The Five Biggest Draft Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Mistakes
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A fantasy football draft is intimidating. The stakes are high, there's a countdown timer, and your decisions are visible to all of your friends, family and coworkers. For fantasy beginners, embarrassing themselves in the draft is one of their biggest fears. But even for experts, there is always a feeling of nervousness going into any draft. To help ease your nerves, we've put together this list of the most common draft mistakes. If you can avoid these then you'll be well on your way to a solid draft.

Mistake #1: Over-drafting a Player

The most embarrassing way to screw up your draft is to take a player several rounds higher than you needed to draft them.

It's bad because it's a complete waste of draft value. And it's embarrassing because it makes you look like you don't know what you're doing.

Some egregious examples of this would be taking a kicker or defense in the first round. If you're not sure why that is bad, you should first read our beginner's guide to fantasy football and then come back.

But even the less extreme cases are terrible. A common example is someone taking a quarterback way too early, like round 1 or 2. Another example would be drafting a player early who is injured or suspended and has a lower draft value than they did a few weeks earlier.

Luckily, there are two ways to avoid this mistake:

  1. Review average draft position data (ADP) leading up to your draft and on the day of your draft. On Fantasy Football Calculator, our ADP data is updated every single day, and is the most timely and accurate data you can find online.
  2. Additionally, performing mock drafts will help you practice finding where players are being drafted in a typical draft. If you do enough drafts, you’ll have an innate feeling for player values so that you can know in real-time if you’re about to overdraft a player.

The free mock drafts on Fantasy Football Calculator are running 24/7 in every popular draft format (standard, PPR, 2QB, dynasty, and rookie-only).

Mistake #2: Missing Out on Your Favorite Sleeper

This is the opposite of Mistake #1.

You’ve been doing your research and have identified one player as your favorite sleeper in the mid-to-late rounds. You're really excited about him, and you've adjusted your whole draft to assume you'll get him at a value later in the draft.

However, just a few picks before you were set to draft him, someone else takes him.

You've been sniped.

Now you start to panic and your draft plan falls to pieces.

This situation is entirely avoidable. If you truly have a player you are willing to bang on the table for, then you need to draft them a little before they are expected to be drafted.

There is so much variability and uncertainty with player performance, that if you truly have a strong gut feeling about a sleeper, then do everything you can to get that player on your team.

Since this mistake is the inverse of the first one, the solution is actually the same:

  1. Review up-to-date average draft position data
  2. Do plenty of mock drafts.
  3. Use the scenario calculator to know if a player will be available at your next draft spot.

The most common reason this happens is that you may do a few drafts a week or so before your draft and fall in love with a sleeper. However, you probably aren't the only person who felt that the player was a value at the original draft position. So his ADP ends up rising higher, but you haven't realized it and plan on drafting him later than he can be drafted.

Make sure to check ADP and do some mock drafts as close to your draft day as possible, including the morning of your draft.

And remember, "average" draft position means that the player gets drafted higher than their ADP 50% of the time. If you want a more sophisticated view of the probability that a player will be available for you at a draft spot, use our free Scenario Calculator to help you do the math.

You enter the scoring format and the draft pick you are considering drafting a player, and it will tell you the chance that a player will be available for you to draft there. Use that value in your decision for when to draft your favorite sleeper.

Mistake #3: Drafting an Unbalanced Team

This is a subtle way to screw up your draft, and you might not realize it until your draft is almost over.

Let’s say that in a PPR draft, you end up drafting a running back with your first pick. Coming back in the second round, you also feel that the best value is another running back and you end up going RB/RB.

That’s fine. But coming around in the 3rd round, you don’t like any of the top wide receivers on the board, so you take another running back. Okay, not the end of the world.

But, what if you get the same feeling in the 4th round also? You will have to either force a wide receiver pick that you don’t like, or draft your 4th running back.

Meh.

And even if you take a wide receiver here, your #1 WR is not very strong. You had good intentions at every single pick, but the cumulative result was an unbalanced team. You’re probably going to make a trade early in the season, which isn’t a great start.

Solution: Know the best rounds to draft each position. A combination of mock drafts & draft simulations can help you there, and it's what many advanced fantasy football players do.

Also, to save you time, we built an innovative When to Draft a X? tool that tells you the optimal rounds to draft a player for each position. While it's easy to say "don't draft a quarterback in round 1" it's less certain whether you should draft a quarterback in round 5 or round 7.

We've done the hard work of analyzing thousands of mock drafts performed on Fantasy Football Calculator, crunched the numbers on which teams were the best, and found out the optimal round to draft your first play at each position.

Mistake #4: Not Preparing With The Correct League Settings

As I've shown above there are plenty of tools resources to help you prepare for your draft and avoid some major draft mistakes.

However, those tools and resources are only as good as how you use them. All of them let you specify the league format that you are in. The average draft position for a running back in a 10-team non-PPR league is very different from his ADP in a 14-team PPR league.

So before you start your draft prep, always check your league scoring settings first. You can always get this with your league provider and ask your commissioner if you need help.

And stay in the loop before your draft in case anyone proposes any scoring changes or the size of your league changes. You will need to adjust your draft preparation to accommodate that.

Another example of this is, if you're in a keeper league where you carry over a handful of players from the previous season, your draft preparation and strategy is going to hinge around who your keepers are (and who you think will be kept by the other league managers).

The tools above can be modified for you to set your own keepers if you have a premium account. That will let you input your keepers once and then run as many draft simulations as you want with those settings.

Also, if you have unique lineup settings like 2 or 3 flex positions, or your quarterback scoring settings are non-standard, then you can use the premium versions of those tools to adjust the computer settings for your practice draft simulations.

Mistake #5: Not Tracking Your Draft

The final mistake to avoid is not having a system in place to track the draft picks as they happen during your draft.

There are many things that can go wrong if you don't have your own system for tracking your draft:

You may:

  • Try to draft a player that has already been drafted
  • Not realize that a great value has slipped because you're using your league's default rankings
  • Not identify position runs early
  • Not successfully predict who the players around you may pick next

DO Track Your Draft One of These Ways:

  1. Your own custom Excel spreadsheet. You can import the ADP data for free via CSV (see an example). Advantage is you can customize it exactly as you want. Downside is that it takes time to build these, but can be fun if you have the time.
  2. Print out a cheat sheet. If you prefer pen and paper, that's fantastic. You just need to make sure you have data that is updated the day of your draft. Our cheatsheet generator will instantly spit out a cheatsheet for you with the most current ADP data for that draft size and format.
  3. ADP Draftboard Tracking: We have kind of a free hidden feature here at FFC where you can click off players from a table-view of ADP data. To use it, go to an ADP page for your size & format and for the Display option, select Draftboard. Then, click on the player cells, and you will notice that they turn black. It can be used for a quick and dirty way to track your draft in a pinch. It doesn't save any data, and if you refresh the page your clicks will disappear. You can use the draft tracker for a more durable way to save your draft picks and view the in the draft board format.
  4. Draft tracker software. Using draft tracking software lets you manage your rankings and view the draft while it happens. The advantage is that you can have a color-coded view of the draft as it unfolds. It makes it very easy to see potential positional runs before they happen.

DON'T Track Your Draft One of These Ways:

  1. No tracking at all. You'll be at a disadvantage because others in your league will be using tracking tools.
  2. Using your league's default draft software. Even if you are just using the live draft room on ESPN or Yahoo, you are using the same rankings as the rest of your league and don't have the easy-to-use visualization of a draft tracker.
  3. Using a magazine's cheatsheet printed out several months ago. You may or may not realize it, but all fantasy magazines have a long lead time to publication. They can be fun to read on an airplane, but if you use them as your cheatsheet during your draft you will be using outdated information.

Conclusion

In summary, we've covered the five most common draft mistakes and how to avoid them.

The major theme that we've identified is that you need to be prepared with updated information.

Most of the tools and resources that I've listed above to help you get that basic information are available for free here at Fantasy Football Calculator. And if you want to save time and use our premium cheatsheet generator, custom draft simulator or draft tracker, then those premium tools can help you level up your drafting even more.

They're especially helpful for people in keeper leagues because the free draft information can't help you know how to adjust for your own specific situation with keepers. You need software to help account for those keepers and adjust your cheatsheets and simulations accordingly.

But no matter your skill level or type of league you're in, if you follow the advice above you can avoid making major mistakes in your next fantasy football draft.

If you are prepared for your draft, there is nothing quite as fun as being on the clock and drafting the right players at the right time. It's probably the most fun part of fantasy football.

Good luck, and happy drafting!