Avoid Choking on Fantasy Football Draft Day


When it comes to fantasy sports – particularly fantasy football – generalizations and conventional wisdom are proven wrong on a daily and yearly basis.

But, when it’s draft day and we’re trying to get the best value from each pick – especially football draft day after many months of offseason stories, analysis and buildup –while pouring over pages of notes and other pertinent information, there definitely are rules of thumb that can help you avoid paralysis by over-analysis as the draft clock winds down.

We’ve all been there.

After waiting 10 or more minutes between picks (or 25 minutes in my latest draft), placing players of interest in your queue and dissecting every possible scenario, the person picking right before you chooses the player you really wanted.

Not expecting this, initially you are stunned. Then you curse. And before you know it, 10 to 15 precious seconds are wasted. Now it’s scramble time. Depending on the round and your draft forma, at this point you might have anywhere from 45 seconds to just under two minutes left to make your decision.

Normally one bad pick does not make or break your draft or your season, but one great one can propel you from just a contender to a champion or just a guy (or girl) to a prize-winner.

Realizing this, your mind begins to race. You shuffle through your notes, click on open tabs in your web browser, Google player names and check your cheat sheets. Your heart rate increases. You start to worry about blowing the season and your money while wasting all the time you spent prepping for this much-anticipated day.

The clock now shows that you have fewer than 20 seconds left to make up your mind. You look at the player rankings that are on the screen in front of you instead of going by your notes. And with less than a second on the clock you pull the trigger.

Nooooooooooooooo! You selected a Detroit Lions running back!

The kiss of death.

Sure, he’s highly touted and appears to be the starter coming out of camp, but you immediately realize the recent history of over-hyped Lions’ RBs as well as the team’s inconsistent use of players at that position and suddenly your hopes for a championship season are tossed into a burning dumpster. It’s over before it started. You can’t win now.

Slow down cowboy (or cowgirl). It doesn’t have to be that bad.

Part of the joy of fantasy football is having the opportunity to use the waiver wire, trades and other creative means to rebuild your roster after a bad draft or to rise from the ashes after a slow start to your season. Don’t overreact and don’t give up. There still are 17 weeks of fun to be had, and don’t we all want to feel like we’re the smartest person in the league anyway?

Get to work right away figuring out a solution. Scan the free-agent list for overlooked depth players. Check out the other rosters to compare your squad to them and for potential trade partners. Figure out your optimal lineup, analyze your first opponents and see if you really need to make a knee-jerk move.

It’s a long season, and almost all of the top teams usually end up within a few games of each other in the standings. Patience can be a virtue, and sometimes the best moves are the ones we don’t make. Getting at least a small sample size of your team’s performance is probably best before making major roster changes. Again, it’s unlikely that one bad draft pick will ruin your season, but making another questionable move or two early on to compensate for it can prove to be disastrous.

Of course, it would be better for everyone’s sanity if we could avoid these types of draft-day snafus. It is possible to be too prepared for a draft and have too much information clouding your brain and at your disposable to be able to adapt and make good decisions within the ebbs and flows of the draft. This what I like to call paralysis by over-analysis, and we suggest having some simple resources that you place off to the side at your disposal to help you respond intelligently when things go sideways and you are scrambling to make a selection.

An easy list to prepare is one that includes players who you would love to have on your team under any circumstances. This shouldn’t be a long list, and it should include can’t-miss top picks, mid-round value selections and sleepers – a few at each position. If you get into a bind and time is running out, you can refer to this list and know that you will be happy with any of the players, even if one you end up selecting might be a bit of a reach at the slot in which you get him.

A second simple list to bring to your draft is one that includes players you are skeptical about and wouldn’t want under any circumstances (unless they fall to a spot well below where they are projected to be taken), value picks you absolutely would be interested in if they slip below their projected round or average draft position (ADP) and players you feel will perform well above their projected levels and are worth taking if you are picking within a round or so of when they are likely to be selected.

This list should prevent you from making a major mistake and selecting someone you don’t want at all and help you quickly find a player who has slipped and is a bargain or one you think will be better than advertised when the heat is on. Again, print both of these lists and keep them off to the side in case of an emergency.

The final piece to your anti-panic preparation kit is the information we are providing below. This is our “Do Not Pick List.”

We all know that some teams, like the Lions when it comes to running backs, traditionally struggle to produce consistent fantasy performers at certain positions. It doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is or what free agents are brought in, these teams’ players at some positions should be avoided unless they fall two or three rounds below their projected draft value.

Understand that “Do Not Pick” means you should avoid any players from this team at that position unless a particular player is available 15 or more slots below either his projected value or his ADP. It's all about value. If you can get a No. 1 wideout from a team that doesn't usually produce great receiver numbers as your third guy when many other second or third wideouts are being picked, that's never a bad thing.

This is not to say that a player like Cortland Sutton isn’t a good wide receiver who might have a solid season. Instead, it is a product the level of consistency his team has shown at that position in recent years, combined with his projected role for the upcoming season, the players around him and the likelihood that he will put up consistent numbers on a weekly basis.

Sutton is a talented player without a doubt, but the Broncos have an unproven quarterback with a less-than-stellar offensive line that has produced an inconsistent running game and question marks at the other receiver slots. Given Sutton’s situation, while he has good upside, he is in a situation where his numbers are likely to fluctuate in such a way that it will be very difficult to predict which weeks to play him and which weeks to pass.

That is just one example, and you can actually argue that this might be a year to stay away from the Broncos at every position except possibly tight end. Their running game has been up and down for years, no one really knows what to expect from Lock and look at what happened to Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay in that offense last season.

Now that I’ve upset Lions’ and Broncos’ fans, let’s take a look at the rest of our Do Not Pick List:

Quarterbacks

Miami – Ryan Fitzpatrick is charismatic and exciting, but he’s a journeyman for a reason – and now he has Tua looking over his shoulder. Avoid.

N.Y. Jets – Sam Darnold hasn’t shown he’s worthy of a fantasy pick ,and neither has Adamt Gase’s offense. Next!

Jacksonville – Gardner Minshew is charismatic, but the Jaguars offense is not.

Denver – We’re not going to beat a dead horse – or a dead offense.

Las Vegas – The Raiders are going to give us a heavy dose of Josh Jacobs and ball-control throws to Darren Waller with Tyrell Williams sidelines. Game managers like Derek Carr don’t even make worthy fantasy backups. But it’s pretty cool to get to write about a team from Las Vegas in an NFL article.

Washington – Dwayne Haskins has a chance, just not this year.

Chicago – In Chicago, only the Bears’ coaches like Mitch Trubisky. Nick Foles might have won two Super Bowls if he remained the starter in Philly. He might not ever make the playoffs anywhere else.

Running Backs

Miami Dolphins – Just check Kenyan Drake’s numbers in Miami vs. Arizona last season for all the evidence you need. Oh, and Jordan Howard has worn out his welcome in Chicago and Philadelphia.

New England Patriots – On any given day Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead or James White might be the flavor of the week, and now you can add Damien Harris to the mix – although his hand injury makes him questionable for Week 1. This will never not be a committee for Captain Sunshine.

Jacksonville Jaguars – No Fournette, no dice.

Denver Broncos – We’re not going to continue to use the dead horse and dead offense comment. See above.

Detroit Lions – Carry on without Kerryon … or Jonathan Swift. This is another team that never seems to settle on one bell-cow ball carrier, and when they do find one who is worthy, he usually proves to be injury prone. The Lions picked up 35-year-old Adrian Peterson less than 24 hours after the WFT (WTF?) football team released him. That speaks volumes.

Philadelphia Eagles – It has been a merry-go-round of underachievers and players not getting enough touches since the Brian Westbrook days. The name of the coach seems to make no difference.

Chicago Bears – Tarik Cohen looks good on paper every year, but his touches are too unpredictable. David Montgomery just hasn’t produced and appears to be fragile. Basically, this offense stinks. Stay. Away.

L.A. Rams – Running backs coach Thomas Brown says he wants a clear-cut starter, and the competition will be ongoing. Ummmmm coach, the season starts next week.

Wide Receivers

N.Y. Jets – Bad offense. Few weapons. Unproven QB. Adam Gase.

Denver Broncos – Sutton is a talent. The offense is likely to be suspect. If he drop below his projected value, don’t do it.

Las Vegas Raiders – What is Tyrell Williams’ status? Who else is on the roster? Hunter Renfrow might be a value as a last-round pick. Maybe.

N.Y. Giants – All of the receivers are decent, but if you can figure out who is going to be the top target week to week you are better than their coaches. If you can get any of them two rounds below their projected value go for it, but that’s the only way.

Philadelphia Eagles – The cupboard is bare folks. How this team is considered a Super Bowl contender is beyond me.

Tight Ends

Buffalo Bills – Name the last Bills TE you can remember making an impact. Exactly.

New England Patriots – Try to name one of their tight ends.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyler Eifert couldn’t produce on better teams elsewhere.

Washington Football Team (WTF?) – Nothing to see here.

Green Bay Packers – Jace Sternberger and a declining Aaron Rodgers. That is all.

Carolina Panthers – No great pass catchers or route runners with longtime standout Greg Olsen gone.

Arizona Cardinals – With weapons all over the field in other positions, tight end is an afterthought – and has been for quite some time in the desert.

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