Last-minute fantasy football draft-day advice you can’t afford to overlook

Like a hyperactive ballerina attempting to kill an airborne hornet with a flyswatter, my five-year-old daughter swung the Wii remote and her on-screen golf ball landed dead center of the fairway, just a short chip from the green.

I take the remote and stand in perfect form. Feet squared, head steady, swing fluid, follow-through perfect. Tiger Woods would have been impressed. Except my ball landed knee-high in weeds, out of bounds.

I suddenly realized why they put a wrist strap on the remote. I could have thrown it through the TV screen. I stomped, shook my head and couldn’t believe that despite my best efforts, once again, I was losing Wii Sports golf to a recent preschool graduate.

My daughter looked up with a big grin and asked, “Are you having fun?”

She was right. I wasn’t enjoying the moment. I should have been. Just a few more weeks until she starts kindergarten. Any time spent with her is a win-win proposition.

And I realized, while preparing for a fantasy football draft later that day, that we can find ourselves in a similar trap on draft day. So worried about the strategies, sleepers, smack talk and overall nuts of bolts of drafting that we lose sight of what is really important on draft day.

Relaxing.

Catching up with friends.

Having fun.

In fact, I would argue that the key to successful fantasy drafting is just that. Having fun on draft day. The rest comes naturally.

Like  Billy Chapel in the movie “For Love of the Game.” A pitcher working his way through a perfect game. Every pitch, he “cleared the mechanism.”  He blocks out the extra fluff and distractions and does what comes naturally, living in the moment and achieving greatness in the process.

How can you clear the mechanism on draft day? Here are a few suggestions …

Admit up front that you will not have a perfect draft.

You will make mistakes and will likely have regrets. Not trying to be a pessimist, but if you go into the draft allowing yourself to mess up, there is a better chance you’ll be able to bounce back after making a less-than-excellent selection.

This suggestion comes from my Tiger Woods strategy to drafting a fantasy baseball team … a post I wrote this past spring. The concept is simple. Tiger Woods didn’t dominate golf because he could drive the ball further than all his opponents or putt or chip better than everyone else on the PGA Tour. He was an elite talent because he could bounce back from his mistakes better than other players. He’d make a bad shot and then go right back to work as if the mistake didn’t bother him.

In other words, Tiger gave himself permission to make mistakes. They were expected at times. You’ll benefit from the same frame of mind.

Do your homework, but don’t become overly obsessed by it.

Ever hang out with a good contractor? If you have, you’ll notice that when he goes out on a call, he doesn’t just take the tools he thinks he’ll need for a specific job. He takes a little of everything.

Same goes for your fantasy draft. You could check out just one set of rankings or one person’s opinions on strategy or sleepers or draft prep. But you’d be selling yourself short. The more prepared you feel going into draft day, the less you’ll be rattled when your plans go a little awry.

At www.chinstrapninjas.com, we have more than 100 pages of exclusive fantasy football advice, strategies, rankings, sleepers, etc. All for free.

We help you from being a fantasy football beginner to drafting strategies for each position on your roster (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, D). You’ll learn to zig when other league owners zag. You can analyze our writers’ mock draft. We have nearly 50 rankings lists covering all sorts of league settings, scoring systems, etc.

However, balance is important here.

One can only use one set of cheat sheets on draft day. You can only draft so many sleepers or value players on a given team. Going overboard will take away from your overall experience if you become overly obsessed with cramming to the point of exhaustion.

So, read enough content to make you feel confident on draft day, but don’t oversaturate yourself. Remember that the key is having fun on draft day. The rest will fall into place moving forward.

There’s plenty of ways to fix your team during the season.

Many people look at fantasy draft day as the one and only way to create a championship team. In reality, a fantasy team needs to be able to handle the ebbs and flows of a season-long mine field full of injuries, benchings and underperformances.

That is why, just like the real NFL, most fantasy leagues have waiver wires, free agency and trades.

Making smart waiver wire moves happen as soon as your draft is over … honing in on talented players that may have fallen between the cracks. Changes in playing status throughout the season usually leads to some hidden gems that are ripe for picking off free agency at the cost of an unused player on the tail end of your bench.

Trading takes practice. It requires watching the stocks-like up-and-down value of each player. The best way to stay ahead of such news is to find a few reliable sources and stick with them. At www.chinstrapninjas.com, we will be updating our site every time we can to help find value options worth targeting in a trade.

I’d also encourage you to communicate with us directly. Leave a comment tacked onto one of our posts or you can e-mail me directly.

The bottom line is that every team can be tweaked over the course of the season. A bad draft doesn’t mean your season is over … in fact, in those cases, the fun is just beginning.

Practice nearly perfect.

I’ve been teaching my daughter to ride her bike without training wheels. Of course, the first experience was a scary one for both her and myself. The second and third were a little hairy, too. However, over time, riding a bike, as we all know, becomes comfortable. Totally natural.

Same with fantasy football. Mock drafts are great ways to test your drafting mettle against others with fantasy know-how. At espn.com, there are some very easy-to-use mock draft modules for both serpentine drafts and auction-based styles.

Just remember this little catch-phrase … the more you mock, the more you’ll rock on draft day.

Don’t forget to set the atmosphere.

It is hard to be relaxed if you are drafting in an uncomfortable setting.

So, unless there’s a dress code at your in-person draft, wear something comfortable. Be sure there are beverages and snacks. Some leagues order pizza, others hold their drafts at restaurants.

If you are drafting online from your home, dorm or apartment, treat yourself to a nice meal or snack during the draft. Again, wear comfy clothes and relax as much as possible.

After your draft, take time to get advice from unbiased sources about your squad’s strengths and weaknesses. Again, we’d love to help you at www.chinstrapninjas.com … simply drop us a line in one of the posts, or e-mail me directly.

In the meantime, enjoy some mocks, check out some reliable fantasy content and take it easy … literally … on draft day.







22 Responses to “Last-minute fantasy football draft-day advice you can’t afford to overlook”


  1. Brohamma

    Very nice Jzak! Glad to hear I’m not the only one getting owned by a little daughter at Wii. Although, mine is a very bitter pill. She pummels me, like Tyson did to Pinklon Thomas, in boxing. She just flails away and in the end I’m the one hearing that great phrase “he was in the corner making lil girly noises everytime I hit em.” Tyson and those quotes.. I think I bought all those fights just to hear what he would say afterwards. She may win in boxing but I’d own her in some classic Pitfall or Defenders!!

    Anyhow, one thing I do is make a sheet for each team in my league and add the name of the player under each of the position columns, that they select. Fairly basic stuff for experienced drafters, but the value of these sheets is HUGE! When rounds are rolling by and you are a bit squeezed, these great nuggets of information can help predict which way those between your picks are going to go. Perhaps the person with the turnaround pick coming up is short at WR. Well, one of those two is going to be WR.. if not both. Odds are that the breakout/sleeper that every sports portal is naming, and that is still on the board, is going. If you have a need, and have been targetting that player in the following round, you may have to pull the trigger a touch earlier.

    Just remember the 6 P’s: Perfect planning prevents pi$$ poor performance. A basic cheat sheet on your opponents can help and shouldn’t be overlooked.

  2. Chris

    I would like your evaluation of my team’s strengths and weaknesses along with recomendations. I drafted in an 18 team league snake draft and had the 5th pick. Lots of teams were taking QB’s in rounds 1 and 2 while one even took the kicker from his favorite team, so there were values to be had in later rounds.

    Anyway my team: QB: Chad Henne, Jason Campbell; RB: Jones-Drew, Shonn Greene, Toby Gerhardt, Javon Ringer; WR: Brandon Marshall, Malcom Floyd, Santana Moss, Kevin Walter, Golden Tate; TE: Jermichael Finley; K: D. Beuhler, D/ST: Bears.

    I feel like it is a pretty solid team, especially for an 18-team league, but am concerned about my QB position and lack of backups for K, TE and D/ST. League starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE, K, D/ST.

    Thanks for your help.

  3. Brohamma

    I’d be worried more about my RB situation. MJD is a question mark with that lateral meniscus problem and Gerhardt and Ringer won’t see the field; barring an injury. Unless your league is weighted towards D/ST then you are fine there with a weekly waiver wire matchup if you get in a pinch. Same goes for K and TE.

    As far as a kicker being taken so early.. either homeboy needs to be checked for a head injury or you need to study the league scoring system again. I suspect the head injury side of the argument myself.

  4. Monk

    Drafted last night:

    10 team ppr 6pt for all TD’s drafting in the 9th slot.
    Standard Flex make-up

    My game plan was to nab top WR’s then take advantage of the depth at RB and overload on potential in the mid rounds. Ha! The best laid plans of mice and men.

    QB: Kolb, Orton
    RB: Turner, SJAX, S. Greene, Hardesty, F. Taylor, A Dixon, R. Jennings
    WR: Fitzgerald, Bowe, Floyd, J. Jones, Gafney, Roy Williams
    TE: Z. Miller
    D/ST: Steelers
    K: Hartley

    As you can probably guess, both Fitz and Greene dropped to me, 29 & 32 respectively, I fell in line semi early on the D/ST run, and started the Kicker run.

    And as you can obviously see, I did the opposite of my plan, I drafted top RB’s and filled my WR’s with mid round “potential”. Pre-Draft I had Kolb targeted with Orton and Flacco targeted with Cutler, (funny I know but it was simply how the schedules laid out, I thought they each complimented the other better) and when Flacco went as the 8th QB 31st overall, my decision was made for me.

    My main question is whether i should be patient and see how Floyd and Jones do, or if should I try to package Greene and Bowe for an upgrade at WR2?

    Any other thoughts would be appreciated and you should know that this can be a trade happy league. (Trades are free, waivers are $5 per)

    Thanks for looking.

    -Monk

  5. Brohamma

    I think you are ok with your receivers based on your RB strength and its ability to fill that flex position.

    My concern would be with the quarterback. Don’t get me wrong, Kolb has a bunch of potential.. but is that really the word you want to associate with your QB1?

    Battle plan: Scope out the rosters of the other teams and target the one with a QB surplus and a WR weakness. Wait until the second or third week and then offer Gaffney for a solid backup QB someone has. Gaffney and Orton both have a pretty easy start through the first 5 games, and they were fast starters last year! Take advantage of that and trade them so that you can make that championship run and not have to rely on the “potential” of Kolb.

  6. jzak

    @Chris: Hey Chris. Welcome to the chinstrapninjas family. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave your roster for feedback. Remember that we each have our own perspectives on things, and that no one person has all the answers.

    As far as your team, here are few points that popped into my head as I read your post.

    1. It is critical to remember that this is an 18-team league. It is very hard to find talent in such a deep league, and you did a very good job, in my opinion. Some teams need to consider major plastic surgery when they exit draft room. Your team, considering the league size, is not one of those. Some tweaks here and there throughout the season should make/keep you a contender.

    2. How cool is it in a league that deep that you got the first real value of the draft? Jones-Drew is projected as the top overall player in fantasy for 2010 by myself, sockonfl and ep for a reason … he is the only one with a longstanding track record that he can produce regardless of the scuzzy talent level around him. He produces nearly 80 percent of the Jaguars offense each season. Is it a surprise that the team has ruled him out of preseason action until the start of the regular season? Not at all. Sure there may be some injury concern, but I’m not buying it until there is something more concrete out there. It is all too easy to read more into preseason news than you should, and you did very well to take MJD regardless at No. 5 overall.

    3. LOVE your peripheral positions. Finley, Buehler and the Bears defense are a solid tandem, and I would not worry about backups at any of those positions. Even in an 18-team league, there will be options in free agency as you head into buys. You need all the roster space you can get in larger leagues to snatch upside players and let them hopefully ripen into starters or potential trade bait. You don’t want to limit these options because you are rostering a backup kicker or defense.

    4. As it should be expected in a large league, depth becomes an issue, especially at receiver where you have three starters to worry about. Brandon Marshall isn’t a player to worry about at this point. Malcolm Floyd should pan out nice numbers considering where you likely drafted him, although I’d be loving it if he were your WR3 instead of WR2. Santana Moss could be a solid third WR starter, but for some reason, I’m not as high on him as others … including others on this site. Call it my gut more than anything. Still, I’m sure other teams in your league are struggling to fill their three WR spots with quality options, so I wouldn’t worry too much. What WRs are still available on your waiver wire?

    5. Already talked about MJD, so won’t much here. I like Shonn Greene much more in non-PPR leagues. Does this league reward for receptions? If so, Greene gets a downtick in value. His stock is still pretty high coming off some incredible numbers in the playoffs and because people remember Tomlinson from his statistical collapse last season and not what he did the previous years. However, I’d consider a move for Greene for a lesser-known upside guy (such as Arian Foster) if you can also net some improved talent elsewhere on your roster. Ringer and Gerhart are good upside options and give you some trade options, too. More on that in a moment.

    6. Henne and Campbell at QB aren’t horrible, depending on how much value is put on QBs in your scoring system. Campbell is currently injured and isn’t the worst bargain backup QB on the market. However, he also has very little trade value at the moment until he starts proving himself in black and silver. Henne, however, provides some excitement considering the addition of Marshall. It may be an interesting proposition to move him dependning on the interest in your league (any Miami fans). However, I wouldn’t be in a rush to do it right away … he plays against the Bills in Week One and a strong start to the season will only increase his value.

    So, if this were my team, I’d consider the following. Again, these are only my personal suggestions, and not the gospel in terms of how to get guaranteed major upgrades.

    First, I’d look hard at the teams with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Which QBs do they have? Which WR? Which secondary (and bench) RBs? If this is a PPR league, I’d consider moving Shonn Greene for an Arian Foster, while also dangling Santana Moss for a WR upgrade and Henne for a QB upgrade. If you are talking with the owner of Peterson or Johnson, you can sweeten the pot with Gerhart or Ringer, respectively.

    Let us know how it goes. What is your scoring system? Where you from, by the way? Always cool to see the size of our website’s net.

  7. jzak

    @Monk: Hey Monk. Ineresting team, and I’m all ready to start throwing some stuff your way on it, but I need to have an idea on how many players you start at each position (and if you have any flex starters) and what your scoring system looks like (any scoring for receptions, how does scoring go for passing yardage, receiving yardage and rushing yardage). Get that to me and I’ll gladly share some suggestions.

  8. jzak

    @Brohamma: Thanks for your comments, suggestion for drafting sheets per team and participation in giving feedback to readers. This is what we’re all about here at CN … getting involved and helping each other out. Perhaps you and I can start some sort of self-help group for dads who suck at Wii Sports games.

  9. Brohamma

    Thanks jzak.. however, you made me spill my coffee when I read about the self-help group. Well, guess my wife has another reason to throw-out my old Coca-Cola/Nascar sleep pants. She just doesn’t understand that the crazy colors and design are to protect you if your house should catch on fire and you are forced to run out into the street at night.

  10. Monk

    @jzak:

    12 team PPR (1pt per Rec.) 6pt ALL TD’s. 1pt per 25yrds Pass, 10yrds Rush/Rec. 3pt bonus at 300 pass, 100 Rush/Rec. 3pt bonus for all TD’s over 35yds. K & DST pretty much default.

    Team make-up = QB,RB,RB,WR,WR,TE,K,DST,FLEX(RB/WR/TE)

  11. Brohamma

    Oh oh… ppr.

  12. Monk

    football-draft-day-advice-you-cant-afford-to-overlook/comment-page-1/#comment-10947″>Brohamma:
    Thanks for the feedback Brohamma,
    I drafted Cutler and Gafney exactly because of their early match-ups, more in case I needed them then as trade bait,(I consider all players trade bait if the price is right).
    I regards to Kolb, We can pretty much assume that Brees, Manning, Rodgers, Schaub and Brady are untouchable. The Rivers owner has no back-up, The Romo owner has Favre, and Roethlisberger is the Back-up for the Brees owner. I consider Kolb right there with the rest of the pack, risk/reward wise. I’m guessing that Big Ben is the most attainable, bt are ou high on someone else i should look at?

  13. Monk

    *Orton and Gafney sry.

  14. Monk

    Side note, I have found that the use of the “I’m just not sure how to hook it up properly and don’t want to damage it” excuse has gained me over 6 months of a Wii free living room.

  15. Brohamma

    @Monk
    Your league scoring info has changed things quite alot, in my opinion. Of course, never forget that your gut feeling on certain players, and then drafting them, is what makes our hobby so great.

    Your WR corps is full of potential with the likes of Bowe, Floyd, and Jones. Fitz and Gaffney will get their catches and are the #1′s on their respective teams. I’d suggest you play them until you can tell for sure what you have in the three potentials. If the three of them start to emerge and V-Jax is clearly out of the picture in S.D., then you might want to consider moving Gaffney. Time will tell, but Denver has a ridiculously easy schedule the first 4 weeks. Consider using that information if you feel you could get SOLID value from him. I suspect that he will be a house o’ fire at the start.

    Things, unfortunately, head downhill a bit with your running backs. A couple comments back I posted “oh oh.. ppr.” Here is the situation.. Shonn Greene and Michael Turner have, basically, been non-existant in their team’s passing game. In the offseason Turner has had a few targets in the passing attack though, so things could possible improve.. though in 6 seasons he has never had more than 10 receptions (no, I didn’t make a mistake with that number) in a year. Matt Ryan studied alot of tape over the offseason, on Brady and Manning, and has stated that he needs to start to emulate their success of taking what is given to him.. that means check-downs; and possibly Turner being more involved. Shonn Greene only has 5 games of more than 10 NFL carries under his belt and was targetted a grand total of zero times during the regular season (he caught one pass for 4yds. in the Divisional game vs. S.D.).

    Now, regarding Turner and Greene’s TD and yardage numbers, I don’t think you’ll have any worries there. In fact, they could make up for those lack of PPR numbers with sheer touchdowns against other second tier running backs.

    Remember what I said about Gaffney and his possible “hot start?” Orton will be the same.

    S-Jax is a stud, even though he plays for a questionable team. Play him ALWAYS!

    Again, these are only opinions and as the owner of this team you are calling the shots. Look at match-ups and trust your gut instinct when you honestly feel there is a draw between two players and one roster spot. Above all else.. HAVE FUN! Good luck

  16. jzak

    @Monk:

    Hey Monk. Thanks for posting your roster. I added it here again to make it easier to comment on, and easier for readers to follow along.

    QB: Kolb, Orton
    RB: Turner, SJAX, S. Greene, Hardesty, F. Taylor, A Dixon, R. Jennings
    WR: Fitzgerald, Bowe, Floyd, J. Jones, Gafney, Roy Williams
    TE: Z. Miller
    D/ST: Steelers
    K: Hartley

    First things first, you have three great RBs. Considering you start a flex, too, all three (Turner, Jackson, Greene) all can start for you. That is sweetness.

    However, as Brohamma already stated, Greene and Turner are not going to help much at all in the PPR department. The 100-yard bonus for rushing will help … Turner especially will turn in some big yardage days. After your big three, the RB depth gets a little shaky, although I love the upside on Hardesty. Seems the Browns are obsessed with making him the clear-cut starter over Jerome Harrison. He can snag passes out of the backfield, too, so has PPR potential.

    Your WR corps isn’t too shabby, either. Fitz will produce regardless of who is throwing the pigskin. I would, whenever possible, focus on using a third RB at flex, so only other WR starter to worry about is WR2. You have some very nice options. Floyd and Gaffney have the ability to produce right away, but also may not be major factors all season. I wonder how much time elapses with the Chargers winning without VJax before Jackson decides he’s only hurting himself by holding out. Denver has a stable of young talented WRs and as the season wears on, I’m sure they’ll get more and more involved in the offense.

    Zach Miller is a great upside TE this year. At this point, you ride him out and hope he can capitalize on last year’s emergence and the improvement at QB with Campbell.

    QB is a little concerning considering there are some nice points to be had for QBs in your league. Kolb will have some big games, but others where he struggles. There will be a learning curve and he’s going to break down at times during the season. Orton is an OK backup QB, but not one you want to rely on week to week.

    So, any other teams in your league have a solid QB2? I’d definitely consider a guy like Joe Flacco an upgrade, and he may be someone else’s QB2, making him more attainable than the elite QB options. Also, if you have a Philly fan in your league, he may be more apt to take a chance on Kolb, giving you more value in return.

    Who is the owner of Arian Foster in your league? I like him a lot, and when compared to Shonn Greene’s playoff statistical bonanza, Foster may seem like less of a player. However, I like them both about the same in redraft formats this year, and offering Greene for Foster would give you some leverage to pry away, hopefully, a QB and WR2 upgrade if you include Dwayne Bowe now (not a big Bowe fan … if the guy spent more time working out and less ripping his own team, he’d fare much better) or either Floyd or Gaffney later once they both prove they can produce solid fantasy stats.

    Let us know how it goes. You have a super-great core of players to work off here and should be a contender without much in teh way of movement, but with a few tweaks, I think you can really take your team to the elite level.

  17. Monk

    @Brohamma: Thanks again for the time Brohamma, this league is in its 11th year and yes the receiving running backs are key, but Turner in 08 was the 4th best non QB in total fantasy points, despite only 6 rec, and was the stud for the winning franchise… Mine. I think you answered my question inadvertently though, to play the match-ups and see who has trade value after a few weeks. Which is how I drafted. Thanks.
    - Monk

  18. Monk

    @jzak: Heya Jzak, thank you to for your time.
    RB Depth: With the 3 RB’s and getting Hardesty as a steal in the later rounds, I decided on a couple of gambles that might have a payoff if there is a major injury… Dixon and Jennings. Really not worried at this position.
    WR: Potential: My hopes are yes that one of Gafney, Floyd or Jones emerges as a fantasy stud. And Gafney early with matchups hopefully will pay off.
    TE: Had to have a Raider to root for, and the value in Rd 9 wasn’t bad either.
    Now to QB: Flacco went as the 8th QB off the board with 31st overall pick, hopefully that will give you an example of who will be available as a number 2 QB that can be traded for. Kolb went with the 72nd pick.
    I guess I am less worried about QB considering the Value, and the fact that I don’t see The Ravens passing for more yards then The Eagles at the end of the year.
    Arian Foster: Funny you should mention him, I am high on him as well, I think Houston breaks out this year, and I think in ppr formats the sky is the limit for Foster, I also think the hype is through the roof and that his true value is inflated bigtime. With that said I did put a trade out there offering Greene and Bowe for Foster and Boldin, it hasn’t been accepted yet, but it hasn’t been rejected either. I’ll update the result. I don’t expect him to accept but there’s always a chance.
    Now onto the return yards / Completions league. This one is interesting… Mostly default scoring with the addition of Special Team stats awarded to the player, and completions being worth 1/2 pt each. Draft this Sunday. Wish me luck on Postion we generate it 30 minutes before draft.
    _Monk

  19. Dan

    Hi there! My first league I need some advice on.

    It’s a PPR league – 10 man roster (1 point per reception) with a flex WR/RB.

    I have:

    QBs: Joe Flacco, Big Ben
    RBs: Ray Rice, Shonn Greene, LeSean McCoy, K Moreno, M Bush, W Mcgahee
    WRs: Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith (NYG), Malcom Floyd, S Moss
    TE: Vernon Davis
    D: Chargers
    K: Bironas

    My pickle is who to start week 1 in the flex? S Greene is against the Ravens and is not a stellar catcher either, especially with LT. The other options are Moreno (who might not be 100% due to hamstring injury) at Jax and Malcom Floyd (who is unproven but has potential) at KC (weak secondary).

    Suggestions?

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  21. Sherika Chalfin

    Hey there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics? Thank you!

  22. jzak

    Welcome Sherika. Glad you visit and enjoy the content. There will oodles more coming as we move forward towards football season 2011.

    Sites are all different and offer different strengths and weaknesses. A few I frequent, outside of our site here, of course, include fantasyfootballcafe.com and rotoworld.com.