Michael Florio runs down the biggest fantasy football draft mistakes and how you can avoid the pitfalls and still be going strong come playoff time.
Fantasy Football to some is a way of creating comradery around the office. To some, it is a way to keep in touch with old friends. To others, it is a way to stay engaged in football despite your favorite team sucking. And to many others, like Ruxin from The League, fantasy football is a religion! Regardless of the level of player you are, you want to perform well. And even more than wanting to perform well, you do NOT want to be the owner making the worst mistake in fantasy football and be the laughing stock of your league!
I’ve sought out to find the biggest mistake that people make in fantasy football. My search has taken me all across… Twitter, trying to discover just what mistake will ruin thousands of fantasy teams!
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Bad Fantasy Football Mistakes
Letting Recency Bias Get the Best of You
We have all been there. For those who don’t know, recency bias is allowing something that has happened recently, to weigh more in a decision or be a larger factor in making a pick than the larger track record of a player. An example of this would be reaching on a player after a big preseason game or after a coach comes out and talks up a player. Just because something happened recently, does not mean it is the end-all-be-all. While this is typically a mistake, it is far from the biggest draft mistakes that fantasy football players make.
Being Too Rigid
This was a popular submission among the biggest draft mistakes people make in fantasy drafts. Having a strategy is great. In fact, it is advisable that you head into your drafts with at least a sense of an idea of what you want to do. But when you try to plan out your draft pick-by-pick and are not willing to budge… well, that is when it can be costly. You may plan on taking David Johnson in round 1 and a receiver in round 2, but then James Conner falls. You could throw away the strategy and jump on fallen value, or you could stick to your strategy and let someone else get an even bigger bargain.
Doing it Drunk/High
This was another popular one that was submitted. You do not want to be bombed and have no recollection of your draft – I have seen plenty of people drink entirely too much during a draft. I wish I got to see their faces when they look over the team the next day! But I have also heard of people saying they draft better after a couple drinks so if that is the case – do what you got to do to win!
Slave to ADP and Rankings
People will spend months doing research, compiling rankings and finding players they want to draft or avoid… and throw it all away at the draft. Too often drafters second-guess themselves when seeing how a site’s ADP or another set of rankings have a player ranked. Just because the default ADP on the site you are drafting on has a player 20 spots higher than you think, doesn’t mean that is where you have to draft the player! Do not succumb to the ADP! In fact, you should look to exploit it, finding players that you believe are too low on the site’s ADP – believe it or not, it will influence the draft.
Drafting for “Fantasy Playoff Schedules”
This. This is easily one of the biggest draft mistakes that owners make in fantasy football. I cannot tell you how much it annoys me when I hear anything about fantasy playoff schedules as a reason to select a player. Why? Well first, teams change drastically each offseason. To think we know exactly how good or bad a defense will be in Week 14 while drafting in August? Yeah, that is a big mistake! Another mistake is targeting players who perform well in the “fantasy playoffs.” This is even worse. So much of a player’s performance is based on opportunity, health and having favorable matchups. Just because a player performed well in Weeks 14-16 one season, does not mean they are a lock to do so in Weeks 14-16 the next year. Todd Gurley willed teams to championships in 2017 and sat out Week 16 in 2018. If you want to start planning for the fantasy playoffs in like Week 9 or 10, sure. But to make decisions that will affect your entire season, all for the sake of planning for four months in the future? Hard pass.
Ah man, I have learned this lesson the hard way. Targeting an injured player because they have a cheaper ADP than normal can seem like a good idea on paper… but anytime an injury is in play it becomes a risky proposition. Thinking a player can come back sooner from an injury? Mistake. Banking on an injured player this season? Mistake. Now it will not always be a mistake, for instance, George Kittle was hurt last August and those who drafted him reaped huge rewards. But you did not have to invest an early pick in Kittle. I am still ok with those shots, but reaching on an injured player or drafting someone and thinking they will return sooner than expected is never a good idea. Setbacks happen, players can get reinjured or can be slow out the gate once they return.
Writers Note: There is a difference between injury optimism and not thinking a player is injury prone. I am okay drafting Todd Gurley, but that is because he is not currently suffering from an injury that will put the start of his season in question. Some people are afraid he will get hurt, which is fine, but I do think it is different than avoiding a player that is already hurt.
And the Biggest of Draft Mistakes is…
Overpaying for QB was by far the most popular response I got in my quest to find fantasy football’s biggest draft mistakes. I will never forget an encounter I had a couple of years ago. I was at a bar, a couple of drinks in, and a friend of a friend, who I had never met before was talking to me and once he found out that I wrote about fantasy football he wanted to share with me his team. He said he struggled the year before, but that was his first year and was ready to win his league this year. He eagerly started to tell me his team but insisted I give him honest advice. “In the first round I took Tom Brady,” he said. “What? Do you not like that pick?” “But quarterback is the most important position in sports and I have the best one ever coming off a big year!”
I felt pretty bad telling him that he made a huge mistake and set his team back by targeting a QB in round one. It is a mistake that far too many new fantasy players make. And the logic for thinking you should secure the QB position makes sense. I mean, it is easily the most important position in sports. You know an NFL team basically has no chance of winning a Super Bowl unless they have a good QB. Yet in fantasy, it is the exact opposite. There are legitimately 22 QBs that you could feel at least okay starting in fantasy football this season. If you are in a 10 or 12 team league, that means you can wait until the last round, or the third to last if your last two are reserved for kicker and defense, to grab a QB and be fine. Even if you don’t want to wait that long, you should be close to the last person taking a starting QB.
You also have to factor in the opportunity cost. By selecting a QB in round one, you no longer have the opportunity of having a first-round caliber RB or WR on your roster. The difference in fantasy points between say a Patrick Mahomes in round 1 and a Carson Wentz or Jameis Winston in the 10th, will be significantly smaller than the difference between David Johnson in the first and Ronald Jones in the 10th, respectively.
If you have made this mistake in the past, it’s fine. It happens to the best of us. The point though is to learn from these past mistakes and become a better fantasy football player going forward!
Another way to become a better fantasy football player is by following me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
Are you making one of fantasy football’s biggest draft mistakes? Want more great analysis? Check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Football Draft Kit. It’s sugar-free, calorie-free, and just flat out free!
Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!
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