Christmas morning. Wedding day. Child's birth. Draft Day.
Important moments in life require preparation. You wouldn't show up to Christmas morning without having planned and purchased gifts beforehand. Weddings require a ton of planning, and what parent didn't have the crib and baby room set up before bringing home their bundle of joy? So, why would you go into Draft Day without some preparation?
So...maybe it doesn't have the same magnitude as life's big events, but don't let that diminish the importance of preparing for your draft. After all, the hour or two that you spend drafting should make the next several months so much fun. After the chaotic pandemic of the last two years, let's make sure that these next few months are as enjoyable as possible. That feeling when you have a guy lined up in your queue and someone from your league snipes him right before it's your turn to draft. That feeling when you are counting down the hours, and then the minutes prior to the draft. The comraderie. The trash talking. The inside jokes that only you and your league understand. The thrill of watching a Monday night game needing just a handful of points, and then gloating when you claim victory for the week -- or playing it off when you lose by a point. It's all part of the experience...we need it...we deserve it...so let's enjoy it.
OK, now on to our draft tips for 2021.
1. Understand the difference between price and value
As Warren Buffett once said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." If you remember nothing else from this article, this is the one takeaway that we really want to impress upon you.
Let me demonstrate how that applies to fantasy football. Last year, Ryan Tannehill was the 20th quarterback off the board in most drafts. In 12-team leagues, he was being drafted as a backup in the 11th-round. When the dust settled at the end of the season, Tannehill finished as the 7th-best fantasy QB.
We paid an 11th-round price for him and got a 6th-round value.
Sticking with quarterbacks, let's look at projections and ADP for Justin Herbert and Tom Brady. There is a projected 18 point difference between these two guys...for the entire season. If you want Herbert as your QB, you'll need to pay a 5th-round price based upon his current ADP. Brady isn't being taken until a full two rounds later. The difference in weekly point contribution is approximately one point, but the price you have to pay for those points is different, isn't it? If you passed on Herbert and instead drafted a WR like Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp in the fifth, you wouldn't have to draft a WR like DeVonta Smith or D.J. Chark in the seventh where the point contribution between these receivers is projected to be ~3 fantasy points every week.
If the NFL is a game of inches, fantasy football is a game of fractional points.
Understanding the difference between price and value can pay big dividends during your draft. Find the values in your draft and do your best not to overpay.
2. Mix Safety With Sexy
The first few rounds of your draft should be all about safety. Kamara, Cook, and Henry are all safe picks. They're the bedrock upon which to build your championship team.
As your draft starts rolling into the later rounds, that's where we're looking for upside. That's when we want the sexy potential. Guys like Travis Etinne, Diontae Johnson, Kareem Hunt, and Brandon Aiyuk have the potential to be solid fantasy contributors for your team in the mid-rounds. When you see guys like Tyler Boyd sitting on the board in the 8th or 9th, take a moment to realize that guys like Boyd are known quantities. We know what his situation is like, and we know what kind of production he's likely to put up. He's a safe pick for a backup player on your roster, but if you see Javonte Williams sitting on the board in the 6th, he carries some unknowns having never carried the ball in the NFL before. It's OK to take a flier on someone at that point in your draft. He may not crack your starting lineup right away, but you took care of the safe picks in the earlier rounds. Williams will likely have the starting job later in the season.
Finally, use your last skill position pick on a lottery ticket. This is a guy who will likely be your 4th or 5th RB, WR, or your 2nd/3rd TE. If you think that Jaylen Waddle will light it up with Tua, then take a chance. Think AJ Dillon and his tree-trunk legs will emerge with a greater role in the Packers' ground game? Take a chance. After all, that's what lottery tickets are for.
3. Know Your Scoring
We can't stress this one enough and it happens every year. If your league gives points for receptions (PPR or 1/2 pt PPR), certain players are going to be more valuable than others. If your league starts 2 quarterbacks or gives 6 points for a passing touchdown, those players will be more valuable. It is remarkable to me that in virtually every draft that I have participated in this year, someone inevitably asks what the scoring format is. Don't be that guy.
Know your scoring before you enter the draft room.
4. Take the Best Available Player
Think you need to fill your roster right away? Think again. I haven't had the luxury of drafting Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle on any of my teams, so what's the point in rushing to get a tight end? The same can be said about Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. I don't own shares of either guy, so why would I rush to get a QB just to fill out my roster? Take the best available player on the board. If that's another running back or wide receiver and your QB spot is unfilled, so be it. Wait for Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, or Tom Brady.
Trust me, reaching is only good for getting things on really high shelves. It's not for fantasy football drafts.
5. Ditch the Magazines
This absolutely boggles my mind. Why in the world do we still publish fantasy football magazines, and why in the world do people buy them?
Look, we've all used magazines in the past, but as time-honored as that tradition might be, it's like using AOL's 56K dial-up service to get connected to the Internet. I'm even fairly certain that these magazines are still delivered via horse and buggy.
If you use the rankings from Fantasy Nerds, we are updating those every single day. Trades...injuries...suspensions...those things all get factored into dynamic player values.
The moment a magazine goes to print, that's it folks. Keep in mind that most of those articles are written well before it goes to print.
When your magazine was printed, Michael Thomas was a WR1 going at the end of the first round. Think the publisher of the magazine is going to recall them all and adjust the rankings in light of him potentially missing half the season? Not going to happen. Save your money and save your dignity in the process. Hell, you might even be able to save some trees. Ditch the magazines.
6. Players on the same team
I've watched people pass over players because they feel like they have too many from the same team. The logic generally flows something like this: half my team will be on bye at the same time and if the team does poorly, they'll all do poorly.
When I hear that, I like to sit the person down and regale them with fantastic stories about the 2007 New England Patriots and the 2013 Denver Broncos. In both examples, I played in leagues where someone did have a roster full of those players including Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, and Sammy Morris for the Pats and Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno for the Broncos.
Guess what? Each guy lost the week that those teams were on bye, but they completely dominated every...single...other...week. The playoffs were a breeze for them.
7. Sh!t on your neighbor
This is one of my personal favorites and it comes from a card game that I was taught as a young child. Regardless of the name (I've also heard it called Screw Your Neighbor), it's a fun game that any age group can play and it's all about making things difficult for the person on your left. In this case, it's about the person who is drafting immediately after you.
The tactic works like this: get your Player Queue lined up before it's your turn to pick. You should have two or three players ranked in the order that you'd like to take them. When it's your turn to pick, grab the top-ranked guy in your queue and draft right away. Don't wait. The person drafting after you generally assumes that he/she has 60-90 seconds to make any final decisions about his/her next pick. By picking quickly, you are forcing the clock on them. People have a general fear of running out of time and auto-picking. Play on that fear and watch as their heart rate increases. Hopefully this forces them to rush into their pick.
8. Be Flexible
No, you don't have to be a master in yoga, but you do have to be flexible when it comes to your draft. Every year I get questions from FN members who want to know what I think about their draft strategy. Should I go RB/RB or WR/WR? Truthfully, the answer is that it depends. It's helpful to do a mock draft to get an idea of where guys will likely fall, but no mock draft will ever perfectly replicate your actual draft. If, for example, you're drafting at the tail end, you may have a RB/RB strategy going in, but what happens when a Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams is staring you in the face? Are you really going to pass on them to take Joe Mixon or Antonio Gibson? The point differential between a Tier 1 WR and a Tier 2/3 RB can be significant.
Have a plan, but be prepared to take what the draft gives you.
9. Draft a kicker LAST
Seriously - don't draft a kicker until the very end. Given the point contributions, prediction difficulties, and relative variances, I have yet to hear a coherent, logical argument for drafting one before the final round.
Oh, and you only need 1. Seriously - drop the one you have and pick another one up on the waiver wire if you have to. That extra roster spot should be spent on your lottery ticket player.
10. Be Prepared
We're a bit biased and think Fantasy Nerds is an awesome tool to have, but what if your Internet connection goes down? What if you drop your tablet or laptop as you're reaching for your favorite beverage? Who knows what's going to happen on draft day?!? Be prepared by printing out our fantasy football cheatsheet and taking that with you. Yeah, it's old school, but it's definitely more timely than a magazine, and just like that condom you kept in your wallet all throughout high school, it's best to be prepared for the moment.
Finally speaking of moment - enjoy yours! We talk about things like strategy and which guys to target and when, but rarely do we talk about the fun part of the game. As I discussed at the very beginning of this article, these are the moments of normalcy that we crave and need. The draft will be over before you know it. Have fun! Throw some smack talk. The social aspect of fantasy football is one of the best parts of the game! Trust me - it won't be long before January is here and fantasy season is over.
Good luck in your draft!