The Five Don’ts (and Do’s) of General Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

1. Don’t go in with a set plan regarding when to draft certain positions.

I’ve seen it one too many times: “I’m going RB-RB in the first two rounds” or “I’m holding off on drafting a TE until at least the seventh round!” Falling victim to such a rigid draft strategy will prevent you from optimizing your team’s full point-scoring potential. If you’re in a draft and Gronk, Kelce, or Ertz have fallen way past their ADP, pull the trigger.

2. Do draft the best available player, subject to positional needs of your team AND other teams.

Go into your draft with an open mind and take the player at your draft position that you believe will help your team score the most points from week to week. Later in the draft, drafting a player to fill out your starting lineup might make some sense. However, early on, don’t be afraid to nab your third RB or fourth WR before you draft a QB, TE, or defense. Also, be aware of the positional needs of owners around you. If you’re in the 8th spot in a 10-team league, and both owners in the 9th and 10th spot have already heavily invested in one position, odds are in your favor that you can hold off on drafting that position if the snake draft is going in that direction; wait for it to come back the other way.

3. Don’t go in with players you must absolutely have at all costs.

This is not to say that you should not have specific players that you are targeting that you like more than other owners in your league. However, if you go into your draft with must-have players, you’ll inevitably end up reaching a round or two early (or over-bidding, in the case of an auction) just to secure your guy.

4. Do go in with players you must absolutely avoid at all costs.

This is the year that _________ stays healthy and finally reaches his full potential! Sure it is. ________ is on a new team and has a new lease on his playing career, so he’s due for a bounce-back! Awesome – I’ll let you gamble on that bounce-back. Do your best to cut through the names and the hype and look at what players have done and what they’re expected to do from a strictly statistical standpoint. Don’t become overly enamored with physical measurables and potential. Compare expected volume and production to their ADP, and if their ADP is much higher than merited, simply avoid overpaying.

5. Don’t use late round picks on mediocre veterans.

They’ve been in the league for years – you know what they’re going to give you, and you know their ceiling and floor. In all likelihood, they’ll end up as nothing more than a serviceable bye week fill-in on your roster.

6. Do use late round picks on high risk, high upside players.

Unlike the abovementioned mediocre veterans, there will inevitably be some younger players available later in the draft that are greater unknowns. They certainly have a lower floor, but they also have a higher ceiling. You may drop your 11th and 13th round pick after three or four weeks, but your 12th round pick ends up as one of your top four players. Risk aversion is not something you should engage in late in the draft; be bold.

7. Don’t go into your draft without adequate preparation.

Know your league settings from top to bottom. Put in the time and due diligence to rank players and have a general draft strategy that lines up with those league settings. You don’t want to be the person who prepped for weeks for a standard draft, only to have draft day roll around and find out that you’re drafting in a 2-QB, PPR league. The savvy owners in the league will recognize it, and rib you mercilessly for it.

8. Do a mock draft or three. Get a general feel for when players are being drafted and practice adapting on the fly to unexpected events.

Try to do as many mock drafts as your free time allows that emulate your league settings as closely as possible. Fantasyfootballcalculator.com is a great place to start. Your actual league draft will inevitably unfold differently from any of the mock drafts you do beforehand. However, the goal of mock drafts isn’t to anticipate what your actual roster will look like when the real draft is over. Rather, it is to see who is going in what round (or for what amount in the case of an auction) and to practice adapting on the fly. Doing this will allow you to be prepared and ready to make timely decisions on draft day.

9. Don’t use generic rankings from some outdated magazine or website.

I love it when other owners walk into the draft room with some “foolproof” fantasy football magazine or printed sheets of paper with generic rankings from a high-traffic sports website. I love it because I know I will out-draft them. The rankings contained within these platforms do not have the most up-to-date information available, and put you at a distinct disadvantage on draft day.

10. Do use rankings developed with your league-specific settings in mind.

At this point, I’m beating a dead horse, but I really don’t care: use your league settings to your advantage. If you can use rankings based on statistical projections specific to your league settings, you’ll have a big leg up on your competition. Lucky for you, I have created a model in Microsoft Excel that allows you to do just this. It takes into account league-specific settings, player projections, and player ADPs to optimize your draft selections in each round. If you are interested in using it (free of charge), simply email me at jleecook@umich.edu.

 

Good luck, and happy drafting!

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