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What to Do When You Can’t Make Your Draft (Fantasy Football)

by Sam Schlesinger | @avishai41 | Featured Writer
Jun 14, 2019

Creating your own pre-draft rankings is critical to winning your draft, whether you’re there to draft or not

What do you do when the worst has happened, and you are unable to attend your fantasy football draft? The draft is something we prepare for the entire offseason. Some of us start thinking about next year’s draft before the current season even ends. It’s the culmination of all of our research and preparation, and it sets our stages for the glorious four-month fantasy football season.

So how can you recover if you can’t physically attend your draft and are incapable of selecting the players you want in the moment? There are multiple substitutes you can employ in place of making the picks yourself, and I’m going to navigate you through combining all of them to create a team in your image.

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Pre-Draft Rankings

The first thing you need to do is have pre-draft rankings. Sitting down and making my own rankings is something I do anyways before every season, but if you didn’t previously do this, you’ll want to if you aren’t able to make your draft. This way, the auto-draft will select players based on your personal analysis and the rankings of whatever host site you’re using.

Fantasy players are often influenced by the preset pool of players the site has set up. The worst feeling is drafting a guy towards the top of that pool, only to scroll down the list after your pick and find a different guy you valued a lot higher. You only had a minute to pick and didn’t see his name so you forgot about him. If you have your own set of rankings, you won’t run into this problem, and the auto-draft will select whoever is at the top of your list.

What I find most important when constructing a pre-draft ranking list is making sure I do it by position. The auto-draft has no way of knowing when and where I want to draft a QB, RB, WR, or TE. It depends on who is on the board and what my team already looks like. If I’m able to communicate my draft strategy to a friend standing in for me (which I’ll speak about next), he or she will understand what position I’m looking to target in that round or in that situation, and then be able to take the best available player according to my positional ranks.

Identify a Surrogate Drafter

The next thing you can do is have a surrogate drafter. Having someone there to actually make the picks for you, in addition to your preset rankings, will ensure your team ends up as close as possible to the way you want it. I’ve had friends (who play fantasy football very casually) ask me to stand in for them as a drafter and just tell me “I trust you.” This is not what I’m talking about. If I’m going to entrust someone with drafting my team, I’m going to have a nice long sit down with this person to explain my rankings and draft strategy.

Rankings do not answer the question of which position to draft and when. This is what I’d go over with the surrogate. I would say something like, “I want the first three rounds to be two RBs and one WR, for that go strictly by the rankings. Do not select a quarterback until Round 10 unless player X is available in Round 5 or player Y is available in Round 7.” If you can get a friend you trust to draft for you, you’ll be able to share all your research with him and verbalize how you see the draft playing out (assuming you have a very loyal and devoted friend who knows how important this is to you). If you have your rankings set and a surrogate who understands what you want your team to look like, you should be in good shape.

Lean on In-Season Management

Finally, you have trades and free agency. There’s a guy in one of my leagues whose roster looks entirely different from what he drafted by Week 4 of the season. He knows he can’t get every guy he wants in the draft, but he’s incredibly active in trading, and builds his team that way, aggressively sending out offers. If you go this route, the draft becomes significantly less important. A 26-year-old man from Montreal named Kyle MacDonald once turned a red paperclip to a two-story farmhouse through a series of 14 trades over the course of the year.

You can definitely turn your auto-drafted team into a championship contender in the course of a season. If you try and build your team the Kyle MacDonald way, it’s still important to have your rankings set possibly ask a friend to draft for you. Maybe you want to adopt a zero WR strategy so you’ll have a surplus of RBs as trade bait.

Regardless of strategy, missing your draft doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world. Of course, nothing will replace the fun, anticipation, and excitement of the draft, but if you follow all of these steps properly, at least your team won’t have to suffer for it.

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Sam Schlesinger is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Sam, check out his archive and follow him @avishai41.

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