly Phanatic showed up with a notebook that I didn’t see. Yes, a notebook, what does this mean? Well in this particular case, someone I usually took for a normal magazine rankings picker taking little risk and doing even less research had done his research. My inability to pick up on his newfound dedication to the league had possibly cost me my top sleeper. Now all things being fair, even if I would have seen his notebook coupled with his homemade tier system I probably still wouldn’t have used a fourth-round pick on Rice, even though it would have paid off a lot better than the fourth rounder I did choose, which was Marion Barber.
This leads me to the title – situational awareness. The military defines it as the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of space and time, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future. Basically paying attention to what is going on and interpreting the information and how it affects your status. It is used by pilots in both military and civilian sectors. Policeman and fireman employ its techniques in their jobs and now you can use it to your advantage on draft day. Danger! Scientific content ahead.
There are three basic steps to situational awareness.
1. See and sense – gathering information.
2. Comprehension – understanding the information we’ve seen.
3. Projection – using that comprehended information to project the future.
Gathering information starts at the door and doesn’t end until you leave. Members talk before, during and especially after the draft. Facial expressions and attitudes can also help you predict picks. For example, a member consistently checking his watch coupled with an earlier admission of a time he has to leave is good information that can be used.
Comprehension of the information suggests that his focus will be greatly diminished as time goes on.
Projection of the comprehended information consists of knowing he is in a hurry to get to the end of the draft and he will probably start selecting his players fast and in line with the average draft position.
Now this might sound obvious to you and if it does, good that means you already employ situational awareness and have probably had many successful drafts. If not, here are a few basic tips on situational awareness to keep in mind during draft day.
Give 100 percent attention – this sounds obvious but every year there are a few guys in the draft eating, texting, talking on the cell or distracted for some reason. They have no idea who took who or how the draft is even playing out. Knowing what’s going on with your league members draft is essential.
2. Preparation –
“failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” John Wooden once said. If you didn’t prepare at all than you’re in trouble; just roll the dice and hope for the best. But disorganization can be just as bad. Spending all your attention organizing and updating your notes will cause you to miss the flow of the draft. Little nuisances, words said and facial expressions can be your ally when making your decisions.
3. Do not “expect” to see something
– pay attention and scan the room but don’t force the issue. Not only does it make you look weird but can lead to misinformation. Just let it flow.
4. Trust your gut – your gut is just your brain saying, “we’ve seen this before.” It’s part of the flight-or-fight response. Comparing the situation to others you have seen is a good thing.
5. Don’t outthink the room – keep it simple stupid! Your leaguemates are not scheming elaborate plans during the draft. Use your information but don’t go Columbo on it.
6. Yoga Master – be flexible with your gameplan but stable. The information you receive will cause you to make changes but don’t throw your gameplan out the window because of it. Just gather it, access it and make the subtle changes to accommodate it.