by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)
In fantasy sports, one of most intriguing things I look at every offseason is the draft recaps from previous years. Every few months thought the season I’ll see how my draft is stacking up to others, and in the offseason as I’m making my rankings I go through again to gather valuable and underutilized information.
What was my strategy going into the draft? Where did I go right and where did I screw up? Where did I really reach for players and which players do I regret not going after? How can I capitalize on the tendencies of my league? When looking at old drafts, you can answer a bunch of questions, but ultimately, it all tries to answer the same thing: What can I do differently this year to make sure my draft is more efficient?
In analyzing past drafts, there’s one very obvious thing that pops up time and time again, tripping up fantasy owners each after year. People reach waaaay too early for players who have extremely high upsides and project really well, but who aren’t the least bit proven. Whether it’s a player on a new team, or in a new role, or one who broke out for a few weeks late the previous season, the early rounds are littered with shiny players that wind up being traps in the end.
(Some recent examples include Shonn Greene, CJ Spiller, Doug Martin, Montee Ball, Trent Richardson, David Wilson…the list goes on, especially for running backs, but could be extended to guys like Matt Stafford in 2012, and Cordarrelle Patterson and Percy Harvin just last year )
But not only do owners take these players with premium draft picks, they pick them when there are countless other great players still on the board, guys that are already sure-fire stars or are much more proven over their careers. People are more likely to try and grab “the next big thing,” to outsmart their competition, when there are plenty of already great players for the taking.
In the end, when looking through their old draft, the most common and frustrating thought to people who fall for the traps is usually “How the heck did I take Upside Player X when Proven Player Y was still on the board? What was I thinking?”
One strategy owners can use to combat this issue is to approach their drafts/rankings as if they were reevaluating their picks four months in the future, at the end of the season. Meaning, even if I’m projecting a hype or high upside guy to get a few more points, if there’s a proven player around I’ll tend to stick with the player I know. Owners have to take all projections with a grain of salt. What common sense is telling you is sometimes much more important.
Making some high-upside plays are an important part of constructing a fantasy roster, but they’re, by nature, the most risky picks in every draft. That’s why, despite what projections on high-upside guys might hint at, players like this shouldn’t really be drafted in the first few rounds.
CJ Anderson is a prime example of this kind of high-upside player. I currently project Anderson to be the 8th best RB this season with 252 points, and he’s getting drafted as such, going in the first round of ESPN leagues (eighth overall). He played really well in the second half of last season, ran away with the starting gig, and is in the right situation as a back with Peyton Manning at the helm of a Gary Kubiak run-heavy offense. All signs point to a HUGE season, which makes him extremely tempting to take with the other elite options in fantasy.