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Draft the Team You Really Want
Kevin Ratterree
July 28, 2005

Is there any better moment than the beginning of your fantasy football draft?  All our preparation, all our hours of research, all the knowledge we have crammed into our heads is summed up on our cheat sheet.  Our league mates won't know what hit them.  Break open that six pack and celebrate! The championship is ours!

Then the draft is over, and you are looking at your team on paper, and a feeling of uneasiness creeps in.  This isn't the team you wanted.  How did you end up with a bunch of players you didn't really want?  After all that preparation?

In early July the onslaught to fantasy football magazines flood the store shelves.  From 7-11 to Barnes and Nobles, they flood the market.  Back in the day we had our choice of only a couple of publications.  But these were more a general overview of the upcoming NFL season rather than the deep analysis and player projections we all take for granted now.  I haven't gone through and counted all the different mags available at this point but I would venture a guess of at least 40 - 50 were published in 2005.  Somehow through that initial barrage of choices we buy 3 or 4 magazines.  Which magazines to buy are just the first of so many decisions.  And that choice would not be easy if you were a newbie to the hobby.  Luckily for me I found one particular magazine years ago which I trust to provide good content every season.  I only buy a few others for kicks.  And let me tell you there are some real rags out there all to willing to pluck $7 from your wallet, and provide little if any useful information. 

I bought one magazine this year that had the "expert draft" section.  The only problem was, I hadn't heard of any of these "experts".  And one of these "experts" picked a quarterback with his first pick.  And then picked another quarterback with his second pick.  I would think that someone tagged as an expert might be somewhat familiar with the rules of the game, therefore would realize that what he was doing was wrong.  In any event, his actions skewed the mock draft rendering it null and void, and it was at that point I could almost visualize my $7 sprouting wings and flying away. 

I would like to offer my services, or the services of  99.99% of the people within reading distance of these words.  If you are going to put expert polls in your magazine, please try to get people at least as good as I play with in my league I am trying to win through buying your  worthless rag.  Now I know how I end up drafting with some numbnuts that picks a QB in the first 2 rounds.  He's reading garbage like this 15 minutes before the draft, and everybody is circling him like a vulture for his carcass of an entry fee.

These are the kinds of pitfalls we face in our march to the championship.  Swerve, and onward.

In any event the point I was going for before becoming derailed by the magazine crimes.  After you have read your 3 or 4 magazines, and subscribe to 3 or 4 web sites, you've spent a sum of money, and you'll come out of it dazed and confused after hearing 6-8 different versions of the gospel.  Along with all the opinions you will hear expressed on message boards, and on the sports channels, and the talk radio shows.  Lot's of "noise."  And then we have those "gut feelings" to contend with.  Playing fantasy football leads to a bombardment of information which we can hardly hope to process in any sort of meaningful way. 

If the power of our brains to absorb football knowledge and stats could be harnessed and put to some sort of positive use, my God what we might accomplish.  I mean  we agonize over our decisions sometimes playing this "game" more than we do over who we elect, what car we buy, what house we buy, what food we put in our bodies.  Is that healthy?  I think so.

Drafting a fantasy team is an art.  It is probably the best part of playing fantasy football.  Everybody has their own technique, mine has evolved over the years and seems to work for me.  I'm not going to bore you with the details of how I form a draft, but instead I would like to give you an idea of a mind set.  And this mind set may seem revolutionary to some of you.   

Back in the day I used to have a very strict VBD cheat sheet mentality going in.  But in going too much with the flow, you eliminate your chance for greatness sometimes.  You have to be the guy that pulls a rabbit out of his hat to win in most leagues, especially larger ones.  Making safe picks all along the way might get you to the playoffs, but you won't beat the guy with the hat rabbit.

There are so many facets to a successful draft, volumes could be written on the subject.  What I am going to stress to you in this article is to draft the team you want.  Back in the day I would create my cheat sheet.  Pick the best player available in every round following my cheat sheet almost religiously.  But I noticed sometimes I didn't really end up with a team I was comfortable with.  I ended up with players that I did not have good feelings about just because they were next on the cheat sheet when my draft turn came.  There is no worse feeling than targeting a sleeper, waiting too long to draft him, and watching the team that grabbed him go on to Championship glory.  Unless it would be the feeling of being leery of a player you are picking, and ultimately having the injury you feared costing you a season.

Nowadays I still make a cheat sheet of sorts, but I also have a "dream roster" already written down.  Before each draft I put on paper the team I want to draft.  Not always the whole draft but at the very least the first several rounds.  I will also write down names of late round sleepers I am interested in.  Obviously to do this you need to be realistic about which players will be available round by round.  And you need to be well aware of the average draft position of each of the players you are targeting.  If I decide I don't want a player (and I exclude several) I just won't draft him period.  And if I want a player, I set out to get him.

Obviously fantasy drafts never go exactly the way you think they will.  But if you don't have a solid strategy going in, you probably won't draft a solid team.  If you are feeling good about your pre-season research, and you are on top of things and you draft the players you have good feelings about even if you have to draft them ahead of where conventional wisdom says to.......let me repeat that. EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DRAFT THEM AHEAD OF WHERE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SAYS.  And I am talking about maybe a round or two.  I'm not talking insanity like drafting Trent Green in the first round.  Every league needs one of those guys just to make the draft entertaining and screw up everybody's master plans. 

An example:  Let's say you are drafting in a 10 man league and you are in the 7th round.  You have 2 or 3 running backs (for your sake I hope you do) and you think Warrick is Dunn and T.J. Duckett is a good "sleeper" pick.  But your research has shown Duckett on average should be drafted in the 8th round, not the 7th.  Do you wait another round to take a guy that you really want, or gamble that he will still be there, and take another player at another position that you are not really that thrilled about, but seems to be a relative value? 

Value based drafting would dictate that we take the highest rated player, but whose highest rated player?  The Huddle's?  Yours? The dude in the magazine?  When you are driving the ship you need to make the decisions based on your gut.  Not somebody else's ideas that they stole from the next guy.   

It's the greatest feeling in the world to pick the right guys for your team (the ones you really wanted) and win a Championship.  It's the worst feeling in the world to draft a team of guys you didn't really want, and not even qualify for the Toilet bowl.

So do yourself a favor and limit the amount of "noise" you listen to, and draft the team you really want.