Fantasy Football: 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Draft
I’ll be honest: I know I’m going to be writing this article every year. On the one hand, it’s a bit hurtful. Why do my editors assume that I’m the person who understands the biggest draft-day mistakes? Because I took Peyton Manning first overall after his record-breaking season like 15 years ago? Am I seriously never going to live that down?
But on the other hand, it makes my life a little easier knowing that each year, I can make note of all the many draft mistakes that I notice each year and boom, this article writes itself. So, despite the blow to my pride, I’m more than happy to take the assignment.
Truth be told, there are easily 20 or more common draft mistakes to avoid that we could discuss. But here are the 10 that I see most often.
1) Losing Focus
You know those Royal Guards who stand there all day every day and just don’t react to anything people do, no matter how ridiculous? They are so focused on doing their job – which, as far as I understand it, is just to stand there and not react to anything people do, no matter how ridiculous – that nothing can break their concentration.
Channel those guys for the two or three hours of your fantasy football draft. Of course, some good ol’ fashioned trash talk in your draft room is part of what makes fantasy sports great. But there’s a fine line between that and not realizing that you’re on the clock.
Turn the television off. Use your phone only for Twitter to check the latest news. When your leaguemate calls you to ask why that guy took a defense in the fifth round (oh, we’ll get there, don’t worry), just ignore it.
You’ll have several months to dissect the draft. It can certainly wait a few hours.
2) Failing to use the Draft Assistant
This is the part of the article where I apologize to you for recommending a FantasyPros product because it seems like I’m just pushing our stuff, but I do so anyway because I use it and it’s awesome, and you’re just hurting yourself if you don’t.
Draft Assistant syncs to your draft, follows you in real time and gives you expert consensus recommendations as to who you should draft next based on your needs and the rosters of the other teams. You want to see the odds a player you’re considering makes it back to you? You want to see everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses? Draft Assistant does it all for you.
I’ve done a pretty detailed study on this, and the only people who did not find this useful are a) people who begin celebrating Christmas in March, b) people who did not enjoy Breaking Bad, and c) people who think The Godfather Part III was the best of the trilogy. If you are one of those people, then just stop reading this article now and think about the path you’ve chosen. If you are not one of these people, then be smart and get some expert advice in real time during your draft.
3) Failing to have players in your queue
If you use the Draft Assistant, this mistake won’t be quite as bad, but still, don’t do this. Don’t be the guy or gal who takes their FULL 90 seconds to make each pick because they’re desperately searching for a draftable player.
Drafts move pretty fast. At least six or seven picks before your draft slot comes up; you need to be actively looking at the remaining players, figuring out who might fit, and making sure they’re in your queue. Because you know there is going to be that round where you think there are a ton of players left and then boom-boom-boom-boom, you have no idea who to pick.
I may not have yet convinced you of the importance of using your queue. So, if you need another reason, you always need to guard against your toddler accidentally resetting your wireless router during the middle of your draft and making you auto-draft Chase Edmonds because you didn’t have anyone in your queue and the draft-room rankings are wonky. Oh, which leads me to…
4) Not putting your own rankings in the draft room
If you’re a regular fantasy football player, you’ve probably played in leagues hosted by several different websites. So I don’t have to tell you that some of the rankings in the draft room are plum crazy.
Sometimes I legitimately think that one of my leaguemates found a way to hack the draft room and put in fake player rankings for the rest of us. Trust me, if you knew my buddy George, it wouldn’t sound so crazy.
The draft room rankings can create several problems, including the dreaded auto-draft issue mentioned above. But also, I guarantee you, you’re going to be sitting there in the eighth round while your competitor drafts someone who should’ve gone three rounds earlier, but who you didn’t realize was still on the board.
If you use the Draft Wizard, you should be fine. But either way, just take the 20 minutes and personalize your rankings in your draft room with something you can trust. If you’re in a time crunch, just important the FantasyPros expert consensus rankings, so you’ll know there’s no chance of someone falling through the cracks that way.
5) Drafting a defense too early
With almost no exceptions, fantasy owners should be drafting their defense with one of their last few picks. Yet over the last few years, on average, there’s better than a 30-pick difference between the expert consensus rankings and average draft position. Don’t be like that. The earlier you draft your DST, the better the flex option you’re passing on will be.
Wait as long as you reasonably can to draft a defense, and if you miss out on the top options, it’s the easiest position to stream. Legitimately, if you look a week or two ahead and plan accordingly, you can stream your way to a top-10 defense.
6) Locking yourself into a strategy
Of course, you’re going to have at least a rough plan of what you want to do going into your draft heading in. But drafts are unpredictable, and locking yourself into a single strategy can spell disaster.
Suppose you want to load up on wide receiver early, but come draft day, so does the rest of your league. It makes little sense to continue to take second-tier receivers just because that was part of your draft-day plan when instead you could be scooping up all those upper-tier running backs that have started to fall.
Getting value in your draft is key, and if that means abandoning your preferred strategy early, so be it. A fantasy draft is like jazz – you know the music, but it requires some improvising.
7) Getting caught up in a position run
No matter how many drafts you’ve done, it’s always unsettling to see a position run. Two minutes ago, you felt great about the number of running backs left in the draft. But after seven straight went off the board, you’re getting nervous.
I mean, you didn’t plan to take another running back here, and you don’t necessarily need one. But look at how many are being drafted!
Take a deep breath. A good draft is always about value, so stick to your rankings and take the best player available. If you’re prepared, you’ll have plenty of depth at every position and know where your sleepers are.
8) Not considering a quarterback until the late rounds
Remember when that cool strategy of waiting to draft a quarterback came around? Right, well now so does everyone else.
Most savvy fantasy owners know that waiting to draft a quarterback is a winning strategy. But, for the most part, quarterbacks aren’t going in the first or second round anymore. If everyone else is avoiding quarterbacks and the elite quarterbacks start lasting later than expected, you need to be at least open to pulling the trigger.
I will stress that waiting on quarterback is a generally sound principle and one I will surely employ this year. But there comes a point when you need to consider taking one earlier than usual. And don’t lock yourself into avoiding that.
9) Failing to separate real football from fantasy football
You know how most football fans who live outside of New England hate the Patriots? Well, now imagine you’re a die-hard Jets fan.
Who then married a woman whose family is full of Patriot fans. Who then moved from New York to New England because “happy wife, happy life.”
How do you think this person feels about drafting Julian Edelman and other members of the Patriots? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. That imaginary dude is me, and the way he feels about drafting Patriots is that it makes him feel like a “wicked mawron.”
But you know what? I owned LeGarrette Blount on a ton of teams in 2016 and rode his many lumbering one-yard touchdown runs to a championship or two. Because while it may rip apart a small piece of my soul to have root for one or more members of the Patriots each season, you do what you need to do to bring home fantasy glory.
10) Being uninformed on draft day
No matter how well-prepared you are, it won’t do much good if you’re drafting a quarterback who just fractured his back or tore up his knee earlier that day. Of course, sometimes life gets busy, and you won’t always hear about the breaking football injury news on the day of your draft.
But do yourself a favor — follow @FantasyProsNFL on Twitter and just check the feed five minutes before your draft. If it’s clear of injury news, you’re good to go.
And there we are. All simple things that you can do to optimize your draft. And I look forward to talking about most of them next year, too, when my editors suggest that I’m the most appropriate person to draft this article. Good luck, drafters!