2019 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Guide- Jack Lucenay’s All Time Ultimate Maple Syrup and Poutine Infused Draft Strategy to Destroy Your Leagues
It’s finally that time of year again, and fantasy football drafts are either happening or are right around the corner. Though your fantasy football draft isn’t the ultimate qualifier to having a successful season, it is the foundation upon which your entire season is built. You may still be able to stack a house of cards on top of an auto-draft for example, but the path to success is much easier if you are building that house of cards on a sturdy base.
You must be asking yourself; what can I do to ensure a pleasurable and successful draft experience?
That’s easy, you just need to follow Jack Lucenay’s All Time Ultimate Maple Syrup and Poutine Infused Draft Strategy to Destroy Your Leagues!
Be the Batman
Every comic book nerd knows that Batman’s true power is his ability to plan and strategize against his opponents. It’s almost a running joke that the most powerful superhero combination is Batman and Prep Time. 99% of drafts are pre-scheduled, so if you did not put in the prep time, you only have yourself to blame if and when you end up getting auto-drafted a bunch of scrubs (there’s always at least one owner).
Here are some basic things to check for before you’ve even thought about drafting:
Check your internet – First off, if you have the ability, you should be drafting from a laptop or desktop computer. If you are using a cell phone, you need to be aware that they can be unreliable in maintaining an internet connection. If it’s really crapping out, you may need to switch over to your data. Make sure you are doing this a good 20-30 minutes before your draft so that if you have to do any troubleshooting, you have time to adjust before the actual start of your draft. You don’t want to be the guy stuck trying to make his internet work and ends up missing the first 3-5 rounds.
Set your team name – This is more to help out your league mates so they can clearly see who is on the board, who has picked, etc. If you’re waiting to name your team after you’ve drafted because you are a brilliant and wise soul who read my ‘Name of the Game’ article, then just put your own name as the team name to make it easier on your league mates when drafting.
Set your rankings – If you are worried, get into your draft room 10-15 minutes ahead of the start time and set your rankings. If this is impossible, be proactive! Get a hold of the league commissioner/manager and have them set your rankings for you. At least this way if you get auto-drafted, you will still get guys you actually wanted. You may find some phone applications of popular fantasy apps like ESPN or NFL limit your ability to manage your team. To bypass this, you may need to access the league by using the browser on your phone instead of the app itself.
Snacks! – Personally, I like to have a light meal and then surround myself with snacks and coffee. If we’re talking about 60-90 seconds between picks, you’re probably fine. However, if we’re talking 3-5 minutes or more between picks, you may find the draft takes a couple of hours, and you want to remain focused instead of rummaging through your house looking for something to eat. Let your league mates think on an empty stomach while you snake incredible value picks away from their hunger-clouded minds.
Indulgements! – Smoker? Make sure you have a fresh pack ready. Toker? Have that bowl ready to go. Drinker? Pace yourself, or you’ll go home with some ugly players that you thought were attractive when you had your beer goggles on.
Coin of destiny – You need to have a coin with you. This will be explained later on.
Rules of Engagement
You will also want to peruse your league’s rules. Right off the top of my head, PPR (point per reception) leagues wildly change the value of nearly every single player. A guy like Austin Ekeler becomes a valuable flex play (even if Melvin Gordon doesn’t hold out) because of his work in the passing game.
Besides PPR, you will want to look for other incongruities such as 6 pts per passing TD. This atrocious feature is employed by some leagues and changes how much you should value a quarterback (obviously). Another example could be how the yards gained by RB and WR are scored. If RB yards are scored as 1 point per 8 yards, then the RB is still slightly more valuable, but if it is 1 point per 10 yards for both RB and WR, and especially if it’s a PPR league than WR should be valued more highly.
The bottom line here is to make sure you know the league’s scoring rules so that you can value the players appropriately.
Once the actual draft starts, your strategy needs to be that of water. It needs to be malleable, adaptable and flowing. Whenever I enter a draft, I forget all strategy off the bat and just take the best player available. It is only after my first few picks that I start to develop a team and strategize which players to target to complete my team.
In general, here are a few things I do in most of my drafts:
Go RB Heavy – There are many proponents of the ‘zero RB strategy’, especially in PPR leagues. I am not one of these people. If I can help it, I like to get at least 3 quality running backs in my first 5 picks. The reason for this is that the drop off in talent at running back is perhaps the most dramatic of any position aside from TE. In a PPR league, if you are convinced Zero RB is the way to go, you can find valuable assets late in drafts by taking pass-catching RBs like Austin Ekeler or James White. There are a handful of quality rookie options available late in drafts as well, names like Alexander Mattison, Justice Hill, Benny Snell Jr or Darwin Thompson. If you draft 2 or 3 of those guys and even one of them hits, you’ll be laughing. By the end of my drafts, I like to have at least 3-4 starting RB’s and another 2-3 prospect. I may not keep all of them all year long, but at least I will have enough depth to have legitimate options. There is nothing worse than being in RB hell in fantasy football.
Wait on QB – The NFL’s quarterback market is as saturated as it has ever been in history. You could make an argument for at least 15-20 quarterbacks in the league that could have a really good season this year. Unless you’re playing in a 2 QB or Superflex league, I would wait as long as possible for a QB. I’m much happier getting Phillip Rivers in the 12th than the smattering of QB’s going between rounds 3 to 8 (Mahomes, Luck, Wentz, etc) I just don’t see a big enough statistical drop off to warrant reaching for those guys when Rivers or a guy like Ben Roethlisberger will finish the year with similar numbers and are available late in drafts to pair as week to week streaming options. We haven’t even discussed other excellent streaming options like Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson either. Definitely wait on grabbing a quarterback this year.
Reach for a Tight End – Outside of George Kittle, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, tight end is a crapshoot. There are a handful of guys that I would feel comfortable reaching on from rounds 6 to 9; guys like Jared Cook, Evan Engram, Eric Ebron, OJ Howard, etc. If you do end up waiting too long and you’re stuck picking late, I would look for pure receiving options like Trey Burton and Gerald Everett that I could pair together at the back of my draft. This would allow me to stream week to week and hope for the best. The point is, the TE position has the biggest drop off in talent, so I’m okay with reaching up a round or two to get the guy I want. If I’m drafting last, I would heavily consider taking Travis Kelce with my first pick, especially in deeper leagues.
Defense and Kickers go last – There really isn’t a true shutdown defense that exists in the league anymore. Part of this is attributed to the rule changes over the last 5 years in particular that have greatly benefited NFL offenses, but it also has to do with the style of play in the modern age of football. The Rams had one of the best defenses on paper last year and routinely found themselves in high-scoring match-ups throughout the year. The Jaguars were a massive disappointment. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins were the 10th ranked overall defense last year. When it comes to kickers, just take any warm body from a good but not great offensive team. Look for teams that do really well until they get to the red zone and stall. These are the teams with the most opportunities for your kicker to score.
Coaching is key – More than any individual players’ talent, I am a proponent of coaching and scheme. Outside of a handful of players whose talent exceeds any coaching scheme, I look for players in opportunistic positions. For example, Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay drastically changes my projections for Jameis Winston compared to last year with Dirk Koetter, even after he took over full-time for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, the latter looks to recreate Fitz-magic in Miami, and the former has an upgrade at head coach and virtually the same team minus Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries. When I get hyped on a player, like I am on Alexander Mattison this year, it’s because the brass has come out and said that he’s a perfect fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone running schemes. The absolute best example I can think of is David Johnson. Once a 2000 all-purpose yard RB in 2016 under Bruce Arians, we saw him struggle last year under former coach Steven Wilks and Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy. Wilks and McCoy’s play-calling was uninspired and boring, often resulting in running David Johnson right up the gut for 2 yards a clip. New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury will look to open things up, and gives me hope that David Johnson could return to having productive seasons now that he’s 2 years removed from his season-ending wrist injury in 2017. Coaching is not the be-all and end-all, but when I’m deciding between one player or another, this is usually my determining factor.
The Coin of Destiny
What happens when you have two players, with equal projections, equally good situations, and you cannot decide which players to draft?
This is where the coin of destiny comes into play. Here is how it works:
- Take any coin. Assign heads and tails to the coin.
- Assign one player to heads, one player to tails.
- Flip the coin.
- This is critical. While the coin is in the air, you need to be aware of your subconscious and who you are secretly rooting for the coin to land on.
- Regardless of which side the coin lands on, select the player you secretly hoped had won the coin flip, as this is the player your heart truly desires.
- If you are truly indifferent to the outcome, respect the coin’s decision and take the player it landed on, because it is literally a coin-flip decision and you shouldn’t overthink it.
Following the draft, some owners will be looking to trade immediately. Unless you are able to capitalize by packaging your late round picks for another team’s 2nd WR or RB, it’s better to be cautious and wary of the trade offers you receive.
Also, another reason I am cautious of trades is in instances where your league has drafted early. I already have 3 completed drafts and it’s not even August yet, so the risk for major injuries like an AJ Green is still a very real possibility. Unless the draft is following week 3 of the pre-season, I’d want to wait and see how my guys pan out before I begin shopping them around, because I picked them for a reason.
Rather, I like to examine my first 3 matchups and what advantages or disadvantages my roster has against my competition. In this instance, I may consider working a lower end trade for need. For example, if I went RB heavy and find myself lacking quality receiving options, and I find that my first opponent is loaded at WR, I might try to package a mid-round RB and a late-round WR for one of his upper mid round WR. By pulling this off, I’ve not only strengthened my roster, but I’ve also weakened my first opponent (who may not even be aware of our week 1 matchup).
Finally, to make sure that I’m tuned in all season long, I do three things:
- The Twitter – I follow all the individual players on my team on Twitter. I also follow the team Twitter handles for the teams they play for. DO NOT COMMENT. I want to be very clear that NFL players don’t give a shit about your fantasy team. If you’re the type of mouth-breather to go online and send tweets to players because of their fantasy football performances than you’re a special kind of stupid. With that said, Twitter is one way to get tidbits of information directly from the players and team.
- Load up on Podcasts – I have a few that I listen to year-round, but when it comes time for fantasy season, I load up on nearly every podcast I can find. To see the five best podcasts you should be following for the upcoming fantasy football season, go read my article “The Top 5 Fantasy Football Podcasts”.
- Sleeper App – Download this nifty little app and set your phone to receive notifications to get all the latest news, injury updates, etc, before your league mates do. You should also download the official NFL app for additional news and notifications as well.
Remember, knowledge is power, and if you follow this guide to the letter, you may as well be the lead singer for Snap. Later daze.