Fantasy NFL is a game of skill, whether people want to admit to it or not. In the intermittent months leading up to the 2017 season, I will be exploring drafting strategies that you can experiment with in your mock drafts leading up to the regular season.
What’s a Mock Draft? I’ve never done one
OK so that’s a fair question, some experienced Fantasy Football players may be more than well accustomed to them, but quite simply put, a Mock Draft is a test draft that allows you to simulate the act of drafting.
It’s one of the most important things you can take the time to do ahead of drafting in your league for a number of reasons and we’ll rattle through them quickly and simply. Everyone wants to win their Fantasy Football league, whether it’s for money or glory. The following reasons should give you as good a reason as any to make Mock Drafts a key part of July/August ahead of your Fantasy league kicking off.
1) Getting to know your draft client
Whether you’re playing multiple leagues, picking a site to play your first year of a new league or joining existing leagues on a site you’ve never played on, getting to know your draft client could be a massive advantage to ensure you draft as you intend.
When I say “intend”, not knowing your draft client is a fast track to mistakes, running out of time and drafting a player you didn’t want or intend to draft under pressure. I’ve done it myself, I’ve ran out of time because I wasn’t aware of the available time in a specific draft client, I’ve clicked the wrong button and drafted players I didn’t mean, and in one draft where I hadn’t previously drafted in, I ran out of time and drafted the highest available ADP player, who was someone I wanted to avoid.
Get in, practice, make no mistakes on draft day.
2) ADP changes per fantasy football site
Most sites list the players in order of the ADP or Average Draft Position. What that means is that the position at which each player is drafted in mock drafts and real drafts is taken, averaged and players are placed in order. This gives you a real world idea of when players are going in most drafts.
ADP is useful to know you’re drafting someone people find value in if you’re unsure, but depending on your league, it might be completely off for what players in your league, go for at a particular point in your draft. Novice players may draft someone by name early that has a low ADP. Experienced players might go deeper to pluck a player before someone else grabs them. ADP is not a guarantee and for that reason should only be a guide.
If you draft on multiple sites like Yahoo Fantasy or NFL.com, be aware their ADP listings will be much different and may throw you off, so it’s something I like to suggest not relying on unless you’re really unsure of who to pick next.
3) Searching / Finding / Filtering
Mastering your draft client will make you efficient. When you’re drafting you may have 30-60 seconds to make a decision. In a live draft you might have resolved your next pick to be X or Y, however they may get grabbed before your turn approaches. Being a master of your draft client will allow you to filter and sort players quickly and make backup decisions more easily.
This might not seem as critical early in the draft as you bounce from top player to top player, but as you pass rounds 7-10 you’ll notice the quality thin, the options run down the depth charts and you may need to make informed alternative decisions in a short space of time. Don’t get caught on the hop, know how to find players quickly and usefully.
4) Sampling what will be available at your draft position
So many people I have spoken to about fantasy football don’t particularly care for where they draft, and there might be a case for suggesting that especially in a snake draft, regardless of where you pick, your team can be strong if you draft well.
This is true, but mock drafts help eliminate a lot of variance. For example if drafting at 10th position in a 10 man league, you’re pretty certain top players like LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, David Johnson, Odell Beckham and other favourites won’t be available. But what will be available, and who at this position will you want, you might have options like Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson. You get to pick 2 players at 10th and 11th pick, so you can nab 2 really high quality players, but which players are you grabbing. Are you taking 2 RBs to nail down running backs early or splitting it to get a mix of study WR and RB.
Your opinion of certain positions should dictate how you draft, but knowing who’s generally available at that slot, and what kind of team you can build with that spot is important, because it can highlight players you feel you didn’t want to pick, and see where you can alter a pick or if you feel after a mock draft you are light at running back, look to make alternative choices slightly earlier in the draft.
5) Understanding depth of available players in deeper leagues
This is HUGE. If your league has added new players and is 2-4 players deeper, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. You might think it’s just another 2 players to beat, and that’s true, but every round, 2 players that used to be available, won’t be. If you were in an 8 man league moving to 10 man league, by Round 4, an entire rounds picks that could have been available, will already be taken.
That leaves your team 1 position weaker. Less marquee players at the end of your draft and less left on the waiver wire. Similarly, I recently played a 14 man league and drafting was a lot tougher, you make a lot of draft picks based on a hope they will earn a starting spot, or may be the likely understudy if a player gets injured. The deeper your league, the more a mock draft becomes a huge advantage as a player.
6) Dig deeper if you don’t like what’s available
If you’re drafting and the players available in the draft client’s initial view don’t tickle your fancy (maybe you pre-ordered players, maybe you leave it ordered by ADP), don’t just take a player because you feel at this point you should take him. Draft players you believe in for two reasons
- If you don’t trust the player when drafting, you are unlikely to use them in your fantasy team. These players are the most likely to be cut from your team when you see a good option on the waiver wire.
- If you grab a player who “might” be available in the 8th round (based on your mock drafting), but you take them in the 7th to be sure you get them, this is a much better decision than taking someone you don’t like, and rolling the dice on getting a player you do want at the round you think they may go. People are not logical and will do things you don’t expect.
7) Practice makes perfect
All of the above ideas fall under this logic. If you really want to be a champion of your fantasy league, execute mock drafts regularly. When you know what position you will draft, only draft in mock drafts of the same size as your league, and from the same draft position as you expect to choose from. This will give you regular insight into what will be available to you in your draft.
Be sure to try pay more heed to mock drafts where players don’t disconnect. Often you can participate in drafts where the first 3 rounds have full participation and then players drop off. If a player drops out, most often the next pick will be the player with the highest ADP (which helps simulate what “might” happen, but it’s not real life), but the more real players picking, the more seriously you can take the outcome of the draft.
No two drafts will be the same, but there can be massive similarities and you can make informed decisions on when to take players and in what round you should grab them.
Don’t be blinded by the lights and get caught off guard. Put in a bit of practice and when your draft day comes, you’ll be comfortable, ready and in control.
Success is waiting.