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November 2018
M T W T F S S
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There are two fantasy football seasons- the draft season, and the games. The draft has a huge influence on how your team will fare, but a great draft definitely doesn’t guarantee a win. I discovered that planning for a fantasy football draft is an art more than a science- not that it should be. It is too easy to succumb to the various hard and fast theories out there about draft schemes. I’d rather draft based on solid research and some analysis of how my league might draft this year. I think that, first and foremost, if you play in an established league with the same owners, the best thing you can do is understand how that league drafts. If you do that, you’ll have a big leg up on your competition. We’ve covered that process in the first two phases, and now we need work on perfecting our plan.

Ideally, you know where you are going to draft. That opens a realm of possibilities. What I recommend is planning, at least loosely, every pick in the draft. And you may want to have multiple plans, too, to help you react to how you think the draft may go. Plan for the worse case- that is, assume every player that *should* be gone when you pick will be gone. It won’t go that way- some players that you feel should be gone will be there for you to consider. But, you can’t plan on that. What I like to do is, as I described in Part V, take the ADP lists from a website and filter it for each position I draft for.

I get a list of the QBs, RBs, WRs, etc. Then, pick by pick from my slot, I see how many players are gone. So, if I had slot 6, and by then I expect 1 QB and 5 RB to be gone historically, I can safely evaluate the second ranked QB, the 6th ranked RB, and the top players from all the other positions. Looking at my projections, and the VBD x-factor (in other words, that players value over the baseline), I can make an apples to apples comparison of who could be there for me at that pick. And- I don’t just pick one option- I name at least three at each pick- the one above, the projected top player available, and the next player available. For example, say that ADP says Aaron Rodgers is the #1QB, Michael Vick is #2, and Drew Brees #3. I’ll go ahead and write all three down if I’m sold on taking a QB there.

I repeat this process for every pick, building out a potential plan. How many times has the draft fallen just the way I planned it? Never- because I’m planning for ‘worse case’. But my league never acts just like the market, and the other owners don’t value a given player the same way I do. Unexpected players always ‘fall to me’. But I have a plan and it does help to guide me even if the draft takes a strange twist, and if you’re prepared, strange twists will always benefit you- on paper- because your view of the players will likely be different to some degree, and you already know what the worse case looks like for you.

The best way to test your plan is to mock draft the right way. Just jumping into random online mock drafts will ultimately have little value for you in anticipating what your league will do. What I like to do is down load a draft tracking tool and run offline mocks using my spreadsheet to predict what each pick will be. I obviously apply some logic to the picks for other teams, but I can get a rough projection of how the draft for my exact league will flow based on my results learned from the DAW. You can look at the draft list or pick depth list and see what position goes at each pick, based on the weighted average of each year’s draft. So you can mock draft just like your league does. Just use the names that the market provides via ADP, then make your picks accordingly.

After you run some mocks yourself, venture into the online mocks and see how you do in general terms. In fact, you can use the data I provide in the DAW that you download as is to sort of ‘game’ your online mocks. That data, after all, is gleaned from real ADP info from MyFantasyLeague.com. You might be surprised at how well it predicts how the drafts are going to go.  Tweak your plan as you see fit. But remember this: don’t forget to step out of the concrete before it dries. In other words, it’s only a plan, but more often then not the way the draft actually flows will force you to react. Don’t become fixated on the plan if it no longer makes sense. Some of the insight you gained will still serve you even if you have to go a different way- the exercise of prepping for the draft alone will help you immensely. You’ll be prepared with when certain runs will begin- those don’t change too much.  You’ll recognize how long you can wait on a certain player that the market is down on but you like. You can stay ahead of those situations. But very often, things do shift, they get a little unpredictable and you have to be ready to adapt.

One area I’ve delved into is also trying to understand how each individual owner drafts. The data is all there for the past three years- use it! Make little notes about how each owner drafts. Listen to them talk about the upcoming draft- initiate conversations but give nothing away (unless you can lie convincingly, then lead them down the primrose path!). You usually know who talks too much and who lays out red herrings. Pay special attention to owners drafting near you in the order, or those owners in your division. Beware the quiet ones- those are the guys you’ll need to study carefully in past drafts to determine how they might draft.

You’ll find that some follow very similar patterns year to year- others jump all over. But you can figure out things like who always takes 2 or 3 RBs to start the draft: who takes a backup QB ‘early’, who always goes after defenses first, etc. You can also look at what your past champions do, what the division winners do.. are there patterns? Finally, you can look at each slot, too- how has the slot been handled over those three years, how does it change? The data is all there in the DAW, if you choose to use it. As a side note- I have played around with automating some of this individual owner analysis in the past. Perhaps some day there will be a premium edition of the DAW that incorporates individual owner traits and draft history in the same concise and analytical manner as the rest of the DAW. We’ll see. I have a lot of dreams for the DAW, we’ll see where the interest and my motivation take it.

This closes out the 3P’s of draft strategy. I will certainly come back and refine the articles over time, so each year it may not be a bad idea to review these steps- I certainly do. I’ve been refining my process for 7 years now, and only now am I comfortable enough with it to share it with the world. I hope you find value in it, and drop a line to @Draftologist at twitter, or on the Draftologist page on Facebook.

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