Drafting 102: How to Avoid a Rough Draft

Sometimes when I’ve been working on a document too long and it’s just not getting anywhere, I finish it as quickly as I can and send it to the next person in the chain of command with an email that goes something like this:

Hi there,

Attached is my rough draft of the talking points. Please let me know if you have any edits or suggestions.

Mary

What I’m actually saying is this:

Hey,

I can’t with these talking points. You and I both know this attachment is a piece of crap. But I called it a “rough draft,” so this failed effort doesn’t even count against me. And now it’s your problem. Enjoy!

Mary

Unfortunately, Fantasy Football doesn’t quite work that way. Your efforts count. There aren’t any do-overs. And while the team you draft isn’t permanent, it sets a foundation for your entire season.

Anything can happen in Fantasy Football and there isn’t any one determining factor that will decide your fate this season. But if there was one thing you want to make sure you don’t screw up, it’s the draft. So here are 15 things you should know to avoid having a rough one.

1) Look at the rankings – All of the rankings, not just ESPN’s (which, again, will be displayed in a filterable fashion as you draft). Just double check your choices as you draft. Have them printed or bookmarked or whatever. It never hurts to get a second (or third or fourth) opinion. Some places you can check:

Fantasy Pros – This is my favorite as it “crowdsources” several Fantasy Football sites and takes an average.

Yahoo! – I’ve been told that Yahoo! is more accurate at ranking than ESPN, but I’ve never been motivated enough to check. I’m also terrible at calculating such tedious things. But mostly the laziness.

NFL – Easily the most visually stunning option.

CBS Sports – Breaks it down for you nicely by analyst so you can superficially judge who looks the most trustworthy. I like the one without the beard.

Just be careful checking Fantasy sites at work

Rankings are adjusted weekly, so feel free to look back during the season. Just make sure you look up the stats for PPR league whenever possible as the 1 point per reception makes a big difference.

2) Understand each position’s value – A superstar will yield a lot of points regardless of his position. But in general, first string RBs and QBs are the most consistent sources of double digit points, with first string WRs following very closely thereafter. Second string RBs and WRs are usually good for low double-digit points. TEs are unreliable sources of high points unless you can manage to draft maybe the top 3-4. Ks tend to be the least valuable and most replaceable position on the roster.

3) Know the resources – There are fewer RBs in the NFL than wide receivers. While you shouldn’t pass up a star QB, WR or even TE for a less valuable RB, you may want to ensure that you lock in enough RBs before all the good ones are gone. This year, good QBs are plentiful. You may be able to postpone a good QB until the later rounds. I would also hold off on drafting a defense until the last 4-5 rounds, even longer if you don’t manage to draft the Bears, Seahawks, 49ers or Texans (maybe even the Bengals, too. I think ESPN is really undervaluing them.) There are about 25 decent kickers in the NFL – draft a kicker in the last round and only keep one on your roster.

All you need is a kicker who doesn’t do that.

4) Keep a close eye on your inventory – As tempting as it is to just grab the highest available player, make sure you build a well rounded team with enough players for a legal lineup plus ample backups for your more valuable positions.

5) Keep an eye on everyone else’s inventory too – Only so that you know if someone has already drafted a player you want. It’s awful when your two minutes start, you suddenly realize the player you wanted isn’t available, and now you have about 1:50 to come up with a contingency plan.

Some people find it helpful to put players the Player Queue, located at the right side of the draft screen. Simply drag and drop players from the ranking to your queue. When players are drafted, they are automatically removed from the queue, so you have an updated list of the people you were targeting. Be careful though – if you still take too long to decide, ESPN will autodraft the first player listed in your Player Queue.

6) Don’t draft too many players with the same bye week – To review, each team gets one week off per season. If a giant chunk of your roster is out at the same time, you have one of two options. You can drop one of your players on bye in exchange for an active player that week, but you risk that player getting snatched by another team. If you don’t want to take that chance, you can start your player on bye and earn zero points. Neither are ideal, so try to avoid the situation altogether.

7) Don’t draft too many players from the same team – For one, they are guaranteed to have the same bye week. And secondly, if that team has a bad day, you’ll have a bad day. It’s like stocks. Diversify. I wouldn’t start more than three players max from a single team, and that would only be if they were very good and I was double-dipping. That brings me to my next point…

8) Double-dipping isn’t just something rude people do at parties – In Fantasy Football, Double Dipping is the strategy of drafting a QB-WR or QB-TE from the same team. When the QB throws a TD pass, you get both the QB points and the WR/TE points. This works best among QBs who throw long and often to the same reliable people. Double dipping with a crappy QB (like Christian Ponder) is useless. It’s also less effective with QBs who tend to run the ball themselves (Kaepernick, RG3, Russell Wilson) or spread it around their entire receiving corps (Drew Brees tends to do this with this WRs). Likely pairings this year include:

  • Peyton Manning and either Wes Welker or Eric Decker
  • Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham
  • Andy Dalton and AJ Green
  • Eli Manning and either Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks
  • Tom Brady and either Danny Amendola or Rob Gronkowski (if any of these three can manage to stay healthy)
  • Matt Ryan and Roddy White (Julio Jones, too, kind of)

Double dipping has its drawbacks. You have two players from the same team with the same bye week. And I would not recommend passing up a significantly better draft pick for a lesser QB/WR/TE just for the sake of double-dipping. But speaking from experience, the Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski combo worked really well for me two years in a row. So if a good opportunity to double dip naturally presents itself during the draft, I would take it.

Did…did you just double dip that chip?

9) And Handcuffing isn’t just something some people do in bed – I would say that RBs have the most physically demanding job out of the entire offensive line. They are basically tasked to run into a crowd of giants, hold on to a ball and not die. As you can imagine, they are prone to injury. Some more than others. Handcuffing is the act of drafting an injury prone RBs backup for your bench in case your RB gets injured. Like Double Dipping, this is neither compulsory nor even “highly recommended.” But it is something to consider if you end up with Ryan Mathews, Trent Richardson, Arian Foster, Matt Forte or Jamaal Charles.

How do you go about finding someone’s backup?

10) Check the depth chart – You probably won’t use the depth chart so much during the draft because the rankings already give you an idea of who is more valuable than whom. But like I said, they list the backups. Also, you may want to browse them sometime before the draft to familiarize yourself with some of the personnel changes over the summer. For example, did you know that since the Baltimore Ravens traded away Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones (my favorite endzone dancer) is now their WR2?

So sassy!

Side note – depth charts are updated regularly throughout the season. This will come in handy when people start getting injured. Check the depth chart, pick up the backup, ride your stealth and depth of football knowledge towards that league championship.

11) Careful of the injuries – ESPN will mark when a player is probable (P), questionable (Q), out (O), suspended (SSPD) or on injury reserve (IR). Players that are P or Q are fine to draft. Players who are O and SSPD are fine to draft, but know that they are unusuable for a while.  IR players are technically allowed to come back later in the season, but be careful. Their injuries are long term and there is no telling if they will actually come back or if they will be in top shape even if they do.

Patriot TE Rob Gronkowski (ranked #2 among TEs) is still out because, as you can see, he is rehabilitating his arm. At nightclubs.

12) Ask “What Would Matthew Berry Do?” (WWMBD) – Outside of the rankings, Fantasy Football analysts can provide some great insight on sleepers, who is overrated, who comes with baggage, that sort of thing. Matthew Berry is one of the more famous experts, but Fantasy Football has grown to a point that all major sports broadcasters have Fantasy Football segments now. Watch the analysis shows. Download the podcasts. Hell, call in to the podcasts! And then tell me about it, so I can download it and be jealous.

Matthew Berry is like the God of Fantasy Football.

13) Don’t be a rankings slave – If you’ve been analyzing multiple rankings and reading the expert opinions, you might have your own opinion of what the rankings should be. If this is the case, follow your gut. You don’t need to follow the rankings in order if you don’t think it’s right.

14) But when in doubt, play the favorites – If you really can’t decide between two players and your gut isn’t telling you anything, go with the higher ranked one. Experts are experts for a reason.

15) Just have fun with it – When it comes down to it, Fantasy Football is all about enhancing your football season experience. And let’s be real, your last 5 rounds are based on guesswork anyway. So pick people you like. Get the kicker from your favorite team! Skip out on Aaron Rodgers because you are a die-hard Bears fan and could never. (Bummer, too, because he is SUPER good.) Pick up that one QB you think is hot, Sue.

Fun fact: Colin has a pet turtle! And sick abs.

And don’t forget to open up a nice cold beer and use the chat feature to engage in some good old fashioned trash talking 🙂

Of course, if any of you have any questions between now and even all through the draft, just ask me. I’ll have one last pre-draft post next week with NFL news that might be helpful as you look over the rankings.

Like did you know that Wednesday was Tim Tebow’s birthday? God’s favorite QB is currently playing 3rd string on the NE Patriots. And as a subtle-but-not-really birthday present, God smote 1st string Patriots QB Tom Brady in the knee, bumping Tebow up to 2nd string!

Brady’s MRI was clear, so Tebow might have to wait til Christmas. However, he is wearing a knee brace and stupidly plans on playing the pre-season game against the Bucs. I’ll keep you all posted on his development. If Brady is injured and not playing his best, that affects the numbers for his WRs, including Danny Amendola. But it might increase numbers for his RBs, who will have to bear the offensive load. See how this works? Fun, right? This is how you get obsessed.

Anyway, start looking at those rankings!

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