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Fantasy football 101: How to recover from a bad draft


Sometimes draft day doesn't go like you expected, but that doesn't have to be a season killer. You can still win the league.

I screwed up.

Now, that was my original lede for this piece, and it was about my fantasy football draft. But then I tried to explain my screwup, and that took me like a page and a half. So, in addition to screwing up my draft, I screwed up my explanation of the screwup.

Here's the short version: At the end of my snake draft, I had Aaron Rodgers, Doug Martin, and Ray Rice (yay!), but my best pass-catcher, in a league that starts three wide receivers, was Cecil Shorts III (boo). That's...well, if you're new to fantasy, let's just say that is not ideal, even in a 12-team league.

You might run into the same thing. Maybe you decided Rob Gronkowski would be back quickly, only now you're scared of being without a tight end. Maybe you took Calvin Johnson first and Jimmy Graham second, which was nice, only your best running back ended up being Ahmad Bradshaw, who only gained 26 yards against the *gag* Raiders.

One way or another, your draft didn't go as well as you hoped, and now you have to either resign yourself to a back-of-the-pack finish or start scouring for a replacement find.

The bad news is, you now have your work cut out for you. The good news is, there's a lot of time and a lot of ways to fix a fantasy football screwup.

My fix is a work-in-progress - I had Miles Austin, and a friend with Danny Amendola who desperately wanted Austin as his Week 2 replacement starter. He wouldn't give me Amendola back, but he had a bench piece that he wasn't using and could help me - Josh Gordon.

Gordon, a Cleveland Browns wide receiver, is in the midst of a four-game suspension right now, which means he wouldn't be helping either of us for a while yet. But it's a long season, and a 16-game Gordon would have been drafted much higher than he was, and he still went in the eighth round in this league. So, in essence, I had the chance to get a fourth- or fifth-round value starting in Week 5.

We worked out a deal. I gave up Austin, plus Brandon Pettigrew (my starting tight end, gag) and bench player Vincent Brown, and he sent back Tavon Austin (my new starter this week), Greg Olsen, and Gordon.

This could backfire. Miles Austin's teammate, Dez Bryant, is hobbled this week, so Austin could see big performance. Brown might be the Chargers' best weapon. There are a lot of ways I could regret this trade. But the single highest ceiling in the deal, in my opinion, was Gordon, and I made a calculated gamble that I was not strong enough to win the league without making this deal.

There's no single way to recover from a mistake. Last year, I got lucky enough to trade for Doug Martin a week before his 251-yard, four-touchdown game. Each league, each season is different.

But keep an eye out for a leaguemate who is desperate. My friend needed a wide receiver this week, and was willing to deal future value for current production. As bye weeks start showing up, you'll find someone who is willing to trade a backup at one position for a prospective starter at another, rather than pick up, I don't know, Brandon Weeden or something to start.

The waiver wire, too, is your friend. In football, start-of-the-season nobodies often become midseason contributors. Just ask Tim Tebow, who I had to dive on two seasons ago when my starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, turned out to be terrible. Or Jon Kitna, my replacement for Matt Schaub three seasons ago when he became the real-life replacement for an injured Tony Romo. I rode both of those quarterbacks to second-place, in-the-money finishes, despite the fact that they were drafted in well below ten percent of leagues. Heck, probably below one percent.

(In writing this, I had a thought. Man, apparently I've been bad at drafts. I've needed help every season. I should probably work on that. Good thing the waiver wire is my friend.)

So if you came out of your draft with a roster you aren't as happy with as you'd like, it is way too early to give up on anything. Find a team with spare parts you can use. Or pay attention to the waiver wire. Handcuffs, injury replacements, and bye weeks can make you a season out of shards.

Your job is harder now. But your job isn't done.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley

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