StrategySeptember 1, 2007

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How to Fix a Bad Draft

By Eli Ricke

There are many ways to screw up a fantasy draft. Perhaps you misplaced your cheat sheet and had to rely on one from some fantasy football magazine that you bought at the local truck stop last year. Maybe a power outage during your draft forced you to rely on the pre-set player rankings that the website provided, and you wound up with Jake Plummer and JaMarcus Russell as your quarterbacks. Or perhaps when you accepted the draft date something told you that August 15th was somehow important, but whatever it was couldn’t be nearly as important as this draft. Until August 15th came around and you remembered that it was your wedding anniversary, again forcing you to rely on the pre-set player rankings and landing you Jake Plummer and JaMarcus Russell as your quarterbacks. Maybe you used outdated cheat sheets from a month ago and some of the players you drafted are either injured for the season, or just plead guilty to dogfighting charges and won’t be playing football anytime in the near future. You’re sunk. Finished. Toast. Or are you? Here are some tips to help you salvage your season and possibly put another trophy in your display case.

Tip#1: Get on the WW

“Tell me something I don’t know”. That’s what you’re thinking, but you’d be surprised how few people actually do it right away. Some people don’t even look at their team until it’s time to set their lineup for the first week. You should not wait another minute. Pore through every position and see if there are any viable players that were missed. If you’re playing against veterans, the chances are slim, but there is a chance and it would be foolish of you to not at least take a look. Remember that picking up players on the waiver wire will lower your waiver priority, so don’t waste your priority on kickers or defense, unless by some miracle Chicago or Baltimore went undrafted.

Tip #2: Reach For a Sleeper

Again, this will lower your waiver priority, but if you’re in dire straits you may have to give that up. It is a bit risky, as having a high waiver priority in the first few weeks of the season can help you land that sleeper that no one saw beforehand. That is a decision that you will have to make and that’s why it’s called “Managing” a team. Managing involves making decisions. If your waiver priority is already low, then go for it. Start pouring over the preseason stats and look for someone flying under the radar. If there has been any hype about a “sleeper” in fantasy circles, then those guys are probably already taken if you’re playing against veteran fantasy owners, but it doesn’t hurt to look. What you really need to concentrate on is trying to find a player that NO ONE is talking about and that has been performing well in the preseason, preferably with the first team offense. That’s what makes them a true “sleeper”. Don’t waste too much time on running backs. Five years ago you may have found one, but fantasy football players are learning fast and pretty much any running back who has a pulse and might get a carry during the season, will probably be gone. Try to find a wide receiver without a recognizable name, perhaps a rookie or second year player, who seems to be building a rapport with his quarterback and snatch him up. You may be in for a sweet surprise. Besides, what do you need a backup kicker for anyway? Drop him and take a chance on someone.

Tip #3: Try to Make a Deal

If you couldn’t make the live draft and got stuck on autodraft, there is a good possibility that your team isn’t in total shambles. You may be quite strong in some positions. If this is the case and you have four or five very good to excellent wide receivers (for example), throw a few trade offers out there and see if anyone bites, but don’t offer the whole farm to anyone right away. Your chances will be better if you have running backs to offer because of how highly valued they are to fantasy football owners. But quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends (only the very good ones) can be viable trade bait as well. Again, don’t bother offering kickers or defenses unless you are following the next tip.

Tip#4: Listen to P.T. Barnum

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” This famous P.T. Barnum quote has a lot of truth to it, and there’s a possibility that one of these suckers is playing in your fantasy league. The first trades you offer should be a “fishing” expedition, and sometimes the fishing can be quite good. Some would call this unethical, but as I see it they still have to accept the trade. If you went to a garage sale and saw an authentic Van Gogh painting that had a $5 price tag on it, would you feel bad about buying it? Heck no! Don’t aim too high though, you’re probably not going to get L.T. at any price, but they might be dumb enough to give up someone like Laurence Maroney for Kevin Jones or Warrick Dunn. Not likely, but maybe. Do not attempt this with veteran owners. They will see right through it and will know that you’re desperate, which will not improve your chances of getting a fair trade with any of them. Look for the rookies that appear to have no idea what they are doing.

Tip #5: Check the Waiver Wire Daily

You may get stuck with the team you drafted and in that case you will have to “wait and see” who was left on the waiver wire that can get you points. If your waiver priority is high, you should be able to land someone. If no one jumps out at you in week one, just wait for the one thing that is inevitable in the game of football… injuries. Every starting player has a backup, and if the starter gets injured, the backup gets the ball. In ’06 you could have had D. Huard after week one. He’s no Peyton Manning, but he would have scored some points for you, and maybe he did if you grabbed him. The backups to the “top tier” running backs will probably be gone in the draft due to many owners buying into the “handcuff” theology. But how many owners have the backup to someone like Willie Parker, Willis McGahee, or Rudi Johnson? A few owners will, but not all, and if one of those guys goes down there’s a good possibility that their backup’s stock will soar. You should at least check the waiver wire twice a week, and by that I mean Sunday night and Monday night. If you wait a whole day after the games are played to go check on the wire, you might not get anyone. As the saying goes… you snooze, you lose. Checking it daily is really the thing to do however, as players can get hurt in practice too. There is no guarantee that this opportunity will present itself, but with football being a physical contact sport, the odds are pretty good that somebody will be available eventually.

If None of the Above Works

Your last and final option is to quit. If you do, don’t ever sign up for a fantasy football league again. If you are playing in a private league and know the other owners, get a job in another state, sell your house, and move. They will hate you for the rest of your life. If you try to keep one of those friends by trading all of your good players to him before you hang it up, then you both will need to get a job in another country, sell your houses, and move. You also may need to change your names in that case as the other owners in the league may pool their resources together and hire a hit man to take the both of you out.

The Moral of the Story

No matter how well prepared you “think” you are for a fantasy football draft, always go to the site and pre-rank the players based on YOUR rankings. Do not allow the site to rank them for you. I have found that they usually have the first two or three in the right spot, but after that it can get scary. The rankings also vary from site to site and a lot of sites leave players in the draft pool that have just retired, are injured for the season, or were just convicted on Federal charges of some sort or another. You will not be fully prepared for your draft unless you pre-rank the players. Learn your lesson and don’t make the same mistake next year.

Eli Ricke knows absolutely nothing about Fantasy Football that everyone else doesn’t already know. All of his success in Fantasy Football can be attributed entirely to dumb luck. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1999 and is a habitual liar. You will occasionally run across him in the Cafe forums under the name 204BC, a name that has no particular meaning whatsoever. He just made it up, the same thing he does with most of the advice he gives.
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