What you do with your late-round picks probably won’t make or break your season. Sometimes lightning does strike. But you can get yourself into plenty of trouble with sleepers. Sometimes it’s worth it, but sometimes it can cost you your season.
Like anything in fantasy football, how your individual league is constructed has a huge impact on your fantasy strategy. This includes league size, skill level, roster depth, starting lineup composition and the free agency acquisition process. If you play in a shallow league where you can pick up quality players all the time, do whatever you want late in drafts. I would just suggest you swing for the fences.
But for most fantasy owners, it’s not that simple. There’s a reason a player is called a sleeper. It’s because he’s not actively helping you at the moment, which means that you need to waste a bench spot to carry him. In some leagues, you have a very limited number of bench spots (3-5) to work with. Tying any of those spots up with players you’re not using can hurt you at other positions.
Let me illustrate with a few examples from some of my leagues last season:
I personally screwed myself by hanging onto Robert Meachem weeks after it was obvious that he had no value. If I would’ve been willing to cut bait on Meachem early, I had the waiver priority to claim Victor Cruz. I passed, because Meachem was “My Guy.”
In a semi-deep 14-team league, Roy Helu was drafted and then dropped by Week 3. I picked him up knowing he wouldn’t provide immediate value, but I felt that I had a roster spot to spare. Helu wound up propelling me in to the playoffs.
Adrian Peterson’s owner drafted Toby Gerhart as a “handcuff” insurance policy. But later in the bye weeks, Peterson’s owner dropped Gerhart in order to pick up a second kicker because his “elite” kicker was on a bye. Gerhart was eventually used against him in the playoffs.
We’re starting to see a picture form here. Players who were drafted as “sleepers” wound up as useful fantasy assets by the end of the season. But they were on different teams. It is very difficult to pick and choose who you will carry and who you will cut.
What does that mean when you are drafting? For starters, it means that you shouldn’t get too attached to any of your very late draft picks. When the next hot thing pops up on the waiver wire, don’t be afraid to make a move.
It also means that you should focus on players who might have trade value or handcuff value to you. Grab another quarterback or tight end if there is still value there late in the draft. Take the backup running back to your stud running back.
Otherwise, focus on players who have a chance to make an impact early in the season, before the bye weeks begin. Trying to wait 10 weeks while a running back works his way up from No. 4 on the depth chart can be too little, too late. Grab players who are going to be on the field in Week 1.
Don’t take a kicker until the last round. I can’t believe that I still have to say that every year. If you want to reach up a round or two before the end to grab a defense/special teams, I don’t have a problem with that as long as your league awards a decent amount of points to the position. If there is limited defensive/special teams scoring, don’t bother with them until one of your last two picks.
I can’t give you a list of players to draft and not cut. I’m not Ms. Cleo. In fact, I doubt that she could even help you. That’s your job. My point is not to waste your roster space. And when you can make a move, make a move. Once the draft is over, in redraft leagues, it doesn’t matter when you drafted a player. Like an actual sports general manager, you can’t get personal. Just because it looked good on draft day doesn’t mean that it will help you in October.
Thanks for reading and good luck this season. Feel free to follow me on Twitter.