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The Most Common Fantasy Football Draft Mistakes

Aug 18, 2018

When it comes to fantasy football draft prep, most of us spend a lot of our time focusing on what we’re planning to do right when making our selections. However, drafters can see a lot of success by simply avoiding mistakes while identifying and capitalizing on the common blunders of their league-mates.

To help with this, we asked our writers to identify the most common draft mistakes they see during their fantasy football drafts.

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What’s the most common draft mistake you see your league-mates make?

For whatever reason, most newer drafters or casual fantasy football players tend to select quarterbacks far too early. This is a major mistake because even the top quarterbacks’ value above the replacement level, otherwise known as the best quarterback available on the waiver wire each week, is minimal compared to even the 15th best running back compared to the replacement level at the position. Essentially, you can wait until the late rounds of your draft to scoop up a quarterback who will produce a similar number of fantasy points to guys who will be selected six to eight rounds earlier. Or better yet, you can just pick the best matchup each week and pick up a new quarterback every time.
Bobby Sylvester@bobbyfantasypro

Showing up to the draft unprepared. I can’t tell you the number of times that a player in my league will show up without any paper, pens, or cheat sheets. And that’s not the worst of it. I’ve seen it too many times that guys in my league haven’t kept up on the injury report or even the most up-to-date depth charts. Do your homework, and come prepared. Plain and simple.
Zak Hanshew@ZaktheMonster

Poor team construction. I think many people just kind of draft from the seat of their pants, so to speak. They look at the board and take the guy they like. You have to plan better than that. If your bench is full of guys like Frank Gore, Theo Riddick, and Pierre Garcon, you’re doing it wrong. We know most of our mid to late-round picks are going to end up on the waiver wire anyway. Take shots on guys with upside. Sure, you definitely need a bench player that is safe to plug-n-play if necessary, but most of your bench should be players that can potentially take the job of one of your starters. Stack your bench with ceiling, not floor, and do so at the correct positions relative to how you built your starting lineup.
Jason Katz@jasonkatz13

Taking a mid-tier tight end. If you don’t get one of the top three guys (Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz) there is no reason to take a tight end any earlier than the 10th round in standard leagues. I’d much rather have George Kittle (currently No. 113 overall based on ADP) than Kyle Rudolph (73rd). Last season, Travis Kelce (the second-ranked tight end for total fantasy scoring) scored 25.1 more points than the third-place TE, Zach Ertz. That same point spread separated Jimmy Graham (ranked 4th in total scoring) and Jack Doyle (9th). If I miss out on one of the three big names, I’m just going to wait until the last few rounds and take Hayden Hurst and Mike Gesicki and wait for one of them to break through.
Jon Munshaw – @jon_munshaw

Failing to make adjustments as the draft goes along. For all the talk of “zero RB,” waiting on QBs, etc., the most important draft skill is to be flexible and react to what’s happening around you. Anyone who stubbornly decides before the draft that they are going to go RB-WR-WR-RB-TE in the first five rounds is destined to fail. The key to successful drafting is to take the player who offers something unique and pass on the player whose production can be replicated with a later pick. If there is one tight end or quarterback left who is head and shoulders above the rest, but 5-10 RBs and WRs who you view relatively equally, the smart move is to grab the TE/QB even if you didn’t go into the draft planning to address those positions early. I’m a big proponent of tiered positional rankings, and I know I’m getting good value when I get the last guy in a tier rather than the first.
Andrew Seifter@andrew_seifter

Drafting like your lineup is written in pen, not pencil. You may think a Gurley/Mixon start means you’re set at running back, or paring OBJ/Julio at the turn locks up your starting WR spots for the year, but weird stuff happens. Every. Single. Year. Injuries, poor performance, whatever… you can’t predict it, so all you can do is draft a team prepared to absorb the unexpected hits that are inevitably coming. That means building depth at running back and receiver throughout the draft, knowing some of your early-round “surefire” picks are going to bust.
Scott Cedar@scedar015

Falling for the shiny new toy and drafting a 2017 breakout performer over someone with a larger track record. Some examples: Deshaun Watson going ahead of Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz getting picked before Cam Newton and Drew Brees, per their consensus ADP. Oh yeah, Jimmy Garoppolo also has a higher ADP than Matthew Stafford while Tyreek Hill gets taken ahead of Doug Baldwin and T.Y. Hilton. The old cliche of “You don’t get last year’s stats” is true, but it happens every year in all sports.
Andrew Gould@andrewgould4

Overvaluing rookies. There has been an unusually high number of exceptional rookie performers over the last 3-4 years, but most first-year players simply do not make the kind of impact that second and third-year players make under the right coaching staff.
Tim McCullough@timstenz

Entering a draft with a rigid strategy in mind and not being able to adapt when the draft doesn’t go the way they anticipated. Also, not diversifying. It’s ok to target a few of “your guys” but when you keep taking the same players in every draft you run the risk of having every team ruined by a disappointing season or untimely injury.
Jody Smith@JodySmithNFL

Not valuing defenses. Having one of the elite defenses in the league can greatly contribute to a fantasy championship. However, most people simply don’t make the effort to project defenses and instead wait until one of the last rounds to draft a defense with the plan of streaming a defense on a week-to-week basis. Looking back at the 2017 season, there were a lot of indicators that the Jaguars would be that elite defense and anybody who made an effort to make sure the Jaguars defense was on their roster was greatly rewarded. For me, the Chargers (even with the loss of starting cornerback Jason Verrett) and the Vikings both have the indicators of being the two elite fantasy defenses of 2018. Without getting too in-depth on what those indicators are, it would be a mistake for me to approach the draft with the mentality that I will just draft a defense when they start flying off the board in the late rounds and risk letting one of those two get scooped up by somebody else. Instead of taking fliers on players that likely won’t even see the light of day in my lineup in the 11th-13th rounds, I will look to draft the defenses that I am targeting early as I have much more confidence that they will produce for my team.
Joey Korman@leaveit2divac

With all due respect to Joey, the most common draft mistake I see is overvaluing defenses. Jacksonville D being elite was hardly a common trend. According to FantasyFootballCalculator Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t even being drafted in the top 13 (which is all they had data for). I looked back over the last five years and defenses are wholly unreliable. Over that time frame, of the 25 defenses drafted top five only six of them returned top-five value. To put that in perspective, another six of them finished outside the top 20 at the position. I’m not even sure if DEF1 is an actual designation, but 12 of those 25 finished outside the top 12 of the position. Of those top 5 teams, we’ve seen more of them finish dead last at the defensive position (one) than we’ve seen finish first (zero). Three of the last five top-ranked defenses weren’t even drafted! You might hit on a defense early, but it’s certainly a -EV play in the long run.
Ryan Melosi – @RTMelos

And with that, you have many of the most common fantasy football draft mistakes to avoid or capitalize on. Check out our other recent collaborative pieces:

Who’s Your RB1 in Standard-Scoring Leagues?
Who’s Your No. 1 Overall Pick in PPR drafts?
Who’s Your Must-Have Player?
Which Players Deserve a Second Chance?
Which Players Will You Never Draft Again?
Which Player Will Be 2018’s Top League Winner?

View real-time recommendations for each pick with our Draft Assistant >>

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