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The Gut Check No. 435: Advice For Navigating Draft Season

Matt Waldman shares three tips on navigating the 2018 NFL Draft season. 

It doesn't matter if it's re-draft, keeper, dynasty, or daily, if you want to take your fantasy skills to a higher level, you have to develop an understanding of young talent.  

Of the 40 players that had top-10 fantasy seasons at their respective positions this year, 12 of those players had no more than 3 years of pro football experience:

Expand the scope to the top-15 fantasy performers at each position and 17 of these 60 performers — now including Michael Thomas, Hunter Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson, and O.J. Howard — have no more than 3 years of experience.
 
This year isn't unusual. There were 23 last year and 20 in 2015.
 
Ana, a Footballguys subscriber and regular listener of The Audible, recently shared with me lessons from her evolution as a fantasy football owner — a developmental path that we share in this hobby. Like most of us, Ana believed she knew enough about football to become a competitive owner when she began playing fantasy football. After her first year, she realized that regardless of how much she knew, finding all of the pertinent information and distilling it into actionable steps requires more time than most have. 
 
This is where Footballguys entered her life. And as Footballguys gave her an efficient way of staying abreast of the NFL's preseason and in-season developments, it also expanded her knowledge about the game — but not in the way that you may think.
 
When people see the phrase 'football knowledge,' they think about strategy, analytics, and technique. However, Ana identified new talent development as a vital part of football knowledge — and the most common type of knowledge gap that fantasy owners have. 
 
It was easy to identify eight-year veteran Antonio Brown as a top-5 player. It was much harder to remain optimistic about Jared Goff and Todd Gurley.
 
While it could be argued that Goff and Gurley were bargains, a lot of fantasy owners and writers wrote off Goff as a colossal bust and Gurley as an overrated option thanks to stats-based arguments that lacked enough context of football knowledge to produce anything but magical realism. Even if fantasy owners took chances on each player, those honest with themselves know that Gurley and Goff were tough calls.
 
Gurley's ADP made him a high-risk option that most recommended against. Most Goff owners waited 4-6 weeks — and likely incurred multiple losses — before they had the confidence to start the quarterback. Trust me, I still had readers emailing me for fantasy football therapy sessions about Goff 3-4 weeks after I posted analysis of the quarterback's game and stated my confidence in him. 
 
This week, I'm ending the 2017 fantasy season and kicking off the 2018 draft season with three tips to help you develop a better understanding of talent development.  
 

1. expand your focus from 'rookies' to 'young talent'

While a little simplistic in explanation, most fantasy owners make the mistake of classifying players as rookies, veterans, and busts. When a player enters the league, he's a rookie. If he produces enough to earn a meaningful role moving forward, he's a veteran. If he doesn't earn a consistent and meaningful role, he's a bust. 

There are variations to this explanation:

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