Fantasy Draft Strategy 101: No More Sleeping!

Dan CareyCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2010

For this edition of Fantasy Draft Strategy 101, we're going to take a look at how you should go about drafting your team, including "sleepers," in the technology age.

Time to wake up!

Notice how I put the Dr. Evil quotes around the word sleeper in the lead? Good. Now you know why I did it? No? Well here's why.

In today's time, there is no longer such thing as "sleepers." 

Why is that? 

Back when I first started playing fantasy football around eight years ago at the age of 13, fantasy football was just starting to reach the popularity that fantasy sports has now achieved.

Back then, the technology really didn't yet combine with fantasy football. Sure, there were a few websites out there dedicated to fantasy football but not to the extent that you see today.

In turn, all of these websites have their own "sleepers" posted for everyone to see.

What good is a sleeper when everybody knows who that player is?

They're no longer a sleeper! A sleeper is suppose to be a player that may be off other mangers' drafting radar. A player you can get in the mid-rounds and later.

I start doing mock drafts after the NFL draft (more on this later). In those drafts, I could get the likes of Cadillac Williams and Justin Forsett around round ten. Then as the fantasy season starts to boil and all of the "experts" come out with the magazines and the websites start to updated, the average draft position (or ADP) of those players starts to get lower and lower to the point where I've seen both go around the sixth round regularly.

I'm sorry, but in my book, a sleeper doesn't get drafted in the sixth round.

As I write this, the front fantasy page on features three articles pertaining to sleepers. While all are good write-ups, they're all in vain. Those players mentioned in all three articles are no-longer sleepers as they are now common knowledge.

What happens when more and more people hear about these players? They start getting drafted earlier and earlier as managers try and get these players before anybody else.

Can you really say that Forsett, Williams, Arian Foster, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Beanie Wells, Kevin Kolb, and the like are sleepers at this point?

The lesson

Draft the "real" sleepers. These "real" sleepers are the players that are referred to as "super/deep sleepers." These are the players that a lot of managers don't see coming that could have a real breakout season. Real sleepers.

And no, you're not getting those players from me!  

Secrets are no fun!

Another thing to realize is that nothing is a secret anymore.

In other words, if you have an "I'm the only one who knows this," thought or idea, odds are you're not the only one who knows that. That means you need to plan accordingly.

If you hear from an "expert" that Player A is going to surprise a lot of people or is going to be a starter after a camp battle, don't think you have inside information and can secretly grab him before someone else.

Odds are that this writer or television host has tweeted, e-mailed, and linked this information to thousands of readers and/or viewers who are then doing the same to thousands more. You then have all of those people adjusting their cheat sheets accordingly.

The lesson

Always assume that every other manager knows the information you hold. That means to wait just long enough to grab the player where it'd be a good valued pick but don't wait too long where another owner thinking he has the same inside information take said player before you.

In other words, don't reach too far for the player but don't sit back too long, either.

Shearing the sheep!

My college instructor always told us this one thing, "Don't be a sheep."

By that, he's saying that people like to be sheep. We've all heard that if one sheep falls off a cliff, the rest of the flock will follow the leader.

Same goes for humans. If one person does something first, odds are others will do the same thing. For every leader, there are hundreds of followers. Don't be a follower.

This applies to fantasy football.

Cheat sheets by the top "experts" are readily available to anybody. If you're following Michael Fabiano's cheat sheets on, odds are that thousands of others are following his exact advice as well.

If Michael says Player B is the 15th best back, odds are most managers think Player B is the 15th best back and will draft accordingly because one guy says so.

How many people bring handfuls of magazines to the draft now-a-days? Most, if not all the league. How many show up with a binder of their personal cheat sheets tweaked exactly how you want them? Not as many as their should be.

If you do have the custom cheat sheets, take advantage of the sheep and their magazines!

How do you do that?

Simply "borrow" the magazine from the manager for a few minutes and look at the mag's rankings. Odds are if the publication says to take a player in the sixth round, that manager will target that player in the sixth. Since you know that, take the player before the other player can in the sixth.

You can snipe that manager the entire draft and watch his title hopes crumble as he starts reaching for players in a panic.

However, I'm not saying to completely ignore the "experts." Not by any means.

Most managers don't have the time to make the comprehensive cheat sheets the "experts" do. Simply take the players they suggest and add your personal touch.

If you think Player B is the tenth best back, don't be afraid to draft him ahead of players who the experts rank higher. If you think Player B is over-valued, bump him down the sheets.

Because, believe it or not, these "experts" do tend to be wrong.

How many times have you heard an "expert" say Player C is going to have a great year and is under-valued? In turn, you draft him early ahead of other, more consistent players. Then it turns out that this player is a complete bust and costs your team wins while a player you passed on becomes the next big thing.

Also, doesn't it feel better to win and lose with your own ideas rather than thanking/blaming someone else?

If I win, I want it to be because of me. If I lose, I also want it to be because of me.

The lesson

Don't follow what the "experts" say to a tee. This means to make your own cheats sheets, tiers, or rankings to what YOU think. 

Don't be a sheep!

Mock your socks off!

The last lesson benefits from today's technology and has really taken off over the past couple years. That, of course, is the online mock draft.

I believe's fantasy client started this fad a couple years ago and now, CBS, and Yahoo among others have picked up the mock drafting lobbies. It really is a big thing so take advantage of it.

All of these websites have mocks that run at all hours of the day. They have ten team mocks, 12 team mocks, 16 team mocks, and even mock auctions. You'll have no difficulty findings a mock draft tha's the same format as your league.

Take advantage of it!

If you wanna deploy the Do the Opposite strategy that I highlighted in my previous post (cheap plug, check it out!), pick from the 11th hole in a mock. If you want to do the One of Everything strategy that I'll be posing later this week, (another cheap plug, stay tuned for it!), pick from the second or third spot.

With these mocks, you start to catch onto tendencies of where players are being picked. With that knowledge, you can start taking players ahead of where they're going. 

If Player D starts to get taken around pick 37 while he has getting picked around 49 a few weeks ago, you should know that Player D is starting to get more popular with other managers. So adjust to that player's new ADP.

It doesn't hurt to do your own mocks as a lot of the "expert's" mock drafts are done early in the fantasy season to make the magazine's publishing deadline. This is football: a lot changes week to week so by the time your draft comes around, the expert's mock is now obsolete and can give you bad, season ruining advice.

The lesson

Join these mocks and join in different slots. In one draft, pick third overall. In another, pick from the 12th spot. Keep picking from different slots so you can practice your strategies from all over the board.

You may not be able to read minds by doing this but you can at least get a general idea!


Well there you have it! Even though it's quite a mouth full, those simple pieces of advice can transform your season into a memorable one!

Stayed tuned for more editions of Fantasy Draft Strategy 101 up until the regular season!


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