Okay, sorry about the puns. But if there was a period of time that proved drafts and auctions need to be scheduled closer to the regular season, this is it. The fantasy landscape at the end of July has changed a lot since Independence Day, and if you had an early draft, you might already be second-guessing a strategy that made sense just a few short weeks ago.
Cam Akers is out for the year. Michael Thomas will miss the early part of the season, and maybe more. Aaron Rodgers’ situation with the Packers was so uncertain at one point that sports books in Las Vegas pulled the odds for many Green Bay-related bets (if Vegas doesn’t want your money, something is up). Then there’s the quarterback drama in Houston, and questions about Cole Beasley’s future on account of the NFL’s vaccination and COVID policies (no need to get political in the comments, please. I’m just mentioning it), which only adds uncertainty.
Granted, it looks like Rodgers will have a “Last Dance” in Wisconsin with Davante Adams after all. But as a fantasy player, why not get as close to the regular season as possible to select your guys? You can’t eliminate all uncertainty, but you can certainly eliminate the pitfalls that occur in July and August.
I’ve heard many rationales in favor of early drafts, and none of them really make sense to me: Everybody is in the same boat, so it’s fair. A championship team can overcome an injury. This stuff is part of the game. Why not draft in week 3 or 4 if you’re worried about what could happen? Wouldn't an in-season draft be silly?
Yes, that would be silly. Because we already have a draft in week 3, and week 4, and week 10. It’s called the waiver wire, and it’s basically a supplemental draft every single week. So we already acknowledge a need to adjust our teams based on what happens in the real game. Why not start out week 1 with a chance to really test out your offseason strategy?
We could draft for 2023 today and it would technically be “fair.” It just wouldn’t be any fun. Obviously, we want to be closer to the actual season to prepare for it. And while fantasy teams have to overcome some injuries or roster shakeups on their way to a title, there’s no need to dodge landmines several weeks before the season starts.
If you think dealing with those kinds of wildcards is fun, I promise you’ll still have a few surprises to avoid or embrace. Last year I drafted Ronald Jones about 45 minutes before the news broke that Leonard Fournette was coming to Tampa. Those things happen, and they’ll keep happening. So why pile on extra stuff from two months earlier?
By the way, my position stands if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league. The main players might already be taken, but it certainly affects those managers and their strategy headed into 2021. Even assuming Rodgers plays, the circumstances certainly affect his value going forward. And if nothing else, dynasty teams are always thinking a couple years down the road.
Whether it’s receivers in New Orleans or running backs in Los Angeles, values are very different today than they were a month ago. I think you should delay your draft or auction until the latest possible date. At least the results will be based on something close to week 1 of the regular season. You’ll still have plenty of curveballs, decimating injuries, and maybe some COVID-related inactives, so you’re not missing out on that kind of “fun.” You’re just avoiding the challenges that are easy to avoid, so managers can at least watch their draft strategy play out on opening day. I think that’s good for everybody.
By the way, I must admit there is one decent reason to draft obscenely early: If you gather in person once a year for the draft, make a special event out of it, and spend time with lifelong friends. Sadly, that’s a small percentage of leagues these days. And in those cases, the actual draft doesn’t really matter as much. It’s more of a way for friends to strengthen their real-life bonds. So I get that, and I salute you.
But the rest of us online drafters have no excuse. You could draft after all three (!) preseason games and final cuts. It’s easy and it makes for a better start to the season. And I think you still have time to propose pushing it back some. Whether you actually do or not is up to you, and either way, I hope you steer clear of any (more) ugly surprises before September.
When does your league hold its draft or auction? Do you wish it was later, or even earlier? How have the offseason surprises affected your team so far, and what are you doing about it? Share your thoughts below.