So how do you prepare for a high stakes fantasy draft? There are lots of resources available and I will go through how I prepare for my draft. It doesn’t always work out this way, but if I had unlimited time, this is what I would do.
First and foremost, know your league, the managers, and the scoring system. This will impact your draft more than anything else.
My draft preparation began long before the draft. This year, I decided to go back three years and analyze all of the drafts our league has had. I went back through the first 9 rounds of every manager for the years 2007 through 2009. I looked at what draft slot they drafted from and what place they finished the regular season in. I also analyzed what position they drafted in each round. If they drafted a running back, I put in RB. If they draft a quarterback, I placed QB in that slot. I did this for every year, every round, every manager for the last 3 drafts.
So I had a nice spreadsheet of draft tendencies and results for each player for three years. So, I could look at my charts and note that Manager One always drafts a RB in round one, and always drafts a WR in round two, regardless of whether he has the first overall pick or twelfth. I also got to see how he finished and what slot he drafted from.
Some interesting things I learned from this analysis of my league:
1. Draft slot had no bearing in how you finished. Whether you had the 1st or 5th overall pick, or even 12th… you could still finish first or last. No correlation.
2. Teams that finished in the playoffs (top 6) were teams that waited on drafting a QB. Drafting a QB in round 1 or 2, didn’t correlate with a playoff finish.
3. Teams that drafted a defense early (first 6 rounds) never made the playoffs. This only happened once or twice in the last 3 years, so the “n” isn’t very high. “N” being “number” in statistics.
4. Our league likes to draft running backs, regardless of the year or scoring trends. Some managers (in some years) were willing to draft their 6th running back rather than draft a starting tight end or quarterback. We can only start 3 RBs in any week. The fact that someone is willing to draft extreme depth at one position before filling out their roster, is a bit extreme. People really value RBs in our league. That being said….
5. Filling out your roster evenly translated to playoff appearances more so than not. Having your core starters by round 6 (QB, 2RB, 2WR, TE) correlated higher with playoff appearances than having an incomplete core.
6. People drafting in the top 6 draft slots nearly always chose a RB. It’s not until slot 7 or 6 that you start seeing WR or QBs being drafted. You could look at it this way; the later your draft pick the more likely you are to be creative and not select a running back.
7. “Hitting” on a later round RB or QB really correlated strongly with a playoff appearance. Let’s face it, we all know who the top 50 picks are going to be. That’s the first 4 rounds of a 12 man draft. Once you get into the 5th round, things really vary and “hitting” on one of these fliers really helps. And I mean… can REALLY help. It can make your season.
Other general draft rules to live by:
1. After round 5, most fantasy managers are lost and draft without direction or plan. Take advantage of this. Do a ton of mock drafts and know exactly who you are going to draft in each round. If this is hard, map out your last rounds first. Kicker and defense should be your last two rounds. Then start from round one and work your way up. It’s amazing to see what a guy may draft in round 10. It gets very murky, but if you have a plan and stick to it, you will be the only one with a decent draft. It’s easy to draft the top 50 players. That’s not hard. It’s after that that you make your team and your money. Have a plan and an alternate plan for each round. The research and work should have all been done already. It’s fun to watch people draft two RBs with the same bye week, or a player that is out for the season, or the back up to the back to the back up who will be cut right after the preseason, or the QB who would otherwise not be drafted, or a WR that is the 200th best WR overall, while the 45th best is still available. Don’t be this guy!
2. There are a lot of undrafted players that are going to be good. Find them in the first few weeks of the season. That 14th round WR can be dumped and pick up the guy that is blowing up in week 1 that no one drafted. Hitting on some key free agents is huge. Keep your eyes open for guys who are performing well that no one thought of. Do this throughout the season, but the first few weeks make the biggest difference.
3. The first 5 weeks of your fantasy season will make or break your season. If you have won at least 4 of those games, you are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. Also racking up early wins in first 5 weeks, gives you a lot of leverage and flexibility in terms of trading with others who have already mailed it in and are more willing to let go of their main players for possible “keeper” prospects for next year. Use this to your advantage in trades.
4. A lot of things are unpredictable and out of your control. You may have had the world’s greatest draft, the best free agent pickups, never made a wrong decision during the year on who to start or sit, got good waiver pickups…. and still you lost by the slightest of margins and don’t make the playoffs. It can happen. As frustrating as that is, you just have to live with it. The law of averages says that won’t happen often, so have a good plan and preparation and hopefully, next year will yield better results.
Do a lot of research:
So, a lot of research should go into your draft. There are a lot of valuable resources available. I highly recommend www.FootballGuys.com. It’s the best resource there is available. Very intelligent guys that have been playing fantasy football since before it has been an online game. They also invented the concept of value based drafting (VBD). Their forums are free and you can pick the brains of their writing staff and people like you from all across the world. They have won projection accuracy awards nearly every year for being the most accurate projectors of fantasy football stats. The key is to get the projections as close to reality as possible.
It all starts with projections. You can come up with your own, or rely on various fantasy websites. FootballGuys does an excellent job of projecting statistics. Further, they have plenty of tools for you to tweak projections and come up with your own. They have online tools, as well as software programs you can use. Their software called Projections Dominator lets view their projections, create your own, and weight all of the experts projections with different weighting and therefore aggregating those projections into a nice big list. What’s better than that? You can then import all of their projections into their draft software called Draft Dominator (more on this later).
You also need an ADP (Average Draft Position) list. This will tell you which round each player is being drafted in. This will help you know who will be available in each round when it is your turn to draft. This is very helpful when you mock. Sure you might like a late round quarterback, but don’t draft him in round 3, when you can have him in round 8. You can get more value if you wait. FootballGuys has an ADP list that aggregates ADPs from across the world. You can select which sources you want to use. You can look at Yahoo, MFL, CBS, and NFL ADPs and see what people are drafting in each leage, or combine them together. It’s very important to know where people are being drafted, so you don’t over or under draft them. This also can tell you what your league mates may be thinking. Keep a current ADP list handy, or use a software like Draft Dominator to keep you up to date on all the changes and movement up and down ADP lists.
Then do your mocks. FantasyFootballCalculator.com allows you to select your draft slot and size of your league, then do a draft. Excellent resource. You draft against other real players online. This is the best implementation I have seen online for mocking. You don’t have to register and sign up for anything. Jsut start mocking right away. You can also view all previous drafts that were conducted. You can also trend players over time. You can see that your favorite player was being drafted in round 2 in early June, but now that preseason has started, he is being drafted in round 5. You can graph these trends and see them visually. Awesome resource, even just to look at trends and ADP in either a list format or a grid round by round. You can look at ADPs for 10 team leagues, 12 team leagues, 14 team leagues, you can look at PPR (point per recpetion) or no points for receptions. Very powerful tool. Don’t be that guy with an old cheatsheet from June drafting guys 3 rounds before they should be drafted.
By this time you should know exactly, round by round, who you are giong to draft and an alternate player (or two) that you’d take instead, in case that player got drafted. You should also have enouhg experience to know when to jump on a player that has fallen. If the fourth best QB hasn’t been drafted yet, and it’s round 7 already, you should draft him, even though that may not be what was on your plan. You have to jump on opportunities when you can.
For those who want even more technology to help them, there are plenty of software programs available to you that help you draft. Nearly every website now has a “draft software” that you plug information in to, and can take to your draft on a laptop or have it open in the background on your computer, and it helps you draft. Primarily, these programs are used for organization. To be able to keep track of your team, other people’s teams and needs, and who is still available. Great idea.
The best implementation of the “draft software” strategy has to be the Draft Dominator by FootballGuys. This is the most amazing piece of software you will ever encounter. It let’s you customize everything to your leagues specifications and then helps you draft based on the philosophy of “value based drafting” or VBD. VBD was invented by FootballGuys decades ago, the rest of the world is finally catching up. This program is so powerful and customizable that you could write entire books on how to leverage Draft Dominator during your draft. It is simply amazing and has more features than most people can use or understand in their lifetime. And even if you just install it and use it right out of the box, it works fine for 90% of leagues. Just turn it on, and draft away. Very nice! Using a draft program really comes in handy in the mid to late rounds, when everyone else is confused. You just keep hammering away at your plan of action, while they flounder. Everyone knows who the top 50 players are. You may disagree slightly on exactly where to draft them, but they are still the 50 best players. It’s the rest of the players that you need to stratify and decide on. This is where software can help. Make sure you tweak the software sufficiently so that it matches your style of drafting and isn’t drafting a defense in round 4.
Familiarize yourself with whatever software you plan on using, so you don’t have any technical difficulties. Always bring backup paper and pencils and printed materials and a round by round plan so that you can still work even if your computer dies.
Know the players, stay up to date on the news, read forums and various people’s opinions on players. You’ll be able to formulate your own opinions and information will be stuck in your head (more information than you will ever need). Go to FootballGuys.com’s forums and just read the endless off-season threads and prediction threads. You will know more about each player, each position and the various position tiers than you ever thought possible. You can never know too much. Stay up to date on news and injuries. You don’t want to be the guy to draft the WR that just tore his ACL yesterday.
After that, show up, eat some food, enjoy non-alcoholic beverages (let the other guys get drunk and draft poorly), start drafting and have fun with it! It should be a blast and a ton of fun!
That’s how you should prepare for a high stakes fantasy draft!