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Discussing Fantasy Mistakes

Footballguys staff members discuss common mistakes made in drafts and auctions

Welcome to the 2015 Footballguys Discussion series, where we get a few staff members and toss them an open-ended question. Check out their answers.

What is the most common mistake you see others make when constructing a team - either in a draft or an auction?

Jason Wood: There are always mistakes made, and we're no exception. I think the most common mistake though, particularly in non-expert leagues, is that owners are too beholden to ADP (average draft position). ADP acts like a magnet for people and they convince themselves that they have to take a player that's within five or six spots of the ADP. That's crazy. You want to build a team a) you love and b) you believe in. I never hesitate to draft players several rounds higher than their ADP particularly in the latter stages of the draft. And I also won't draft someone I dislike simply because they've fallen a round or two.

Andy Hicks: Every draft has the potential to go pear shaped depending on positional runs, the annoyance of losing a player you covet the pick before yours or regretting an earlier pick and losing focus.

Sometimes you can see a player too good to pass up at a position you are already well covered for and strengthen a strength, but in doing so you weaken your weaknesses even further.

There are many reasons a draft or auction can go wrong, but the key thing is always to be prepared. A lot of people only do one draft a year and their mistakes are a 12 month ordeal. Mock drafting is a great tool to prepare you for your draft so that you can expect and know how a draft should go. My answer therefore is preparation or lack thereof.

  • Get the latest news. You don't want to be drafting a guy who just went down in the latest preseason game.
  • Know your ADP. Every draft is going to be different, but don't take Jay Ajayi in the 5th round because you have a hunch. I agree with Jason that it shouldn't be the be all and end all, but don't go crazy either. If you like Ajayi take him in the 12th round, not the 5th.
  • Mock Draft. You know what your league mates are likely to do. Plan various scenarios. See what kind of lineup you are likely to have and try and improve on it. If you get the opportunity mock draft against strangers with similar scoring rules to your league.
  • Do not have a Must Draft/Mustn't Draft List - Every player has value. Don't be bummed out if that guy you really had to get is taken just before you, etc.

Daniel Simpkins: In standard formats, the most common mistake I witness is “playing it safe.” Too often, I see people stick to consensus ADP and fill out their roster with low-ceiling, high-floor options. If your goal is to finish in the top five of your league, that’s a fine strategy to employ. If you are trying to win your league, this is NOT the way to go. To take home the hardware, you have to take some risks at some point within your draft. Maybe it’s stepping up to the plate and taking a player two rounds earlier than ADP. Maybe it is waiting all the way to the end of your draft to take a tight end or quarterback because you feel confident in rolling with a late-round option. Is it possible that things backfire and that you end up with a cellar-dweller? Yes! Even the “experts” will occasionally push their chips in on the wrong players and end up tanking. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Instead, be afraid to be mediocre!

In auction formats, I believe not keeping track of your opponents funds and rosters is a fatal mistake. I made this error when I did my first auction draft years ago. The results were ugly, because I spent 90% of my funds by mid-auction and there were plenty of good players left. The guys who were patient scooped up all the values and ultimately competed for the championship. Understanding the flow of the auction is going to inform you of how to price enforce, how aggressive to be on target players, etc. No two auctions ever seem to take the same path, so value will vary from one to another. As Ra’s al Ghul often told Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, you must, “mind your surroundings.” This is the only way you will see beyond the superficial dollar amounts and know intuitively what you need to do.

Jeff Pasquino: Good stuff so far.

The biggest mistake in an auction is sticking to your plan and not riding the dynamic wave of the auction in which you are in that day. What I mean here is that you might want to go big on a stud RB and get one early, but what if they are WAY overpriced? Then it is time to re-adjust and go with the conservative, mind your money approach OR go big at a different position. You have to have multiple strategies to be able to adjust on the fly. I get asked often for average auction values (AAVs), the equivalent of ADP for auctions. Taking them as gospel is a major error. These are averages, not metrics to measure your league. If running backs are 20% higher than the AAV, that price difference will show up somewhere else - take advantage of it.

I get what Jason said about ADP as well. The mistakes I see are sticking with both the ADP and also a given plan when you get in a draft. If you love a guy and are at one of the ends of the draft with your pick, you have to go away from ADP (aside from using it as a good guess if a player will not make it back to you), trust your gut and get the guys you want. I remember once when I was in a staff draft and players fell to me with the same bye weeks with my first three picks. I almost didn't take the third guy but then I just figured depth will cover me later. You have to adapt, and that's the biggest lesson to learn - if you have done your homework and have confidence in your tools and your own ability, changing your strategy as the draft comes to you is the best approach.

Chad Parsons: Flexibility is a significant skill for succeeding at both draft and auction formats. Having a strategy and plan of action entering the dispersal of players is paramount but having answers to 'well, what if this happens?' beforehand and along the way is a game changer. It starts with a list of target players. Each year and format will have different lists. Does that mean you do not deviate from the list? No, but the foundation of your plan starts there. A target player is bound to get sniped in front of you in the expected draft range along the way or turn into an unrealistic bidding war in an auction setting.

For drafts, that requires zigging when the league zags. If your target was a quarterback in the mid-rounds for example, instead of automatically shifting to another quarterback once sniped, the best value may be at another position and shifting focus back to quarterback in your next value zone of the rankings/draft.

Some fantasy owners may have a target player list of 50-100 players in the average depth draft. Others may only have 25-30. There is no right answer, but formulating the target list and having it as a foundation of your draft plan creates a sense of calm when things invariably go off-script with the other owners' moves along the way.

James Brimacombe: One of the big mistakes I tend to see is after the first few rounds drafters start to panic a little and reach for picks when they should have a plan for those later rounds. If you can predict 3 or 4 guys who have an ADP that is way off the board and get them at a value and then they hit later in the season you are likely going to have a team that is competing come playoff time. You have to take a stance on players and don't be afraid to draft them one, two or even three rounds ahead of where their ADP is telling you to. For example this season I am loving Martavis Bryant and think the Pittsburgh offense is going to continue to put up a large amount of points each week. Making sure I get a piece of the Steelers offense if I missed out on LeVeon Bell or Antonio Brown I would be willing to take Bryant as high as the fourth round when others may see him as a 6th or 7th round ADP type of guy.

Another mistake I see is in tier drafting when it is your turn to pick and you have to make a decision on two players and one of who plays for a great offense such as Green Bay and the other plays for a bad offense such as Oakland and you end up going with the bad team offensive guy. Why not fill your roster with players that play on a team that can score 3 or 4 touchdowns compared to a player on a team that is lucky to see the endzone once again.

Stephen Holloway: You must know your league inside and out. Too many times, I hear questions as the draft begins, is this a super-flex? Do the tight ends have increased scoring? Spend time knowing all the scoring situations and if it is a long-running league, know your fellow league members and their tendencies so that you can take advantage of normal drafting patterns.

Another critical aspect is to remain flexible. You can occasionally get behind at one position by taking too great an advantage of value falling at another position. It is not mandatory to get your line-up completely filled out prior to building depth, but there is some security in having multiple positions available to take advantage of whatever value falls.