Fantasy Draft Strategy: Tiering Your Player Rankings and Cheatsheets

Jacob SloanSenior Analyst IMay 28, 2008

Now that players have settled into their teams for 2008 — overlooking the few free agents still bouncing from workout to workout — it’s time to start preparing your draft cheat sheets and practicing your draft strategy with a few mocks.

Tiering your draft sheet is one very effective method of drafting a batch of strong contenders that I swear by — profusely. By tiering, you get a leg up on your fellow drafters.

Some fantasy football sites and sources will tier their cheat sheets for you. Whether you trust one source’s rankings or want to combine several intel sources into one power sheet (like I do), it’s always best to look over your draft notes and adjust the tiers based on updated info and/or any personal, gut feelings — that better be really strong to be considered better than mine.

Tiering provides you with a visual reference on draft day to see where value is being overlooked, but the real benefit is that you separate players by value regardless of position and see when a top tier player has been overlooked no matter what position he plays.

Too often, bad drafts happen because friends let friends draft drunk.

Ahem — That’s not right, kids. Always take the draft boards away and make them spend the night before someone gets behind a draft list and makes a bad decision. PSA complete.

When that isn’t the case, sometimes we focus too much on a specific position we are targeting rather than taking the best player on the board. Don’t get caught thinking about running backs into the third round when WRs is where you could build a stronger team.

You might be looking at a QB in round 2 when the market is richer for taking another RB with the top 2-3 QBs off the board. Likewise, you might find yourself in round 4 looking at QBs, but you see there is still a top WR that you could grab who could make your team a powerhouse or provide a trade bait for someone who drafted a QB much higher than you.

With a tiered cheat sheet, you can easily make the snap judgments and see when a first tier RB is still on the board in the third round or catch when the last top QB is about to go off the board in round 4. These small details can keep you from missing an important position in your draft or overlooking opportunity at another position.

Best Way to Tier It Up in Your Fantasy League

Tier your draft cheat sheet based upon how many points that player generated on average last season or how many points they are projected to generate this season.

I prefer to mix it up a bit here. I start with the top ranked players from various news sources and then move players up/down based upon this season’s projections and last season’s performance — notching down people who will have an off year because of over-performing last year.

Once you have the rankings, put breaks where significant point differences occur, and if you can stand the level of detail, make these point breaks universal across the board for each position.

Depending upon your point system, you might have the top scorers (say 30+ points per week) in tier 1 while players that averaged or will average 25+ in tier 2. Tier 4 might be made up of players that only generate 10-15 points per week. The more tiers, the better.

You get the idea — if not, just give up now and go with a drafting drunk excuse.

It’s okay if Randy Moss, Tom Brady and L.T. are you’re only tier 1 players. Just make sure you know when the players projected to generate the most points are going off the board.

With this sheet, the draft strategy is to snag as many top players as you can regardless of position.

I don’t worry if I don’t have a QB into round 4 or 5 as long as I have a stable of strong fantasy point generators. You can always snag a backup-quality QB later in the draft and put a trade together with some of your stronger talent at other positions for your starter.

This “best player available” strategy tends to be the most successful in getting a team that will dominate throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. Even if you miss with a few top drafts, you should have enough quality players spread out across every position to compensate. You never get distracted by need at a specific position until the final rounds of the draft, but the majority of the time, you still get a balanced team covering every position.

Ever tried a tiered draft strategy and failed? Do you feel bad putting L.T. and A.P. in their own tier? Having a hard time drawing a line after Brady, Manning and Romo in the QB tiers?

Talk back in the comments and you might get a response or discussion from me or, if you are lucky, a Shakespeare-typing monkey.

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