How Should I Prepare For My Fantasy Football Draft?

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Fantasy football is like your golf swing; there’s a ton of good advice out there, but if try to listen to all of it you might end up worse off than you started. Think about getting through traffic at a toll booth. You need to pick a lane and stick with it. Because it ALWAYS looks like the lane you just jumped out of is moving faster once you leave it.

There is no WRONG way to prepare for your fantasy draft, as long as you know the basics:

  • The rules and set-up for your league
  • Which players are on which teams
  • Which players are already injured/holding out/suspended/retired

That’s really all you need, in theory. If your draft is in-person, you should have some sort of player list. That’s it. No need to be the guy with four fantasy football magazines (that were written and most likely published back in June).

Is that how I would prepare for a draft? Of course not, but I take fantasy football pretty seriously. For some, spending the amount of time I spend on draft prep would take all of the fun out of it. That’s why its important to do what makes you happy. You’re the team owner after all.

Wait, you want to know how I prepare for drafts? Sweet, I was going to tell you anyway. I generally prepare for in-person drafts the same way I prepare for live drafts. Although if you enjoy an adult beverage or two, I would recommend watching your intake before/during your in-person draft. Seriously. Save it for after the draft or at least until you get past Round 10.

I will usually have three lists in front of me for a draft:

  1. A set of rankings (in most cases, my own personal rankings)
  2. An ADP (Average Draft Position) list for the site/provider the league is drafting on. (For example: ESPN, Yahoo!, RTSports, CBS, FFPC, MyFantasyLeague, NFFC)
  3. My draft plan

If I knew that most people in my league were working off of the same set of rankings, I might want a copy of those handy as well.

I can’t tell you how to draft. You don’t want somebody to tell you how to draft. Trust me. I help friends draft all of the time. At the end of the day, I make suggestions and tell them to make up their own mind. It’s their team anyway. Unless I own part of it. But I’m not talking about co-ownership here.

I formulate my draft plan in a simple fashion:

  1. I try to do a mock draft or two.
  2. I put together a list of players I want to target at each position.
  3. I create a sheet of paper (well Excel spreadsheet these days) that has one row for each round of the draft.
  4. I take my target players and write them into which ever round is a full round before their current ADP. For example Jordy Nelson is currently being draft in Round 3 in most leagues. So I would write Jordy Nelson into the row for Round 2. Because if I want to make sure that I get a player, that’s really the only way I can be sure to have a good shot at him. (That’s what she said)

I should also be clear about this. Unless you have the first pick in a draft, there is NO WAY to guarantee you will get the player you want, no matter how far ahead of his ADP that you target him. I had a draft recently where I want to draft Peyton Hillis. His ADP put him as a Round 7 pick. I intended to target him in late-Round 5 or early-Round 6. He went at the end of Round 3.

Plan on that happening during your draft. Because it will. It always does. Most of the time it will be the owner one pick before you who keeps taking the player you are desperately hoping falls to you. The more competitive (and well-informed) your league is, the more often this will happen.

In high-stakes formats such as the FFPC and NFFC, you can almost throw ADP out the window. You need to target the players you want and pull the trigger. Getting cute and trying to let players fall to you won’t work. Whatever you think you know, most of the owners in you draft know just as well.

That’s why I don’t try to setup individual round-by-round targets. You have to let the draft come to you. Sometimes stuff just happens. I’m the first guy to tell you to avoid Mike Vick in fantasy. Nothing against Vick, I’m even an Eagles fan. He just gets hurt way too much. I finally wound up with Vick in a draft. But only because he fell to me in Round 5. I was willing to deal with the risk associated with Vick at that point. The fact that I managed to grab solid backups (RG3 & Josh Freeman) further alleviated my risk.

I’ve been in more drafts (real and mock) this summer than I’d care to admit to. If I had one piece of advice about to handle yourself in the draft it’s “be positive, but vague”. Two reasons for this:

  1. Nobody likes the guy who complains the whole time or mocks the draft picks being made by others. Plus, the Fantasy Football Gods are more likely to let that player you want fall to you if you’re not being a dick. It can’t hurt, right?
  2. Of course you don’t want tip your hand to the other owners. On the other hand, touting your predictions and projections can make you look like an ass, while possibly hindering your ability to trade.

Let me give an example of the latter. During a (cash) draft somebody took Andre Johnson late in Round 2. Another owner took Demaryius Thomas in Round 5. The Thomas owner immediately started lobbying the Johnson owner for a “Johnson-for-Thomas” trade, because “Thomas is going to be a top-5 to top-7 WR and Andre Johnson is old and trash.” When asked why he would trade a top-5 WR for a piece of trash he responded “Well y’all are so dumb I got Thomas in Round 5 so why not? My team is already loaded with studs.”

Don’t be that owner. If you really are right about everything, document it and feel free to never shut up for the entire month of December. Being “that guy” can have consequences. Not only will people probably not trade with you, they will take great please in defeating you. I’ve worked my ass of to beat a team when I was out of playoff contention before, just because the owner I was playing was a complete douchebag.

See what I did there? I gave you some practical information about draft preparation and then some useful information on not making enemies. Both are important and both will help you in your draft. But only one will help you in life.

Sorry, not going to go with the “After School Special” ending. But the point is to do your own draft. You want the team you draft to be YOUR team, not the team some guy in a magazine thinks will be great. All fantasy football writers (and players) do is try to predict the future. If any of us were that good at predicting the NFL, we would be far too busy (and wealthy) to bother with fantasy football.

So remember; every time ESPN comes on, or that guy on a podcast says something or somebody blows up your Twitter feed: IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s all just guessing. Educated guessing, no doubt, but still guessing. There might be three guys who are all excellent about fantasy football. None of them will agree on anything. Hell, they probably won’t agree on much. That doesn’t mean that they’re not great at fantasy football. It just means that they’re not much better at predicting the future than you are.

Thanks for reading and good luck this season. Feel free to follow me on the Twitter @SportsSomething.

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