Fantasy Football 2014: Tips for Getting Most out of Preseason Mock Drafts

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2014

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 09: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on September 9, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. The Philadelphia Eagles won, 33-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Fantasy football mock drafts have become extremely popular over the past couple years. They represent a chance to test your plan of attack without being expected to keep track of a dozen different teams for the next four months.

Every draft is unique. The purpose of mocks isn't trying to figure out exactly how the picks will fall. Instead, they are about finding themes that are commonly repeated and the general area where certain players, usually preferred sleepers, are getting selected.

Things should begin to stabilize with a bulk of the preseason now in the books. With that in mind, let's check out some tips for making sure mock drafts are helping you get prepared for your official drafts before the regular season begins.


Pay Attention to Trends

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 17:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during a preseason game at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Again, no mock draft is going to provide a pick-by-pick look at how your actual draft is going to play out. The key is figuring out the bigger trends at play because those do tend to carry over and will help make sure owners can get out in front of runs.

The first thing to pay attention to is how many owners select something other than a running back in Round 1. Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham have populated many first rounds, but see if people opt for other players at those positions or the second tier of backs.

Owners will then want to see where the runs begin. For example, usually there's a mad dash for running backs starting with about Round 4 after people get their foundation in place. Keep tabs on those type of things, and trends should begin to develop as you go through multiple mocks.

Ultimately, fantasy football is all about maximizing value. Taking a player you like, even if it might be considered one round too early, is better than missing out of him because of a run. That's where doing the proverbial homework pays off in a big way.


Mix Up Strategy and Pick Location

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball during NFL game action against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In order to truly learn from mock season, owners must be constantly trying different things. That means picking from every possible draft spot and also using various strategies to see which approach yields the best results for each particular drafting area.

If you pick early and take a running back, focus on what's best in the next few rounds. Maybe it's another back and a receiver, or perhaps fill out the other skill spots before selecting a second back. Figuring out where you would take a Manning, Johnson or Graham over a RB is also a key decision.

After the first few rounds, try different things to see how they work. Maybe one time try an all bounce-back team, which would feature players like C.J. Spiller. He told John Wawrow of The Associated Press that he's out to prove the doubters wrong this season.

"Oh yeah, it's definitely a fire burning. I haven't forgotten what was written out there," he said. "I've got my axe ready to chip away some wood."

Maybe in the later rounds you exclusively target post-hype sleepers like Jared Cook. In the end, your final draft strategy will probably be a combination of everything you tried, and that's when you should be able to build the best possible roster.


Stay for Entire Draft

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 8: Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints runs upfield after making a catch against E.J. Gaines #33 of the St. Louis Rams during the second half of a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Miss
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

One of the biggest mistakes people make is leaving mock drafts early. Usually an initial wave leaves after the first two or three picks and then another group follows after the skill positions of the starting lineup are filled out.

It's interesting because those are normally the easy picks. There's plenty of talent available. The draft gets tougher as it goes along, which means practicing for those later selections is equally or more important than the early rounds.

Staying for the entire draft will allow you to get a better grasp on where popular sleepers are getting drafted. Rookie sensation Brandin Cooks is one player that's been moving up quickly in recent weeks, as noted by Adam McGill of RantSports:

The mere fact that the Saints drafted a wide receiver in the first round has caused the wideout to fly up draft boards. However, his value has actually continued to rise this preseason after a couple highlight reel grabs. He has one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Drew Brees and this kid has all the potential in the world, so expect plenty of owners to reach for him this summer.

These are mental notes that are going to help you during the draft. It usually only takes an extra 10 or 15 minutes to complete the entire process, and the potential reward is hitting on two or three key picks in the middle or late rounds. That's worth it.