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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Evaluate Your Drafting Tendencies--Not Just Your Draft

The Background

Every time I finish a fantasy draft, I text or email a copy of my team to my brother (the man who introduced me to fantasy football over a decade ago). It's not always clear to me what I expect him to do with this information that I clobber him with every August. I guess part of me hopes to hear that I somehow "won" my draft even though it is impossible for him (or anyone) to comment insightfully on a fantasy roster without knowing the particular dynamics of the league and the drafting process.

Since my email address is listed at the bottom of every column I write for FFToday, it is hardly surprising that strangers do unto me as I do unto my brother. Finishing a draft can be a bit anti-climactic. We do our research ahead of time, strategize intensely during the three or more hours of a live draft, and then must wait days or weeks to see our teams in action. Once we have built our teams, it is understandable that we want immediate feedback on whether they are any good. While folks are waiting for the season to start, of course they are going to post their rosters on FFToday's forums asking for comments on how their teams look. They are going to send emails to any FF writers whose addresses they can find. They are going to boast to their buddies that they got Chris Johnson with the 5th overall pick and award themselves championships based on their "steal" before the first NFL game has been played.

Put another way, my point is that when we ask for feedback on our drafts, we are really saying, "Please distract me from my own impatience for the NFL season to start," even though we might be pretending to say, "Give me insights on how to be a better drafter."

Nevertheless, it might be good for us all to take seriously the question that we are only pretending to ask. Showing each other the rosters we have built and pointing out the rounds in which we snapped up our "steals" is definitely interesting, but rarely edifying.

The Challenge

I am therefore soliciting a very specific kind of reader feedback with this column. I ask readers to evaluate their general drafting tendencies (not their particular player selections) by way of helping all of us to become better drafters. Please reflect on the drafts you have participated in over the years and try to pinpoint your greatest strength and greatest weakness as a drafter. You are welcome to illustrate your points with particular players in particular drafts, but it is less helpful to say, "I won a championship in 2008 because I got Anquan Boldin in the 5th round" than it is to say, "I have a good habit of going after #2 receivers that perform like #1s. I liked Reggie Wayne even when Marvin Harrison was still considered the #1 wideout in Indy, and I expect Dez Bryant to turn out to be that kind of receiver in Dallas in 2011."

The Example

I will examine my own greatest strength and weakness as a drafter in this section to provide examples to readers of the kinds of information that should be helpful. Your own strengths and weaknesses may have nothing in common with mine, but they should be tendencies that you have observed in yourself in multiple drafts--not just the things you did best and worst this year.

Mike's strength: Waiting on Quarterbacks

There is a guy in one of my leagues who uses his first pick on Peyton Manning every year. Manning is a great quarterback who provides a solid foundation for any fantasy squad, but taking a QB in the first round tends to leave QB lovers scrambling on RBs and WRs for the rest of the draft. The first time our Manning lover drafted with us, he sparked a run on QBs that none of us understood even though plenty of us got caught up in it. I no longer have my notes from that season, but by the time I got to pick during the QB run, all the QBs from my first and second tier had been crossed off my list except for Donovan McNabb. Somehow the thick line I had on my spreadsheet between my tier 2 and tier 3 quarterbacks caused me to panic. If I didn't snatch McNabb, then someone else surely would--and I would go into the season with a tier 3 QB at best. The only reason that taking McNabb in the second round didn't ruin my team was that so many other owners got caught up in the QB frenzy at the end of round 1 and beginning of round 2.

But the owners who didn't get caught up in that frenzy had the rest of us over a barrel on RBs and WRs for the remainder of the draft. They were playing a game of depth while we were playing a game of catch-up. That is the last time I took a QB earlier than the 5th round.

I am now impervious to runs on quarterbacks. It doesn't matter to me how many might get picked consecutively in the 2nd or 3rd round. I'm not biting. I'm not even tempted to bite. I just cross names off my list and focus on WRs and RBs and wait until the 5th round to start thinking about a QB. There really isn't any reason to succumb to panic because I can happily go through three or four different starting QBs in the first six weeks of the season (just using any scrubs who happen to be facing a weak defense). I now understand that no matter which QB I end up drafting, I will have a solid starting QB by Week 6 thanks to circumstances that could not have been foreseen at the draft (injury, trade, etc.).

Mike's Weakness: Handcuffing

Year after year, I wait one round too long on the backup to my stud RB. The worst case was in 2007 when I took LaDainian Tomlinson with my top pick. I dawdled on my handcuff (Michael Turner) because of LT's durability. In retrospect, I was right to dawdle--since Tomlinson ended up starting all 16 games that year. Nevertheless, the fact that Turner got snatched from me 1 pick before I was ready to take him in the 9th round led to a series of disastrous picks for me in rounds 9 through 11. I spent an inordinate amount of panicked energy attempting to rectify my perceived mistake of letting Turner slip through my fingers. I am usually pretty sloshed by the 6th round of any draft, and my drunken logic fastened on Turner as the most important missing piece of my roster. I stopped working on my team and spent three rounds trying to solve my Turner problem by focusing on the team of the owner who had taken him. I wanted to be able to trade him for Turner, so I took the backups to both of his starting RBs and (the tunnel vision of this decision still amazes me) his QB in the hope that an injury would force him to trade Turner to me.

That is the worst case of my attempt to repair a broken handcuff, but I remain susceptible to this kind of stupidity. The root of the problem is that I invariably wait too long to move on a backup, but the real killer is that once I miss out on a handcuff, I make horrible decisions in an attempt to correct the mistake. It is as if I am punishing myself for having screwed up instead of remaining focused on building the best team possible. This year I am going to try to move on my handcuffs earlier, but if I fail to move in time, I am going to have to force myself to move on.

The Solicitation

I hope to be able to share the drafting strengths and weakness of some Q&A readers in my first regular season column. If you are willing to reflect on what you do best and/or worst as a drafter, I look forward to hearing from you.

The Great News

Readers who enjoy the Last Man Standing section of this column should be delighted to hear that Matthew Schiff (the most universally beloved LMS analyst in the history of the column) has agreed to return for the 2011 season. Mike Krueger and I are both thrilled that Schiff's schedule will permit him to contribute his insights once again this year. His first installment will appear in this column on September 7th. Welcome back, Matthew!

For responses to this month's fantasy question please email me.