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Faceoff: Discussing Fantasy Mistakes

August 28th

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

Will Grant: Not Being Flexible

On the radio over the weekend, I heard some local radio guys talking about how you need to have two stud RBs on your roster and that he has crushed his league the last three years by taking three RBs right out of the gate. The only thing that I can think of is that this league either awards heavy points for rushing TDs or the rest of the guys in the league are just as inflexible in their drafting strategies.

Walking into your fantasy draft with one strategy in mind and no room for flexibility is playing with fire. Unless you have one of the first five picks in the draft, you need to have contingency plans put in place. If a couple guys walk in with the same theory, you could be looking at Calvin Johnson vs. Darren McFadden at the end of round one. I love DMAC more than a lot of people this season, but in 100 out of 100 drafts, I'll take Calvin Johnson if faced with that decision. You have to be flexible enough to recognize when the trend is going too hard in one direction and go the other way to land the solid value picks.

Matt Waldman: Playing it Safe on Draft Day

In any league I've ever competed, there is only one person called "champion" at season's end. While many leagues have cash awards for most points, best record, or playoff wins, unless these are high-stakes contests and I'm playing in enough of them that the money spent could fund my daughter's college education and the winnings could buy Footballguys that nuclear missile silo converted into a luxury home-office complex-fantasy football cult ranch, then I'd rather play to win than play it safe. It's easy to get sucked into making picks that fit the Martha Stewart school of fantasy football value police and draw approval on draft day. However, more times than not, I have seen fantasy owners at season's end wish they took more chances on players that they really believed in just a couple of rounds earlier and risked the derision or trash talk from the competition. You have to be willing to lose big to win big. Sometimes freeing yourself of constraints that prevent you from taking risks can be all the difference in having a huge season.

Remember, the draft is just one leg of the fantasy football table; lineup decisions, trades, and free agency constitute the other three. Good teams are built on draft day, but leagues aren't usually won there.

Andy Hicks: I have to agree with everything Matt said here. I've played in leagues where drafters refused to take guys they liked, because of the ribbing they'd get from others, regardless of how the player they draft fits into their squad. Playing safe may get some guys to the playoff, but I haven't seen anyone play safe and win their league. If you've done your research, watched players avidly and seen how some guy may have a great season, do not be afraid to take him. It's also important to evaluate your decision making process at seasons end to see where you can improve your judgement calls. I also agree that too many people think the draft is the be all and end all of the fantasy football process. Lineup decisions and the waiver wire are vital for success and most leagues have half of their teams weak in this area. Those who play the waiver wire with skill or trade well, usually can recover from any drafting mistakes or to strengthen an already good squad. If you are not doing this properly, others in your league will.

Maurile Tremblay: I also agree with Matt's sentiment, but at the same time, I think the opposite mistake might be even more common. Often fantasy owners are so concerned with finding the next breakout player that they ignore solid but "boring" value among proven veterans.

This year, for example, you see a lot of people drafting Denarius Moore ahead of Reggie Wayne. I love Moore's upside potential. He is a fantastic athlete with big-play potential. Between Moore and Wayne, if I were to pick the player more likely to catch double-digit touchdowns, it would easily be Moore. But by the same token, if I were to pick the player more likely to finish outside the top 35 fantasy receivers, that would also easily be Moore. There is a time to prefer a boom-or-bust player over a trustworthy fantasy starter, but that time is usually in the later rounds when all the trustworthy starters are gone. I don't want to make this about Moore and Wayne specifically; they are just examples. But I do think there's a tendency to get a little bit fancy and pass on sure production for the lure of tagging a breakout player before his breakout potential was obvious to everybody else. Don't get too fancy. There's nothing wrong with taking the players whose value is already obvious -- even if it's kind of boring.

Jeff Pasquino: Both of these points make ton of sense. In big contests you have to "Go Big or Go Home", as safe rosters won't win the big prizes, but crazy antics like drafting 7-8 rookies and hoping they all break out won't work either.

I say the biggest mistake many fantasy owners are to not fully understand any wrinkles in the rulebook. Not every league is the same, and rosters have to adapt accordingly. I see it every time I see a new owner in a Best Ball league, a bigger league (16 teams vs. 12 teams), Survivor leagues, PPR vs. standard, bonus TE scoring, FPC / FFPC, and quarterback scoring variations (4 point psssing TDs vs. 6 points). All of those seemingly minor differences mean huge adjustments in your draft plans.

Mark Wimer: I'm with Maurile on the idea of going for obvious value with your early-round picks. Aaron Rodgers' fantasy value as a quarterback has been tried and tested, and his wide receiver corps is loaded with talent top to bottom. Cam Newton's fantasy value last year was phenomenal, but his wide receiver corps behind Steve Smith are such luminaries as Brandon LaFell, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards, and Louis Murphy. Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of LaFell, Gettis, Edwards or Murphy. However, you are living under a rock if you haven't heard of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver (and even Randall Cobb).

I'm taking Rodgers over Newton every time I face that choice during 2012, even though I have Newton as a close #2 behind Rodgers - Rodgers has proven value, while Newton's potential to be #1 fantasy QB in the land is undeniable - but Rodgers is the surer choice in my opinion.