Draft League Strategy
Pre-Draft: Knowing the League Rules & How They Impact Your Draft Strategy
(Single Season League)
Ok, so you’re in a draft. What are the settings?
The settings are vital to know for any draft that you’re doing (it may seem obvious but you should get in the habit of double-checking as it can drastically alter your strategy). You will want to know all of the following, and underneath this list I will explain why:What is the scoring method of the league (eg Dream Team/AFL Fantasy points, SuperCoach
- points, custom scoring, Category scoring [and if so, which categories are being used])
- How many teams are in the league?
- How many players on field are there for each team (and what is the breakdown by position)?
- How many emergencies do you have, and do they cover their own position or any position?
- How many bench slots does each team get (guys who are neither on field nor emergencies)?
- How do you win the league? (eg Is it most total points? Is there a finals series?)
- Which rounds does the league play through (eg Does it start in Round 1? Does it end in Round 23? Does the league play through the bye rounds?)
- Does the league allow in-season player position changes?
- What limits are there on free agents? Is there a limit per season? Per week? What is the RFP (Restricted Free Agent Priority ranking) rule?
- What are the lockout rules each week? (eg Are all teams locked out as of the first game of the round? As of the first Saturday game? Is it rolling lockout all weekend? Is it rolling lockout but only for players that were in your squad as of the first Saturday game?)
- Are captains enabled?
- What type of draft is it? (eg snake, linear, other)
1. What is the scoring method of the league?
This may seem obvious but you really need to know this up front. The way that you rank different players will change dramatically depending on the scoring format. It will affect not only the players you draft but the order in which you draft, and also the type of players that you draft. Some players are completely undraftable in certain formats but are guns in others.
For example, you may be keen on taking Rance earlier in a SuperCoach (SC) draft than in a DT/AFL Fantasy Draft (DT/AF). Rance may be just average in a category-scoring league, unless you’re using Spoils as well in which case he’d be a gun, and so on.
If there is some kind of custom scoring format then you will need to know this and you will need to adjust your player rankings to suit it.
2. How many teams are in the league
This on its own isn’t enough information, but you need to know it because in conjunction with our next point, it’s essential.
It will also have an impact on how many draft picks will pass between each of your picks (i.e. how many other players will get drafted before your next turn).
3. How many players on field are there for each team (and what is the breakdown by position)?
Ok, now this is essential for your pre-draft planning so I really recommend that you make a note of this.
Let’s say that your league has 12 teams. Let’s say that it has 18 on field (5 DEFs, 7 MIDs, 1 RUCK, 5 FWDs) and let’s say that it has one emergency per position as well as a bench of 8 (for a total of 30 players per team).
Simple maths will tell you that 30 players per team x 12 teams is 360 players. So what? Seems fairly standard so who cares, right? Well, keep this in mind: In the real AFL (on which this game is directly based), there are slightly over 800 players in total, across all eighteen clubs. In any given week there are 396 players selected to play (22 players per team x 18 clubs in the AFL). So keep that in mind: Your draft will take 360 players. There are only 396 players playing in the AFL in any given week. And in case you’ve forgotten, there are many of those 396 players that you won’t want in your team (key defenders, various rookies, some small forwards etc etc). Essentially, be careful who you draft and be aware that there may not be much left to draft once you get to the last few rounds.
Let’s go back to the players on field per position now. You have 5 defenders on field, each. That means 60 players (5 x 12 teams in the league). Go and have a look at AFL Fantasy, or SuperCoach, or an Ultimate Footy league and search for ‘all defenders’. Scroll down to the 60th-best defender. That defender will be starting on somebody’s field every single week (who the 60th best defender is will vary from week to week, but this is just to get the thought process
going). For ease of use here, let’s just go with Ultimate Footy(UF)’s projected averages for 2017. Based on this, the 60th-best defender will average 70 this year.
However, that’s just your on field guys. You also need a DEF emergency, and probably another two DEFs on your bench here. That makes 96 defenders that will likely be drafted (8 per team x 12 teams). The 96th defender in UF is projected to average 64.
So in a nutshell, if you finish drafting defenders after everybody else, then the projected average of your worst on field defender will be 70, and the projected average of your worst bench defender will be 64. So if you want your worst on field defender to average above 70 then you need take defenders a little earlier than some others do. If you’re happy having 60s-average defenders on field then you should leave all your defenders until last.
This logic will hold true for all positions. You need just one ruckman on field here (12 rucks on field across the league) and one as emergency (24 rucks in total). Many may not even take a 3rd ruckman for their bench, but they just might (could be up to 36 rucks taken). The 12th-best projected ruck in UF will average 77, the 24th best will average 66, the 36th-best will average 63 (if you even get 36 ruck-eligible players playing AFL in a given week).
Put another way, if your ruckman averages 107 then you will have a 30 point gain over the player whose on field ruckman averages 77. For just one player this is enormous!
With this sort of information at hand you are able to work out breakdowns in scoring in each position, and to make much more informed choices over which type of players will likely last until what sort of draft range. You will be able to work out roughly what average defender/mid/ruck/forward you’ll get at each stage of the draft, and this can really help you plan when to aim for different positions.
If your league is only 2D, 4 M, 1R, 2F, then the dynamics all change again and everyone will have good players everywhere. If your league instead requires 2 rucks on field then suddenly it becomes essential to take ruckmen early as there simply won’t be enough good ruckmen for 12 teams to field 2 each. Unless you only have 6 teams in your league, then it’s still very easy to take 2 rucks each and they’re no longer as urgent.
Hence why it’s essential that you know the squad format & number of teams before your draft.
IMPORTANT: This assumes that everybody will rank all players identically in terms of scoring and draft order. Obviously this isn’t the case, and you will probably have guys in mind who you think will score a lot more than they are projected to (eg you may feel comfortable that you’ll get a certain 80-averaging defender/forward/ruck really late in the draft). You will also ignore certain players who are projected to average highly as you’ll feel that they will actually be a lot worse than that. This is all very individual but very important and you need to factor all of that knowledge into your draft planning. As a rough guide though, and a thinking exercise to get your brain moving; working out which positions run out of certain scoring at different stages can give you a useful point to work towards.
4. How many emergencies do you have, and do they cover their own position or any position?
If emergencies can cover any position, then the first thought could be ‘Extra Midfielders’. Let’s say you choose to field a defender that you know won’t play and have another good midfielder as your emergency – your extra midfielder really should score higher for you than the person who played their 5th-best defender on field. However, you need to know this before the draft as good midfielders will not go undrafted, so if you want an extra one to be able to pull off this strategy then you may need to draft accordingly.
NB: Previously, in AFL Fantasy drafts you did not choose emergencies, simply the lowest scoring player on your bench replaced the first zero from your field – no matter the position. This year though you will find that from the players on your bench you can choose up to four emergencies – one per position – so make sure you do this and don’t get caught out without choosing emergencies this year in the mistaken belief that it’ll automatically cover zeros as it did last year (this also means you can’t use the above-mentioned loophole to cover defenders with mids on the bench in AFL Fantasy anymore).
5. How many bench slots does each team get (guys who are neither on field nor emergencies)?
If you get 8 bench slots then you may feel comfortable taking guys like a Chris Masten or a Jarryd Roughead who will miss a few months, but will still be useful once they come back. If you only have 1 or 2 (or zero!) bench slots then you may not want to do this, as then if you have a Masten on your bench and 2 of your backs miss a week, you’ll either be copping a zero or you’ll have to drop someone into the free agents pool and grab a replacement. You may still wish to take that risk, but you should at least know this information up-front.
6. How do you win the league? (eg Is it most total points? Is there a finals series?)
If there is no finals series, you play everybody once and the season ends at Round 11, then there’s absolutely no point in anybody drafting someone who will be out injured until mid-season. If there are no games during bye rounds, if there are 8 teams making finals out of a league of only 10 teams (yes, this can happen in AFL Fantasy, for example), then who cares if you even lose your first 5-6 games – a strong team from mid-year and you will probably still sneak into the finals and then it’s anyone’s game. If this is the type of league you’re in then you could more easily sit back in the draft and pluck any decent player who slides a little due to a current injury.
7. Which rounds does the league play through (eg Does it start in Round 1? Does it end in Round
23? Does the league play through the bye rounds?)
Following on from the previous point, this works in conjunction with it. If playing over the bye rounds though, you’ll have to decide if you draft a balanced bye team or if you ignore it and are prepared to cop a loss or two in those weeks. A league that starts/finishes at different times to the standard R1/R23 can also bring more detailed fixture analysis into play, as suddenly the guys you’ve got won’t need to play against certain AFL teams if you have no league matchups in those weeks. If it starts later than Round 1 then it means you don’t care if guys like Luke Hodge miss Round 1, for example.
8. Does the league allow in-season player position changes?
Two years ago, a few savvy coaches drafted Matthew Boyd earlier than normal in the draft. He was listed as a midfielder at that point, however those coaches knew that he had been, and would continue to play in defence. From their point of view, then, they were getting a bargain as they basically drafted the #1 Defender in Fantasy Football as a mid-round pick in the draft. Who might get DPP added this year? It’s something to keep in mind at draft time.
If your league doesn’t allow mid-season updates though, then doing this is pointless so, again, it’s something you need to know before the draft.
9. What limits are there on free agents? Is there a limit per season? Per week? Is there an annual or a weekly budget? What is the RFP
(Restricted Free Agent Priority ranking) rule?
If there are low season limits then you may want to have a bit more DPP flexibility in your initial draft team or you may choose to focus a bit more on players who have little-to-no injury history.
10. What are the lockout rules each week? (eg Are all teams locked out as of the first game of the
round? As of the first Saturday game? Is it rolling lockout all weekend? Is it rolling lockout but
only for players that were in your squad as of the first Saturday game?)
Any time that teams aren’t locked until after the first game of the round, loopholes come into play. If the league allows rolling lockouts then you may even wish to draft one or two players (if you’re allowed a very deep bench) who are DPP, who will never play and whose AFL team often plays late in a weekend (eg often in recent years Freo was the team of choice for this as the weekly Perth match is often late on a Sunday). That way you can play your risk/reward players in the emergency slot and, if they go big, then you swap out your next worst player from their position and replace them on field with the DPP chump who won’t play – voila! You get the big emergency score. (I say DPP as if you have a r/f DPP & a d/m DPP then between those two players you can cover any position – DPP is simply more flexible for you).
This strategy does have its risks, but it may be something to be aware of if it’s up your alley.
11. Are captains enabled?
Most leagues don’t have captains enabled but a lot do. Having captains in a draft league potentially doubles the advantage of having an early pick in the first round. Eg, you get pick 1 and take Dangerfield – if captains are enabled then you essentially have two Dangerfields as you will captain him every week.
However, if a league does have captains enabled then you really need to think through your first pick. Eg, Taylor Adams, Jack Macrae & the top rucks are commonly first round choices this year. If you have a pick in the first round you may have wanted to take one of these guys, however you may be better off taking the best midfielder still on the table as he will probably average more and will thus be a much better captain option for you throughout the year. Something to keep in mind.
12. What type of draft is it? (eg snake, linear, other)
You’ll need to keep your draft strategy in the front of your mind as you roll through the draft, and part of that is knowing when your next pick/s will be.
Well there you go, that’s it! It’s exhaustive but it should give you a very good idea as to the types of things to keep in mind when drafting. Even if you completely ignore all of the topics mentioned here, be aware that others won’t. There are a lot of good drafters out there and they may well also have further strategies that work for them. This article hasn’t so much been about unique strategy as about being aware of basic information and how it can be used. Whichever type of player you are, I hope this has given you some food for thought or been a great refresher at least.
Now that we’re entering draft season in earnest, I hope this helps you out. Best of luck, and please hit us up in the comments or on social media!