When most people think of fantasy sports, they think football. Sure, it’s the most popular, but it’s also probably the easiest to win and requires the least amount of attention. But by no means is that all there is.
Considering the time of year, why not give fantasy baseball a try? In fact, go one step further and join a league with an auction draft. It involves much more strategy than your standard league (with its random draft order).
Regardless of what type of league you participate in, there’s still an unwritten set of guidelines that you should follow when drafting. So without further ado, here’s some basic fantasy draft etiquette.
Do: Show Up for the Draft
I put this first because of how much it irks me. If you sign up for a league, you can pick the time of the draft, and there’s no excuse to not show up.
First of all, it’s lazy. Why sign up for a league and then let the computer randomly pick your team? You may as well not play at all if you’re going not going to pick your own team.
More than that, it’s disrespectful to the other players in the league. Think about it. The other league owners spend their personal time to do this and you can’t spare two hours to come do the draft when the season lasts until October?
It’s just plain inconsiderate. I personally think if you don’t show up for your draft, your autopicks shouldn’t take place until after every person that did show up has picked their full team, but that’s another rant for another time. Don’t join a league if you’re not going to draft your own team.
Do: Strategize Ahead of Time
I’m not saying completely immerse yourself in fantasy research and watching every ESPN selection show, but have a rough idea of what you’re doing. Most of the time, generally watching the sport you’re going to draft a team for is enough.
If you’re even too lazy to do that, have no fear. Most online fantasy leagues show the previous season stats for every player and show the projections for this year. So provided you know what these stats mean and whether you want it to be high or low, you should be ok.
As far as more in-depth strategy goes, take notice of what commodities go faster than others. For example, if you’re playing fantasy football, a star running back is top priority, whereas defenses and kickers are often the last players taken.
You want a balanced team that puts up big numbers, and if you don’t do your homework ahead of time, you’ll pay for it later.
Don’t: Be “That Guy”
You know exactly who I’m talking about.
That guy complains out loud if someone “steals the guy he was about to draft.” He talks unnecessary smack about every player someone else drafts. He’s usually at least somewhat intoxicated before the draft even begins.
In short, nobody likes “that guy,” and virtually every league has one. His team is never any good and he tends to ruin the experience. Do your league a favor. If you’re an unpleasant jerk, suppress those tendencies until the season starts. If you’re going to be “that guy,” don’t do it during the draft.
Don’t: Use the Entire Time Limit to Make Your Pick
This one applies more to standard drafts, but I’m including it anyway. Usually, you get anywhere from 60 seconds to two and a half minutes to make a draft selection if you’re doing an online draft, and usually without a time limit in real life drafts.
Again, provided you’ve done your homework and made some sort of draft plan or list of players, your pick shouldn’t take any longer than 15-30 seconds at most. Every league has at least one person that does this, and it just slows things down and makes things uncomfortable.
If you’re doing a live in-person draft and a guy is taking forever to take a pick, sure, you’ve got time to head into the kitchen to grab another bag of chips or a beer, but if someone does it every time their pick comes back around, it gets really old in a hurry.
Once more, it’s an issue of being considerate. Don’t take forever. If you have to ponder a draft pick for that long, you’re probably not prepared and your team will suffer.
Don’t: Nominate Players You Want
To be fair, here’s one that applies exclusively to auction drafts. To give the shortest possible explanation, in an auction league, you still have a pre-determined draft order, but you only use that to nominate players. Anyone can bid on any player at any time, provided they still have sufficient budget remaining.
Here’s where the strategy comes in.
Nominate players you don’t want. I guarantee other players want them, and you can bid early and often to help jack up the price and cause your opponents to pay too much for a player they want.
For example, I just completed a fantasy draft earlier tonight. I wanted to get a few aces early on, so what did I do? Nominate position players since they had higher estimated prices.
By being patient and waiting for someone else to nominate them, I was able to acquire Dan Haren, Justin Verlander, and Chris Carpenter with little to no competition and get them for under cost since other players had shelled out far too much money for guys like Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.
I know you’ll want to pick up a Prince Fielder or Roy Halladay early, but in an auction draft, just wait and let someone else nominate them. It shows less desperation on your part.
Don’t: Overvalue a Player
This goes hand in hand with the last rule. Don’t get too desperate bidding on a favorite player or you’ll end up paying way too much for someone comparable to players available later in the draft.
To take another example from tonight’s draft, I really wanted to pick up Jacoby Ellsbury because of his stolen base totals and consistent batting average. The bidding began and soon enough, the current total was about $5 more than he was projected to go for. I’d pay up to an extra $2, but no more than that.
Instead, by realizing it would have hurt me to get in such a bidding war, I let someone else draft Ellsbury and won the auction for Michael Bourn, who posted a .285 average, 97 runs, and 61 stolen bases last year. In case you were wondering, Bourn went for less than half what Ellsbury did, and he put up a .301 average, 94 runs, and 70 stolen bases.
With pitchers, it’s much of the same. Someone spent $12 on Tommy Hanson and his projected 13 wins, whereas I spent just $1 for the same amount of projected wins by former UNCC 49er John Maine.
Likewise, someone spent $16 on Jonathan Papelbon for 39 projected saves, while Francisco Cordero, projected for 40 saves, went for just $10.
The same goes for drafting someone too early in a standard draft. You wouldn’t take Mariano Rivera in the first round ahead of guys like David Wright, Albert Pujols, or Tim Lincecum, so don’t pay too much for a guy in an auction draft either.
You can categorize it with doing your homework and planning, but overvaluing a player is another sure-fire way to throw your season down the drain before it starts.
Don’t: Draft Players You Haven’t Heard Of
This one is common sense, but I still think it needs to be said. If you haven’t seen the guy play before (whether it’s an entire game or even an ESPN highlight), you probably shouldn’t draft him.
While you don’t want to take a guy too early or pay too much for a big name, you really shouldn’t go low-budget on someone you’re not familiar with. By all means, a guy like Ryan Howard is worth the $28-30 or the top-5 pick you’d spend on him, but if you don’t follow the Nationals and don’t know Nyjer Morgan, you shouldn’t spend $9 on him.
Then again, if you’re doing a fantasy draft and have done at least a small amount of research, you’ll be surprised at how many players you’ve heard of. It shouldn’t be an issue, but I saw someone spend $8 tonight on a guy that hasn’t played in the majors yet. It’s just not the smartest way to run your team.
Do: Get at Least Three Quality Closers
This one comes from personal experience. The last time I played fantasy baseball, I only bothered to take two closers, focusing the rest of my available pitcher spots on starters. That was the difference in the championship round, as I fell in the finals to a guy with a better bullpen.
Relief pitchers average somewhere between 60-80 appearances per year, and a good closer picks up at least 30 saves. That’s not counting how many times he comes in during a tie game to put a stop to his opponent’s rally.
Since closers pitch so often, and only a very small handful lose their starting job during the year, you don’t have the ability to make up for it later in free agency. You need to get at least three stoppers to have an effective rotation.
If you find you don’t need that many after a few weeks, you can always trade one away to someone lacking in the bullpen and get a lot more than he’s worth. You can’t go wrong with taking a good handful of closers.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Spend Your Entire Budget
In ESPN auction leagues, you get $260 to spend on your team. If you don’t use it all, you’ve wasted your team’s potential by not drafting the best team you can.
To spend $34 on Alex Rodriguez may sound like a lot (since it’s 1/9th of your budget and you still have 24 more slots to fill), but considering there’s plenty of quality $1 players like Magglio Ordonez and Melky Cabrera, you can afford to shell out some green early and pick up a few superstars.
In every draft, there’s several teams that leave about $50 left after drafting all 25 players, and it’s not a good use of your money. Honestly, if the first player you win is Brandon Phillips and you only spent $15 on him, you waited too long to get started.
I’m not saying throw away 90% of your budget on 10 players, but spending $100 over five players in the first three or four rounds is a much better use of your funds. You’re still getting franchise players and leaving yourself with enough money to build the rest of your team.
Most people get scared they’ll run out of money. That won’t happen if you do an online draft. Online auction drafts impose a maximum bid limit and ensure that you can’t run out of money before completing your team.
Be gutsy and spend that money.
Do: Relax and Have Fun
There’s no reason to not enjoy a fantasy draft.
Even if there’s a “that guy” or if someone takes too long to make their choice, you have plenty of other things to make the process fun. Talk to your fellow team owners, eat some manly food like wings and quesadillas, do whatever you want.
Every time it’s a unique experience, so sit back and enjoy the ride.