That may well be the #1 thing I learned from Fantasy Football. You’re likely to lose every year in every league you are in. For example, if you enter a 10 team league, you are 90% likely to lose that league. Of the people in that 90%, 95% of them are likely to say that the winner was “lucky” rather than “skillful.”
Having been on both ends of that idea, I can say that those statistics are 100% accurate. Usually, you win a league because you made some solid draft picks, you picked up a couple good free agents during the year, and the injury bug didn’t seriously affect you. You lose a league because of the exact opposite, at least one dumb pick you made, a lack of picking up that key free agent when you had a chance (seriously, who would have thought Brandon Lloyd would become the King of Consistency?), and injuries no doubt completely obliterated your otherwise perfect team.
If you're new to Fantasy Baseball, and to fantasy sports in general, get used to losing. After all, lowered standards are key to a happy season!
I mentioned in my previous article a series Mike wrote called “2011 Fantasy Baseball for Beginners”. He pretty well covered the basics there, including things like “Participate in Mock Drafts” and “Keep Emotions in Check.” NL King also did an article called “Draft Preparation and Game Planning Strategies.” I want you to read through those if you haven't already because I'm simply going to add a few points and ideas to those lists.
As a quick aside, speaking of injuries, if Tim Lincecum swings for the fences and tears an MCL, will it be referred to as a “Freak injury?” Yeah, I know, that was an easy one…on to the serious stuff…sorta…
1) Don’t overvalue
Remember my last article, bullet point 2...that guy who drafts Prince Fielder, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera with his first three picks? Yeah, don’t be that guy. People hate that guy. Do your research (of course), but remember that the players you really want could be available via trade. If you have the 3rd overall pick and you really really want Joey Votto, don’t take him there. He will probably be gone by your next pick, but if you grab a player someone else wants even a little bit, you can still work Votto onto your team after the draft.
2) Know yo’self B ‘fo you wreck yo’self
As I look at numerous draft results, I notice how quickly I could get thrown off.
Let's say I'm drafting 3rd and I snag 1B Miguel Cabrera with my first pick. My second pick comes up and Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez are the best available players on my board. I won't be real pleased. I could've grabbed my SS, my 3B, just about anything, and here I am looking at a second 1B instead (note: in my league, we have no corner or middle Infield spots, just a Utility spot). I could still use Votto or Gonzalez, but I'm handcuffing myself and my depth at other positions will not be as strong as they might be.
I may love First Basemen. There's a bunch of really good offensive players at that position, but I have to pace myself and look at the big picture. I know I need to find balance around the diamond rather than jumping on First Basemen without a thought about the rest of the draft. Yes, their fantasy appeal of many of these guys look like Scarlett Johansson now and I’d like to pick all of them, but they're not all for me.
In Fantasy Football, Scarlett Johansson would best describe Running Backs. I love Running Backs. In a 16 round draft, I probably take 6 RBs with ease, no question. If I get three RBs early on though, I know I have to go easy on them in the middle rounds if I want to grab my favorite sleepers late. I call the sleepers my “Diane Lane” picks. They look beautiful now, but they'll look even better later in their season.
The way my FB league this year is set up, whomever I draft has to be “my guy” at that position. I don’t have a lot of bench spots, so I have to be cautious about who I grab when.
3) Don’t love or hate anyone too much
I thought RB Arian Foster would be garbage. I am officially a moron. My eyes were wrong, and I could’ve had him several rounds later than his projected spot. I let him go, someone else did really well with him.
Make it clear to yourself…which players will you take if they fall multiple rounds (and how many is “multiple”) and which ones won’t you touch as long as you live? Let’s say you don’t like Adrian Beltre. You don’t trust he’ll produce at the level that most people seem to. Let’s say his Average Draft Position is roughly in the late 5th round. Let’s say you don’t have your Third Baseman yet, and you’re now in the 11th round, and Beltre is STILL on the board. Do you take that chance? What if it’s the 15th round? Have some idea of where you might take him in a draft, even if that’s “over my dead body.” You don’t want to ask yourself this question during the draft, so have it worked out ahead of time.
On the other hand, don’t fall too in love with any players. This is probably more obvious, especially given my first point in this piece.
4) Have your own value charts
I can tell you how I do mine, but I don't know that they'd be exactly what your vision of value charts should be. I go position-by-position, outline who the Top 10 players at each position are (since I'm in a 10 team league), and identify how I value the depth at each position based on that. I'll identify the players I think are undervalued and mark them as such, but keep them in an order of how I'd expect them to be drafted. Later on in the draft though, things become more fluid, and I can stray from my chart a little. I know in FF you can grab a projected-15th round player in the 13th without catching much (if any) flack for it. In FB, I'm thinking it's probably the same thing in the last several rounds there. Stick with the charts early as best you can, loosen it up a little as the draft goes on.
My chart not only marks the ADP, but also highlights the categories that will be scored, such as HRs and SBs. As I look those over during my draft, I can not only see who my top available players are, but also who will fill some of my needs. Getting a mess of players who can steal bases is great, but not if it costs me in the home run department. This is true in a 5x5 league and a points league and probably any other league with sensible scoring.
5) Know your rankings – Know the league's rankings
If you are drafting on a site like Yahoo!, ESPN, or so forth, you should be able to find their default rankings. You have your own rankings worked out from an outside source (or two, or three...), and you will probably notice that they are very different about some players. Consider the possibility that your opponents may be following the default rankings on the site in question. One source I'm using says Jose Bautista is the best Third Baseman to pick this year, but I know he's not ranked in the Top 5 on my league's default list of players. That tells me (presuming I agree with my other source here...) that I can probably wait a little while on drafting Bautista, and I can still get the guy I really want. My opponents may overlook him because he's not one of the top players available. One year in a Fantasy Football league, I drafted Derek Anderson. I felt like a moron a few picks later because someone else picked Donovan McNabb, who I would have greatly preferred, but I didn't look at my own list. I used the default list. Because of that, I suffered through a terrible year at QB.
That said, it's getting very close to my draft, and I need to get mocking! I've done a number of drafts against the computer, but so far, none with 9 other real people. Hopefully I'll get that done soon, and I'll report back here.
Until then, keep studying...failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
...although that would still be preparation...I never got that saying...