Friday, July 30, 2010

15 Draft Day Tips For Success in 2010

1) Do your homework – Whoever said “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail” must have been a fantasy football player. Occasionally you can luck your way into a good team…that certainly happens, but for the most part, you need to do your homework. Look at several different sets of rankings, participate in mock drafts, and pay attention during the preseason games.

2) Know your drafting site’s rankings – This sounds simple, but given how many sites are running fully operational fantasy football leagues this year, the rankings are all over the place. I’ve done several mock drafts on both Yahoo and ESPN where I’ve seen a first or second-round player in either drop to the third, fourth, or even fifth round…mostly because of the discrepancy in rankings. If you’re not used to seeing Javid Best there in the fourth round because the site you’re using for mock drafts has him going in the second, you might unnecessarily snatch him up in an earlier round when in reality, his ranking on the site you’ll actually be drafting on justifies taking him later.

3) Maximize Player Value – The goal of any fantasy owner should be to walk away from the draft having drafted as many of the highest rated players at a given position as possible. As such, it is imperative that you pay attention to where the top guys are ranked and are going in expert mock drafts and mock drafts you participate in. For example, if you are drafting outside of the top 5 in your draft, then you could very reasonably draft Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Andre Johnson. In the event that a top five running back doesn’t fall to you, it is perfectly fine to draft one or two of these players (taking one in the first and one in the second). While it is risky to not load up on stud RBs, you’ve just armed yourself with the consensus #1 WR in fantasy football and potentially a top three QB.

As you go throughout the draft, keep value in mind when you make your pick. Is it risky to pass on a RB take Antonio Gates in the fourth round? Yes, but having a TE that you don’t have to worry about for all but your bye week is a nice luxury to have. The more top players at each position you have, the better your chances of fantasy success. Additionally, if you’ve landed a QB, WR, and TE in your top four picks, you’re going to force others to start trying to fill in the holes on their teams…and then you’ll likely see a few higher rated players drop to you.

4) Stick to your board – Whether you use your own ranking system, someone else’s or your drafting websites, it’s a good idea to stick to your board. If you have determined that you cannot get a top five QB after round three, and Matt Schaub is the only top five QB left on the board when you pick, take him. Other players might fall to you, but if you’ve determined that certain players or certain positions are “must gets” in a certain round, stick to that and trust your rankings.

5) If you like a guy, take him – This piggy backs on #4. Every fantasy player goes into a draft with a handful of guys, be them studs or sleepers that they want to have on their fantasy roster. If you find yourself picking 7th or 8th and have targeted Andre Johnson or DeAngelo Williams and then all of the sudden a higher rated guy that you don’t like, say Steven Jackson or Michael Turner falls in your lap, take the guy you like. It may sound funny, but you never want to have drafter’s remorse before your season starts. This principle is particularly more important in later rounds when you’re drafting for potential and hoping you hit it big.

6) If you don’t like a guy, don’t take him – Same principle, just reversed. For some reason, I have a huge aversion to Steven Jackson. I don’t know if it is the Rams or his seemingly glass body or what it is, but I just don’t like him as a top five stud RB (I seem to be disagreeing with the experts on this one). I pick 10th in two of my leagues this year and if Jackson is there at 10, he’s going to be there at 11 because I will not be drafting him. Again, you don’t want to have a team full of guys you have drafter’s remorse over, so if you don’t like Tony Romo as your fantasy QB this year, simply let him go and take the next best guy.

7) Draft players on good teams – With very few exceptions, this has been a staple of my involvement in fantasy football for several years. Last year, a friend was very high on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. I told him time and time again that while Johnson was talented, he just wasn’t worth taking in the second round given that the Lions had 2-14 written all over them. That is not to say that if he were available in, say, round four that he’s not then a good value, but good players on bad teams are just very risky picks…especially at the top of the draft. If the choice comes down to a good player on a good team vs. a good player on a bad team, take the former, then you won’t be wringing your hands about selecting Steven Jackson in the first round when the Rams are down 28 and throwing the ball, completely neutralizing your top pick.

8) Look out for number 1s – This runs a hair contradictory to the last few tips, but remember, these drafts are all about value. Take the Rams for example. Donnie Avery is likely going to be their #1 WR this season. He will get a lot of targets and they might be throwing quite a bit in the second half. He is a guy that you can probably take in the tenth round or lower and potentially get great value out of because he’s a number 1 WR. Likewise, Cadillac Williams will not draw much consideration in the first six or so rounds of most drafts, but if he is sitting there in the eighth or ninth round and you can get him, do it. You’ve just added another #1 RB to your stable of 3-4 RBs. If he doesn’t perform, you can cut him, but at least you’re stacking your roster with #1 players rather than a 3rd or 4th best also-ran receiver that may or may not perform well.

9) Take advantage of other people’s reaches – Last year in one of my 12 team leagues I picked 8th. I watched as guys like Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, LT, and Steve Slaton were all taken over Maurice Jones-Drew. When it was my time to pick at 8, I nabbed the 3rd highest rated player in the draft in Jones-Drew and took advantage of other players reaching on guys that they liked. Picking a player you like is fine (the guy who took McNabb 3rd overall played for the title) but you open yourself up for others to take advantage of you reaching for players. Keep an eye out for the egregious reaches in your league and take advantage of the value that falls your way.

10) Be ready for anything and everything – The previous example shows just how crazy some drafts can get. I had no idea I’d even have a shot at Jones-Drew, but my draft just fell the right way for me and I was able to get him. This kind of thing will happen in your draft. You’ll be deciding between DeAngelo Williams and Shon Greene and all of the sudden your pick will come and Frank Gore will be sitting there. Be ready to change your strategy if a great value presents itself.

11) Watch the byes – Every fantasy owner gets the bye-week-blues a minimum of one time during the season. When drafting, pay attention to the bye week for the players because if you don’t you could end up in a really bad spot where 3-4 of your players are out. I would also suggest not drafting a Kicker and a Defense (and a TE for that matter) with the same bye. It’ll be hard to create the roster space to carry two of any of those positions and if you end up having to, you’re going to put a good player out on the waiver wire for the rest of your league to snatch up because of your drafting error.

12) Find the sleepers – Every year 2-3 (sometimes more) players emerge 3 weeks into the season as big time players. Last year, Ray Rice, Sydney Rice, Steve Smith (NYG), and Miles Austin were all “under the radar” guys that blew up. When the experts say “watch out for this guy or that guy” listen to them. Sometimes they’ll strike out, but when they’re right, it gives you home-run potential. I got Ray Rice in the 9th round last year…do you think I don’t wish my league was a keeper league? Check back here in a few weeks to check out some of my sleeper picks.

13) Don’t over-think! – This one kind of falls under several that have already been mentioned, but don’t over-think your picks. I’ve seen fantasy owner after fantasy owner talk themselves out of taking a player with good value and potential for no real good reason at all. Just because unproven guys like Javid Best and Ryan Matthews are ranked highly doesn’t mean you need to take them over a proven entity like DeAngelo Williams…or do you? No yes, yes no. Don’t over-think!

14) Don’t take a kicker before the last round – The point separation between kickers is so minimal that you should be able to draft a good kicker in the last round. Someone in your league will foolishly take one in the 12th round, but that just gives you access to better players that are available in that spot. Kickers are an important part of FF, but should not be taken before the last round.

15) Create a post-draft watch list immediately – Many fantasy football sites allow you to create a “watch” list of undrafted players that you want to keep an eye on. This way, if you like a player but don’t have the initial roster space, you can put him on your watch list and have easy access to his stats in the event that he has a good week or two and one of your later round players doesn’t. This will also give you a leg up when bye weeks come around.

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