Be prepared for fantasy football draft day traps
You’ve spent the off-season compiling information, forming a strategy, and getting your cheat sheets just right. In theory, you’re ready.
Yet somehow once draft night finally gets here you turn into a deer in headlights in the face of a clock winding down right before your very eyes. This year, arm yourself with the knowledge of these common draft day traps so you won’t fall into one.
1. Drafting a Kicker or a Defense Before the Final 2 Rounds
Let’s start with the most obvious piece of advice and an adage as old as time. I say this, yet I find myself in even the most experienced leagues with owners who pull the trigger way too early – usually on a defense.
Do not do this.
We’ll cover it a bit more when we discuss drafting for needs, but the tl;dr lesson here is that defenses are highly variable from year to year which makes even the most educated projections still a crap shoot. Beyond that, the difference between the top defense and the average is not nearly as wide as other positions.
As for kickers, if I had it my way, they’d be more extinct than dinosaurs when it comes to fantasy.
However, since most leagues will not bend to such rules, just grab one with a starting job with your last pick. Sure it’s nice if they play for a competent team and preferably in a dome, but again the difference between the top kicker and the average is pretty negligible…just like defenses.
2. Drafting for Needs
If you’re solely drafting for need you’re going to have a bad time.
Countless times I’ve seen people get caught up in runs on a position for the sole reason that they currently don’t have anyone at that position. This is an overreaction to perceived position scarcity.
It’s become more en vogue over recent years, so we’re not reinventing the wheel here, but value-based drafting should be the bulk of your analysis when your pick is fast approaching.
Value-based drafting is primarily defined by what’s the drop off between your current best available player at a position and an average player at the same position.
In baseball, they’ve beat this concept into the ground, with Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and a thousand variations on the theme.
The main takeaway here though is just because an empty starting position is staring you down during the draft it doesn’t mean you should reach to fill it.
Treat this like an actual GM would: focus on the best player available regardless of position and deviate from that strategy only in corner cases.
You can always cut a deal after the draft to shore up weaknesses, and trading as a team with a massive amount of depth is one of the strongest positions you can be in.
3. Drafting Hyped Younger Players over Proven Veterans
A common trap and a familiar place we’ve all been. We get it, you follow football closely and you want to make a “sexy” pick.
You’ve been watching Amari Cooper at Alabama for years. He’s right there for the taking, but then again so is Julian Edelman. No one’s going say “wow, nice pick” when you do the disciplined thing and snap up a high floor player like Edelman.
They’ll fawn over the person who will eventually take Cooper, and that’s fine. Your league will respect you at the end of the season when you’re on top. Don’t let the oohs and ahhs on draft night influence you, the satisfaction from that is fleeting.
4. Reaching for “Your” Guys
We all play fantasy football because we’re fans, we enjoy the game. With that enjoyment comes pet players; guys you just can’t stand the thought of not having on your team.
Fight the urge.
Unless the timing is right and your favorite falls into your lap while still fitting your strategy, you’re likely not going to get your favorites. You can’t let this rattle you and be the cause of setting your pile of analysis directly on fire.
Stick to the plan, be disciplined, and who knows maybe all the depth you draft can net you your favorite player in a trade.
5. Drafting a Balanced Bench
A common trap is convincing yourself that you need backups at every position. Two TEs, two QBs, two Defenses, gasp, two kickers?!? This cannot stand.
Look at it this way, say you drafted Aaron Rodgers. Awesome.
Assuming he doesn’t get hurt, there’s only one week you won’t be starting him – his bye. Do you really need to waste a roster spot all season for that one week?
Stack your bench with RBs and WRs, positions that are more likely to have injuries and require you to start more players each week. Keep an eye on your byes, have a plan for your bye weeks at thin positions, and stock up on upside at RB and WR on your bench.
Who knows, you might have the next Arian Foster on your bench instead of Andy Dalton wasting away by the Gatorade cooler.