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No One Knows Anything
I wrote a version of this last year, and was going to just re-post it, but I have a few items I’d like to add to it. In no particular order:
Don’t sweat the details — I was at a disadvantage before leaving RotoWire because the job forced me to project (and talk about) every player in the pool. This seems like a good thing, but it’s not. You don’t want to consider all the pros and cons of every player because it’s impossible to weigh them appropriately. So RB X has elite tackle-breaking, but modest athletic metrics, plays on a run-heavy team, but a below-average offense, has stayed reasonably healthy, has little competition for the job, but wore down late last year. It’s too much information, and necessarily you’ll overly fixate on one or two factors to carry the day, whether those are really the most important in his case or not. Much better if you watch and pay attention closely to the NFL (as I do) to trust your feeling about him. Do you want him relative to the other players at ADP or not? Internalize the pros and cons, but don’t think you can quantify or accurately weigh them.
Don’t be unnecessarily thorough — Last year, I didn’t really have a strong opinion on certain players like Courtland Sutton or Allen Robinson (actually I was a little worried he was getting old), so I passed on them. Other “sharps” were all over them, and part of me wanted to revisit my indifference for that reason, but luckily I resisted. There are arguments for and against every player at ADP, and if you bother to consider them, your mind will turn to mush. If you’re not feeling a player at ADP X, ignore him. You only need to have a few strong leans for or against, and that will make or break your season. You don’t need to have a take on everyone. Of course, there’s a point in your draft where you consider anyone who slips enough, but that (a) usually doesn’t happen; and (b) you can revisit your feelings on him if it gets to that point. Bottom line, if you don’t see it, don’t squint.
Be disclipined during the draft — even though no one knows anything, and you should focus on what’s compelling to you about players, drafting requires some discipline and focus. If receivers fly off the board (as they often do in the NFFC), all things being even close to equal, take the receiver now and the running back later. You want to set yourself up for snap-calls when your pick comes along, not agonizing capitulations as the clock winds down. Be aware of what the board is likely to look like, be prepared to reap unexpected windfalls, but don’t be sloppy with your team structure. If you’re going to take the harder path (RB-RB, e.g.) do it eyes open and have an idea how you’ll adust.
Be mindful of trends, but not beholden to them — It’s no secret QBs are flying off the board earlier than ever this year. Have we really shifted paradigms in one year, or was 2022 a one-off? I don’t know the answer to that though it’s usually the latter. But if the market for QBs has gotten steeper, it’s less punitive than it was to draft an elite one early. For example, if seven of the 12 teams are taking one in the top four rounds, that’s half the league who are just as compromised at other positions as you are if you take one. In the past, there might be only two other teams doing that, and the relative opportunity cost was steeper. I personally have gone cheap on QBs because I like plenty of them, but I can’t say for sure that’s correct.
Disregard tips from experts — I’m a sucker for watching livestreams of NFFC drafts, and there are always successful veteran drafters giving their takes as those drafts go on. I probably shouldn’t even expose myself to it at all, but I enjoy watching it unfold, so I do. But not only are some of those experts drafting dozens of teams and picking players in some cases largely for diversification, but they don’t know what’s going to happen in an NFL season any more than you do. They are net profitable most years because they have an overall edge in understanding how to structure teams for the playoffs, how to get a net discount on players vs the overall pool per ADP, buy three-team packages, etc. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s their massive buy-in that helps fund the big prize payouts for you. Just realize that kind of macro trading strategy really does not apply when you’re drafting 1-5 teams.
Disregard tips from anyone — If you want to be like Warren Buffett, don’t buy the stocks he owns. Instead become fanatical about understanding what makes a company a good value and pick the ones you identify as such. It’s the same for fantasy football. Figure out how to spot the player who might be on next year’s cover, or, a la Buffett, won’t lose the league for you. (Buffett is more loss averse than he is concerned with hitting it big.) I would argue in a league of NFFC-depth and with its top-heavy payout structure, you want to concern yourself mostly with upside, but the essential point is the same: the best players aren’t copying other good players, but making calls for themselves.
Enjoy yourself — During the year fantasy football is mostly torture — lots of thwarted hopes, arbitrary rug-pulls and unbearable anxiety punctuated occasionally by a few fleeting moments of joy. Only one team out of 12 doesn’t experience failure by the end of the year. But on draft day, everything is still possible.