Diary of a wimpy draft: Lessons learned during a drafting free fall

How was I to know that checking my e-mail at 10 in the morning would be the highlight of my day?

And like some sinister version of a Shakespearean romantic drama where the protagonist dies a tragically ironic death after experiencing an unparalleled high, how was I to know that the message I received would lead to such a rock-bottom low?

You see, I was invited to play in an ultra-competitive 15-team roto battle to the death against people representing various fantasy blogs and websites. The league is called “Blog Wars” and developed the brains behind rotocommunity.com

That night was the draft. What follows is how I broke most of the fantasy draft-preparing commandments, including my own Tiger Woods drafting strategy, en route to one of the worst drafts in my fantasy career.

My first mistake was accepting the invitation. I knew from the start that I was overbooked that night already, and while it is hard to overlook an opportunity to play against some solid competition, it also can be fantasy suicide to miss your season-opening draft … even if it is only a few rounds.

Would you be OK with autodraft programming if it auto-piloted your car through interstate traffic during a snowstorm or babysat your kids at a busy playground?

No. Of course not. There are just some things that need a person’s reasoning, gut-reaction response and good old-fashioned intuition. Fantasy sports drafts are among those things.

Also, no matter how good you are at fantasy sports, if you can’t devote your full attention to the draft, than you’re selling both your team and the overall experience short.

I know. I tried it too many times. I’ll draft a player, see that I’m not on the clock for a while and switch computer screens or run off to complete a few errands in the interim. Like the country song: “I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

The problem is that when you do get back to the draft, you’re typically stuck with making an impromptu decision between several guys with similar skill sets. Perhaps you start to panic and take a player a round or two or 10 too early. Suddenly, you panic some more and make an even more outrageous pick the next round as you attempt to right the ship.

So, in a nutshell, it is imperative that you only commit yourself to leagues where you can make the draft a priority.

It also helps to practice before the fact. No matter how many drafts you have done in previous seasons, the first live-action fantasy draft of the spring is always a conditioning experience.

Baseball players are finely tuned athletes who’ve been playing the game their whole lives, yet they all participate whenever possible in spring training and exhibition games each year. It would be ludicrous to expect any athlete to jump into game action without properly warming up and getting back into the swing of things.

The same goes for fantasy drafts. Your fantasy spring training comes in the form of mock drafts. Do them. Do lots of them before drafting in a league that counts. I didn’t do so before the Blog Wars draft, and it showed as my brain stumbled, tripped over some bone-headed picks and stumbled again.

And so, I fumbled on yet another fundamental of fantasy drafting.

In my haste before the draft, I neglected to look at the league settings. Every league is different, and in this particular league, there were 15 teams. Not 12. Not 10.

However, when I learned that I’d be drafting at the No. 6 hole, I quickly forgot this fact and mentally projected myself out at a 12-team clip. So, after I got one of my top six players in the first round, I was thinking that I’d get a player in the top 18, and so on.

So when I was finally able to make it to the draft, and noticed that after the computer selected Chase Utley for me at No. 6 overall, it later chose Zach Greinke in the second round … ahead of players I clearly would have wanted in his place.

I panicked, forgetting my own advice in the Tiger Woods draft strategy, and spent the rest of the draft trying to counter and re-counter my moves. It was as if I double-bogeyed the second hole and couldn’t mentally move on from that mistake while shanking shots into sand traps and water hazards the rest of the way.

Which brings me back to autodrafting. Like I said previously, you don’t want autodraft picking your team, but you also should always use your autodraft prerankings as a safety net on draft day.

I didn’t set my preranks like I should have, so I snagged Greinke over Jimmy Rollins without even knowing it. Not that Greinke is a bad pick, he just doesn’t fit my pseudo-draft plan.

This plan, by the way, is another nugget of advice that may or may not help you on draft day. In a rough pattern, you should always strive to take solid positional players in the first several rounds … leaving the elite pitchers to someone else for the time being. I do love Greinke and am a closet Royals fan, but as I entered the fourth, fifth and later rounds with a stud pitcher and not-so-great positional players on my roster, I couldn’t help but notice plenty of solid pitching options that were available.

The bottom line is that I was left with a team that was less than stellar in a league that is really competitive. All because I neglected numerous fantasy draft-day fundamentals and found myself backpedaling through a sloppy drafting experience.

Of course, a poor draft doesn’t mean a lost season. It just means getting more aggressive on the trading and free agency fronts. Check back soon on ways to salvage your season if you are coming off a subpar draft.

What are your fantasy drafting strategies to live by? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

2 Responses to “Diary of a wimpy draft: Lessons learned during a drafting free fall”


  1. Robert

    Maybe I don’t play with enough “seasoned” fantasy players, but once you get down to the guys in a similar skill set in the second half of the draft, it doesn’t seem like a lot of folks take schedule into account.

    My cheat sheets always have the weaker teams schedule for at least the dates set as your playoffs and probably for baseball, the three or four weeks leading in. If you have a chance at a guy who will be on an east coast trip and play the Yankees and the Red Sox in week 1 of your playoffs, and a similar position player with similar skills making the Kansas City and Cleveland matchup at home, that needs to be built into your drafting strategy IMO.

    Any advantage heading into the final stretch and into the playoffs needs to be taken into consideration and schedule is clearly (at least in most of my leagues) overlooked.

  2. jzak

    Robert,

    Thanks for the feedback, and great point. Something that many don’t factor into the mix when drafting, without a doubt, is strength of schedule, especially in the later games of the season.

    This is a subject that gets hammered in fantasy football circles, but not enough in baseball discussion. Who plays who down the stretch should matter to fantasy owners, although the season is a 162-game marathon, and most are trying to draft the best player on the board in the hopes of simply making their respective fantasy playoff brackets.

    As the seasons wears on, just like fantasy football, and you start to maneuver through some trades, it would be wise to target upside guys on teams such as the Angels, who play against the punchless Indians pitchers for two series during September or the Marlins, who finish the season against the pitiful Pirates.

    Again, thanks for the comment!