Guiding Principles for Your 2014 Fantasy Football Draft

August 19th, 2014:

The 2014 football season is almost upon us and with that comes another year of fantasy goodness. Drafting has already begun for some leagues while others are still preparing. For those in the thick of mock drafts, player analysis and rank mania, I have compiled a few guiding principles to help you stay the course and attain fantasy greatness in your league.

First and foremost, do your homework. Do not decide to wing it on draft day. Know who’s been traded, who’s been drafted, and what rookies to watch. Take the pulse of the league and know the ins and outs of why which players moved where. For instance, if you are unaware Maurice Jones Drew is now a Raider and Desean Jackson has moved down the road to division rival Washington Redskins you have a bit of homework to catch up on. Know the improvements teams have made to help create a perfect storm for a fantasy breakout candidate. Ask yourself the right questions. Has the o-line been upgraded on a team where a very talented back has struggled in the past?... Has there been QB upgrade on a team where an athletically superior wide receiver is yearning for a target? Has a team recently acquired a monster of a tight end with great hands who is a former basketball player?... One last thing regarding homework, know your rookies, and pick a couple flyers. The key here is to understand their team and why the given team needs that rookie and how soon they are willing to use them. Look at former breakouts to see if any current situations parallel theirs. (AJ Green, Demarco Murray, Doug Martin, RGIII, and Julius Thomas, what factored in to the rise of these guys in recent years?)

Next up is the name game. Do not and I repeat DO NOT be fooled by a name. A prime example would be the notorious McFadden draft pick. Former rationalizations are as follows: “This will be the year he doesn’t get hurt.”, “This is the year the O-line will work,  last year wasn’t his fault.”, “Last year it was a zone scheme that’s why he did so poorly.” , etc. Those in the past, myself included, have fell victim to what we feel the player is capable of and extrapolate this out to a phenomenal season we expect. One can hope for this but do not expect this to be the case and most certainly do not hinge your fantasy team upon a foolish roll of the dice. On the other side of the spectrum are names that carry a bad rap in fantasy circles for no truly substantiated reason. For instance, Tony Romo tends to get blasted in a lot of fantasy circles and oftentimes is untouched until the later rounds when more often than not he finishes in the top 5 Fantasy QB’s for the year.  While in the past, an Eli Manning who “just had a bad year” is heralded as a premier QB. The bottom line is if you hear an opinion online, in a magazine, or from a group of friends, validate it. Make sure you know why you agree or disagree. In some cases it may work to your benefit and you may find a loathed player within your fantasy circle is now a steal for you on draft day and can help bring you one step closer to a championship caliber team.

Next, you should know the experts’ rankings. You should know the ADP (average draft position) at the time of your draft too, but do not let these be your brains come draft day. Do not let rankings pick your team for you. You can overanalyze and get lost in the statistical analysis and averages of the industry’s top experts. Let these lists and analyses simply become your map and use them as a guide on draft day. It is up to you to then take this information and derive value from it. These tools allow insight as to how a draft on average will play out. Based upon your initial research, craft which players you would like to draft and when. Do you need a round 1 running back or can you pull similar value from round 2? Is there a round 4 wide receiver that can produce as well as a round 2 wide receiver? Craft the order of your draft selections carefully and aim to extract every last drop of value possibly from the lot of players presented to you each round.

At the end of the day, it is not that you had the player with the highest score or that you have the longest list of  former Pro-Bowlers, it is your weekly total that counts and that total is all that counts. You need to maintain a consistent week to week output that is on average better than the rest of your league. This is critical to position yourself with the best possible chance to win your league and that is the way you need to see it. In past years there have been standout wide receivers of superhuman ability that may win a game for you one week on their own and then the next week may take home the dreaded goose egg losing you the match by a mere two points. Tread lightly with these boom or bust players. Although exciting to experience one week, the torture that follows the next can create a team that teases, taunts, and torments you all season long. You do not want to be sitting with a therapist all through next summer trying to undo the inner turmoil and irrational logic caused by your  ‘Star Player’ who let you down, so you can be in the right mindset for draft day next season. To avoid this mess as well as ensuring a winning season, keep your eye on the prize and your focus on consistent team performance.

Be smart about your picks, remember who you’re selecting and why. Understand the moves that have been made in the league and where each team has improved and how this may affect individual players. Know your rookies. Don’t be fooled by a name or a fantasy of what you wish the player would become. Have a strategy of how and when you want to load your team, by position. Make your draft selections about your weekly output and not your ego concerning who exactly is on your team. Do your homework, come prepared, and stay the course. If you do so, you will be crushing the competition in no time and hoisting your league trophy come the end of the year. Good luck and happy drafting!

- Senior Mechanical Design Engineer Tim Haughton, Goddard Technologies

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