Blast from the past – Draft Strategy

I thought this might bring back some memories… it sure did for me.  I think the strategy is still sound, although people are free to disagree (and lose).

Arena Fantasy League Draft Strategy (circa 2005)

Every fantasy expert knows that starting off an advice column with a conditional statement excusing the writer from any responsibility for what they have written, or apologizing to the reader in advance for the application of that same advice is for the weak.  It’s not the same as saying “Don’t try this at home” or “These acts are performed by professionals” when imparting tips on how best to wrestle bears, ride killer whales or date the fairer sex.  This is fantasy advice, much less harrowing on the fright scale.  But as a wise friend has told me, “Draft strategy opinions are like noses.  Everyone’s got one.”  (Only he didn’t use “noses” if you get the insinuation.)

So without going further, I feel compelled to state that the best draft strategy is one you won’t doubt.  One that comes from within your intuition.

But if you don’t have that intuition for this great game that is Arena Football, this draft strategy is one that works.  One that has worked.  One that will work again.  Follow it at the risk of great reward.  Ignore it at the risk of great calamity.  Now THAT sounds more like rigourous fantasy advice on the Arena game.

A few years back, when I first started playing fantasy Arena Football, we waited until after Week 1 to draft.  The players were unknowns to us, the game was something we hadn’t scrutinized, the scoring was unbelievable.  Picking tenth in that first ever Arena draft, I noticed the QBs getting plucked from the available players and used a simple strategy that I employ in any fantasy selection process.  Pay attention, because this is the first key point to any fantasy draft.

Don’t get caught reacting on the tailend of a run on a position.

When 8 QBs went in that first round, I did what I thought was sound and simple.  I selected the two best WRs on the board with picks 10 and 11, figuring that those two WRs had to be more valuable to me than the 10th best QB.

I never regretted that strategy because over the years I have learned something about Arena Football: Offensive Specialists are to Arena Football what a blue-chip RB is to the outdoor game. Without a good one, or two, it’s a long season.

My basic draft strategy has not changed and it’s allowed me to be involved in the past three Arena Bowl Championship games, winning two titles.  That’s success I can live with and I sure hope it continues.

My draft strategy goes like this:  Devalue the QB position, ignore the RB position, put Offensive Specialists and WRs on a pedestal, get yourself two of the best Defensive Specialists in the league and take a Kicker from a good team late in the draft and stick with him all year long.  I know that’s a bit simplistic, so let’s get into detail.

In the 1st round of any draft a number of QBs always get selected, and there are plenty that deserve that distinction.  Among them are Clint Dolezel, Shane Stafford, John Dutton, Mark Grieb, Aaron Garcia and Matt Nagy, all great producers in the fantasy game.  While having one of those players is a definite temptation, you can win just as easily with a lower 1st tier or 2nd tier QB, perhaps Sonny Cumbie, Chris Redman or Matt D’Orazio.

So in that 1st round, grab yourself an OS.  In the 2nd round, grab yourself a WR.  Repeat in the 3rd round.  Once you’ve secured your team approximately 80 TDs from your receivers, you’ll be in a much better position to succeed.

If during the course of those 1st three rounds you end up as the only team without a QB on your roster, you’ve already won.  You’ve been given a free pass not to pick a QB until Round 5 or Round 6 (or maybe even later).  That means while the other teams around you are filling in their 3rd WR slots or selecting FBs (way too early for that), you’re selecting backups that are the same caliber as their starters.  Or you could do something completely unexpected, so read on…

In winning fantasy leagues, alot has to do with how you matchup with your opponent on a position versus position scale.  A decided edge at one position can tilt the score in your favor.  A few games are the difference between making the playoffs and being left on the outside, so my favored strategy is to do something unexpected in Round 4 or Round 5.

That’s right… I take the best Defensive Specialist in the league.

In Rounds 5, 6 or 7, double up on QBs.  Take yourself two good ones, getting two starter-calibre QBs before the other teams have a chance to react.  Last year, I got two good ones in Rounds 7 and 8.  With the consistency of QBs always in question, having two potential starters on the team is invaluable.

So now you’re sitting with three Top 20 receivers, the best DS and two capable starting QBs.  From here on in, it’s read and react.  If everyone else is picking FBs, fill in your WRs.  If everyone else is taking their first Defensive Specialist, hook yourself a second or go for a FB you trust enough not to replace when he doesn’t score.  Even if you end up with seven or eight WRs on your roster, you’ve acquired choices, injury protection and possible trade bait.

A wise man once said “It’s not the first round picks that win you the championship.  It’s the midrounders who really make the difference.”  I stand behind that wholeheartedly, so in the midrounds, make your picks count.  Overlooked players, like those second and third WRs playing behind amazing Offensive Specialists  (Andy McCullough, Chris Anthony, Rodney Wright and DeShane Dennis jump to mind) are often available in the midsection of the draft and can net you a cool 15-20 TDs per year, an amazing amount from a skill player not good enough to crack your starting lineup.

Kickers outside of Remy Hamilton are never sure things in Arena League, so just like the outdoor game there is no reason to carry more than one on your roster.  If you can’t get Hamilton, wait until late in the draft to pick up a Kicker.  When you do pick one, stick with him.  There’s no predicting the outcome of the kicking game, so it’s best to change only when the kicker’s offense slumps badly, which rarely happens in the Arena game.

At the end of a 14 Round draft, your roster should include no more than one kicker, one FB, two Defensive Specialists, two quarterbacks, two Offensive Specialists and six WRs.  And a winning record (if you watch the waiver wire carefully).

Now clear this article from your cache.  Hide the link from the other owners in your league.  Feign ignorance when someone asks about your draft strategy for this year.  Check out the Draft Preview for information on which teams are hording hidden gems. And enjoy the Arena year.


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