Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Ten Worst Fantasy Football Draft Mistakes

Week 1 of the preseason is finished, which means that we are likely just a few weeks away from your fantasy football draft. About time for you to start looking at draft boards, running a couple mock drafts, coming up with your team names, of course.

But with all the time and energy placed on creating your rankings and figuring out your players, you might overlook digging a bit further into your fantasy football draft strategy. Because, really, what is the point of doing all the research if you don’t know how to use it.

Take a look at the top 10 fantasy football draft mistakes that you need to avoid this year to take the first step in winning your fantasy league.

10) Aiming for the Best at Each Position
Everyone should be shooting for the best player, right? Well, to a certain extent, yes.

We all want the top running back, the top receiver, the top quarterback, but thinking that you can have them all is unrealistic, and can get you into some trouble on draft day.

Once you get to the middle rounds and have some starters, some people jump at the chance to grab a high rated kicker or defense. Thinking that having the Sebastian Jankowski in the eighth round is somehow a better strategy than taking a backup RB and getting you kicker late. That the Pittsburgh defense is somehow more important than a solid WR3.

It’s not.

So, once you have your best guys at skill positions, get your backups. David Akers will not bring you fantasy glory when your second running back gets hurt and you are forced to start a player you got off waivers.

9) Choosing Safety in the Late Rounds
The easiest way to get a head start in any fantasy football league is by taking some good gambles in the draft. Those that play the late rounds safe are usually those who end up paying the price during the season.

Once you have established your starters and have a few key backups, you need to open up your playbook a little and start looking at your sleeper list. Take a peak at those guys that you just have a feeling about.

If you get it wrong, so what? It is someone that you can drop and replace from the free agency list. But… if you get it right… you will have taken a starter in round 12! There is no better feeling.

So rather than wasting a late round pick on a reliable, safe name that will get you 3-5 points per week, take the risk. Gamble on a boom-or-bust player that could end up starting for you and getting you 10 a week.

8) NFL Combine Syndrome
It amazes me that there are people that actually do this one. This mistake is 100% overthinking things. And if you make things too complicated, then you are going to have a bad time.

Sometimes, we get fantasy football crushes on guys. We just intently watched the NFL draft coverage and saw some incredible 40-yard-dash times, and some great vertical jumps. We are making our way through the preseason, and seeing some receivers that are tearing up 3rd string defenses.

And often times, this doesn’t even translate into the NFL. And much more often, it doesn’t translate into fantasy football.

So, leave the scouting to the NFL pros. A late round gamble never hurt anyone, but don’t rely on speed or strength when building your fantasy team.

7) Drafting Based on Personal Preference
So, I have to admit, I do this a lot. As a fantasy player, it usually means that we are also football fans. So, naturally, there are players we love and players that we absolutely hold a blind hatred for.

If done in moderation, this is an easy mistake to get around, but you can easily get into trouble if you are too extreme about it.

It is no secret that I am a die-hard Cowboys fan. And as much as I don’t like them, I can’t limit myself by not considering players like Victor Cruz or LeSean McCoy if they fall right into my lap.

If you have a grudge against a player, try your best to look past it. It’s not the end of the world if you pick them up. It’s fantasy football, not a relationship. Of course, don’t sweat it if you have that one player you just don’t want. Take him off your board. Let someone else have him.

Keep in mind, the same principle holds true for the players that you like. God bless you if you are a Miami Dolphin fan, but outside of possibly Reggie Bush, you aren’t going to want to be stacking your team with your favorite players.
I promise that if you don’t draft your favorite players from your favorite time, they won’t find out about it.

6) Not Understanding the Scoring System of Your League
 It’s simple really. Read the rules.

It’s a crucial, but often overlooked part of the game. If you are in a Points Per Reception (PPR) league, you are going to have to draft differently than if you were in a standard scoring league. Just one simple stat can drastically change the makeup of your draft board.

There are many leagues that go beyond just a simple PPR change. Some tweak quarterback stats like completions. Some take off points for missed field goals. Some will award extra points for big plays or big weekly performances.

So, before your draft, and before you even start making your list of players, take a look at the league scoring rules. If will pay off, and you can sit back an chuckle in your PPR draft when someone takes Michael Turner before Darren Sproles.

5) Not Planning Past the First Four Rounds

Any dummy can pick up a magazine and draft a successful first four rounds. I hear that they are even training mice to do this. Get your running backs, get a receiver or two. Get your quarterback. It’s not a difficult concept. Even those who don’t watch the NFL can name the best players.

The key to having the best draft and ultimately winning your league is the middle and late rounds. So, have a plan and a long enough list to get your though each round and beyond. If you don’t have a game plan and you don’t have a list, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

4) Not Paying Attention to the NFL Preseason

Earlier I mentioned the preseason. That you shouldn’t base your picks on some no-name 6th WR who is beating up on third string defenses. This is true. But paying attention to the Preseason is very important. You just need to do it right.

Last year more than ever we saw running back committees and wide receivers going five deep. Every team has competition at the skill positions, and you need to watch these battles.

By watching, or at least paying moderate attention to the San Francisco 49ers preseason, you will have an immediate leg up on the competition, because you will have a feel for which of their seemingly 70 wide receivers will likely be the favorite. Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree. Seeing who gets the most work and the most attention in preseason could put you in the position to take the right player once the round comes along.  The same can be said for at least one position on nearly every team in the NFL.

Anyone who has ever run a fantasy team can tell you how devastating injuries can be. So having that knowledge of who the third receiver is on a team means that you can be ready to swoop in and claim him out of free agency if that moment ever comes.

Arian Foster and Victor Cruz were both preseason stars. And both of them went heavily undrafted before their breakout years. Except for by those who actually knew to look for them.

3) Drafting Your Defense or Kicker Before the Last 2 Rounds

 This is perhaps the biggest rookie fantasy football drafting mistake there is.

In no league is it better to draft Akers or Jankowski in Round 8 than drafting a solid backup receiver or running back. No excuses. Wait until the last round for your kicker. No exceptions.

David Akers had a brilliant year last year, but the different in points per game between the second best kicker and the 15th best kicker was less than 2 points. Not worth it.

Now, an argument can be made for jumping up a few rounds for a defense, to each his own. I will sit back and take mine in the second to last round. Due to a little strategy that I have, and we will be getting into later. The Shuffling Defense Strategy.

2) Reaching for Name Value

Every league has a couple of players who will do this one. Fantasy owners that will reach on a player just because of his name.

Case in point, Michael Vick being taken first over all last year. We all see how that ended up. But taking a player based on name always happens. Big names will go early. And you should let them. It’ll be disappointing knowing that you have almost no shot at owning Victor Cruz, but realizing that he is not worth an early second round pick makes you the real winner.

Then, when you get into the later rounds, you are going to come across another wave of NFL names that you recognize. Names of players that were once at the very top of their position. They are now falling to middle rounds, but people will be taking them early, just because they are safe picks.

Anquan Boldin was a fantastic wide receiver and fantasy star… five years ago. As I said in a previous point, it is better take a risk on a young guy that could potentially get you 10 points a game, than to pick the older safer player who will rarely get your more than 7.

1) Not Preranking Your Players

I’m not saying this because I write a fantasy football blog and because I post rankings. I’m saying this because its absolutely unfathomable to me that someone would go in without a list. Do it, and do it right.

There are books, magazines and websites all over the place that give you access to rankings players and mock drafts to look at. Do it.

Look at a bunch. Pull up multiple websites, get your ESPN and Fantasy Football Magazines, sit down and compile your own list. Take the time a couple days before your draft to write our your own. Enter a mock draft. Get a feel for the rhythm of the draft and the timing of when players are going.

Once you have researched and played a few trial runs, sit down and write your list. You have your own personal style, your own sleeper picks, your own bust ideas, your own favorite team and player.

Go with your gut. It might just pay off.

I promise. You’ll thank me.

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