Eight Simple Rules for a Successful Fantasy Football Draft

Here are my eight rules for having a successful fantasy football draft.

1.  Realize you have access to as much information as any of the experts.

I read a lot of fantasy articles and analysis on Rotoworld, ESPN, Yahoo, etc.  I do this to educate myself and to obtain different perspectives.  But, in the back of my mind, I constantly remind myself that I have access to the same information that the experts do.  The one thing fantasy football writers have that we don’t is time.  They have time to analyze the voluminous amount of information available, to review game tape, and to dissect statistics.  Therefore, fantasy websites, podcasts, and shows are great “jumping-off” points for preparing for a fantasy draft.  These sites are fantastic resources, but like with any research, you have to interpret the information for yourself.  Thus, you should accumulate as much information as you can so that you can make informed decisions, but never take anything you read as gospel.

2.  Fully understand the rules of your league.

This seems like an obvious rule, but it is so often overlooked.  Many people look to the standard rankings on popular websites without giving any consideration to the league rules.  For example, if your league awards 6 points for a touchdown as opposed to a standard 4, quarterbacks now become much more valuable and your draft-day expectations should be adjusted accordingly.  Understand the rules of your league and it will help you create your draft strategy.

3.  Create tiered player rankings by position.

I am an advocate of creating a tiered ranking system as opposed to simply creating a numbered list of players.  Such a tiered list helps you keep things in perspective on draft day.  When you think of players in groups as opposed to individually, it can help you make educated selections.  Additionally, this system will enable you to understand which positions are shallow and deep when preparing for your draft.  It is also helps you to understand just what “deep” means.  For example, a position may be “deep” overall, but when you create your tiered-rankings, you realize that there are only a handful of players you would include in Tier 1 or Tier 2 but that there are a lot of players in Tier 3.  Overall, the position is deep, but there may be a tremendous drop-off between tiers.  These are factors you need to consider when prepping for the draft and should help influence your thought process on draft day.

4.  Create a do not draft (DND) list.

I cannot stress the importance of this rule enough.  I make it a point every year to create a Do Not Draft (DND) list.  I have no set rule on how I determine which players to include in the list.  Some years I will only have a couple players, other years I will have over a dozen.  There have been many reasons why I list players as “DND” – change of teams, change of quarterback, age, gut feeling, etc.  The reason I do this is to keep myself disciplined during the draft.  In the middle of drafts, things sometimes get confusing or you feel like the draft is moving too quickly.  If you have a DND list, you can quickly look at it and avoid that moment at the end of the draft where you look at your roster and ask, “Why did I draft that guy?”

5.  Create a late-round flyer list.

This list will consist of about a half dozen running backs and wide receivers.  These are players who, based on the average draft position, will not be picked until the later rounds or will not be drafted at all.  Creating this list forces you to do some research on potential late round players.  While everyone else in the draft room is scanning the overall lists or relying upon ESPN or Yahoo rankings in the late rounds, you will already have done your research and will feel confident with your selections.

6.  Do not be afraid to overdraft a player.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine.  So often I will see articles warning not to overdraft players and to always pick for value.  However, sometimes over-drafting a player is required.  Now, I am not advocating that you select Chris Ivory in the first round because you like the Jets.  What I am saying is that if there is a player that you feel strongly about and want on your team, do not hesitate to draft him a round or two before you think he is going to be taken.  Inevitably, someone in the room will exclaim, “Wow, that was an overdraft…he would have been there next round.”  That may well be, but were you willing to take that risk?

There is a scene in The Patriot where Mel Gibson, who is planning to attack the British army to rescue Heath Ledger, reminds his two sons that when firing their rifles to “aim small, miss small.”  When it comes to fantasy drafts, my position has always been the opposite.   Big risks beget big rewards.   Every year there are players who unexpectedly emerge.  The key to being successful is to take these risks and attempt to identify these players.   Following this rule may subject you to ridicule if your pick does not pan out but it may also make you look like a genius when it does.  (Incidentally, no one remembers the misses, but everyone remembers that time you drafted Arian Foster in the second round and he rushed for 1600 yards.)

7.  Do not draft a defense or kicker until the end of the draft. 

There is no explanation necessary here.  DO NOT DRAFT A KICKER UNTIL YOUR LAST PICK.  Given the year-to-year volatility of defenses, I normally also wait until the second-to-last pick to select a defense.  However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and I have selected defenses earlier in the draft.  The point being is that kickers and defenses can often be found on the waiver wire .  Don’t burn a pick on a kicker when you can take a shot on a high-upside running back or wide receiver late in the draft.

8.  Do at least one mock draft prior to the real draft.

This mock draft should be completed after the aforementioned lists have been created.  And, when I say “do a mock draft,” I do not mean participate in a mock draft online.  This rule requires you to sit down and perform a mock draft by yourself where you make every pick.  This is really the only way for you to obtain any type of insight into how the real draft day may shake out.  Participating in mock drafts online are OK and can be somewhat beneficial, but you have no idea regarding the level of knowledge of the other participants in the mock draft.  (Also, a lot of people just participate in these to obtain a Yahoo League Medal.)  You are the only person who knows all of your league rules, knows the draft order, and, if you have been in a league for a while, likely knows the other participant’s tendencies.  For example, some players like to overdraft rookies, others have a penchant for collecting running backs.  By doing a mock draft yourself, you will be able to see when position runs occur and it will also enable you to really understand how deep or shallow a position really is.  Finally, by doing a mock draft all the way through to the end, it forces you to be aware of lesser known players and/or players who will be worthwhile late-round flyers.