On the heels of my draft strategy article, it seemed like a good idea to hit on a number of smaller topics to help guide you through your upcoming fantasy football draft.
1. Value Is King
The most important consideration in any fantasy draft or auction is value. Theoretically, if every player that an owner acquires outperforms their draft position or auction cost, that team will be a contender for the league title. Of course, obtaining value is easy to say and hard to do. However, there are some basic tenets that are useful in ensuring your roster is shaped by solid values.
First off, do your homework and get your cheatsheets filled out early and update often as the preseason progresses. If you follow the league throughout the year, you’re up to date on league news. If not, then get up to date. Thomas Jones was a revelation for the Jets last year but the team has lost Brett Favre and Laveranues Coles on offense. As a result, Jones is almost certainly looking at a drop in production. Second, avoid falling in love with certain players. Follow your tiers (more on that below) and don’t reach for a player. Third, try to fill out your starting line-up before moving on to filling your bench spots. After all, bench points don’t count except in leagues where they settle ties.
In one of my dynasty leagues, the owners place tremendous value on running backs so the wide receivers are great values. In three years, the only stud running back I’ve had is Joseph Addai and that is because I picked him up as a rookie.
2. Have A Flexible Strategy
Whatever your strategy is heading into your draft, you need to be prepared to alter it if the draft does not turn out as you expected. If you had anticipated getting a solid running back with the 11th pick and running backs come off the board with the first 10 picks, then it’s time to change gears. Rather than take an injury prone Brandon Jacobs or a banged up Brian Westbrook, consider taking your top rated QB or Larry Fitzgerald, the consensus top WR, before getting a running back .
In snake drafts, many owners attempt to map out their first three picks. Some follow the two-stud running back approach, while others may want a tier one player at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. In many instances, it’s possible that the draft will flow in a manner that results in an owner being able to follow their strategy. However, if that doesn’t occur, you need to be flexible and move on. It’s better to be flexible than being rigid and following a strategy that nets you Ryan Grant instead of Larry Fitzgerald just because you were set on taking running backs with your first two picks.
3. Follow Your Tiers
The concept of tiering is invaluable in a fantasy draft or auction. The concept is basically to tier (group) players at each position based on similar anticipated production. For example, in 2009 the top tier of QB consists of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. At RB, the top tier consists of Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner and Matt Forte.
As your draft or auction proceeds, you then have an idea of where the value lies. If the top tier of running backs is gone, it might be time to target a top tier WR or QB. Once the top tier of QB, RB and WR are exhausted, perhaps it’s time to target a top tier TE.
Essentially, an owner that drafts according to his tiers is less likely to overpay for a certain player. Plus, if the last player in a tier is available at your pick, you know to take that player.
In auction leagues, tiering can be very useful if you are aware of the status of the other team’s rosters. For instance, assume that in a 10-team league, four teams need starting QB and there are five tier three QB available. There is no need to overpay for the first three or four QB put up for auction. Wait for the other nine teams to fill out their starter position and then get one of the remaining tier two QB cheaply because the other teams are not likely to overpay for a backup QB.
Alternatively, if four teams need a starter and only three tier two QB are available, then you likely want to get the first or second player put up for auction because there will be two teams battling to get the final tier two QB, thereby driving up the auction cost.
4. Look Ahead And Anticipate The Flow Of Your Draft
In snake drafts, the flow of the draft will generally result in runs on players, roughly based on tiers to the extent owners have similar rankings. After the first QB is chosen, there is the possibility that the entire first tier of QB may go quickly after. As the group of tier one WR dwindles, there could be a run on these players.
Because of this, it’s important to spend as much of your downtime during the draft focusing on your opponents’ rosters as on your own roster. If you have an idea that there will be a run on tier one WR prior to your next pick, you can be ready to perhaps take the top TE available. Alternatively, if there are a number of tier two RB available at your pick but you anticipate there won’t be a top tier WR available with your pick next, perhaps you may want to grab the WR now.
In auction leagues, there is a definite ebb and flow that transpires during the course of the auction whether it is in dynasty or non-dynasty leagues. Generally, teams will focus the early part of the draft acquiring high priced talent thereby reducing their ability to spend later in the draft. At a certain point after teams have spent a decent amount of their auction dollars, they take a breather and it is at this point that values become available. After they re-enter the fray and complete filling out their rosters, there is another point where values become available. In 2008, this was when the likes of Thomas Jones, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels became available.
Last year, in one auction dynasty league, I nabbed Steve Smith for $46 and Brandon Marshall for $47 during a lull in the proceedings after another owner had spent $70 on Terrell Owens. In this league, $70 for Owens wasn’t a bad deal and certainly wasn’t a precedent but obviously Smith and Marshall were better values.
5. Don’t Ignore The Rap Sheet
For most of us, the cup is half full as opposed to half empty. We want to believe that player X will bust out, player Y will bounce back and player Z will stay out of trouble. In 2008, DeAngelo Williams busted out, Kurt Warner bounced back and Antonio Bryant stayed out of trouble. Unfortunately, Marshawn Lynch didn’t bust out, Roy Williams didn’t bounce back and Larry Johnson didn’t stay out of trouble.
Analyzing the common denominators of certain players who underachieve isn’t too difficult. Players with attitude and criminal issues should carry a red flag and be ranked lower than they would otherwise be. Bryant is a perfect example. He was a huge surprise as the 8th ranked fantasy WR in 2008 which would warrant him being drafted in the 3rd round in 2009. However, he lost his QB and complained about receiving the franchise tag and getting an $8-million one-year contract as opposed to a long-term extension.
There’s nothing wrong with taking players of questionable character but there are two rules when you do so. Don’t reach for these players and never have too many of them on your roster. Otherwise, you will be carrying substantial risk heading into your fantasy football season.