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Note: This series is designed to take salary cap drafters of any ability and refine their skills to those of a seasoned veteran. The articles will go from simple 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.
After Part I, you know what some common problems are for beginning salary cap drafters. Now you can start to focus on how to attack a room where you see these mistakes from inexperienced drafters.
Taking Advantage of Emotion
Part I talked about your emotions and how to not let them get the best of you. Taking the next step in developing your salary cap draft skills means focusing on others and how their emotions affect their actions.
In beginner salary cap rooms, emotion can have a big impact on how the draft goes. It can either make things wild where overspending is happening, or it can make managers timid and tight with their money. You can take advantage of either situation, but only if you’re watching for it.
Capitalizing on what is happening requires a grasp on the prices players might go for ahead of time. Prices fluctuate depending on the room, but you can still have an idea in your head that can guide you as the draft starts. For example, if the draft starts and the bidding slows down on Justin Jefferson at $48 ($200 cap, 12-team league), you know that the beginners in the room are unsure of themselves, and you need to act fast. In rooms with a lot of green drafters, this timidity can endure for large parts of the draft. Before they realize that they have way too much money left and not enough impact players for that money, you will have hopefully scooped up a bunch of top talent at a discount. The key here is to not hesitate, get aggressive, and land some players while the rest of the room is asleep at the wheel.
On the other hand, in some beginner rooms, the emotion coursing through new drafters makes them spend indiscriminately. Taking the Jefferson example to the other extreme, if a manager has $60 allocated to land this year’s consensus top receiver, when the bidding gets to $65, the alarm bells should go off that things are getting too hot. At that point, backing off and waiting for the spending to settle down is the right play. The golden rule of salary cap drafting is that when spending is higher than it should be, bargains will always come. The question for you to decide in the room is: Can you continue to pass and wait for prices to come down as the elite talent flies off the board? It’s a balancing act and a judgment call in the moment that only you can make, but sometimes you have to jump in and overpay for a player or two to avoid being shut out of top talent. But otherwise, patience is the name of the game in a room full of excited beginners spending wildly. When prices correct themselves as the draft goes on, you will be positioned to take advantage and land a bunch of bargain purchases.
Poor Situational Awareness
Beginning salary cap drafters are notoriously poor at keeping track of what is going on around them. They almost certainly won’t know what money the other managers in the room have left, they won’t be keeping track of everyone’s rosters, and they might not even know how much money they have left for their own team. You should be aware of which managers have access to this information because they’re using a computer program like the Draft Dominator or an Excel spreadsheet and which ones are consistently unaware of what is happening around them. There are a couple of things you can do to take advantage of players like this.
- Clog their roster – Teams that don’t have a strong grasp of what is happening will often draft too many players at a position before they realize what they’re doing. For example, they can’t pass up a deal on Anthony Richardson (only $5 for all that upside?!), so they draft a third quarterback. If you notice them bidding on Richardson when they have two quarterbacks already or a high-priced starter, then let them have him and waste a roster spot. Or perhaps they can’t pass up a deal on Tyjae Spears, so they fill their last bench spot when they have a bunch of money left for a much better player. It is a good strategy to target nominations at those managers or, better yet, let them land a player too cheaply to kill a roster spot. Sometimes this can take them out of contention at a certain position or handicap their overall chances to compete with you in the latter stages of the draft.
- Box them in – Later in a draft, the managers who don’t keep track of the money in a room are at a disadvantage that continues to increase as the draft goes on. When money gets tight and the player pool is drying up, each dollar and each decision becomes more critical. You can often find situations where they will be bidding near their maximum bid and don’t know it. Know when to stop and let them spend their money. Or, when the end of the draft is near, you’ll save precious dollars by watching their max bid and if they can only bid $4, don’t ever say "3". Then you end up paying $5 instead of $4. Be acutely aware of what they have left and try to craft your bids to take them out, or box them in.
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