Fantasy Football: Looking Back to Improve Your Drafting Skills for 2012

John MillerCorrespondent IIINovember 10, 2011

Fantasy football owners who drafted Cam Newton with a late-round draft pick are reaping the benefits
Fantasy football owners who drafted Cam Newton with a late-round draft pick are reaping the benefitsScott Cunningham/Getty Images

Just because we are in the throes of the 2011 season, that doesn't mean that we cannot look back or look forward. That's right, I'm talking about your fantasy football draft. Why would we need to talk about fantasy football drafts when we are so far away from them?

Because right now, you will pay attention. Once the football season is over, many people don't think about fantasy football drafts until at least late-June. The problem with that is, by then the lessons of the 2011 season will have faded. You will barely be able to remember your 2011 draft. All you will remember is how your team finished.

So right now, while you are paying the maximum attention to your fantasy leagues. Go back and look at the draft for your league. Look at your team, but also check out how the best and worst teams in your league drafted. Did certain players in your league format (PPR, return yards, bonus points, IDP, etc) perform very differently from their pre-season rankings?

More importantly, look at your roster. How many players are still on your team that you drafted after the 9th round? I'm willing to bet not many. So many fantasy owners waste so much time trying to find these crazy, deep-sleepers that never pan out. But you held them just long enough to miss out players like Victor Cruz and Cam Newton.

Let's extend the exercise just a bit further. Make up two "Dream Teams". On one team, you can select any player you like that went in Round 10 or after in your draft. On the other team, select any player you like that DID NOT get drafted in your fantasy draft. Unless you're in a really sharp league, I'm willing to be the undrafted team might actually be better.

What does that teach us? It teaches us that there are several ways that you can treat the back-end of your fantasy draft. But above all, you CANNOT develop too deep of an attachment to these late-round draft picks. Other than that, here is what we can do at the end of our drafts:

  • Target high-upside QBs. At this point in the season you are seeing quite a few teams who hit on a second QB late in drafts make trades to give up a QB and solidify their roster at other positions. You will actually have better odds of hitting on a QB sleeper than a RB or WR. Don't go nuts, but grabbing Cam Newton with that 14th round pick even though you already had Drew Brees looks pretty good now, right?
  • Target high-upside handcuff RBs. We are strictly talking about players like Michael Bush and Ben Tate. These are players who would be worth holding just because of how good they would be if the RB in front of them got injured.
  • DO NOT bother selecting a kicker or D/ST before the last two rounds. So far in 2011, only the Ravens D/ST has been a quality middle-round draft pick. You would have been much better of waiting and just grabbing the Lions or 49ers off of the waiver wire early in the season.
  • Be realistic with yourself. Don't target a rookie RB you hope breaks through in the second half of the season unless you have a deep enough roster to carry him all season. Target players you hope could have an impact BEFORE the bye weeks begin.
  • It is no longer a bad idea to draft rookie WRs. For many years, the prevailing wisdom was that rookie WRs (except for Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin) were not assets in fantasy football. When you see not only what AJ Green and Julio Jones are doing but what players like Jonathan Baldwin and Torrey Smith are capable off.

Again, now is the time to reflect on these things. At least for a hot minute. If a player just has a couple nice games during the fantasy playoffs, all is forgiven. But then next season it's right back to wasting a mid-round pick on the Steelers D/ST and blowing multiple late-round picks on aging RBs and low-upside WRs.

Pay attention to what the best teams in your league have done this season. How did they draft? Did they make a huge waiver wire pick-up? Or have they just gotten lucky. Every league is different, so the best way to learn is by observing what the best teams in the league are doing.

None of this is particularly earth-shattering. Not to mention if you ARE the best team in your league, you should just keep doing what you are doing. But if you are already out of the playoff hunt, or you're wondering why you can't seem to find a RB, some of this stuff could help you out next season.

Thanks for reading. Have anything to add to the discussion? Please use the comments feature below. Questions are welcome, but please be as specific and detailed as possible. Good luck to all of your teams this week.

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