Thursday, August 23, 2007

10 Points on How To Draft and Maintain Your Fantasy Team

Earlier in the week, I offered a few points on how to create the ultimate fantasy league. Today, it’s all about winning the championship from start to finish. Draft day is the most important day of the season, so the majority of points focus on it. Maintaining and upgrading the team you drafted can also help you establish fantasy football ascendancy and plenty of street credibility amongst your league mates.

In this article, I will not be including the wisdom imparted to you by the talking heads at ESPN, such as stating that it’s okay to draft running backs who are members of two-back systems. I’ll also not be telling you that such two-back systems only work with road-grading offensive lines, but neither did ESPN.

Nevertheless, these points serve as a blueprint for success in all leagues and a guide for the utterly lost.

1) Prepare for Your Championship
In competitive leagues, research is the name of the game. Last season, if you did not land one of the top three picks in the 1st round, then you were not likely to be in the regular season championship conversation. This is not common.

Here are my suggestions to a relatively new or struggling player.

1) Make an initial list of 150-200 players depending on how many are being drafted overall and participate in at least one draft in a league which you will treat like a mock. This will give you an idea of who is drafted where and this allows owners to view biases in action.

2) Adjust your big board accordingly and always consider the big board a large suggestion. Also, develop a plan of attack by allotting bench position numbers and think of various draft position scenarios. Never be rigid or static in your approach because this will only limit you in pursuit of the grand prize.

3) Listen keenly to conversations between yourself and other members of the league in the days heading into the draft. You’ll be sure to grab a few nuggets along the way.

4) Focus and execute. The draft is all about making quick decisions and trusting your instincts in the heat of the moment.

2) Target > Reach
All of these points emphasize the need to actively and creatively pursue the title. Knowing where players normally land and targeting players by offering trades to move up a few spots to pick up that player who will round out your starting core is a good adjustment in avoiding the infamous reach. If you see your league mates dashing for a specific position all at once, know that there’s a whole lot of value hiding somewhere.

3) Get at Least 1 RB in First 2 Picks
It either takes a very confident or arrogant owner in a 10-12 team league to pass on a running back in the first two rounds. While many fantasy gurus preach that you must draft a running back in each of the first two rounds, high-quality quarterbacks (yes, that Peyton guy) and the elite wide receivers are more potent options once you pass the sure-fire studs..

4) Draft to Develop a Team, not for Trade Bait
Every year, you hear stories about fantasy footballers drafting players such as a 3rd running back or a 2nd quarterback (in a 1QB league) as trade bait. On draft night, they are not trade bait, but estimated quantities. As bench players produce, they will become bona fide trade bait. It’s not the other way around. If you know your team strengths, then you will draft in the later rounds to provide depth in your weak areas.

5) Draft for Dominance at Positions
If you are in the 6th or 7th round and you’re trying to decide on whether to take a 2nd receiver, 3rd running back, or a dominant defense (e.g. Chicago, Baltimore), then draft the beast defense. This reasoning places the likes of Antonio Gates, the NFL’s top tight end, above a WR1 ranked between 10 and 15 such as Donald Driver despite the latter having stronger fantasy numbers. Of course, one should not go overboard and ignore the high-yield positions such as quarterback and running back, especially in two-quarterback leagues.

6) Avoid Drafting a Kicker
Kickers are important. They score points regularly and are somewhat consistent. However, they are usually dime-a-dozen and do not need to be drafted, especially in keeper leagues. Kickers can be had in free agency. Every year, there’s a kicker who no one drafted that will finish top five in scoring.

7) Scour Free Agency to Pluck Sleeping Giants
Free agency has made bad teams good. If your team picked up Tony Romo, Marques Colston or Maurice Jones-Drew at some point during the season, then your team likely filled some major voids and won some games it would have lost had it not been for the pearls found deep in the ocean.

8) Good WRs Available in Early Season FA Market
Here’s my fair warning to everyone who goes buck wild on wide receivers in rounds 3-7 of the fantasy draft. Don’t do it just because the rest of the crowd is. Eventually, the value wanes and some higher value player at another position falls precipitously down the draft board. Good wideouts can always be acquired via free agency early in the season. Keep your eyes peeled for the depth charts.

9) Investigate Free Agency Moves to Seek Trade Targets
Free agency also demonstrates which players are fickle and easily agitated, and this is done simply by knowing the number of roster moves they make. These are your trade targets because they may give up on a slow starting stud by the 3rd game of the season.

10) Know NFL Player Trends
If you are a serious fantasy player or a stats geek (guilty on both accounts), you are aware of certain players that perform early and struggle to sustain that level of production. The opposite holds true in some cases. Be wary of this.

1 comment:

Brad Slepetz said...

You should add a tutorial on how to name your team. Extremely important.