Smart owners, bad choices – here are seven common mistakes I see good owners make on draft night.
Overrating handcuffs. I'm not saying there's never a time to consider a handcuff, but the conditions have to be right. If you're in a league with short benches, don't bother. If the starter isn't a big-ticket item, don't waste your time with insurance. If it's not 100 percent clear who the backup is, I'm not wasting a spot.
Also keep in mind that when you commit to a backfield handcuff, your maximum player payoff is one slot (it's a little like bunting in baseball – when you play for one run, that's the most you'll ever get). If you take backs from two different teams, you might luck out and wind up with two valuable players.
The overly strict draft plan. This is just an excuse to do thinking and shifting on game night. You have to be ready for audibles, surprise values. I'm not saying a pre-game plan is a bad idea, but sketch it in pencil – don't commit to it in ink.
Misuse of bench spots. In most common formats there's no need for an extra kicker, defense, or even tight end. In thinner leagues you might want to consider passing on a second quarterback. The most important spot for depth is at those six-point positions, running back and wide receiver. Do a rough sketch beforehand of where you want to build your depth.
Reaching for sleepers. It's perfectly fine to have a collection of possible breakout players you want to grab in the middle and late rounds, but if you consistently reach 1-3 rounds early on those guys, you're defeating the purpose. The objective on draft night is to get as much value as possible.
Cumbersome draft night resources. There's no need to carry five magazines or a dozen sheets of research papers. One cheat sheet, one trusted reference source, that's it. Keep it simple. And make sure your resources are easy to index – wasted time leads to wasted picks.
Being the last to know. It's critical to do a news sweep online before you settle in to the task at hand. Major NFL news comes down every day of the summer, and there's something draft-altering on just about every day. Make sure you block off a solid 30-60 minutes before your draft to catch up.
December planning. We've been through this before. Forget the playoff weeks. Worry about those September victories first. I'm also not terribly concerned with bye weeks, though I'd prefer to get players with later ones if all else is equal.