“You have to learn the rules of the game, and then you have to play better than anyone else”
Drafting a winning fantasy football team is about finding pieces of information that other managers in your league do not have and then using it to your advantage. This article describes one of those pieces of information that you should consider.
Early August is the time of year where most serious fantasy managers are starting to put their draft plan together in preparation for their league draft later in the month. Part of this planning process should involve looking at your league details in order to decide which players are most valuable to you and which players other teams are likely to target.
If you’re an experienced fantasy football manager, you probably already know how important it is to consider your league’s scoring settings when deciding which players to target. The obvious example is PPR, where highly targeted receivers increase in value. Another, less common example would be a league that scores the number of completions, which will put a higher value on quarterbacks, especially players like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
However, most fantasy football managers, even the experienced ones, rarely consider my reason for writing this article, and that is “what website are you using for your draft?” This detail may seem trivial, but I’m about to show you why this is definitely something worth considering.
For this article, I’m going to use these 3 popular fantasy football sites as my examples, but I also understand there are tens, maybe even hundreds of draft websites out there-
- NFL.com Fantasy
- Yahoo Sports
- ESPN Fantasy
The most important thing to take away from this article is 1) that Online drafts are very different from Offline drafts, and 2) the website you choose for your league’s draft can also make a big difference in planning your draft strategy.
Offline vs. Online
In an offline draft, THERE ARE NO RANKINGS!!! In an offline draft, you are sitting in a room with all of the team managers and rarely is everyone using the same rankings chart to see where players should be taken. I’ve also seen in a few leagues where 1 person does not prepare at all while another brings in a magazine, a cheat sheet, and player news on their Smartphone. These differences in information mean there will be a lot more variance in where players are taken, and you will see managers reach for players as well as valuable players falling much further than they would in an online draft.
In an Online draft, there ARE rankings!!! What does this mean? It means that EVERYONE is using the same rankings for players (not assigning the same value, but everyone can see where that player is RANKED compared to the others). In the online draft, there is much less variance in where players are taken compared to the website’s rankings. Even more important, the websites listed above, and many others, DO NOT ADJUST THEIR RANKINGS DEPENDING ON LEAGUE SETTINGS!
Why is this important? Players will be ranked the same no matter if your league is Standard, PPR, PP Completion, TD only, Punt Return points, you name it. This immediately creates an advantage for any team manager who will take the time to evaluate the player’s ranking and the actual value of that player in their specific league. Example- Is Brandon Marshall ranked 20th on a website but in a league where he should be ranked 12th?
Online draft rankings also mean you will have a more realistic expectation of where players will be taken in the draft. For example, in an offline draft with no rankings, you might see a team manager reach for a player a round or two earlier than they would have if they were using an online system where he/she can see there are 10 players ranked before that player. More often than in an offline draft, you will see players get drafted right about where they are ranked on that site, with little variance.
An example of using this to your advantage- Let’s say it’s your pick in round 4 of a 10 team- PPR league, and you are targeting Darren Sproles for your RB2 spot. The 4th round is a decent spot for Darren Sproles in PPR, but you also know he is ranked 65th in your online draft application. Chances are he will still be available in the next round. My advice- why not wait at least 1 more round to take him and use your 4th round pick to get position depth? In the 4th round you can load up on other skill players in the range of Victor Cruz, Dwayne Bowe, Reggie Wayne, Darren McFadden, and Le’Veon Bell knowing you still have a great chance to take Darren Sproles in the 5th round and possibly as your RB3 instead. If someone else takes him there are still plenty of valuable running backs left in the 5th round. Obviously your strategy may change slightly depending on your pick number, but you get the idea. That, my friends, is drafting value.
Why the Website Matters
The website matters because every website has different rankings for the same players, and as I mentioned before, they don’t adjust their rankings based on your league settings.
My favorite examples of this in 2013 are Wes Welker and Matt Ryan. Each of these players is ranked very differently depending on the website that is being used for the online draft and the rankings are the same for every league and user-
- NFL.com Fantasy- 61st
- ESPN Fantasy- 36th
- Yahoo Sports- 63rd
- NFL.com Fantasy- 67th
- ESPN Fantasy- 44th
- Yahoo Sports- 49th
Let’s put this into practice- in a standard league, Wes Welker is projected to get ~150 fantasy points this year (approx. 1,170 yards and 6 TD’s) making him the 12th ranked wide receiver in projected points. In my opinion, the 12th ranked wide receiver is not a good value to draft at 36th in an ESPN league; in fact, Vincent Jackson is projected at 175 pts and is also going in the 3rd round. However, Welker is a tremendous value in a Yahoo league where you could potentially get him in the 6th round where your other options are only Antonio Brown and Desean Jackson.
The same can be said for Matt Ryan. If you know that NFL.com is ranking him low at 67, then you know you can wait on a QB, and draft a RB, WR, or TE with your 4th, and 5th picks knowing you will get him or a comparable Matt Stafford (ranked 70th by NFL.com) in the 6th round. In Yahoo or ESPN, you will have to draft him much sooner if you want him on your roster.
My advice for your draft this year is to go beyond just looking for players to target and considering league settings, and instead, truly analyze the draft structure and the website you are using, and look for areas where you can take advantage where there is limited information. Figure out what website you are drafting at, look for those advantages in the rankings, and plan your draft strategy accordingly.