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.
The nature of salary cap drafts is that they are unpredictable. There are so many variables you can’t control that it is even more critical to maximize your edges on the things you can control. Nominations are one of those things. Salary cap drafters notoriously give very little thought to who they will nominate and why. If you want to take your salary cap skills to the next level, you have to become intentional with your nominations and think about what you’re accomplishing with each nomination you make.
There is a common salary cap draft myth that you should begin all your drafts by nominating expensive players you don’t want to drain cap from other teams. While the logic is fine, that isn’t an optimal strategy for several reasons.
First, when a salary cap draft starts, most people in the room are excited to start bidding on the top players. You don’t necessarily need to nominate a top player you don’t want because they’ll be nominated soon. For example, let’s say you are out on Derrick Henry this year. If there are two or three managers (or more, he is still the RB4 in ADP this year) in the room that want Henry, he will go for around $50-$55. If you nominate him, you are correct in thinking someone has just spent a quarter of their cap on their top running back, so you aren’t competing with that person anymore.
But on the other hand, if three people are interested in Henry, you are tying up $50 in the minds of all three managers who want him. You’ve effectively tied up $150 instead of $50. But when one person lands Henry, you free up the other two to bid against you for a different running back. Also, ask yourself, “how long is Henry going to last before he’s nominated by someone else?” Usually, it won’t be long. Salary cap drafters love nominating the top players. So let someone else do it and then use your nomination for something else.
A better way to use your nomination early in a draft is to define where your draft is headed. If you read Part 3 in this series, you have a few par sheets ready before the draft. With your first nominations, you should be laser-focused on finding out which par sheet you are using. If you don’t figure out your strategy until 30 or 40 players are gone, you may lose the ability to shift your strategy effectively. For example, let’s say you want a top quarterback, and if you don’t get an elite guy, you’re going to pivot to a top tight end. If you sit on Josh Allen and other top quarterbacks, you may have to watch Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews go off the board while you wait. Then it is too late to adjust. Defining your draft early is one of the most crucial things you can do in a salary cap draft. Use your early nominations to send your draft off in the right direction.
MIDDLE STAGE NOMINATIONS
Your nomination strategy should change as you head into the middle stages of a salary cap draft. You now have a defined path you’re on and know what plan you are executing. The elite players are usually completely gone, and the real meat of the draft is in front of you. This is where you want to start wasting people’s caps and roster spots. You can now give in to the temptation to nominate players you don’t want. Hopefully, you can also pick out players with a lot of pre-season hype and combine the two. For example, there is runaway optimism for Gabriel Davis this summer after he ended last season scoring four touchdowns against the Chiefs. But, if you aren’t interested in Davis, then he’s a perfect nomination because he’ll be fairly expensive, and you don’t want him anyway.
The middle part of the draft is also the time when you don’t want to be putting your favorite players out there yet. If someone else nominates them, so be it, but during the middle portion of the draft, quite a few teams will start to get a full lineup or get low enough on money that they won’t be bidding on many players. Your job is simply to outlast them. You don’t have to make it any more difficult than that. You should have locked up your core of elite players. As a result, you may have spent more than the other players in the room. At this stage, you need to get a few mid-tier players and have an eye toward setting yourself up to dominate the end of the draft with your cap space.
So your job at this point is to have patience. When it is your turn, you should nominate players you have little interest in rostering, players you think will go for more than they should or players you can’t afford. For example, if you already have Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen, you should try to nominate the most expensive wide receiver left on the board. Whatever your strategy may be, you have to let the draft come to you, and that sometimes means nominating someone you don’t want for six or eight rounds in a row. Be prepared for that by having your nomination sheets (from Part 3) ready. Try to get some good deals, and roster some players. But position yourself so that near the 65%-finished mark, you have the most money and can dominate the final stage.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN