The draft is arguably the most important part of a fantasy football season. If you draft poorly, you’ll spend the rest of the season wishing you hadn’t. Sure, it’s possible to pick up decent free agents, and not every high draft pick is going to end up being a dominant player, but there’s no substitute for carefully selecting the top players available in every round to build the best possible team. Our guide to the fantasy football draft will walk you through the process and provide you with some hints and tips to keep in mind along the way.
Before the Draft
It never hurts to do a little preparation beforehand. It’s possible to just march in, picking the best players available in every round, and end up with a decent team. It’s just not very likely.
It pays to have some idea which players you’re going to go after. You most likely won’t know your draft position until just before the draft begins, so you should take some time to identify probably top performers at each position and learn a bit about which positions you should draft in which order.
Ideally, you’ll be drafting high. If you end up with the first pick, you should already know who you’re going to take. Have a “Top 10 Players” cheat sheet ready to go if possible. If you’re really dedicated, consider creating a “Top 50” or more.
Take a look at the scoring for your league. In traditional formats, running backs are usually the highest-valued early picks. If your league emphasizes another position, knowing this going into the draft can really change your strategy.
How the Draft Works
Most drafts follow the standard format. Each team owner is assigned a draft position, this position does not change for the duration of the draft. Teams choose a single player in the order of their draft position, until the end of the first round.
Once each team has picked a single player, the first round ends. In the second round, the player with the highest draft position picks first, and the picks go in the opposite order of the first round. This serpentine pattern continues until the draft ends.
While a high pick is good, it can also be beneficial to have a pick near the end. It’s entirely possible to get two top ten players with a late pick, while the guy with the number one pick gets one great player and then has to wait 20+ turns to choose another.
Watch Your Roster
The general goal of any draft is to fill up your roster with the best possible players. To do this, you’re going to want to pay attention to who you’ve already drafted and who is left on the board. If you’ve only got two weekly roster spots for running backs, and you’ve already got two on the team, don’t pass up a good WR just because you want to grab a good backup RB.
Your WR would be on the field earning points for you every week, while the backup RB would only be able to help you one week out of the season (unless you use him as trade fodder). Remember to think about players that will help you earn the maximum amount of points over the course of a season.
Use the Queue
Most live draft software allows you to “queue up” players as you go along. These players will appear in a separate list and those who are drafted will disappear, allowing you to keep track of which players you wanted are still left.
Use this feature to your advantage. If you know you want a receiver in the upcoming round, place a few receivers you’re interested in into your queue. This way, you won’t be scrambling through the list trying to find a player while the clock is ticking down on you.
You should always have some idea who you’re picking before your turn comes up. This speeds up the draft for everyone and keeps you from making mistakes under pressure. Take advantage of the downtime between picks to plan ahead.
Use the Default Rankings
When in doubt, defer to the default rankings. They’re not always completely up to date, so you should make some effort to plan ahead of time, but if you are stuck between two players at the same position and have to make a decision, let the rankings help you.
Pick the higher-ranked of the two. These rankings are usually compiled by experts who have way more insider knowledge and have done more analysis than the average owner, so I usually feel comfortable deferring to them when I’m on the fence about a player.
Another good tool is the “average draft position” or “ADP.” If your draft allows you to sort players by this statistic, use it to get a feel for what other owners are thinking about the players in question.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when selecting bench players. First, make sure you pay attention to bye weeks as you’re choosing. You don’t want both a starting and backup QB with the same bye. You’ll just end up dropping one to pick up another who will actually be playing while the starter is out for the week.
Second, try to take bench players who have the potential to become starters. I’m not suggesting taking a backup RB while you still have a starting QB spot open, but it doesn’t hurt to plan on taking a few potential sleepers or even remaining starters if you can to fill out your bench.
If one of your starters gets hurt or doesn’t perform well, it’s always nice to have a guy on the bench ready to fill in and score you some points on Sundays.
Fantasy football drafts don’t have to be an intimidating or daunting experience. Just enter with a little preparation, have a strategy in mind, and take advantage of your downtime between picks to ensure you draft a dominant team you can be proud of.
If you’re still a little uncertain about the process, give a mock draft a try. You’ll have a chance to iron out your strategy under the pressure of a real ticking clock.
Just like in the NFL, practice is essential.
- All references and images from Yahoo! Fantasy Football.