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PFDaily: Fantasy Football Tutorial Series: Intermediate

Psychology of the Draft: Don't be the sheep!

Back to Tutorial Series Index page

Fantasy football drafts are a ton of fun. You make your pick and sweat it out as player after player on your cheat sheet is crossed out. It is a good idea to have a plan going into the draft but not one that is written in stone. Value drops, runs happen and being flexible and changing strategies on the fly will make your squad starter.

One of the toughest things to keep away from in the fantasy draft is 'The Sheep Mentality'. This is when a run starts on a particular position and an owner sees player after player come off the board while he / she is waiting for their next pick. When the pick finally arrives, he saw a run of ten straight players and immediates takes the same position without much thought. The owner does this due to panic, stress and worry about the position drying up and while allowing panic to run his draft, he / she left plenty of talent at the other positions that could have given him an advantage over the other owners.

EXAMPLE: It is a 12-team, start 1 QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1 FLEX, 1 TE league and you pick 12th and last in the first round. The eleven owners ahead of you get on a crazy running back run right off the hop and all eleven picks are running backs. When your pick comes you look at the running backs already taken and panic begins to set in. 'Oh my god' you think as you quickly scan your cheatsheets. All the good running backs are going to be gone if I don't take my pair here. The owner is correct in that the position will dry up somewhat by the next pick at 36th overall. There is no doubt about that. However the running back run is going to make way for other positions as the 2nd round heads into the 3rd round and talent almost always drops.

The problem with being a 'Sheep' in this situation and taking a running back is that your player is the final one off the board in round one and will be down around 10 thru 12 on your cheatsheet. Obviously if you have a top five running back on your cheatsheet still on the board when you select, it would be an easy choice to make. However, assuming the top ten running backs on your cheat sheet are already gone, going running back with your 1st round pick gives you a worst first pick than every other owner in the league and you will spend the rest of the draft playing catch up to them. Because of the 24 picks between your first two and your next two, the owners in between will also be picking up the top receivers and quarterbacks while you wait. Then when your 3rd and 4th round picks arrive, you are now playing catchup at multiple positions and it never ends from there.

Instead of being the Sheep be the Wolf. By that I mean do not blindly follow the runs and instead forged off on a new path and secure strength elsewhere. In the above example, with the top-eleven running backs off the board, do not chase the running back position. Instead, begin your draft in another way by picking up for example WR Calvin Johnson and QB Aaron Rodgers. Now instead of chasing at the running back position, you now have a top fantasy quarterback and receiver, giving you a points advantage most weeks at those two spots. Yes you will be weaker at running back in all likelihood than the other owners in your league, but you will have strength elsewhere. Later in the draft, you can add plenty of running back depth hoping a few of those players exceed expectations. The ultimate goal each week is to outscore your opponent. It doesn't matter if your running backs outscore your opponent. What matters ultimately is that your entire fantasy team outscores the other. So weakness at running back and strength at receiver and quarterback is just fine.

These types of runs are constantly happening throughout the draft. There will be times you will join into a run but that should only be when you see a player available that is a value pick when your turn comes up. If the value has dropped and the run has removed viable picks at the position, simply turn sideways and target another position. When you are the Wolf, you dictate the draft and not the other way around.

Just remember while doing this to secure your starting positions first before acquiring depth players unless undeniable value is there when you draft and you simply cannot leave the player behind. So if you take a quarterback in round one, ignore that position until your starters at RB, WR and TE are filled out. If you are the Wolf and you work to fill out your starters as mentioned, your team by the end of the draft will be very strong and successful.