By Brandie Searle of PCDrafter.com
Unless your goal in playing Fantasy Football is to simply donate money to your friends, you want to win your league. If you are like me, just barely winning each week isn't enough. You want to humiliate your opponents and remind them about their losses all season long. Losing even a single game is a disappointment and missing the playoffs is inconceivable.
The single most important factor in guaranteeing a winning season is having the best draft in your league. While free agent pickups during the year can have an effect on a team, it is usually the worst teams in the league that pick up those emerging players. It is far better to go into the season with a solid team than having to rely on some unknown commodity coming out of nowhere to lead you to championship gold.
A good draft means your team should be well-placed to trade from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness. A good draft should provide your team with both quality starters and depth of solid reserves. As injuries take their toll during the season, you will either have enough depth to fill a reserve player into your lineup or you can package players together to take advantage of another team's misfortune.
What components combine to make a successful draft? I would suggest that the following items are critical to a success:
1. Good player projections
2. Knowing your league rules
3. Mock drafting
5. Draft for Value
From the list above, items 1-3 are all related to pre-draft preparation to ensure that you are going into your draft with as much information as possible. Items 4-5 occur during the draft. Taking the time to complete all these items manually for every one of your leagues would be a time consuming process.
Thankfully, pcDrafter simplifies every one of these steps, reducing the amount of preparation time required during the off-season. More importantly, it allows you to manage your drafts much more efficiently, allowing you to make better decisions and enjoying your draft more.
Good Player Projections
This is where it all starts. I realize this is common sense, but you draft a player based on his anticipated projection for the upcoming year. While no prognosticator will hit every player exactly right, the most successful teams will tend to have more accurate projections than less successful teams. While historical data or previous year projections can help you predict how a player will perform, there are a number of other factors that can affect a player's productivity. These include items like age, changing of teams, changing of a coach, offensive line changes, quarterback changes, rookies taking playing time, or strength of schedule. Taking all these factors into account is difficult, if not impossible for a single person.
For this reason, pcDrafter has partnered with 4for4 to provide the best player projections in the business. With a dedicated staff that is assisted by supplemental writers covering each NFL team, 4for4 provides more in depth analysis of every player than any other site. This extensive and granular coverage allows 4for4 to take each variable into account when they are preparing their player projections. Unlike other sites, they are also not afraid to show you their projections for previous season, so you can judge for yourself how accurately they predict player performance. These best-in-class projections provide the starting point for pcDrafter to help you select the best team possible. They are updated throughout the preseason, right up until the start of the season, ensuring that no matter when you hold your draft, you'll have the latest information.
If you find yourself disagreeing with a projection or two, (I tend to like Eagles players.) or if your league uses a statistic that 4for4 does not project, pcDrafter also allows you to modify the 4for4 projections to suit your taste. pcDrafter provides 30 different statistical categories for rating offensive and defensive players, so you can be sure you have complete player projections.
Knowing Your League Rules
While accuracy in projecting player statistics is an important first step, it is equally important to understand how those projections apply to your league. If you project your top quarterback to throw for 42 touchdowns, his value in a league that awards 6 points for a touchdown pass will be very different from a league that only awards 3 points for a touchdown pass.
If you are like me, you probably compete in a number of different leagues. Some common variables that differ between leagues are:
1) WR and TE are combined in some leagues, but separate in others.
2) Some leagues require individual defensive players while other leagues require team defenses while still other leagues require no defensive positions.
3) Some leagues deduct points for interceptions or fumbles.
4) Some leagues score passing, receiving, and rushing touchdowns the same, while other league score each of these statistics separately.
5) Kicker scoring and defensive scoring often varies between leagues.
6) How many of Each Postion you typically start. This is a huge variable when determining a player's draft value.
Trying to accurately modify your player scores for each of these leagues is a very time consuming process. In the end, you end up with a completely different player list for each league. As player projections are updated, you then have to modify each league to ensure that your players are still valued at the correct level.
Once again pcDrafter makes this a snap. If you join a new league, pcDrafter walks you through a very simple series of screens that allows you to configure each of your leagues based on scoring rules, the number of teams in your league, your league roster requirements, and the draft order. Every league you create shares the same player projections, but recalculates the value of each player based on each leagues individual configuration.
If passing touchdowns are worth 6 points instead of 3 points, you'll see the quarterback rankings drop. If wide receivers and tight ends are combined into a single position, you'll see that reflected. If you draft team defenses instead of individual defensive players, pcDrafter will automatically filter out those unused players from the 4for4 projection file.
As mentioned earlier, once you have your league configured any player updates are automatically applied across all your leagues, reducing your league maintenance time to 0 after the initial setup.
Maybe on of the most overlooked and difficult parts of preparing for your draft is participating in a mock draft to determine where other members of your league will draft a player. Several factors combine to make this a difficult item to complete:
1. For most leagues, you'll have to find at least 9 other people that are willing to devote their time to a mock draft.
2. If you do find other players willing do complete a mock draft, odds are strong that you won't actually be using your league scoring rules or have the same roster requirements of your league.
3. When participating a mock draft, other players are probably taking the same approach you are, which means they may not take the best player available each time. They may take a player simple to see, “What would happen if…”
Once again, pcDrafter steps up to the plate to provide an easy method of completing as many mock drafts as you like, as often as you like, using your specific league rules. PcDrafter allow you to run a Mock draft in a number of different ways.
1. You can have pcDrafter use ADP rankings to draft for all the other teams, while you can select your own team.
2. You can have pcDrafter use Gold rankings (described a bit later in this article) to draft for all the other teams, while you can select your own team.
3. You can personally make each pick as the draft progresses, based on either Gold or AD values.
4. You can combine any number of automated and manual picks to complete your draft.
In addition, you can change what draft position you are using for your team to see the different options that might be available at each pick. You can also judge the affects of trades on your draft by trading draft picks or players during a draft to see the results of those moves. Once each mock draft is complete, pcDrafter will show you how all the teams compare in terms of projected starter points or the points projected for the entire roster so you can judge the results for each of your mock drafts to find which strategy works best for you.
Best of all, each mock draft can be completed in just a matter of minutes (depending on the method you use), allowing you to run numerous scenarios very quickly without having to round up other people or giving away your draft strategy to other members of your league.
By determining your basic strategy even before the draft begins, and by already knowing what affects different trade scenarios will have on your team, this gives you a huge advantage during your draft. Other owners will have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions, where you can rest easy, knowing you are completely prepared for any scenario.
When my fantasy drafts used to come around, I always had the following information printed out and ready to go:
1. My player projections
2. List of each team's schedule
3. Individual spreadsheets for each team so I could determine who was drafted
This meant that for my 14-team league, I had a minimum of 20 different pages I needed to sort through every time a pick was made to ensure that I tracked every piece of information I wanted. These spreadsheets helped me determine:
1. what positions/roster spots each team needed to fill so I could anticipate what player each team would select.
2. what positions were becoming more valuable as each tier of players was selected.
3. what players I had selected to ensure that I had bye weeks covered.
For my auction leagues, I also tracked how much was spent on each player and how much money each team had remaining.
While this information helped me draft a better team, it also meant I had very little time to enjoy my draft. Since most of my leagues implemented a time limit for making selections, I was constantly rushing to update all my spreadsheets in order to make my next selection. This was the primary reason I initially developed pcDrafter: To automatically track all the things I was doing manually.
The less time I spent scrambling around to track other people's picks, the more time I had to consider my own selections, thus allowing me to both draft a superior team, and also enjoy the draft more thoroughly. During the draft, pcDrafter provides information that other owners will either not have time to consider, or will have available only by sacrificing their time that could be spent on strategy. Once your draft begins, pcDrafter puts the following items at your fingertips:
1. Each draft round and the upcoming draft picks.
2. The roster for each team, sorted either by position or draft order.
3. The number of players drafted at each position. (As well as what positions have reached their maximum limits.)
4. The amount of money spent on each player (auction leagues only)
5. The amount of money spent by each team (auction league only)
6. Bye week validation to ensure you don't have multiple players at the same position on the same bye (optional)
7. Easy color validation to ensure that you draft your minimum starting players before your bench players (optional)
8. Simple search/filter window for finding players quickly and easily.
9. Simple window for handling trades of players or draft picks that update your draft list and league rosters automatically (and ensure all league roster rules are enforced)
While you may not consider all this information for every pick, pcDrafter provides the ability to view all this information with the click of a button. This provides you with more information than any of your opponents will have available, giving you the best opportunity to make the right decision for every pick.
Perhaps most importantly, pcDrafter also automatically recalculates the Gold value for every player after each pick, allowing you to…
Draft for Value
Everything we've done so far in our preparation ultimately leads to the question of “Who should I draft with my pick.”
During your draft, you will obviously want to select the best player available with each of your picks. This would be easy if every league valued each position equally. However, this is certainly not the case. Due to each league's individual scoring rules and team roster configurations, players at different positions will be valued differently. The real key to each draft is being able to determine when it is appropriate to draft a player from a certain position.
All of the research we have done and all of the information that is at your fingertips during the draft in pcDrafter will assist you in making the most important draft-day decisions. The best piece of information that pcDrafter provides for making your selection is the Gold value.
As your draft progresses, the Gold algorithm calculates a value for each player based on their performance, your league scoring rules, your league roster requirements, what players you have already drafted, and what players your opponents have drafted. It would be impossible to take all these factors into account manually during your draft.
By using only manual spreadsheets, the best you could hope to determine if whether there appears to a run on a certain position. But nothing in that information tells you whether you should continue that run or find value in other places. The Gold algorithm ensures that you can easily see what selections would provide the greatest value for your individual team. By selecting the most valuable player possible with every selection, you guarantee that your team will end up with the deepest possible roster. While other teams are reaching for players based on their name recognition or perceived needs, you can confidently select the players that will provide the greatest value for your team.
As an added feature, pcDrafter also shows you the Average Draft Position (ADP) for each player so that you can verify you thoughts against both the Gold algorithm and where other owners are typically drafting a player.
At this point you may be saying, “All this information is great, but how can I be sure pcDrafter will really help me in my league?” I could answer this question in two ways.
As a first approach I could tell you that I have used pcDrafter to lead my league in scoring in all but 2 of the last 8 seasons. (One of those seasons, I did not personally attend the draft and had to rely on a friend to draft for me. He did not have a computer, and therefore did not have pcDrafter.) However, I'm sure you would still have some doubts about how this would relate to your league.
The Real Bottom Line. If You Read Nothing Else, Read This
As a second way of proving the value of pcDrafter and the Gold Algorithm, I looked at the bottom line, the draft results, and you can do this too.
I configured a variety of 10 and 14 team leagues using standard performance scoring values. I then used pcDrafter to conduct Mock drafts for each of those leagues. In each run, I selected a different team in the league and had pcDrafter using the Gold algorithm to pick for my team, while using ADP values to select the other teams.
The Gold team had a higher projected player value over the second place team in every draft by a minimum of 50 points. The Gold team averaged over 100 points higher in projected points than the second place team in all the scenarios that I ran.
But to really prove the benefits, I would suggest downloading pcDrafter and giving it a test run yourself. I fully believe that you will have your best draft experience ever. You will reduce your preparation time, have more information, and can have more fun during your draft. Most importantly, you will crush your league.