This year’s training camp season may be devoid of preseason action (another Coronavirus-related gut punch), but that’s still no reason to rush into an early fantasy draft before Labor Day.
At the time of this writing (Aug. 19), we’re still looking at 22 days until the Chiefs and Texans battle in Kansas City … and 25 days until another 26 clubs launch their respective campaigns.
In other words, why feel the urge to dive headfirst into all-too-real roster construction, while training camps remain in full swing? It’s hardly a prudent choice.
If you’re that desperate to hit a “DRAFT” button in the coming days, just be like everyone else … and mock draft on a continuous loop, until your weary head can no longer stand the reps.
And let the record show: The above message isn’t some knee-jerk response to Gerald McCoy’s freak accident with the Cowboys this week.
(Did you see the footage of McCoy’s injury? There’s no protection against something that random. From my perspective, merely chalk it up to #LifeSucksSometimes and #GetWellGerald.)
No, I’ve been on the WAIT ‘TILL AFTER LABOR DAY train for some time, dating back to 2006.
THE ANNUAL PPR SPECTACULAR
Keen observations after executing three simultaneous drafts
A Fun Facts-style breakdown of the NFL master schedule
The cool results from BATSBY Sports’ ‘Noah’s Ark’ mock draft
Our second crack at NFL ‘Survivor Pool’ picks for the 2020 season
The NFL’s 30 most anticipated matchups of the season
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: # 11 slot
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: #4 slot
Fourteen years ago, on a Monday night in early August, tailback Clinton Portis — on the heels of 1,732 total yards/11 TDs the previous year — incurred a significant shoulder injury during Week 1 of exhibition play, after attempting a needlessly heroic tackle off an insignificant interception return in the first quarter.
Why is this relevant? I made the tragic mistake of partaking in a live experts’ draft two days prior to the Bengals-**Redskins** tilt (on national TV) … and, of course, Portis served as my (wasted) first-round draft choice.
For that injury-addled campaign in 2006, Portis finished with only 690 total yards and seven touchdowns.
For recent history, once again involving the Washington Football Team (I’m begging the franchise, please pick a new nickname in the next four months), look no further than Derrius Guice’s season-ending knee injury in the 2018 preseason opener (great run … followed by a seemingly innocuous tackle).
Now, given the go-go lifestyle of today’s work force, I empathize with fantasy owners who cannot offer unlimited availability for three-hour drafts in late August.
Balancing work, family, civic and vacation obligations late in the summer can be a logistical nightmare, for sure.
As such, here are four super-quick tips on surviving an uncomfortably early PPR draft, hopefully for reasons beyond your control (no excuses, if you’re the league commissioner):
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Fantasy championships seldom fall in the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, a title earned in Week 16/17 typically represents the culmination of hard work, roster discipline and excellent preparation in August.
Here are three components to that process:
a) Study at least four publications, outside of your regular commitment to BATSBY Sports
Get a sense of what the experts are saying — and what they’re not saying about certain players. Find common ground among the pre-raft rankings and drafting trends.
b) Continually monitor the Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings on various Web sites
ADP lists afford owners the chance to get the player they want, at the value they need, without the embarrassment of reaching for an asset’s fantasy services.
c) Mock, mock, mock your way to building draft-day confidence
There’s no disputing your childhood piano instructor’s creed: Practice makes perfect.
For example, let’s pretend your heart’s set on landing Raheem Mostert sometime in Round 3; but after five, six or even 20 mocks, you’re pleasantly surprised to see the Niners tailback universally falling to Round 5 or 6 — the same Mostert who amassed 13 touchdowns in his final nine games last season (including the playoffs) … without registering more than 20 touches for any outing during that span.
With this anecdotal, yet reasonably concrete knowledge, you can now focus on securing one or maybe two stud wideouts within the first four selections, knowing Mostert — as a RB3 or RB4 — will likely be there in the neighborhood of picks 64-73.
Here’s another potential surprise: In a recent PPR experts’ mock (12 teams), neither Stefon Diggs, James White, Will Fuller, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski nor Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (arguably the best five-game finishing kick of ANY fantasy pass-catcher last season — averaging 8.6 catches, 11.2 targets, 104 yards, 0.4 TDs) went before Round 7.
That’s invaluable information to possess, when paired against a fantasy opponent who does nothing more than buy a single fantasy magazine 20 minutes before the draft.
2. GET TO KNOW YOUR FELLOW OWNERS
This process is incredibly simple: If you’re in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical pre-draft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in Rounds 2-5).
Also, in the interest of a little investigative journalism, text away to stealthily find out which players will be taken in Round 1, pick-by-pick, just in case you’re looking to trade down in the draft. (We’re talking about leagues that determine the draft order well in advance.)
Consequently, if you’re playing in a league with virtual strangers, buddy up to a few online owners, right before anyone’s on the clock.
Find out where they’re from (it’s human nature to reach for a player from one’s hometown team) and/or subtly coerce them into bragging about the best draft pick or trade they’ve consummated in recent times.
The rationale: Fantasy owners tend to re-draft players who once led them to fantasy glory; and if the league permits such shenanigans, you can use that loyalty as sweet leverage for a draft-day trade.
3. COME ARMED WITH CHEAT SHEETS
With 60 seconds between picks, you’ll never have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of pre-draft insights once the clock starts ticking.
Condense your notes (1-2 pages max).
Economize on time.
Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes … and above all else, DO NOT send me a frantic Tweet while on the clock.
(Please hit me up before the draft, though.)
4. LIMIT ALCOHOL INTAKE DURING A DRAFT
For live drafts, often conducted without a clock, fantasy friends typically enjoy drinks at a local watering hole.
The simple rule of thumb here: Drink to your heart’s content … but please, consume less alcohol than the owners selecting immediately before and after you in a snake draft.
You’ll thank me in the morning … especially after out-drinking the other nine owners at the post-draft party.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and 2015 Cynopsis Media award winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year,” has previously served as the lead fantasy analyst for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports South, Bleacher Report and Fanball.com.