Fantasy 101: Snake Draft Strategies

Marc Salazar takes a look at the draft strategies you need to dominate your re-draft leagues.

Fantasy draft season is upon us, a time when owners get a chance to draft a new team in hopes of taking home the league championship. Like most fantasy footballers, this is the best time of the season when we all walk away happy with our teams, feeling unstoppable and ready for the kickoff of Week 1. With endless fantasy content available in your hand, it’s easy to go astray from a plan and panic when “your guy” goes off the board or you’re caught on the wrong side of a position run. QB List is here to give you a simple list of tips to keep you focused on crushing your draft.


Organize Your Draft Lists into Tiers


Breaking your draft rankings list into tiers is perhaps the most important thing you can do before a snake draft. The key to winning championships is drafting players who can and do outperform their draft position. Tiers are helpful because they quantify the difference in draft round value against each other. Group all skill positions into position tiers, and cross out names as you go. If you are in Round 4 and you have just one RB left in your second tier but several remain in your highest remaining WR tier then the choice becomes easy. This also keeps you from reaching for any single-player because you should expect each tier to perform similarly.

Tiers will also help you identify dead zones or areas of your draft where draft value has dried up at certain positions, and it is time to hammer a different position. For instance, running backs are currently flying off the board quickly in the first three rounds. If you are coming up on round four and you still don’t have a great core of backs, don’t panic. Instead, pivot to securing a stud signal-caller or a lead receiver for a high-scoring offense. The scoring difference between a back in this range won’t be much on a per-game basis than a back two or three rounds later.


Be Prepared to Change Your Draft Strategy


Hero RB, Zero RB, Late Round QB, Robust RB, Stud TE. Whatever this year’s most popular strategy, your league isn’t won on Draft Day alone. It takes weekly attention, trades, waiver wire, smart lineup choices, and luck to win. For every owner that I’ve met who’s won a league with ‘strategy of the year’ you will find several others who’ve lost with it. Pick two strategies based solely on your league’s rules, scoring, and tendencies of the other owners. Be willing to adjust if the strategy isn’t going your way, and don’t reach. If you built a proper board of tiers your strategy will present itself. 


Track Other Owners Picks


Make a habit of tracking the players and positions that other owners have already drafted. Tracking the draft board is an important part of getting ahead of your next pick. As the draft moves on you will begin to see where your opponents are strong, what positions they have selected, and what positions have left to fill, allowing you to anticipate their picks. For instance, you are picking 9th in a 12-team league and it is your pick in the 7th round. You see owners 10, 11, and 12 have a starting QB and it’s unlikely they will draft a second so early. You can comfortably pass on a QB in the 7th and take the best remaining running back, receiver, or tight end. As expected the next six picks are all RBs/WRs and the QB falls into your lap in the 8th. Some draft sites are now making color-coded draft boards available in the draft portal. Taking frequent looks at the draft board will give you an idea of who will be available at your next pick. 


Avoid Common Draft Traps


Bye Weeks:  It stinks to have your studs with the same bye week but it’s much easier to figure out in-season than to pass on the value on draft day. Don’t let it be the deciding factor on who you draft. Pay little attention to this and worry about it later.

However, pay special attention to Week 14 bye weeks this season. With the league expanding to a 17-game schedule, many fantasy leagues will now play a playoff week during a league bye week. This season the Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, and Eagles will have a Week 14 bye. 

Strength of Schedule:  On draft day you may look at a player’s “fantasy playoff” schedule and salivate, but truly there isn’t anyone who knows what December football may look like. Making a choice on a player based on his Week 13-17 schedule seldom works. You have to get there first. This could be a tie-breaker but should not be a strategy. A better strategy may be targeting players with a soft opening schedule and getting your team off to a hot start. 

RB Handcuffs:  Handcuffing is a decades-old strategy that made sense a decade ago. At that time teams were relying heavily on a feature back who never came off the field and his backup could replace the starter should he go down. Handcuffs were clear and easy to identify. Nowadays, with the rise of running back by committee and specialist backs, identifying a direct replacement is difficult. Don’t waste a pick on an unproductive backfield just because you are worried about injury replacement. Instead, identify the situations where there is a direct replacement and opportunity to produce, even if the players aren’t on the same team. Take your league-mates handcuff and benefit.

Teammates:  Big-time QBs or efficient/high volume offenses can support multiple fantasy studs. In the past few seasons, we’ve had deadly combos that have finished in the Top 5 at their positions. In 2018, Kansas City finished with a Top 5 player at QB, RB, WR, and TE in scoring. In 2020 the Green Bay Packers repeated this remarkable feat. Don’t be afraid to draft two stud WR/RB/TE from a great offense. This helps to even out your weekly scoring as it is unlikely both top guys will be held down in the same week, thus giving you a consistent point total each week.


Leave Your Heart At the Door


I think we all love our favorite team but be cautious not to reach for a player simply because you will be cheering for him on Sunday. This is why using tiers and building a draft board are so important. Trust your board, which should have similar players grouped into a similar range of outcomes. If you miss out on your favorite player, you will have comfort in knowing that the name right next to him will be just as productive.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

– Marc Salazar (@oldsnake77)

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