Nease’s Insights—Becoming a Draft Master—Part 1

 

This article and the next one following it are devoted to helping you get ready for your 2018 re-drafter draft. This will give you an edge against your opponents and will give you a leg up on hoisting the Fantasy Bowl trophy this December.

A lot of people come to their draft with a hastily printed out rankings from somewhere, or maybe even a rolled-up magazine that had come out two months before. Unbelievably these people often wind up with mediocre .500 or so, surprisingly doing better than several other players. Of course, the odds of them winning it all are slim. One thing I have learned over the 30+ years that I have been playing this game, is that every draft in every year is a whole new situation.

In the dynasty league I have played in since 1985 we retain around 75-80% of our prior season’s team and typically we each select only about 5-6 new players each year. We will cover drafting in dynasty and keeper leagues in a coming article.

When you choose players in an auction draft, you can buy virtually any player you want, if you have enough money to not only buy him, but also to purchase enough players to fill your entire roster. We will, of course, address auction drafts too later.

A re-drafter league draft is the most common draft that we as fantasy players participate in. While the mechanics of it are rather easy, the strategy behind it is very complex. So many variables enter the process that a quickly printed cheat sheet is not even barely adequate.

To me, the only way to play is with people you know, or at least share some connection.  Playing in a basic free, or even pay online leagues you face total strangers who oftentimes have no clue as to what they are doing.

We have all seen evidence of that with “rate my team” posts. Hey Mike, rate my team please. I’ve got Rodgers, Bell, Johnson, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Beckham, Gronk and I am a little shaky with Kai Forbath at PK and the Steelers defense. What do you think?

My quick response is simple—I think you drafted with people who did not know a football from a potato. What personal satisfaction can you possibly get playing in a rinky-dink league like this? At least step up and join a competitive league. Be challenged. Make yourself work to build the best team you can. Who are you fooling playing in a dummied-down league? Have the guts to play against people that are your equal, or even better than you. In a league like this, victory will be so much sweeter.

In a league with 12 teams, there is a 91.7% failure rate. Only one team wins the championship. Nobody cares who almost won or would have won if something else had gone differently. The bottom line is 11 out of 12 players in that league are losers.

Are you ready to be that one, the champion? Are you capable of winning the Fantasy Bowl and getting the big trophy proclaiming that you are a WINNER? And did I mention the bragging rights? Those are priceless.

Ok! How Can I do That?

You start off with a BIG dose of competitiveness. You need to get pumped up. Walking into a draft with a ho-hum attitude will at best leave you with a mediocre team. Hearken back to your school days. Heck, even at 68 I still remember them, so you should be able to as well. Remember what a walk in the park it was to get a C? Winning a fantasy football championship is our game’s equivalent of getting an A+.

It takes studying. You must know and understand the rules. You must know the laws of supply and demand to use in choosing what position and player to take every time it is your turn to draft. You need to know your opponents and what their individual drafting methods are.

You need to develop a strategy going into the draft and like playing chess, you need to closely watch what’s happening and always be planning 2-3 rounds ahead. When that player you yearned for gets picked right before your turn, you MUST be able to shake it off and go to Plan B or Plan C.

Besides all the variables to consider in drafting, luck enters this game in a big way. If I had to pick a brief description of what it takes to win a championship I would use two words-determination and knowledge.

You start off with an attitude that is not politically correct by current day standards. As I type this, I am looking out the window to make sure that the PC Police are not lurking anywhere outside. What I am about to say is unthinkable in 2018. It could harm a child’s psyche, so if you are under 18, skip forward a few paragraphs so you miss these anti-establishment, radical thoughts that I am about to espouse.

Pssst! Hey, yes, I mean you. The chances are good that you are darn competitive. To you, playing for fun is not an option unless you win. Winning is fun. Nothing else is acceptable.

There, I said it! Yes, I know that is contrary to the new-age patty-cake philosophy that educators have somehow developed. “Students this year we will go light on the reading, writing math and science. There will be absolutely no music, drama or art, but you’ve got to believe, we will have the song Kumbaya absolutely perfected by the end of the school year.

And the best part kids is that you will all get participation ribbons instead of report cards. We don’t want to put too much pressure on you.”

It’s ok to take a moment and allow your blood pressure to drop down to a normal level after reading that educational philosophy editorial. If reading that gets you as fired up reading it as it irritated me as I wrote it, we are now in the proper state of mind to proceed.

Hit! Hit! Hit! Hit! And now, we all charge out of the locker room, hating the world and ready to kick some fantasy football butt! Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! 

Let’s Start with the Basics

Re-drafter leagues are popular among fantasy football players. They allow us a “do-over,” in effect, wiping the slate clean when one season ends and before the next one begins. If we won, the championship title that is now history. But on the plus side, all our poor decisions and bad luck are erased and we get to start over again next year.

All the injuries, games lost in the last minute on Monday night, penalties negating winning touchdowns, dropped balls and all sorts of mental anguish are purged from our minds, like wring out a sponge. Liken it to taking a shower and having all the dirt from the 2017 season cleansed from our body and washed down the drain.

After the season, we take a bit of a hiatus for a few months, noting the passing of the Super Bowl, the NFL Combine, Free Agency and then the NFL Draft. We hope and pray that we can get the winning team next year and we vow that things will be different in 2018.

Where do I Start?

As we begin our quest to make sure that 2018 is indeed different from last years, we have plenty of work to do. We start jotting down notes during the offseason, trying to identify the guys that will come out of nowhere like the legendary Lone Ranger to save your team. As we left last year in our 12-team league we and the rest of the 91.3 majority, also known as losers, paid tribute to the champion representing 8.7% of the people playing in the league.

Nobody cares about, or even remembers who came in second. You might get a 2nd place trophy, but be honest with me, do you ever brag about it? To me those are more of a source of embarrassment than anything to make you burst with pride. Second place—big deal! Who wants to be the best loser in the league?

Now let’s talk about preparation for the draft and the actual draft itself. Like anyone with an addiction, by about March when free agency begins, we are suffering from withdrawal. We go to the fantasy doctor and he prescribes mock drafts. So off we go to the computer and we draft until our head becomes numb, our fingers become swollen and sore and we just cannot take it anymore. Then we come back and do it again and again for months.

Personally, I do not believe in mock drafts. I look at them as a being sort a way of achieving a fantasy football mental orgasm and not much else. Too many circumstances have changed since last year—coaching and scheme changes, players on new teams, retirees and rookies, as well as overall team chemistry shifts. If one spent half as much time researching emerging and fading players as they do on mock drafts, I believe they would be better off.

As a starting point, we need to get a firm grasp of free agent movement. There are only about 40-50 moves per year that have much of a fantasy impact. Who cares where some of the fringe players go? Well you should. Many of those supposed fringe players were playing behind established players and now they may be getting a real opportunity to play. You cannot assume that a player remains at the same value year after year, or even within the same season. As we will see throughout the season, the player pool is like a stock market, with values rising and falling. Free agency has a major impact on values

The rookie crop is the highlight of the offseason, but only about a dozen or so of the skilled position players figure to have any significant fantasy value in a re-drafter context. Offensive linemen and IDP’s blend into the league playing time wise much faster than the players we are following. In a 12-team league with 20 player rosters, that is only about 5% of the player pool. An equal number may be selected as roster fillers, but only that first dozen or so will be truly lineup worthy.

Projections, Not a Big Fan

With OTAs and Mini Camps there is a singular goal—keep the player pool healthy. There is nothing worse than losing top players before game #1 is even played. Only when we get to training camp will we see it all coming together. The coaches, veterans and rookies will finally start to give us valuable feedback. That will help us prepare our own player rankings. Now we will pause and let you absorb that last sentence. Yes indeed, I said “prepare our own player rankings.”

In the fantasy football world, there many people telling us to use projections. Many websites have fancy prognosticating algorithms that predict what a player will do fantasy point wise over the course of a season. Playing the game as long as I have, I have concluded that these so-called analyses are flawed and often misleading. They are fine for the top tiers at each position, but when it comes to say WRs, the guys in the #30 to #80 range can easily be materially off in their projected output.

Getting Started

The first things to do when joining a new league is to learn the scoring system and read the rules. While most scoring is very similar, sometimes there are variations that greatly affect player values and timing for drafting them. PPR or non PPR on receptions? Six-points or four-point TD passes? Other questions you need to have answered are about the DST scoring setup, lineup requirements, waiver movement, IR options and about anything else peculiar to that particular league.

Now we are ready to start our very own rankings worksheet. This will be an ever-changing document that can and should be amended right up until our draft begins.

First, use a blank Excel spreadsheet. To streamline this process, here is a great starting point for you. This link will take you to the 2018 FanEx Experts’ League Analysis Draft that was recently concluded.

http://www61.myfantasyleague.com/2018/options?L=30771&O=17

Simply sort the draft by positions and copy the players to your spreadsheet. Yes, you must be adept at cutting and pasting, as well as having basic spreadsheet skills. Hey, we are talking getting an A+ here, not just sliding by. It should be about 98% up to date with very few changes being needed thus far. At this point leave all the players on it. There is no need to pare it down just yet. I would list all the positions one after the other (QB, RB, WR, TE, PK, DST) down the left-hand side of the spreadsheet. I would have columns across the top for rank, name, NFL team, bye week, 2017 actual points/game and comments. Comments would include notes on injury status, suspensions, etc.

Be sure to include a column to add Bob Long’s consistency ratings for players. This is an analysis tool that will help you narrow down your drafting parameters. You can find whatever you need to compile this directly on our website that you are visiting now.

If you are a big proponent of ADP (Average Draft Position), you could add one more column between the rank and name and label it ADP. Go to MyFantasyLeague.com and click on this link to get the Top 250 players or so using the options that best coincides with your league’s scoring method.

http://www70.myfantasyleague.com/2018/adp

Take this data, sort it by position and ADP rank and drop that information manually into the applicable cell next to each player’s name. You can choose to get ADP information on up to 500 players if you want to. I usually go with 300, as I really am not looking for the 361st best guy at any point in my drafting. 300 players are plenty for our preparation purposes.

Print out other cheat sheets that you trust. Just manually identify and enter the rankings data in separate columns. Now you have a basis for creating your own rankings. On your spreadsheet adjust the names and order. Manipulate the rankings numbers among the names listed on your own personalized rankings. This gives you an overall composite ranking that you can feel comfortable with. Have at least 32 QBs, 75 RBs, 85 WRs, 30 TEs, 24 PKs and 24 DSTs listed. This yields a ranking of about 270 players.

Is this a lot of work? You bet it is! But wouldn’t you rather have a firm grasp of the big picture than mock drafting? Why bother to spend time with people who may or may not know what they are doing, wasting countless hours. This pretending you are a dog chasing its own tail will actually help you win nothing. If you need the companionship that mock drafting gives you, get a puppy instead. 

Preparing for the Draft

Achieving success and winning depends upon the amount of quality preparation work you do. Know why a six-point TD pass makes a top QB even more valuable than normal. Know why team defenses (DST) and PKs are usually drafted at the end of the draft. Have an idea of how positions were selected the last couple years in the draft. As it was back in our school days, always remember that working hard enough to just get by yields only a C and that is not a C for championship. 

Ok, so now you have a cheat sheet and have checked it several times, continually moving players up and down. By now, we are chomping at the bit to draft our team. We will be doing that soon enough.

You should also setup a spreadsheet and analyze which positions were drafted and when by your opponents in the first five rounds, the last couple of years. With that you can now estimate the distribution of players by position over the first few rounds.

What do I want to do throughout the draft? If you are looking for a decisive, definitive blueprint, there is none. A lot depends on scoring rules and what draft slot you have.

A major factor is what draft slot you have and who is available when you draft. In making my 1st round pick, I personally like to be selecting from the 6th to 8th slots. That way in a standard serpentine draft, I choose close to the middle of each round. With a 1st-3rd pick, or a low pick like 10th-12th, there is a major volatile swing between choices. Neither a high, nor a low position is preferred, but you can win a championship drafting anywhere out of the standard 12 slot positions. And you never know, a choice player may slide down a few slots and become available to you with a late 1st Round pick. You must be flexible and be ready to changes directions at a moment’s notice. That can lead to a lot of uncertainty and surprises. It also increases the fun of the draft.

One other thing I do just to be safe, is watch the injury reports closely before the draft and mark my cheat sheet accordingly. I also mark off any players that I simply do not want. This includes chronic underperformers and inconsistent scorers that will never meet their once highly touted potential, players that always seem to get hurt and players that I just think are too risky. That last group includes players who have a likelihood of being suspended for drug issues or other matters. LeSean McCoy and Jameis Winston lead the field in suspension riskiness right now. Yes, this is arbitrary, and these players could have great years, but I can find enough issues to disrupt my teams without throwing caution to the wind. Let someone else potentially waste a pick.

Training camps are opening now, and we are more than ready for the actual season to begin. Buckle up for the journey. My colleagues and I at Big Guy Fantasy Sports are intent on helping you become the champion you want to be. With our poignant articles and being the home base for the consistency theory, a sound mathematically-based alternative to ADP, we will be with you for the 2018 season in its entirety. What happens then? That my friends, is easy. We start over and do it all again in 2019!

Over the years many readers have contacted me personally for fantasy football questions throughout the year. I look forward to helping you in your quest to win championships this year. You can contact me by email with any questions you may have on fantasy football generally, or on consistency specifically, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., follow me on Twitter @mikeinsights, or join me as a member of Couch Tomatoes, my fantasy football discussion group on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/330237687362965/.

Good luck! Have fun!

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