Be Like Water

by Jesse Jones (@majesstik1)

Most people are probably familiar with the Bruce Lee quote about being like water. This is a great philosophy that can be applied to many things in life. Its primary lesson is to be adaptable. After all, adaptability is a key reason a species can survive. We have three choices as a species: adapt, migrate, or die. When we apply those concepts to fantasy football, we can either learn how to get better, find another hobby, or repeat the same mistakes every year and continue to lose and watch our bank roll die. But let’s go back to the famous Bruce Lee quote. I find the beginning of it especially relevant to redraft and best ball formats for fantasy football. Bruce says:

 “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

In every traditional style draft you are assigned a draft position. That is your crack to make it through the process with. If we come into our drafts rigid and force a particular strategy that we’ve read about on the internet or magazine, and the draft does not disclose itself to flow that way, the end results could mean you have just donated your money to someone else in your league. That is not to say that a particular strategy cannot work. You may find the strategy you preferred making its way through your draft every time you pick, and you get every player you want. But what happens when that doesn’t work?

Adapt. It’s as simple as that. Don’t reach into lesser tiers forcing a position to fit a strategy, or even a need when there is still great value at other positions on the board. Don’t talk yourself into drafting Lamar Miller over Michael Thomas in the second round because your desired strategy says you have to take 3 RBs in the first three rounds. Don’t pass on going QB early when guys like Brees or Wilson slide into the 6th or 7th round because you are supposed to wait until the 10th Rd to take a QB. If you continue to take the best players available and stick to your tiers for the first 7 or 8 rounds, you will find that you’ll end up being able to fill needs later with players that can still return value.

There’s a concept called opportunity cost that flattens out as the draft goes along. If you’re forcing positions in the top 5-6 rounds over taking the best player on the board, you could end up with a shaky roster that you may not even like. If you are a seasoned player, and can build your own projections, tiers and rankings – stick to those. If you are a more novice player find rankings you can rely on. I would recommend using an online source that continually updates their rankings as the summer wears on, rather than a magazine printed in June with outdated info. and are two excellent websites worth looking into.

Another part of “finding your way through it” is watching the board. Anticipation of position runs later in the draft can give us an edge. This is easiest to do when we’re a few picks away from the beginning or end of the round. If there are two teams with two picks to make after we make our pick before the round turns, and both have already drafted their QBs, we can take a calculated risk that a bunch of QBs aren’t going to be drafted in that block, and we can take another position heading into the turn. Positional runs tend to happen on the “onesie” positions like QBs, TEs, and DSTs. If your draft board is showing a bunch of players you’re comfortable waiting a round to see who makes it back to you with, go ahead and take that onesie player and trust that there will still be a player you value that comes back your way.

This also leads us to our most intuitive concept. Take players you want. If you keep reading about how much everyone else loves a player, and you’re just not feeling it, don’t take that player. What’s worse than letting someone else make the decision for you and finding out they were wrong? You end up kicking yourself for it saying “I should have trusted my gut”. You’re right, you should have. Win or lose, do it with players you want on your team(s).

Another thing I like to do in my drafts is prioritize some players heading in, and have cutoffs. When you have players you know you want to draft, and you know what round they are likely to go, you can tentatively plan to draft around that, but not always rely on it. This is where the cutoffs come into play. Ideally, I like to come out of my drafts with a QB1 I trust and a TE1 I can rely on. At QB, I’m not going to hesitate to draft Rodgers in the 3rd round if I don’t like the board there at my pick. By Rd6 if any of Brady, Brees, or Wilson are still there I’m likely to pounce. If I don’t have a QB by Rd8 or 9, and Luck, Mariota or Cam are still there I’ve reached my cutoff point. This is the latest spot I want to take a QB. In my recent home league draft I was actually able to wait out QB until Rd 10 because Cam, Luck, and Cousins were all still on the board after all the other QBs I wanted were drafted ahead of the rounds I valued them. I ended up getting Luck in Rd10. Not only was I able to employ my cutoff strategy, I was watching the board and taking a calculated risk that one of those 3 guys would make it back around to my pick.

Another draft strategy I like to use in redraft only is to not draft kickers, DST or IDP players at all, if the format allows it. This is a stronger strategy the earlier in the preseason you draft. If you take all offensive skill players and hold, you have protection from injuries and trade bait when someone goes off in preseason and someone comes knocking for a trade. If all goes well, you can use 2 of your offensive skill players to get 1 player of slightly better value to you. Thus, reducing your roster size by one, since you’ll have to meet roster requirements before the season begins anyway. If no trades work out, so be it. Reconfigure your roster to have what you need in week 1 right before kickoff so other owners can’t immediately scoop up your buried treasure.

For the most part, these strategies will work for both redraft and best ball, aside from the trade and waiver strategies. The thing that’s great about best ball is you have 20 rounds to make your way through the cracks. There’s even less pressure to force a strategy or a recommended roster construction in those. I have found I like being on the front side of the DST runs in those, and am more prone to go QB earlier because good ones keep sliding into value. Best ball is also good practice for home and redraft leagues. They’re good way to do mock drafts where everyone has skin in the game, and you could potentially make some money back in them. These can also be $10 trials to see if a particular strategy is right for you. However, the thing you can’t always account for in best ball drafts is your home league mates who have devoted loyalties to players or teams and are willing to deviate hard from expected ADPs.

Whether traditional redraft or best ball, draft season is an exciting time of year for many, myself included, so have fun out there and be like water.