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Friday, August 24, 2007

How to draft Fantasy Football -- by a novice owner

This was my first year to be involved in any fantasy league including football. So why should you listen to my advice? Because I didn't want to appear foolish, so I did all of the research to answer all of the questions I had. Chances are they are the same questions you now have.

First thing to success in a draft - Be Prepared. Don't go to your League's Draft without having a good solid drafting plan. That means some advance preparation.

Things you need to know in advance:

1. How will the scoring in your league be done?
2. How many players will you be drafting?
3. How many players will you be playing each week and at what positions?
4. Which players are the best at each position for your League's scoring format?

Your League administrator will be able to provide you with the first 3 answers. You will have to do some research to determine the 4th. The good news is there are some good websites which provide a lot of useful information. Check the bottom of this post for some I used.

My league used the standard scoring format of ESPN Fantasy Football as well as the Team format used by them. We each drafted 16 players. Each week we will designate 9 players to be our Team that week. The other 6 players if you have a full team will be on your bench. They are the ones you chose not to play that week.

We play:
1 QB
2 RB
1 RB/WR (sometimes called a flex player. You chose either to play a third RB or a third WR)
1 TE
1 K
1 Defense/Special teams

We then have 6 players we opt not to play that week.

So going into the draft using this format you know you need at least 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, a kicker and a defense/special teams unit. In addition you will need either a 3rd RB or a #3 WR.

Each team in the NFL has a BYE week. You don't. So you need to plan for that week when one or more of the 9 required players are not playing. You will need a substitute. You can draft a player as that backup or be prepared to get someone off waivers OR accept a 0 score from that position that week. I suggest either drafting a player as a backup or using waivers most of the time.

So now that we have outlined what we need, here was MY Methodology

I know this may sound like a lot of work, but since our League consisted of 10 teams with 16 Players each, I needed information on a minimum of 160 players. Of these 160 Players, I knew I would need a list of at least 20 QBS (one starter and 1 backup for each team); 30 running backs and 30 wide receivers, 20 Tight Ends, 20 defenses/Special Teams, and at least 10 kickers. In our scoring system, QBs, RBS, and WRs are going to account for most of each week's points. So I wanted more than the bare minimum of RBS and WRS. I was prepared to live with just 2 QBS, 2 Defenses, and 1 Tight End and 1 Kicker.

Next I did a spreadsheet that organized the draft options for the number of players I anticipated needing plus a few others. In my case I did my preparation as if there were 17 rounds of the draft. I then researched and listed on my Spreadsheet the TOP Players for a 17 Round Draft by anticipated Fantasy Points. These players were listed from 1 to last in column C of my Spreadsheet. What was columns A and B? A showed the week that player would have a BYE (not be available to play for me). Column B showed MY ranking for that Player. As with most people I had LaDainian Tomlinson, RB from SD ranked Number 1. Column D showed the team and Position (ie. SD RB), Column E listed the projected Fantasy Points (for LT it is 392), the next column showed the "experts" projected Draft number (where they think most leagues will draft that player), my next columns was for QB, RB, WR, TE, D/ST, K. In each column I would add the name of the player into his category by his row. For example, I had Peyton Manning listed as the 4th highest player based on projected Fantasy points. So in the 4th row under the QB column, Peyton's name is listed. The Top Tight End was Cage of SD at 161 points so after a bunch of blank rows in the Tight End column, you reach his name. Then there are several blank rows in that columns before the next name appears.

The whole idea was to know which player at which position was the most valued for fantasy points and how far down the draft the next best player at that position might be. I intentionally omitted Kickers from my initial list. I had them listed separately at the bottom. When I finished my listed for a projected 17 round draft using just the Top players by Point value (Kickers omitted), I was short a couple of Tight ends so I found the next 5 or 6 Top Tight ends and added them to the bottom of my list along with the TOP Defenses to give me a total of 2 per Team plus a few extra.

Now I looked at the players available. These were my draft choices. While QBS are listed with high projected Point totals, 1 only get to play 1 and there is not a lot of difference between 2 and 10. SO other than Peyton Manning I moved QBS down my list and elevated RBS and WRS. So in my projected first round of 10 players, I had 9 RBS and 1 QB. The RBS had higher Fantasy Points projected than the Top WRS. Round 2 was a mix of RBS and WRS. The BS I dropped appeared in Round 3 (or some of them). I arbitrarily chose to show only the next Top 4 QBS in Round 3. This I did for the entire field.

You have to be prepared to react to what is available. If you take a RB in the first Rd and in the 2nd a RB with a higher value is there than any WR, take the 2nd RB. IF a WR is ranked higher on your draft board, take the WR. In my draft, the first 3 rounds, a RB was the highest ranked player available other than QB. I chose to wait on QB. My 4th and 5th Rounds were WRS. IF a WR had been available in Rounds 2 & 3 ranked higher than the highest available RB I would have taken a WR. They weren't so I ended up with RB, RB, RB, WR, WR. By round 6, almost all of the other Teams had selected a QB. 2 QBS I liked were still on the draft board so I opted to get the best DEFENSE in round 6. The best Tight End was already gone. My needs were QB, TE, K and defense/special teams OR backups. Looking at what was available, I decided to gamble I could get my QB later and the Tight ends left were fairly equal. So I took Chicago Defense/Special Teams. The next round I took my QB just because I was afraid someone might take their 2nd QB and he would be gone. It was Jon Kitna who is listed as high as 2 on some lists. A Steal as the 9th or 10th QB taken. As a result I was able to get an excellent QB and better RBS than most teams. My next round, I took Deion Branch, WR Sea since I considered him the best available WR. I went into the draft wanting 4 RBS and 4WRs at least. Again I decided TE and Kicker could wait. Round 9 I took my Tight End - Ben Watson of NE. I now had an entire Starting team except a Kicker plus 1 bench player. I went ahead and took my kicker in the next round. Now I needed quality backups. The final 6 rounds of the draft I took: WR, Denver D/ST, RB, QB, WR, TE

That left me with the final Roster shown below. I made 1 mistake. My final Tight End, Owen Daniel has the same Bye week as my other Tight End. So after thinking about it, I went ahead and waived him from my roster although I considered waiting. The reason I waived him I will reveal in another post in a few days. His vacancy can't be filled until after Sunday Morning (have to wait 48 hours) and just in case any of my competition is reading this I don't want to tip my hand.

Final Tip. Look at some of the first week match-ups. I didn't and wish I had. Some of the better players such as Rudi Johnson of Cin are playing their toughest competition early. I will probably sit him in week 1. My first D/St of Chicago is playing SD the first game. I will probably sit them and play Denver as my D/ST. Knowing that would have allowed me to plan my backup better since I'd be playing them early in the season. As it happens, I was covered. But it was by luck rather than skill.

Promised Links: (main site also has stats from years past)

I am using a lot now as I try to prepare for each week's head to head match-up. Having a great draft is only step 1 to a fantasy football season. I am still learning step 2 - week to week decisions on who to play and not play

Take a look at the cheat sheets available online at places like ESPN and FFtoday that rank overall and by position.

BUT also pay attention to BYE weeks (shown on FFtoday's cheat sheet and maybe the others). You don't want all of your backup players at a position having the same Bye as your planned #1.

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