Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football
Section VII: Dominating on Draft Day
Posted 6/16 by Will Grant, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
"The only yardstick for success our society
has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else."
- John Madden
It has finally arrived. DRAFT DAY. This is your first real taste of fantasy
football as a new owner, and the first head-to-head competition you will have
against the other owners in your league. Your entire season will spring from
this one day. It is a fantastic mix of tension, excitement, anxiety, anticipation,
disappointment and flat out fun. To be successful, you need to out draft your
opponents. You need to jump before they jump and restrain yourself when they
overreact. In short, you need to DOMINATE your draft; leaving the others wondering
what happened to them. Here's how:
Here are a few general tips to observe during your draft
- Arrive on time. A few minutes early would be even better. No one likes to
- Be prepared for each pick. When you time comes, double check your short
list and make your selection. Don't go over your time.
- Stay Focused. If your opponents are in the middle of a backup quarterback
run, don't get caught up in it. Stick to your list.
- Keep a clear head. Save the serious drinking for after the draft.
When the draft starts, you should have your first 2 or 3 picks in mind. These
guys will be the bread and butter of your team. They need to be guys who will
consistently score better than 80% of the other players in the league. They'll
build the foundation for your team each week. That probably means that you'll
need two solid running backs in the first three picks although that isn't written
in stone. Don't panic if RBs start flying off the boards. Just follow your list
and select the best player based on who is available. These rounds are pretty
easy. It's during the later rounds that things really become interesting. As
things start to heat up, make sure to keep a close eye on the players that other
owners are drafting. Pay particular attention to anyone who is in your division/conference,
especially if you will face them more than once.
Chris Smith Note: Don't be afraid to skirt the running back position if
tremendous value presents itself. If owners are reaching for questionable running
back talent in rounds two and three, buck that trend and scoop a top quarterback
or receiver instead. It is always nice to have two running backs after the first
two rounds but don't reach for a questionable talent with top-tier talent at
the other positions still on board. You will be able to find players like Warrick
Dunn and Kevan Barlow in rounds five or later. If you can start a fantasy draft
with only one running back in the first four rounds but emerge with a top quarterback
and two of the better receivers along with the running back then go for it.
For example, in a fantasy draft I participated in back in 2004, I started with
RB Priest Holmes 5th overall and by the time my pick got back to me (20th selection)
almost everyone had gone running back. I managed to scoop QB Daunte Culpepper
in round two, WR Torry Holt in round three and TE Tony Gonzalez in round four
giving me a great foundation to build upon. Having strength in all departments
will put you on the fast track to success.
As you head into rounds four through seven, start looking for a way to break
from the pack. If every other team has taken a quarterback by this point, you
don't gain much by taking one now. Focus your attention on another position
where you can pick up a stud #1 or solid #2 guy. Look at the teams who will
draft in between your next few picks. Can you see a possible run on one position
about to start? If so, grab the highest player from that position now and START
the run. When your next pick comes up, start the NEXT trend. If you can stay
ahead of these runs, you'll be able to consistently out draft your opponents
at every position, and even control the flow of the draft.
Here is where all of your pre-draft preparation comes into play. As you try
to decide whether to add depth, or finish out your starting lineup, a lot will
depend on who is available. Your list will tell you which way to go. Continue
to draft the best player available, regardless of position. In rounds eight,
nine and ten you should focus on guys who have big upsides, or players who can
post big games during the season. These guys can take over for your starters
in the event of an injury, or streak of bad play. Keep your off weeks in mind
here, and try to balance them whenever possible. Don't bypass a player strictly
because they are off the same week as your starter. However, if all things are
equal, take the guy who can start when your #1 guy is off.
Most owners will wait until after round ten to take a kicker and/or team defense.
While this is a good general strategy, at some point is will become obvious
that you should take one or both. Again, trust your list. If your opponents
are waiting too long to fill these positions, it might be time to start another
run. If your list is telling you that it is better to take a defense than to
add another wide receiver, you should not be afraid to do so. Your pre-draft
preparation was done when you were thinking objectively about how each player
could benefit your team. Don't lose that objectivity in the heat of the moment.
Chris Smith's Note: Never pigeon hole yourself into one strategy but rather
let the draft come to you. It is perfectly acceptable not to select two running
backs in the first two rounds but you then must focus your attention on the
position in three of the next four rounds before the viable candidates vanish.
If you take three running backs in the first three rounds, it would be a smart
move to avoid the position for the next few rounds, focusing on the other key
positions. Flexibility is one of the keys to a great draft.
As you enter the later rounds, your focus should turn to filling your roster
gaps. If you have off week issues draft players to fill those holes. If you
have starters who are injury-prone, consider drafting their backups as insurance
(otherwise known as 'Handcuffing'). Once all of your bases are covered, take
a flyer or two on some of the guys that you have earmarked as 'sleepers.' Look
at your opponents and see if they have made any mistakes in their drafting.
Look to exploit those mistakes at this point as well.
Don't get hung up on drafting a backup for every position. Many teams will
go into the season with only one kicker and one defense, adding a backup during
free agency. If you are confident in your draft, consider this as well. You
can add an additional 'sleeper' or two now, and cut the dead wood from your
roster during the regular season. If one of your sleepers works out, it will
be well worth it.
Keeping Track of it All
Keeping track of everything is a daunting task. Managing your team is hard
enough, but following every team in the league is even harder. Analyzing every
team on the fly, looking for drafting trends, off week gaps and other mistakes
that you can exploit can seem like an impossible task. It is not. Everything
that you need is already taken care of by the Footballguys Draft Dominator.
Should you take a wide receiver, or a tight end? The Dominator will analyze
your opponent's rosters and suggest which player is best for you. Can you lay
off a quarterback for a round or two? The Dominator will look at the teams around
you and determine if you should wait or not. Have any of your division rivals
drafted a defense yet? The Dominator can tell you with a few quick clicks. Based
on your scoring rules, your opponents' rosters and the current drafting trends,
The Draft Dominator will suggest which available player is best for your team.
Just download projections into it, and let the program do all the work. This
year's model has even more features than ever. If you really want to dominate
your draft, and put yourself in a great position to win your championship, you
need to check this program out. Your opponents won't have a chance.
Chris Smith note: On the Draft Dominator, if you haven't taken the time
to download this program and play with it, you are really missing out on something
wonderful. For years, I would use an excel-based cheatsheet that I came up with
that would help me track the various things happening during a draft. I felt
that I really had a step up on my competition in understanding what was going
to take place next.
However the Draft Dominator takes that excel-based sheet and expands on
it to the 10th degree. Once you are familiar with the various functions of the
program, you will have incredible insight to what the other owners in your league
are doing, what their next picks are likely to be and which players you should
be targeting in your drafts.
Here are some comments by David Dodds on the Draft Dominator tool:
"I am clearly biased but I believe it represents a new breed of logical
drafting. Things someone could never do without the aid of the computer. Just
as VBD and later Dynamic VBD made their marks on this hobby, the new Dominator
will change how you draft.
- Imagine if during a draft, you could look at your lineup against your
opponent's lineup and attempt to predict team strength, scoring margin, etc.
for every single week of the season while the draft was happening.
- Assume for a moment that you could also emphasize or de-emphasize certain
weeks during the draft based on how you are faring against your opponents,
league rules, etc.
- Imagine an auction draft where you know exactly how much everyone has
spent, has left and has dynamically adjusted player values after every pick.
- Imagine a program that you can tell it not to look for a kicker or defense
until after 9 have been taken.
- Imagine being able to assign distributions to players (other than normal)
for how they will score their points. Think Jimmy Smith here who was suspended
for the first four games last year.
- Imagine a program that analyzes schedule strength and applies it to select
complimentary players for your roster.
- Imagine a product that recommends different picks to different teams
based on their need and how those players would maximize their head to head
- Imagine a program that works for all positions (IDP included) and virtually
any scoring criteria.
You know what. I do not have to imagine these things. The new Dominator
does every one of these and a lot more. I know it does these things because
Bruce Henderson and I have been working for the past 3 months to deliver the
best product ever to this industry. For those not in the know, Bruce Henderson
is a full-time C++ programmer in his normal job. He also is a very skilled fantasy
football player. And now working with our staff and soliciting all of the input
last season for improvements, we have put together something that WE KNOW will
change the industry.
I will say it right now. If you are playing in a high stakes contest (WCOFF,
etc.) this season and are not using the Draft Dominator, you are playing from
behind. I know that to be true."
David Dodds, Footballguys.com