Snake Draft Strategy
By Jeff Brubach
Fantasy football rankings and statistics can be found anywhere. Even in the early stages of July, a few seconds on an iPhone can produce fantasy rankings and analysis galore. Soaking in preseason coverage and scouring over rankings of reputable sources are not only great ways to spend a lazy afternoon in the office, but also help mold your brain into a focused, fantasy knowledge spewing machine. Now that your cranium is packed with the latest injury news and best player analysis the World Wide Web has to offer, how do you turn your fantasy IQ into fantasy championships? The answer is to successfully navigate the rough seas of your league’s snake draft and that, my friends, takes a plan. Follow these four steps to dominating your snake draft and assembling a championship caliber squad.
Step 1: Mock your face off
Mock drafts are one of the best snake draft preparation tools available to fantasy football fanatics and should be used as much as possible. Mr. @FantasyTaz illustrated this point beautifully in his recent interview with our own Jake Ciely. Don’t just sprinkle in one or two mock drafts over the month of August, but drench your entire summer in them like the lid popped off your salad dressing bottle. Mocks are a fantastic way to get familiar with where specific players, and also positions, are being drafted by the public. Try to target certain players at different points in mock drafts and see if they are available. Try out different strategies. Try starting out with a WR/WR combo and see how your team looks after the mock is complete (hint: it won’t be pretty). The point here is to become familiar and comfortable with the general range that players are being drafted. When your real draft kicks off, you’ll be the only calm soul in the draft room as a ferocious run on tight ends begins…just like you expected.
Step 2: Know your ADP’s
Average draft position (ADP) is a fantastic tool for fantasy football owners who are looking to assemble the most talented fantasy team possible. Sources like myfantasyleague.com (who’s ADP data I will reference below) provide very thorough averages of the draft spots of each and every fantasy relevant NFL player. Curious where rookie Giovani Bernard is being drafted, on average? ADP data will show you the answer. Can you wait until the sixth round to draft Russell Wilson? Check his ADP and the decision will instantly become a simple one.
The basic premise of having ADP data handy is that you want to maximize the value of each pick you make. Drafting a player you like is perfectly fine, but don’t draft him two rounds before you have to. For example, say Tavon Austin, rookie wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams, is your favorite player. Austin is undoubtedly draft worthy for this season and could put up some solid numbers alongside Sam Bradford, but be sure to strike at the appropriate moment. Drafting Austin is a great idea, but drafting him in the fourth round is not a great idea when his ADP says he is being drafted with the 7.04 pick (in 12 team leagues). I generally keep a print out of a current ADP list with me while I draft, just to consult in difficult situations. ADP is not always 100 percent accurate, but can definitely help in moments of panic as draft pick timers dwindle.
Step 3: Quarterbacks and tight ends are worth the wait
The positions of quarterback and tight end are deeper than ever in 2013. Outside of selecting Jimmy Graham in the second round, which is the only exception, it is far more beneficial to your fantasy team if you wait on both positions. This theory can be easily illustrated in one quick example:
Which duo would you rather own in 2013?
Aaron Rodgers/Antonio Brown or Matthew Stafford/Demaryius Thomas?
Although the “name value” of Aaron Rodgers greatly exceeds that of both Stafford and Thomas, the latter pair is the better duo to own this season. I chose these players because both Rodgers and Thomas are currently being drafted in the second round of drafts, and both Stafford and Brown are being drafted in the sixth round. The point here is that the difference between Rodgers and Stafford is much smaller than the difference between Thomas and Brown. With quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matthew Stafford, and Russell Wilson all holding average draft positions in or around the sixth round, there is no sense in wasting an early round pick on a quarterback.
The same theory applies to tight ends. Aside from Jimmy Graham, who is a decent second round selection due to the statistical advantage he will hold over the rest of the tight end field, the position is very deep and full of quality options. Instead of blowing a middle round pick on a tight end like Vernon Davis, stack your roster with another quality wide receiver and wait until the later rounds for your starting tight end. How about new Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett or upside special Jordan Cameron? Both are available in the 11th round or later and would make great options at tight end. The drop off at running back and wide receiver is far greater from the early/middle rounds to the late rounds than it is at quarterback and tight end, so be sure to draft accordingly.
Step 4: K or D? Let it be
This general sentiment gets regurgitated often as fantasy drafts approach, but it can never be ignored. Do not, under any circumstance, draft a kicker or defense until the final two rounds of your draft. Unless your league awards 27 points per sack, your roster will look much healthier when it feeds on wide receivers and running backs in the middle rounds, rather than dining on pine needles, twigs and kickers. The Seattle Seahawks defense is going to be incredible this season and I am a proud Seattle homer, but you won’t find the fearsome Seattle defense on any of my teams this season due to someone drafting them in the 10th round (which is their actual ADP). Draft both your kicker and defense late and buddy up with the waiver wire throughout the season. Please.
Now, once your draft kicks off, the only guarantee you can live by is that your draft will absolutely NOT go according to your handy ADP guide. Your crazy league mates WILL do things like draft a certain former Broncos and Jets quarterback/blocker/wildcat runner/mascot, or snipe your coveted sleeper with the pick just before your turn. These things happen. This is where your summer of fantasy research and mock drafting experience give you the edge over the rest of your flustered competition as you assemble a championship caliber fantasy team.