Yes, the offline fantasy football draft is literally a game of poker. You are in a tight-knit room, often a kitchen table or rec room, with between 7 and 15 others, or more, depending on the size of your league.
You probably did your homework and should know exactly who you are looking to draft in each of the next 14 to 16 rounds in an event that comes once a year. But, you need to assume that others have made the same preparations as you.
Even if you are convinced that the draft boards you started making back in April, following the NFL Draft, will allow you to hone in the most effective fantasy football draft in your league.
Err on the side of caution and wear your poker face. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Read Others’ Body Language
Every fantasy draft has a set of deep sleepers and sometimes these are mid-round picks. Sleeper picks here include strong WR2 players on teams who may not have made a big name for themselves in the NFL. The same goes for RB and TE2 players.
Or, they are effective players the previous season and an upcoming rookie may affect their snap count. Players in this mold are like Michael Gallup for the Cowboys. If you listen to any football expert, they project Gallup’s numbers to drop because of rookie CeeDee Lamb.
And players like Gallup are the perfect scenario for a solid middle-round pick. Say he, or a player in his mold, is on your draft radar. But 3 other fantasy owners like him too.
Here is the scenario that allows you to read others and gain an idea of who they are picking next. Using Gallup as an example, let’s inspect what is going on at the table.
One owner is reading their draft board and mumbles seemingly to themselves that if Gallup is there 2 rounds later, they will take him.
You notice another owner 2 seats down from you has his finger on Gallup’s name, showing they are also interested in selecting him.
This is where keeping your poker face comes in handy. Player A already stated their interest and Player B has their finger on Gallup’s name. You also feel Gallup will have a better year than what the experts project.
Chances are, you will end up with him being that you kept your face straight, implied nothing, and kept your hands off your own draft board. You liked Gallup the whole time and planned to pick him later in the 10th round instead of the 8th round.
But now that you had insight, it allowed you to read the others and make your move, especially since you thought Gallup would emulate the previous season’s success.
2. Prevent Other Owners from Reading Your Body Language
It is one thing to keep a straight face and gain insight into whether another owner is looking to draft a player on your radar. But it is another thing to prevent other owners from gaining insight on who you plan to draft.
This gives you a huge advantage heading into the draft. You shouldn’t have to look at your cheat sheet as most of the other owners in the room will. All you have to do is check your sheet once during each round when it is time for you to pick.
And pick the best available at a position of need.
While most of the other owners in your league won’t do this and are busy looking at their sheets to figure out their next pick, don’t think they are not at least looking around to see what other owners are doing.
As I mentioned above, if you as much as have a finger on a particular name, it won’t go unnoticed. Someone taking notice of your actions might very well grab the player you were planning on drafting before you.
The same goes if you are secretly hoping someone doesn’t take the next player you want and they don’t.
But your facial expression just told the room that Dak Prescott, who dropped further than everyone thought, is likely your next pick if the 3 owners in front of you don’t pick him first.
And 2 of those 3 owners had yet to pick a quarterback.
While this strategy and the one above it won’t apply to amateurs, if you play in a seasoned league, you can bet the veterans will notice body language.
3. Keep Other Owners from Thinking You’re on Tilt
Just as with betting on NFL Sunday, fantasy football can and will put you on tilt and it happens often during an offline draft.
We have all been involved in a draft where it seems like the owner picking ahead of us drafted the entire roster we planned for ourselves.
And now we are left scavenging for who is the best available, knowing that per our own research we are not logistically taking the best overall value per round and draft position.
I think during one draft another owner drafted at least 5 players I planned to take 2 picks later.
But nothing is more frustrating when you know who you will pick next and seeing that player go just before, which forces us to improvise.
Now, if you are involved in a league where smack talk is the norm and the drinks flow, it is even easier for other owners to expose your tilt and trust me, they will do so.
But keeping a straight face and a calm demeanor, even if you are anything but calm, holds a few advantages.
The 1st is that it will deter other owners from pushing you to the brink of snapping in front of everyone when you refuse to show frustration, as body language is the key indicator for others to tell how a person is feeling.
4. Allow Other Owners to Put Each Other on Tilt
There are 2 countries in Europe that haven’t seen armed conflict in centuries and they have somewhat identical names. Sweden and Switzerland.
You are Sweden and Switzerland, while the other owners go through psychological warfare.
Again, this will not likely apply to your younger brother’s league full of 8 other college kids that you joined because he needed 1 more player that you threw 30 dollars into a winner take all pot. No, this strategy, like the above 3, apply only to real, high stakes leagues.
The above strategy showed you how to avoid it, but when the drinks flow and other owners trade barbs at one another, let them knock each other out and make rash moves.
Let an owner reach for players that other owners are bluffing on, and vice versa.
All you need to do is sit back and focus on building the best team in your league. And again, if you did your homework, you are halfway there.
But like in any gambling scene, people get vulnerable and cocky. And this will happen during your fantasy football draft, even if it is with 11 other friends.
But for that 1 night, they are all trying to throw each other off psychologically to allow one another to slip up.
Do not play that game. Instead, keep a cool head, use your body language to tell others you are neutral, and who knows? Maybe a few players you never thought to drop will drop.
Keeping a neutral expression and body language to a minimum is underused in offline drafts.
Often, fantasy owners try to talk as much smack to gain a psychological advantage in the draft room. And yes, alcohol is often involved, which only lowers one’s judgment.
So rise above the vulnerability. Read body language even when it looks like you aren’t. It will give you insight into what each owner will do next. Keep your poker face so others don’t turn the tables on you.
If you let your guard down and show frustration, other owners will exploit that which tells them you are on tilt. Tilt will happen to at least a few owners during the draft.
Let them and the other owners fight it out.
What other strategies do you use to gain an upper-hand during a draft? Let me know what you think in the comments.