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More Draft Rules of Thumb

Continuing the draft strategy advice posted last week, here are five more tips or rules of thumb to keep in mind for your upcoming draft.

6. Don’t Have Too Many Sleepers

Sleepers are the ultimate way to show your competition that you have done your homework and hit a home run on a player. Nonetheless, a roster that has too many sleepers can tend to be one built with a lot of potential but low or inconsistent production. Sleepers are ranked low for a reason – they are higher risk players, and even if they do “hit”, they make take some time to come around and for you to trust starting them on a regular basis.

Therefore, don’t fill out your roster with too many sleepers, especially when there are solid veterans with a proven track record of decent production available. Let’s look at the 49ers wide receiver position heading into last season. Old reliable Isaac Bruce was entering his first season in San Francisco but all the preseason hype was focused on rookie 6th round pick Josh Morgan. At season’s end, Bruce had tallied 125 fantasy points compared to Morgan’s 50. Try to strike a nice balance between upside sleeper picks, and steady, unsexy veteran picks.

7. Never Reach Too Much For Your Sleepers

Just about every team is going to have a couple of sleepers in mind as they head into their draft. As the rounds drift by or the auction dollars get spent, anxiety always enters the picture. Is this the last chance to nab Michael Crabtree, Chris Wells or whoever your sleeper or deep sleeper is? As the pulse quickens, take a step back and remember the definition of a sleeper – a player who provides tremendous value. If you reach for your sleeper a couple of rounds early or spend too much on them, you’re effectively defeating the purpose.

8. Don’t Draft With Trades In Mind

If you’ve been playing fantasy football long enough, you’ve been in a situation where the draft hasn’t gone according to plan and you have made a pick that has put you in a hole. Maybe you took a second tier QB in the fourth round and then watched as two or three rounds passed before a very similar QB was taken and your opponents look to have better rosters than yours currently looks.

At this point, don’t scan other teams’ rosters for holes and then take a player in the hopes of trading that player to fix a hole in your roster. One for one trades after the draft don’t happen very often because teams have just picked their rosters based on their perceived values of the players they have chosen. The one cardinal rule (and sin) in fantasy football is that every owner overvalues their team and players immediately after a draft. Unless available information changes (injuries, revised depth charts, suspensions, etc.), teams aren’t moving their higher draft pick for your lower draft pick. Realistically, only package trades happen immediately after a draft and it generally doesn’t make sense to be banking on a later trade during your draft.

The one caveat to this rule is that there may be occasions where in the middle rounds of a draft a running back or wide receiver is available who is too good to pass up. In terms of 2009, think Colts running back Joseph Addai being available in the 6th round or Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian being available in the 8th round. On these rare occasions, the value just might be too great to pass on.

9. Participate In Mock Drafts

Because it’s all about value, mock drafts are an invaluable tool in learning what the general prevailing wisdom is regarding players and their teams. A mock draft will help you determine whether owners believe certain players will return strong from an injury or injury plagued season, whether an up and coming player is ready for a breakout season, etc.

Plus, it’s a great way to hone your draft skills. Participating in a mock might help you remember that mistake you made last year and how you plan to avoid it this year. Maybe it will jar your memory regarding your opponents’ tendencies. If you’re going to be in an auction draft, it’s a great way to get a feel for the flow of an auction.

10. Don’t Take A Player As Payback

Perhaps during the course of your draft, an opponent has taken one of your handcuffs and you now have an opportunity to take one of theirs. Or maybe in last year’s draft, an opponent took the handcuff of your RB1 and left you with a hole on your roster. Building your team isn’t about paybacks so it’s important to focus on the task at hand – getting the best possible fantasy roster that you can. It’s possible that your opponent valued your handcuff more than you did. Maybe they think Adrian Peterson is injury prone so taking Chester Taylor in the 5th round makes sense. If so, they’re unlikely to want to swap handcuffs with you anyways. Move on and finish building your roster with a solid pick instead of one based on spite.

One final tip for auction drafts. Although it doesn’t work for every player because your opponents will figure out your tactic, let other teams bid on key players you have targeted and then when the bidding appears to have stopped, jump in with a bid to get your target. As the number of teams bidding on a player is reduced and the price rises, there’s a tendency for owners to convince themselves that the price they think they are about to pay is solid value for that player. For example, if the bidding on Tom Brady is going up a dollar a bid and seems to have stopped at $40, the owner who has bid $40 will rationalize that this was a good price. If they have rationalized Brady’s value in this manner, then they are unlikely to immediately change their thought process and now view Brady as being worth, say, $43. Jump into the bidding late and he’s likely yours.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this for fun. Roll with the punches, enjoy your draft or auction and don’t take it too seriously. Even if your auction doesn’t go according to plan, your in-season roster management ability of executing trades and acquiring players on the waiver wire provides an opportunity to correct any deficiencies in your roster that have occurred during the draft. Plus, a few solid starting line-up decisions may nab a win or two and that always helps.

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