This weekend and early next week are crunch time for fantasy football drafts for 2016. I find that drafting late in the preseason is better than drafting early since the flow of information is much better than it was three or four weeks earlier. When you are ready to draft, keep these tips in mind to maximize your return when participating in snake drafts.
Try out a mock draft, or two, or three
Doing mock snake drafts help you figure out which players are likely to be on the board when you pick in different rounds. Obviously, the actual draft will turn out differently than your mock drafts, but mock drafts can give you a sense of when you can potentially draft certain players. I think that most fantasy managers will generally follow the default rankings that are generated on your site, so you can pretty much tell who is going to be available at the end of round four, the beginning of round six, the middle of round eight, and so forth. If you play your cards right and practice drafting good teams in mock draft rooms, you’ll be several steps ahead of your competition when the real draft day comes.
Draft in a throwaway league
Fantasy football drafts are fun for everyone during the first two or three rounds. Then things get start to get ugly. As star players and household names fly off the board, it can become a challenge to find players that you want on your team. Maybe you start drafting studs from three years ago or dark-horse rookies because you didn’t do your homework and don’t know what else to do.
If you really want to excel in your drafts for leagues that matter (i.e. leagues with friends, family, or for prizes), you need to have already drafted in a real situation. Mock drafts are helpful with some strategy, but nothing cuts the nerves and forces you to learn player profiles like drafting in a real draft. In order to do this, you have to join a league just for the heck of it. The kind of league I’m talking about is a league with total strangers and one where there’s no money paid into the pot. Knowing that you are committing for a season to a team raises the stakes over that of a mock draft, and so the draft room will ensure that you quickly become familiar with players going in rounds six, seven, eight, nine, and so forth. Your draft in this “throwaway” league might not be the greatest, but at least you’ll be better prepared for later drafts in leagues that matter more.
Understand something about draft rankings
Everyone is going to be looking at rankings of some sort during the draft, whether these are on some third-party site or on the board that your draft room software uses. The curious thing about these rankings is that they can vary widely depending on whom provides them. For example, you can easily find discrepancies in rankings found on Yahoo, ESPN, and CBSSports, and sometimes these discrepancies are pretty big. This should tell you two things: first, that rankings are just opinions, and opinions differ from person to person. Take them with a grain of salt. Second, you can exploit these differences by trying to figure out if one site has draft rankings that are not widely accepted by others. But how do you know if one set of draft rankings is inferior to others?
The best way to figure this out is to take the collective wisdom from a group of opinion-leader experts and use that as your guide. Fortunately for us, that has already been done with the consensus draft rankings over at FantasyPros. The stock rankings are helpful in themselves, but you should go one step further by narrowing these down even more. This is really helpful when sorting based on position.
Let’s say you want to find the best middle-round running back to draft. After filtering the FantasyPros rankings to show RBs only, click on “Pick Experts”, then on the upper left choose “Top 10 RB Experts” that are listed under “2015 Draft Accuracy”. Click “Update”, and this will generate a rankings list which draws from the opinions of ten fantasy analysts who have had success in the past in evaluating running back talent. Now you can compare this list with the default draft rankings in your draft room to find the best player to draft at your needed position.
Your only strategy should be to use an adaptable strategy
Fantasy managers sometimes seem overly concerned with the order in which they draft positions for their team. Some people might think there is an optimal strategy in drafting WR-WR-WR with their first three picks, or maybe WR-RB-WR, or perhaps something else. Forget about all of that.
The way to draft is to start off picking the best player available and letting that player’s position guide you, but not rule you. So if you take a wide receiver for your first pick, you might ideally want to select a running back with your second pick. This will, after all, give you more flexibility in later rounds. However, if another great wide receiver falls to you with your second pick and he looks better than any available running back, take the wide out. If you have done your homework in advance (see the importance of mock drafts), you should have a few names of running backs that you can get in later rounds.
The bottom line is that you need to be able to adapt your strategy rather than letting a strategy stranglehold you.
Turn left when others are turning right
You will probably reach a point in the draft when no players look tempting. This can happen if there’s a run on a certain position which leaves you with “slim pickens” which don’t really excite you, and whom you may end up dropping at some point in the season anyway. Rather than waste a pick by following what other teams are doing, try drafting a quality player of a different position. For example, if you get to the fourth round and you don’t see any great options at receiver or running back, draft a tight end or quarterback. Conventional wisdom may say that this is too early to select these positions, but you can probably snag one of the top players at their respective positions (think Andrew Luck at QB, or Greg Olsen at TE) and thereby solidify that aspect of your team.
Stop thinking that your job is done after draft day
After you draft, you can sit and contemplate your roster with a look of love or of horror in your eyes, depending on how well you think you drafted. Stop doing that! While you may have positioned yourself well or poorly on Day 1, your job in creating your team is far from done. I can tell you from experience that even a major misstep on draft day can be overcome by carefully managing your team, dropping those who under perform, and pick up talent that propels your team to victory. On the flip side, even a well-drafted team can suffer from a few injuries to key players. Plan on keeping up with the waiver wire throughout the season, and realize that this is your true key to success.
There you have it – six tips to help guide you to a better fantasy football snake draft for 2016. No one said that the draft would be easy, but a little homework now goes a long way to help you over the next four months.