Note: This series is designed to take salary cap drafters of any ability and refine their skills to that of a seasoned veteran. The articles will go from basic concepts to the most advanced salary cap draft theories. Each article is designed to build on the previous articles in the series. For best results, read each article before proceeding to the concepts in the next article.
So your league has decided to give salary cap drafting a try. It may seem daunting at first, and it is natural to have some anxiety about it, but being aware of some beginner tendencies can put you ahead of a good portion of your league before you get there. Drafting in salary cap format is at once both exciting and stressful. It requires a level of attention that serpentine drafting does not, and a lot of emotion is involved. Controlling that emotion with preparation and sound strategy is how you win your salary cap draft. Here are some common issues beginners face and how to handle them.
Beginner Mistake #1 – Poor Budget Management
The first thing to know is that you can’t show up to a salary cap draft with a few pieces of paper and a pen. There are so many variables to keep track of that you need a computer program to help you keep everything straight as the draft happens. At a minimum, you should keep track of your cap to the exact dollar. Estimations are okay initially, but you should know what you can spend with every player you roster past the halfway point of your draft. But that’s just the bare minimum to be a competent drafter. You should keep track of everyone’s available cap if you want to be a top-tier salary cap drafter. Get the Draft Dominator from Footballguys to help you, or create a spreadsheet yourself, but your upside in a salary cap draft has a ceiling if you don’t know what every team has to spend at every point in the draft.
Those who fail to keep track of their cap, and that of their opponent, will fall prey to a couple of simple mistakes. They’ll either take themselves out of the draft too fast, or they won’t spend their money when they should. The difficult thing for salary cap drafters is finding that balance. Early in a draft, the top players will be flying off the board, and managers new to the format can get carried away spending too fast. Conversely, some managers will be intimidated by the moment and won’t end up with any elite players.
To control spending early in a draft, you need to have a plan ahead of time. Figure out what you want to spend on your top targets and what their approximate prices might be. Once you get in the draft, you may have to adjust those numbers a little, but if you try to roughly follow what you budgeted, it will prevent you from going overboard when the excitement is heightened at the beginning of the draft.
On the other hand, if you tend to get nervous when the bidding gets high, you should think of it like this: Would you leave a snake draft and not have a first or second-round pick? Of course not. But that happens when you don’t land any elite players near the beginning of a salary cap draft. So make sure you land a couple of top guys, but stick with your pre-draft budget. Keep your spending under control to stay in the draft as it moves forward.
The most important thing to remember is that you’ll rarely regret spending a few extra dollars on the top players, but you’ll regret leaving money on the table. Leaving even $4-$8 of unspent money means you could’ve drastically upgraded one of your starters by using that money. You have to spend all your money yet do it while keeping flexibility. This series should help you walk that fine line.
Beginner Mistake #2 – Lack of Preparation
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