Earlier I posted a comment about the conventional wisdom that you cannot win your league in the first round but that you can lose it. There is a kernel of truth to this statement, but in order to gain an edge on your opponents (those that are 'conventional') you have to begin to think critically about these kinds of beliefs.
The fact of the matter is that some percentage of your opponents are listening to the most predominant voices in the industry and the remainder are going off of their own gut instinct. In most leagues you are not going to have too many competitors who are going to do the research that you will. That is, if you want an edge.
Flags fly forever, folks. Let's get your pennant in 2012.
The guys who follow their gut are going to be fairly easy to figure out. They are going to draft name-brand players early and low-potential guys late.
The 'conventional wisdom' opponents are going to mostly draw chalk down their draft board with regard to the draft kit rankings from the website you are using to host your league and possibly the average draft position ("ADP") of other drafts on that site. They may have a short list of "sleepers" that they have cobbled together to spice things up. That is the typical M.O. for fantasy sports drafters.
But where does this data come from? It used to primarily be USA Today Baseball Weekly or some of the more prominent fantasy magazines. Nowadays the more interested competitors are going to listen to the ESPN Fantasy Focus Podcast, with Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry. They may even mix in a blog or two, usually from ESPN or the site that hosts your draft. A couple common ones are Tristan Cockroft's blog on ESPN and Roto Arcade at Yahoo.
So, okay, here's the thing... Those are actually pretty good sources of information. Those are major media outlets with highly-paid contributors who have reached some of the highest peaks in the industry. In the case of the magazines, there is a major competition for physical space on magazine racks so these sources are professionally researched and prepared. A ton of work went into those magazines.
You have to read and listen to these sources of information.
Allow me to repeat that for effect: You have to.
I can hear you saying already, "But Dave, if just about everyone knows that stuff why should I be listening to it? Isn't that the opposite of what you teach, oh Fantasy Doctor?" Yes and no... Listen, what we are teaching here is the ability to differentiate yourself from the conventional wisdom available out there. Step one is to be intimately aware of how your opponents are thinking so you can better anticipate their moves and build your team with a competitive edge.
This is the first time I'll make an analogy to poker, but I can guarantee that it will not be the last... In poker, good players optimize their play for the cards they have. Great players understand what their opposition is trying to do. However, The best poker players determine how their opponents are playing against them and alter their play to maximize results in the specific situation. This is analogous to fantasy sports insofar as you have to study up on the conventional wisdom so when you go against it you know you are giving yourself an advantage. That's what the Fantasy Doc is all about.
So, step one is to spend some time at Barnes & Noble understanding this year's conventional wisdom. While you are reading the magazines, keep in mind that the information contained therein is months old. The entire industry has changed since it was written, but at least half of your league will go to the store and spend a few bucks on one or two magazines to be their primary supplement to the draft kit on your website. This is an opportunity for you.
Step two is to start listening to the ESPN Fantasy Focus podcast. That podcast is the most popular of its kind and probably about one third of your league is listening to it on a regular basis because they think it gives them an edge. In actuality it makes them think like each other... Your mission is to absorb that information and think critically about it. If something doesn't seem quite right in what Nate and Matthew are teaching, it is an opportunity for you to do something different.
Step three, which is really the most important, is to be familiar with your website's draft kit. Most leagues will be on ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS and each of those sites has a draft kit. Every site on which you can draft has some way of ranking players. This ranking will be the default for just about everyone in your league... When they are on the clock in the 8th round of the draft they'll be forced to go with the best available player. You, on the other hand, will have a plan and you will execute that plan to build an effective team. The materials I am working on will help you to make that a reality.
Of course, if that seems like too much work right away and you have a specific need or question, reach out to me for some personalized consulting and I will provide a diagnosis and prescription for what ails you: RotoMcKay@gmail.com.