The Fantasy Football Pro's Pre-Draft Checklist
LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Wide receiver Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants walks off of the field after the New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 19-10 at FedExField on January 1, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Some people believe the draft is the first step of Fantasy Football — but that’s not the case if you want to succeed. 

Have you ever wondered why the same professional poker players go deep into so many tournaments and make so much money? Is it just dumb luck? No, but having luck on your side never hurt — especially in fantasy football. If every player stays healthy this year in the NFL season, we can predict where most players will finish; but that, of course, will never happen. Luck does play a big role in who wins most fantasy football leagues. But the best way to make sure that you are successful in fantasy is to prepare.

Mock Draft Before Your Draft

The best way to prepare for your draft is to do as many mock drafts as possible. Every major site that offers fantasy sports allows you to mock draft. You can do it on your phone, you can do it in under five minutes by using the draft wizard app and you can customize the settings to do any type of scoring or roster type that your league has.

I do a number of mock drafts before doing the real thing. By doing mock drafts, it helps me be prepared for any situation that may occur. There is nothing more frustrating than having two to three players ready to be chosen, only for them to be selected right before you pick. When this happens, you will draft a player that you had no intentions on drafting, which in turn can mess up the way that you were planning on drafting your team.

By doing a mock draft, it helps you get to know which players will still be there by the time you draft in a specific round. It helps you know which players that you should reach for and which ones will start to slip. This season, I am a big Kelvin Benjamin believer and in every mock draft, he is selected in the seventh round at the earliest. Knowing this, I can grab him as my third receiver, which helps me build the rest of my team.

Not all mock drafts are the same — but if you keep doing them, you can get a better sense of where the players you want are going. Do a mock draft and reach for the players that you really want on your team. Remember, it’s your team at the end of the day and you should draft the players that you want. It doesn’t matter if you reach a round or two to get them. After mock drafting a couple dozen times, it helps you build the type of team you want and it will eliminate you from getting stuck with players that you weren’t originally thinking about drafting.

Know Your League and Have a Draft Strategy Prepared

This sounds obvious, but know the people in your league. If you are in a league with the same group of people every year, know their tendencies. Every league is different in the way that they draft. I have a league where running backs are the first to go off the board and that is important to know before you go into your draft.

By knowing this, I can draft my team in two ways. First, I can go with the draft and make sure I get a running back early and the draft will dictate my team. The problem with this is you are letting the people in your league decide who you are going to draft. Don’t draft a player that you are not comfortable with. There’s a reason you were not thinking about a player before the draft. Don’t get forced into drafting someone you may not want.

The second thing that you can do is target high-end receivers and tight ends. Instead of going with the flow of the draft, you should draft the best wide receiver in the first two rounds.You will have two top wide receivers while the others will be lucky to get one top tier wide out. It will be better to have the best wide receiving core in the league than to be average at every position.

Know How Your League Scores          

This again sounds obvious but you would be surprised that there are people in leagues that don’t know their scoring. This year, ESPN switched to PPR scoring as its standard. Why is this a big difference in the way you draft? One example would be Julian Edelman.

In PPR scoring, Edelman averaged 14.4 points per game (finished as the 15th best WR in PPR) and had 11 games of double digit scoring. In non-PPR leagues, Edelman averaged 7.7 points per game (Finished as wide receiver number 22) and only had three games of double digit scoring. Edelman would go in the top five rounds of a PPR draft and would go closer to rounds seven or eight in non-PPR leagues.

This will help you prepare and it will determine what round you will draft a player in. Edelman, Jarvis Landry and Kyle Randolph get a big boost in their value in PPR scoring. Players who end up with more catches are more valuable in PPR and should get drafted a round or two higher than they typically would.

Don’t Get Cute With Your First Round Pick

If you miss on your first round pick this season, it will be an uphill battle. Nobody can predict injuries but last season everyone over-drafted Adrian Peterson. He was a 31-year-old running back going in the first round of every draft. Not only was he old for a running back but he was coming off a big knee injury. For those who drafted Peterson, only 7.6% of those teams made the playoffs. “Safe” picks like LeSean McCoy (58.5%) and David Johnson (66.9%) did a quality job in leading their teams to the playoffs.

Don’t try to get cute and draft a rookie running back because they have potential to be a first round pick next year. Over the last 10 seasons, 26 rookie runners have ranked in the top 25 in fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. 238 running backs have been drafted in the NFL in the last 10 seasons and that’s not including rookie free agents that have been signed. The chances of you drafting a rookie running back who will give you top tier production isn’t great. Don’t let Ezekiel Elliott trick you into believing that rookie running backs will come into the league and produce immediately. When it comes to your first round pick, try to get the safest player who can be the anchor for your team all year long.

Go Into Your Draft Overprepared

Before I started writing about fantasy sports, I was always the most prepared for every draft. One of the things that I always do is make my own player rankings before the draft. There are some players that are ranked too high or too low on every site so I make sure that I rank them properly for the round that I am planning to draft them in. Do mock drafts and have a plan for how your team will look. If you want a running back heavy team, draft them early. At the end of the day, this is your team. Don’t worry about what the rankings say or anything else. If you are reading this, you’re already on your way to a successful fantasy football season.

I love fantasy sports more than you love most things in life. I am great at giving fantasy advice because if it doesn't work out, it's the players fault not mine. I love to help others with their fantasy sports questions and instead of following politics or other important topics that are going on in the world, I do fantasy research. Let me help you guys win your leagues and in daily sports.