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The Salary Cap Roundtable Series
Joining a salary cap league can be intimidating for even a seasoned fantasy football player. Fortunately, the Footballguys staff has experience in this format and will help you. Over the summer, we'll cover various topics ranging from basic to advanced strategies.
For someone without much salary cap experience, what are some essential concepts a beginning salary cap drafter needs to know before they get in their salary cap room?
The first thing to remember is that salary cap drafting is more of an emotional experience than normal snake drafts. This year you won't get the chance to draft Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp on the same team in a normal draft. But in a salary cap draft, you can. It's a heady feeling and you can get overexcited at the beginning of the draft. Controlling that emotion and that adrenaline spike is important to having success. Stick to your plan and don't blow your money in the first couple of rounds of nominations. But, if you get overexcited and spend too much or make a mistake, don't let it ruin your whole draft. Tell yourself that at times you'll do things in a salary cap draft that feel like a mistake, or that you regret. It happens to everyone. How you react to it is what matters.
The second thing to remember closely relates to the first: Have patience. If you are new or inexperienced at salary cap drafting it is always a smart move to sit back and observe until you can get a feel for the room. You can't let all the elite players go without trying to snag a cornerstone for your team, but paying attention to player values while you watch the draft is a good way to make sure you aren't overpaying. Grab a player or two to make sure you don't get shut out on the elite players, but otherwise, you should not be filling your team up in the first couple of rounds of the draft. Observe. Make notes. Have patience. Once you have a feel for values in the room, adjust your strategy and get to work.
Salary caps, more than any other draft type, are as much art as science. No two salary caps are the same, and even small changes in the risk appetite of a few league participants can dramatically alter the way you need to approach your own roster build. For beginners, the most important thing is a willingness to adapt. The easiest way for a salary cap to go belly up is to come into the draft with a detailed plan of action, and no backup plan.
Beginner or not, you need to be comfortable with the relative values at each position. While you can't overpay for a player you covet because of adrenaline and emotion, you do need to quickly adjust to the draft room. If the first two or three elite players are coming off the board at 20% higher prices than you forecast, you need to be willing to adjust in kind, whether that means paying a higher premium for your own elite player or two or shifting decisively to a more balanced, mid-priced roster cohort.
I have a spending rule that I tend to consistently follow when it comes to salary cap leagues, and that's my 80/80/20/20 rule. Following this rule will keep you aware of your spending and leave you with a balanced, competitive team. I try to limit my spending to $80 for my entire running back depth, $80 for my wide receiver depth, and $20 for my tight ends and quarterbacks. You may ask - what about kickers and defense? Good question - I will not spend over $1 each on either position. Usually, one each is all that is needed unless this is a best-ball format.
Is exceeding $80 or $20 allowed? Yes, but if you happen to overspend in one area just be aware that you may need to limit your budget in other areas. Sometimes you can get outstanding value at quarterback and not need all $20 of your budget. If you can secure your quarterback value early in the draft, you'll know how much you can increase your budget for running backs or wide receivers, or perhaps even a blue-chip tight end.
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