Monday, March 21, 2011

Step 3: You will draft value, not specific players

It's the time of year when everyone is asking, and attempting to answer, the question of who to take during the draft. Sure you can make reasonable guesses on where a guy will go in the draft based on ADP or a reliable set of dollar values, but can you really answer this question until you are actually in the draft. For example, Hanley Ramirez is an absolute must at $25, but at $45, I'll pass. The point of course is the decision of whether or not you should target a player in the draft is almost entirely dependent on the cost of acquiring that player on draft day.

Now, this seems painfully obvious right? Well, sort of...but too many owners come into drafts with unrealistic expectations of getting a certain list of players and to fulfill their expectations they either blow their entire budget on those players, making it impossible to fill out a competitive team, or they panic and draft guys way too early in their drafts. unnecessarily losing the opportunity to build a better team.

Consider this: Would you trade Mark Teixiera and Ryan Zimmerman for Albert Pujols and Freddy Sanchez? I wouldn't, but maybe you like Pujols so much you would. Regardless, understand that you might be making this very call when you decide whether or not to bid $50 for Pujols? You love Mike Stanton, think he's going to blow you take him in the 3rd round of a ten team snake draft instead of the 5th round where he sits on the ADP (average draft position) list because that's where you think he'll finish the year. Well, on its own that seems reasonable, but by not waiting until the 4th did you inadvertently trade Shin Soo Choo (take Choo in the 3rd and Stanton in the 4th) for Hunter Pence (Stanton in the 3rd, Pence in the 4th)?

In any event, the fundamental concept to understand in any type of draft is that every pick has ramifications beyond just the player you draft. That's why value is so important to consider on draft day. Look...everyone...i mean your snake and or auction draft realizes that there are only two top tier SS available in this year's draft or that SP is really deep this year (btw...SP is deep every year). In fact, with the internet (thank you Al Gore), there are rarely any "sleepers" that aren't known, and being targeted, by at least half the other owners in your league. So how do you compete? You compete by targeting value on draft day rather than players.

Now, I'm not suggesting you don't pay the extra buck on the guy you really love in an auction draft or that you don't bump a guy up a few spots on your draft board, but a balanced team requires an emphasis on value. Especially in deep leagues.

A great exercise I recommend to anyone looking to reverse their fantasy fortunes is to create Mock rosters before the draft. Take a highlighter and highlight the guys you like, sleepers, or players you think are undervalued. Now make a list of each position required in your league (standard 23 players, 3 bench). For auction drafts, take your most reliable list of auction values and draft your team. Assume you get whoever you want, but always pay full value according to your list. Inevitably you'll learn one of two things. Either you can't possibly get all the guys you want, OR you might be surprised that you can afford 1 or 2 more expensive players and still fill out your roster. Now, make a second roster making changes based on what you learned from the first mock roster. Continue this exercise until you have a roster totalling the budget for your league and what you'd consider the best roster you can create. This final roster is a great tool to enter the draft with. This final roster is your "best case scenarios." (Just assume guys will go for more than you think on draft day). During the draft you can look to this roster to understand when you are ahead or behind your best case budget and make adjustments as necessary. For example, if you pay extra for your top two players, you might have to reassess how much you spend on a couple other positions. In any event, you'll be keenly aware of what you can spend throughout the draft.

For snake drafts, take an ADP list close to the date of your draft. If you don't know your draft position, make three blank rosters and draft your team from the first, middle, and end draft positions. (If you know, just use your draft position). For each pick, only allow yourself to take players within a couple of spots from your pick. You can move a player up 5 spots in the first 50 picks, 10 spots from 50-100, 15 spots from 100-150, and 20 spots from 150 to 200. After you create your roster, look to see where you'd like to improve. If you took a 2b at pick 100 instead of a SP, could you get a comparable SP down at 170 where you selected a 2b. Would your team be better if you take a guy you really like two rounds earlier? Or is taking the C you have to have making it difficult for you to fill your MI. In any event, the exercise will help you discover where value lies in the draft and it is certain to help you form a better game plan going into the draft.

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