Fantasy Football 2012: Draft Strategy & Slotting

There are different strategies depending on your draft position. We discuss picks near the end of the snake.

People ask me all the time what my favorite draft slots are. In general, my answer is always the same, with the caveat being when the player breakdown for a particular year simply requires something different because of one obvious megastud pick, or there is a slot after which the drop-off is immense.

When given a say in draft position, my first choice is the pick right before the end of the snake--so, picks 2 or 11 in a 12-team league. My second choice is the pick one further away--so, picks 3 or 10. Reasonable minds can differ, but I'm going to encourage you to do the same, because I attribute a huge portion of my fantasy football success to the fact that I usually get these spots. I'm also going to open my strategy box in case you have one of these picks--I'm sure many of you will find these strategy points obvious, but I feel like if they were obvious to everyone, a decent number of people would be trying to get these positions and it doesn't seem like they do. Maybe some people try for pick #2, but it is usually just because they didn't get pick #1, a slot I typically hate. And for the record, I think Foster and Rice are so close that I'm not sure why anyone would want the first pick.

So, let's say you are in slots two, three, 10, or 11 in a 12-team draft (or slots two or nine in a 10-team draft). There are strategic decisions you can make in those spots that you can’t make in any other slots. And, I'm going to be bold and say that if you use the strategies correctly, by the end of your draft, it will equate to the value of an extra pick or two.

Strategy in those slots requires an awareness of the teams around you. If you have one of those slots, it is imperative that before you make your pick, you establish the needs of the team or two teams after you before you pick again. If you are in Slot 11 in round three, and slot 12 went RB-RB in rounds one and two, it doesn’t matter how much you think you need a RB and--oh my goodness--there is only one really good back left, you do not draft him. You have to play those odds and rely on the fact that Slot 12 is not going to pick the one position he doesn’t need. If he needs two wide receivers and you pick a WR, now when he goes WR-WR, you’ve just managed to get the same RB you wanted, plus moved up two wide receivers. Simple, right?

Let me give you a personal example from my own draft this week. Because I won the league last year--yay me--I didn't get any choice on my slot, but luckily ended up in pick 10 anyway. Unfortunately, our league's keeper structure meant that almost every top running back was gone by the end of round one. Literally, the only running back of note on the board was Adrian Peterson (and MJD, but I wasn't touching him). I had not kept any running backs and really needed one. With four picks (11-14) coming up before I'd get to go again, you would think that I'd have to jump on Peterson, but not so fast. It may be four picks, but it is only two pickers. A check of the roster grid showed that one of the guys hadn't kept any wide receivers and the other guy likely needed a receiver and a quarterback before taking a risk on Peterson.

Larry Fitzgerald was available. If I didn't take Fitzgerald, I'd still get a good first WR, but he'd likely be two or three receivers down my list from Fitzgerald. I took Fitz and held my breath until pick 15--when I did, indeed, get Peterson. It can be risky and sometimes you'll get screwed. But, in general, it is a bit like poker in that you don't just play your hand, you examine the other players. Play those types of odds and, over time, you will be in a way better situation. And you'll get the extra ego boost of having the guy at the end of the snake consistently fuming that you keep taking the guy he wanted (while he's not taking anyone you want).

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