Diary from a Wimpy Draft: Lessons Learned in a Drafting Free Fall

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2010

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 14:  American League All-Star Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

How was I to know that checking my e-mail at 10 in the morning would be the highlight of my day?

And like some sinister version of a Shakespearean romantic drama where the protagonist dies a tragically ironic death after experiencing an unparalleled high, how was I to know that the message I received would lead to such a rock-bottom low?

You see, I was invited to play in an ultra-competitive 15-team roto battle to the death against people representing various fantasy blogs and websites. The league is called "Blog Wars" and developed the brains behind rotocommunity.com

That night was the draft. What follows is how I broke most of the fantasy draft-preparing commandments, including my own Tiger Woods drafting strategy , en route to one of the worst drafts in my fantasy career.

My first mistake was accepting the invitation. I knew from the start that I was overbooked that night already, and while it is hard to overlook an opportunity to play against some solid competition, it also can be fantasy suicide to miss your season-opening draft … even if it is only a few rounds.

Would you be OK with autodraft programming if it auto-piloted your car through interstate traffic during a snowstorm or babysat your kids at a busy playground?

No. Of course not. There are just some things that need a person's reasoning, gut-reaction response , and good old-fashioned intuition. Fantasy sports drafts are among those things.

Also, no matter how good you are at fantasy sports, if you can't devote your full attention to the draft, then you're selling both your team and the overall experience short.

I know. I tried it too many times. I'll draft a player, see that I'm not on the clock for a while, and switch computer screens or run off to complete a few errands in the interim. Like the country song: "I'm in a hurry and don't know why."

The problem is that when you do get back to the draft, you're typically stuck with making an impromptu decision between several guys with similar skill sets. Perhaps you start to panic and take a player a round or two or 10 too early. Suddenly, you panic some more and make an even more outrageous pick the next round as you attempt to right the ship.

So, in a nutshell, it is imperative that you only commit yourself to leagues where you can make the draft a priority.

It also helps to practice before the fact. No matter how many drafts you have done in previous seasons, the first live-action fantasy draft of the spring is always a conditioning experience.

Baseball players are finely tuned athletes who've been playing the game their whole lives, yet they all participate whenever possible in spring training and exhibition games each year. It would be ludicrous to expect any athlete to jump into game action without properly warming up and getting back into the swing of things.

The same goes for fantasy drafts. Your fantasy spring training comes in the form of mock drafts. Do them. Do lots of them before drafting in a league that counts. I didn't do so before the Blog Wars draft and it showed as my brain stumbled, tripped over some bone-headed picks, and stumbled again.

And so, I fumbled on yet another fundamental of fantasy drafting.

In my haste before the draft, I neglected to look at the league settings. Every league is different, and in this particular league, there were 15 teams. Not 12. Not 10.

However, when I learned that I'd be drafting at the No. 6 hole, I quickly forgot this fact and mentally projected myself out at a 12-team clip. So, after I got one of my top-six players in the first round, I was thinking that I'd get a player in the top 18, and so on.

So when I was finally able to make it to the draft I noticed that after the computer selected Chase Utley for me at No. 6 overall, it later chose Zach Greinke in the second round...ahead of players I clearly would have wanted in his place.

I panicked, forgetting my own advice in the Tiger Woods draft strategy , and spent the rest of the draft trying to counter and re-counter my moves. It was as if I double-bogeyed the second hole and couldn't mentally move on from that mistake while shanking shots into sand traps and water hazards the rest of the way.

Which brings me back to autodrafting. Like I said previously, you don't want autodraft picking your team, but you also should always use your autodraft prerankings as a safety net on draft day.

I didn't set my preranks like I should have, so I snagged Greinke over Jimmy Rollins without even knowing it. Not that Greinke is a bad pick, he just doesn’t fit my pseudo-draft plan.

This plan, by the way, is another nugget of advice that may or may not help you on draft day. In a rough pattern, you should always strive to take solid positional players in the first several rounds...leaving the elite pitchers to someone else for the time being.

I do love Greinke and am a closet Royals fan, but as I entered the fourth, fifth, and later rounds with a stud pitcher and not-so-great positional players on my roster, I couldn't help but notice plenty of solid pitching options that were available.

The bottom line is that I was left with a team that was less than stellar in a league that is really competitive. All because I neglected numerous fantasy draft-day fundamentals and found myself backpedaling through a sloppy drafting experience.

Of course, a poor draft doesn't mean a lost season. It just means getting more aggressive on the trading and free agency fronts. Check back soon on ways to salvage your season if you are coming off a sub-par draft.

Check out more on this topic here .

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