Tuesday, August 13, 2013

7 Steps to a Better Draft

Draft day in fantasy football are looming for most of us. You can buy all the best magazines, steal the experts' charts for the top 200, top 500 or top players by position...heck, you can even pay someone to draft for you to get a leg up. But if you are like most fantasy football players and owners, you just want some simple, clear and concise information on getting a grip for your upcoming fantasy football draft. And, I'm here to help! In 7 easy steps you are going to turn that dud of a team you drafted last year, into the stud of the league this fantasy season.

Step #1. Do 'correct' fantasy research

This is a simple, easy to understand statement, but so many fantasy football players misunderstand it. When you start doing research on your NFL players, you are only really looking for three or four things when it comes to them and their fantasy value.

First, their current situation; has it changed, and in what way? Are injuries creeping up from last season? Has a new draft pick threatened to dethrone them, or at least withdraw more fantasy value from their stats? Has a supporting player changed? Or, is their situation identical to last year, and you see them doing even better?

Next, trending in their stats should be looked over. Over the last three years, are they gaining more and more fantasy football points per week? Are they showing more ability to produce fantasy points early in the season versus later? Was this past NFL season their best stats showing, and to further that, their best fantasy football output ever?

Lastly, do not get caught up in the experts and their statistical analysis! These guys on T.V. and in magazines are their because they are insightful, well-written and knowledgeable...however, you can be the same. Do not let a Top 100 list guide your draft...nor should you let some experts' suggested first round mock draft dictate who you feel has the most expected fantasy football value in the upcoming NFL season.

Step #2. Do your tiering

Tiering in fantasy football is simply the action of grouping similar expectant fantasy football totals into groups by position, and then ranking them no matter the position. Tiering is what should take up most of your time pre-draft, as it is the analysis of all that research you have done in order to get your fantasy football stats down to a single number, so that comparisons can be done.

The easiest way to start to do this is simply group by position. Then, give each starting player a total that you project for them to reach for this upcoming fantasy football season. Now, start to group those points when they are close to each other, before and after a point drop-off(you'll know it when you see it!).

Now, you have a basic tiering system. But, is a tier2 running back, better than a tier1 quarterback? That is a different discussion (and yes, we will be having that one soon enough!).

Step #3. Do not neglect the NFL draft weekend

April is a pretty big time of year for fantasy football owners and football fans in general. What we are looking for here, as fantasy football gurus, is how a team drafted, based on need, position and action (meaning trades up or down, who they reached for and what other trade rumors were heard along the way).

What you do not want to do is think that the second round wide receiver, or the fourth round tight end will never have a say in your overall strategy. What if a team drafts two offensive lineman back to back in the second and third rounds? Usually, if no other moves got made on their OL with retirements, injuries, trades or releases, this means something is brewing. You need to figure out if this means more or less yardage for that receiving running back on the team, or it could mean more time in the pocket for that 4000 yard passing quarterback...or it could mean the pits for anyone on that side of the fantasy football equation.

Step #4. Do more analysis - free agency and injuries

Injuries are a killer in the NFL. However, in the fantasy football world, it could mean you dumping a tier 1 quarterback after week two, or picking up an unknown running back during the draft because you know the trend is for this particular running back to miss at least 5 games a season.

Injuries can also be something you use throughout the season to make educated guesses on breakout stars. Another way to use injury information is for handcuffing, not only running backs, but wide receivers and potential starting quarterbacks.

All of fantasy football knows how devastating, as well as incredible, a change of location can be to a quarterback, running back or wide receiver on the way out, or on the cusp of greatness. Looking at how impactful direct moves are will dictate if a wide receiver in a warmer environment will be pay-dirt to his owners, or to the guy that decided to nab the starting quarterback of that team in the late rounds.

And, as with draft-day and injuries, just don't fixate on the target, but see the whole fantasy football world when you analyze. A new, All-Pro lineman can be an incredible experience for a mediocre quarterback, or 800+ yard running back...but it can also be crippling to the backfield of the team he left.

Step #5. Do not go in thinking running backs are gods

Now, don't get me wrong, in fantasy football, tier 1 running backs, 99 times out of 100, are a safer, more productive bet than quarterbacks, no matter the league. However, I cannot tell you how many times I've seen people get a tier 3 running back, instead of taking the QB1 or QB2 in the whole draft! Remember, these positions give you points, but do not stretch a pick, nor put too much weight into the wrong player, just to fill a spot. The same thing holds true for positions like tight end and defenses...don't think they are all the same, because sometimes, that 2 or 3 points can be a game-changer!

Step #6. Plan for success, expect disaster

This has nothing to with fantasy football players, or even fantasy football leagues, per se. What you should be doing is having a general focus on a game-plan, and not letting anything break that...even if your picks are going one or two fantasy owners ahead of you continuously. Plan your team for success, do all that is necessary and know, even the brainiest, most well-thought, intelligent fantasy football gurus still have bad days all the time...we just know it's part of the game, and don't fight it so hard. Learn from the mistakes, learn from the other fantasy owners' actions and plans for the next round.

Step #7. Have a sleeper list ready

So you went through, looked at every NFL player from last season, got all of your fantasy football data printed out, tiered your players fully and are ready to go...right? What about sleepers??? What about the third-year wide receiver on a craptastic team, who showed signs of brilliance and now has a top-tier quarterback to get him the ball? What about the running back who comes into a RBBC situation, but has the break-away speed, and strength in the middle that the team is 100% looking for? Those players, late in the rounds, could mean money even after a few weeks into the fantasy football season...so have those guys ready whenever you either need some filler, or are seeing them about to be taken.

Fantasy football is a fairly simple game, but it is a game. It requires some practice and some real-world use to get ready for it as well. When I play competitively, I always suggest drafting a few times a week with throw-away teams to see where everyone seems to be picking, talking to the other owners about tips and just enjoying myself while collecting more information. With these seven steps taken, you should be in a much better position to see the playoffs, and possibly win.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them here, or shoot me an email anytime at thefantasyfootballtoolkit@gmail.com.

Take it easy, and happy drafting!

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