Good day Razzballians. I just wanted to say thanks to Matt from The 700 Level, the premiere Philly sports hub, for giving us a look into one of his pre-draft rituals. Now on to the main event —
So, you haven’t drafted yet, but you’ve looked through every incongruous cheat sheet you can find online and even at that magazine you regret buying, and you still don’t know what to expect to fall to your slot or to the later-value racks. Get used to that feeling. It’ll be there on draft day too. But maybe you haven’t checked out one free resource that might narrow the field just a little—your league’s draft from last year. More experienced Razzballers will probably include this step at some point in their planning, but you’d be surprised how many people leave this stone unturned. If for no other reason than to see the look on your girlfriend’s face when you explain that you’re studying which imaginary mercenaries your friends took LAST year, this item should absolutely be an addition to your ADP review. Just don’t let your wife find out.
Reviewing last year’s draft gives you at least two advantages: mapping your league’s predilections (especially your own), and applying this year’s average draft positions to last year’s trends to predict… the future.
Now, like all fantasy research, scouring past drafts can be misleading if you interpret the “data” too closely. This should be just one of many spreadsheets in your Trapper Keeper, and it’s better evaluated for trends than actual picks. Importantly, the degree to which your league has seen turnover since last year will inversely affect the usefulness of looking at the 2008 draft. Now that the “this post won’t help you at all” disclaimer is out of the way, here’s why the 2008 draft Google Doc is still in my Favorites page.
Take a Look at Yourself, One Year Ago
I prepared heavily for last year’s draft and didn’t come away a winner. What can I change this year to wash that loser stench off myself, and, more importantly, onto someone else? With the first pick in a 12-team draft, I went with LT, then basically waited to see what would fall to me after the next 22 picks. I was elated to get Andre Johnson at 24—so elated that I passed on running backs at 25, going with Tony Romo. Ahhh… Top tier talent at each position. Felt great. But, looking back, that QB pick was spent where a RB should have been selected, because at the 48/49, I ended up with Selvin Young and Roy Williams. Don’t laugh! At the time, this didn’t seem so bad—another reason the trends are more important than the actual players in looking at last year’s draft. The value of most difference-makers fluctuates way too much, and it’s better evaluated using your other draftkit resources. The goal with the introspective first step is to pat yourself on the back for the great values, see what types of picks you shouldn’t have made, and plan how you can steer clear of steaming piles this year. After evaluating what I should have done with that pick, as we’ll do in the next ‘graphs, I’ll know how I can avoid that mistake in 2009.
Who? When? Why?
Reviewing the 2008 draft, I can see what types of players went at what times and for what possible reasons, regardless of the specific-player preferences of the individual drafters, who will presumably be selecting in different spots this year. There is definitely something to be said for knowing that Rob hates Steven Jackson after twice getting burned by him, or that Lou is always the guy who goes with the hot new drafting trend a year too early, but you’ll really want to focus on what the entire draft board did with each position. For example, in the first 24 picks of my 2008 draft, five drafters out of 12 went RB-RB, three QBs went (including one to me), and five WRs were picked. So, if I want a running back at 24, it’s reasonable to hope-assume that I’ll get someone in the top 16 or 17 RBs at that position. Again, don’t look at the actual RBs that went there last year, or you’ll end up pondering the life and times of Willis McGahee. It changes that much in one season. Rather, you should be using your cheat sheets to see that, worst-case scenario, you’re looking at Pierre Thomas, Ryan Grant, or Kevin Smith in a 12-team league.
Now, you also need to apply this year’s anticipated trends to the mix, such as the increased popularity we’ve recently seen for receivers in the first two rounds and the number of top QBs, which changes every year. I expect that, in a 10- or 12-team league, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are long gone by 20 or 24, and maybe Peyton Manning too, but based on last year’s experience taking then-darling Romo, I’m staying away from Peyton (P-e-y) despite his smooth SOS and nice value at 24. I understand this means the top QB wave has already started, and I don’t get one until at least 48. Again, time to take a look at the number of RBs who were gone at 48 last year, then see where on your cheat sheets and tiers that leaves you. Then, in last year’s draft, how many QBs were gone at 48? Who are the QBs at ADP 48, and how much difference do you see in their projections versus the top-tier guys? Is that more or less than the difference between RBs at 16 and 48?
Before you get to planning your middle rounds out, which should be done similarly to what you just did for the early rounds, you might want to nail down the gimmes at the end. Where did the TE and DEF runs start last year? Chances are, in most average-joe leagues like mine, it was too early, when there was still RB/WR/QB talent on the board, and solid values to be had at TE and DEF after the runs had ended. Take a look at this year’s tiers and see if you’ll be fine picking one of the later guys like Dustin Keller, or if you prefer to have Greg Olsen. If the Kellers of the world work for you, pencil the TE pick in for where the TE run ended last year, if not later. If you need Olsen or Owen Daniels, then you have to know when the TE run might start, because it could go fast after the last of the big four are gone. You probably already know your strategy on when and where to take these guys, but a refresher on what the other drafters in your league think is a good move before draft day. The key to anticipating trends at any position is knowing when to avoid the pack mentality, especially when your pack is known for chubby chasing (aka, drafting TE/DEF too early).
Applying Yourself (for Once)
Just like your history teacher said, studying history isn’t worth much if you can’t apply it to what happens next. Without looking at last year’s results, if I were picking at the same #1 position, I’d have jumped all over pulling Adrian Peterson, a lower top-tier WR, and Peyton Manning with my first three picks (1, 24, 25). But this year, I’d rather wait on a QB than deal with the 2009 version of a reach like Selvin Young, a pick I’d made only because I was embarrassingly thin at RB by the fifth, when all the sure things were gone. Young, if you’ll remember, was a relatively hyped mid-range target, albeit unproven and risky at RB2, and obviously he busted huge. Another lesson learned. Several RBs from the same tier were taken later and did much better, but I learned last year that I’d rather have less risk at RB2, and now I know I need to either take one earlier or risk getting Selvin’d.
The names on the draft board will change, and so will the trends. But when you’re preparing, looking at how many RBs, WRs, and QBs were gone at each of your pick placements last year, then applying that to current ADPs, positional tiers, and your 2009 draft positions, will leave you much better prepared for what should be there when you’re up. Particularly for those drafting either very early or late in the round, with everyone getting two picks before you get your next pair, predicting exactly which players are there won’t be as useful as knowing where in the tiers you’re likely to be at each turn. Once you know that, you can spend your quiet study time focusing on which player from a particular grouping you want most. Had I done this last year, I might have ended up with Michael Turner, Kevin Smith, or Chris Johnson instead of Young.
I won’t further bore you by giving the number of position players taken at each juncture of my 2008 draft, but you can bet I’ve counted them and applied them as described above. Beats doing something meaningful, like [strikethru]my job[/strikethru] cutting the grass. Will my picks fall at the beginning or end of a run? Top or bottom of a tier? I’ve also assessed overall strengths and weaknesses of the draft board and my own picks. Although I blew several mid-round selections last year, I had researched the high-ceiling late-round fliers and ended up with guys like Eddie Royal (15), Tim Hightower (13), and Kevin Walter (17). It wasn’t long before these guys were starting over the dumps I took in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 12. Meanwhile, some of the guys in my league were taking a second defense and screaming “Come on, PICK!” I’ll need to do that flier prep again, because these picks can save your season, but being stronger in the middle rounds could have meant taking the child support loot that Rick from accounting owes his baby mama and blowing it on beer I won’t share with him.
Remember though, evaluating last year’s draft can get you in trouble if you expect the same things to happen up and down. The goal with these steps is to better apply this year’s ADP and tiers to your own league and decide what you want to target at each pick. Flexibility based on preparation should help you draft a team that can contend with the jerk who just gets lucky every year.