The NFL Draft is this weekend and that means we will finally know the homes for the top prospects. This also means it is an opportunity to learn some good fantasy football draft strategy. While the NFL has more teams than the average fantasy league does there is still much that can be learned by looking at how the successful teams handle the draft. Just like in a fantasy league there are teams that are generally good at drafting (Ravens, Patriots, Packers, Steelers) and those there aren’t (Browns, Jets). There are some definite lessons that can be learned from both sides of this equation and can help you be better at drafting your fantasy teams.
One of the first things that stands out to me about the teams that draft well is that they understand fundamentally that they are going to miss on picks. No matter how much time and research put into a player sometimes it just doesn’t work out. What the good teams understand is that the more draft picks you have the more opportunities you have to get it right. The Patriots have been the best at this for years as they constantly stockpile tons of picks. They know that if you hit on 50% of your picks and you make 10 picks that is 5 good players but if you only had 6 picks that is 3 good players. Think about how good your dynasty team would be if each year you found a way to add two extra good players. What we can learn from the Patriots and other teams that use this strategy is that it is ok to trade back in the draft and accumulate extra picks as that gives you a greater margin for error.
The flip side of this is trading a ton of assets to acquire one player. While this can work, like it did for the Falcons when they traded up to get Julio Jones, most of the time it doesn’t. Look at the two examples from last year where the Rams traded up with the Titans in order to take Jared Goff, and the Vikings trading their 1st round pick to acquire Sam Bradford. The issue with this type of move is that you’d better get it right or it could set your team back years. Let’s say for example that last year you were enamored with Corey Coleman and decided to trade your entire rookie draft to move up and take him. Thus far this move has not looked like a good one, but if you had made the same trade to acquire Michael Thomas you would look like a genius.
When watching the NFL Draft inevitably every year you see a team take a player and everyone begins scratching their heads. This often happens when teams “reach” for players with fantastic workout numbers like a Mike Mamula or Stephen Hill. You often see teams that are desperate to fill a hole take a player who either doesn’t fit their system, isn’t that good or simply doesn’t deserve to be picked in that slot based on production. Let this be a lesson to you fantasy wise as well. Reaching for a player is dangerous. If you value a certain player and don’t think the value matches where you are drafting trade back and get the player where they should go while getting some extra assets. Every year you see an NFL team trade up into the back-end of the 1st round to take a QB because they are afraid that player won’t be there when the pick again. Last year you saw the Broncos trade up at the end of the 1st round in order to take Paxton Lynch. In 2014, you saw the Vikings (Teddy Bridgewater) and Browns (Johnny Manziel) move up to take QBs. Again here we have a situation where desperation is causing you to make a bad decision.
This leads me to my next point which is that desperate teams make bad decisions. If you are in a fantasy league there is always someone who is itching to make a trade and has to have a guy which leads to them giving up too much. Look at the Rams last year and what they gave up to get Jared Goff. Here is the full trade below:
- Tennessee gets – 2016 First Round Pick (Rams), 2 2016 Second Round Picks, a 2016 Third Round pick, a 2017 First Round Pick and a 2017 Third Round Pick
- Rams get – Titans First Overall Pick (Jared Goff), a 2016 Fourth Round Pick and a 2016 Sixth Round pick
At the end of the 2016 draft the Titans came away with Jake Conklin a Tackle, Austin Johnson a DT, Derrick Henry a RB and in the 2017 draft they have the 5th pick in the 1st round and a 3rd rounder thanks to this trade. Now if Goff develops into a franchise QB maybe we look back on this deal differently in 5 years but right now it looks as though the Titans won this trade especially if they pick an impact player with the 5th pick in the draft this weekend. The Patriots used to make trades like this all the time where they would trade out of the back-end of the 1st round of the draft and pick up a 2nd rounder along with the other teams 1st rounder the next year. This is a strategy that you can use in your dynasty draft. If there is someone in your league that is desperate to get into the back-end of round 1 to take a certain player see if you can get a few picks from them including their first pick next year. Many times someone will make that deal thinking that their team will be good next year and that pick won’t be super valuable. Well just like the Titans you might be able to turn that into a top pick should that team falter.
While picking the right player is obviously a key part of having a successful draft so is picking the player that fits your team well. While we, as fantasy football players, don’t have to worry about how a player will fit into our team’s locker room culture a fit is important. While character isn’t a big factor for fantasy is does have to be taken into consideration because a player only helps you when they are on the field. In this year’s draft there are several high-profile players that have character questions and you must decide whether you think they can stay out of trouble. The same thing goes for player’s injury history. However, the biggest factor for you when making decisions on who to pick should be the construction of your roster. I am not saying to reach for a TE just because you are weak that position but if you are making a decision between two players who you like equally one a TE one a WR take your roster into consideration. In that case, I would suggest taking the TE as that is a great area of need. This is the situation I am in with one of my teams. My TEs are older (Z Miller and Gates) and I am loaded at WR (J Jones, A Brown, T Hilton, D Baldwin, D Jackson, etc.). I am fortunate that this year looks like a deep draft for TE and because of that I plan on taking at least one during the rookie portion of my leagues draft. I know I can do this because my team is deep at WR. This does not mean that if Mike Williams or Corey Davis fell to me in the 1st round I would take OJ Howard over him. If that scenario came up I would either trade back or take Williams/Davis and take a TE later in the draft. Now if I were choosing between John Ross and OJ Howard I would take Howard.
As the NFL Draft unfolds this weekend you have a great opportunity learn some valuable draft strategies for your fantasy draft. Watch the difference between teams that are well-managed and those that aren’t. Now that we are going to be past the draft my next article will take a look at whose dynasty value took a hit due to rookies being brought in.