It's may be early for tier rankings, but this piece is more about educating you early in the fantasy football offseason on why you need to use the tiered rankings drafting method.
A quick overview of what tiered ranking sheets are: On one piece of paper you will have 4 columns, 1 for each position: QB, RB, WR and TE and within each column you will evaluate the value of players within sub tiers for each position. Think of each tier as a class ranking, Tier 1 is the best player or players in your view at that position and when you go to Tier 2, you are saying there is a drop off from the previous group and how many fantasy points they can score, and this second tier group. Really you are classifying every player at each position against the value of the other players you can draft at that same position. You can have as many sub tiers as you see fit, it's your call as long as those tier breaks are telling you something. The beauty of this approach is not just listing guys, you can do that anywhere - it's that you can compare where your highest rated guy at each position stands in one glance, because it's all on the same sheet. If you see a guy you have ranked high and names of players beneath that player on your list are getting checked off, you know - wow, the highest rated guy on my RB TIER sheet is still available, I should probably grab that guy for my next pick, because he presents the highest value in my mind's eye.
Please check out the first version of my TIERED RANKINGS FOR THE 2012 SEASON by clicking here.
Last August, leading up to the 2011 NFL season, I wrote a piece on this subject of TIERS in a ground-breaking piece that I called Tiers For Fears. I got a lot of flack for that name from my Pyro® partners, so I'm changing my second incarnation on the subject - to Tiers Of Joy. Wait, I am, what?! I've been brainwashed, this is what my partners want to call it this time around, and because I was in a docile mood I said ok, but good lord this title sounds like the title of a Tatum Channing & Amanda Seyfried straight to Netflix chick flick. Oye, let's just not call it anything, and focus in on the fact that constructing detailed tiers is the best way to walk out of your fantasy football draft with the best team this year.
This is the third year we have been heavily promoting TIERED RANKING SHEETS as a must-do approach to achieving the best fantasy football draft results. I've been leading the charge on getting this drafting strategy out to our audience, like Hugh Hefner's bedside Viagra jar, it'll get your blood flowing. It's hands down the best way to walk out of your draft with the team that everyone in your league is talking about, and will give you the control to walk away with the team you actually pre-determined that you wanted. Injuries happen and sometimes your love affairs don't work out, just look at the divorce rate in America for heavens sake, but if you do the work you need and set your tiers up in a detailed and well organized manner, you will have the depth at your backup spots if anything should go wrong… and for the most part, they tend go wrong at some point.
I'll start this out by saying (in a Daniel Stern 'The Wonder Years' narrator voice) I started playing fantasy football in 1988, and the first player I ever drafted was Jerry Rice, fresh off of his record-breaking 22 TD season in a strike shortened 12 game MVP season. From that eye-opening draft until just 4 years ago, I would come into every draft with a legal pad filled with pilot pen written notes about my favorite players, maybe some notes on when to go for who, lists of sleeper picks and guys I wanted to stay away from, my favorite targets would have heavily drenched circles around their names and other players would have a big star next to them, just like something out of trapper keeper in any jr. high school. I would usually have a Fantasy Football Index magazine open to the blue page with their TD-only or Yardage/TD rankings "cheat sheets" with more notes and stars next to those, maybe even a highlighter adding to the confusion. During the draft I would keep track of things and the players I was targeting between the magazine and my notes. For the most part, it was all fine and dandy, I did pretty well, always had a formidable team (except for a depressing season or two; cough, cough) and won a few championships along the way.
Hindsight being 20/20, it's obvious to me now that I would have had a far better fantasy football record and had more plaques on our league trophies had I used the tiered scoring system I am talking about here from the very start of my career.
Can't look back in the rear-view mirror and have regrets, so you must move forward with your loaded gun of newfound knowledge. The most important thing about TIERS is that you have a bird's eye view of what you want for your team versus what is available at each position when the draft is happening and you are in real-time. If a run of TEs is happening, and you want one of the top guys, your sheet can tell you who to grab; but even more importantly, tiers allows you to jump off on trends and grab the highest rated player you may have at another position that is bound to be the subject of the next run that happens. Be the trend starter, not the trend follower. You need to have an organized method to keep up with what's happening in the draft and what other people are in need of, who they seem to be targeting, the best way for that is paying close attention to the real time draft room results. Even if you are at the draft with your homies, if there isn't a draft board, you need to have that information at the tip of your fingers. It's almost your main focus draft night, what's happening... you have the TIERS, so that part is done and ready for you to utilize, focus on who's got what on their team, and who needs what to help fill it. This will help you grab a guy that would be gone next time around, instead of taking a guy early you could have a couple rounds later. THIS FALLS UNDER THE KNOW YOUR LEAGUE (listen to this podcast here) PARADIGM!
Your tiers all being on one sheet right in front of you, helps you be in control in the heat of the moment. If you are turning pages of the magazine and trying to compare a couple guys you are considering while you are on the clock, you'll rush it - you'll panic and you will most likely make the wrong pick. I've done this literally hundreds of times, I speak from years of experience on this fact. Championship teams are rarely created while you rush thru the information and are doing game log stat comparisons while it's your pick! Put the time in before, get it right - get it to where you feel like they are the correct assumptions to get your rankings within the tiers spot on, and you'll be amazed at how fun and successful your draft will go. It's not rocket science! Nothing I preach is, it's just preparation.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I had Tim Tebow, Victor Cruz and Cam Newton all higher on my board than most people last year, and my tiers reflected that, so when I was late in the draft, and it was time to grab my 6th WR, I'm prepared to get lucky by taking a flyer on the upside of Victor Cruz over the marginal output I would have been given by taking a subpar starter like Josh Morgan. Take a chance in your mid to late tiers, be willing to make a ballsy pick, because that call could be the difference maker on a championship caliber team. Getting a guy you know will have 650 yards and 6 TDs will not bring you a crown.
The reason why tiers are the best is they give you the most control in the heat of the moment. You are like a Hawk in the sky surveying the land below you, you are Ed Harris in the Truman Show running the show when you arrive at your FF draft with your well researched and analyzed TIER SHEETS in tow. Houdini always says it "do the homework", work hard before hand on your tiers, when you think they are done, compare every guy within 5 people of one another at each position in your rankings and ask:
WOULD I DRAFT THE UPSIDE OF TITUS YOUNG RIGHT HERE OR SHOULD I GO FOR THE STABILITY OF ANQUAN BOLDIN HERE?
Compare the guys in close tiers and ask the question, "would I take player A in my draft and feel better about it than going with player B, who's maybe a safer pick?" Decide whether upside or consistency is important to you on this pick. But if you do that comparison on a number of guys and really think it thru at the granular level prior to when your pick is on the clock, that pick is going to be a pretty simple one to make when the time comes and you are drafting.
When there is a run happening in my draft, the first thing I do is look at my tiers and try to see if there is someone at a different position than it appears to be a run on - and try to swoop up the best value and go against the grain. I don't advocate getting tricky and trying to be too sneaky at all, but most of the times trendy people regret what they were drawn to after the fact.
This may seem unimportant, but when you create really tight tiers leading up to the draft, it's like memorizing your lines or studying hard for a big test (not cramming), you are going to be more successful. We've all said it and heard it: "I've barely studied at all for this draft, oh well, I rule at this anyway"… only to kick ourselves in the arse for the entire season for being lazy while we have no shot at a playoff birth by week 6. From this point forward, do yourself a favor and don't be that guy. Become a Champion, not a league donor. Put the work in, craft your tiers deligently and try to tear them down, and continually refine them, if you really do this - I promise amazing results.
Food for thought on why TIERS are the way to go and I mention some do's and don't that can help you along the way:
-Your tier sheet will have all your favorite players at every position on 1 easy to see all at once page.
-If you check off all the players that are getting drafted by other teams, you can see guys you like better still available higher up on your list.
-Do the who would I draft this guy or that guy test on every player at every position that you consider a close call prior to draft night.
-Don't do a cram job with your tiers, let them breathe, start early and refine till you nail it prior to your draft.
-On draft day if you pick a guy that you have lower on your tier than an available guy at the same position - you failed. Stick to the tiers to a T.
-Tiers allow you to see trends, but you also need to have a draft chart, so you know what position needs the teams near you may have.
-Tiers are a great means to finding gems in the second half of the draft, FYI- get a little ballsy at the end.
-"Need based drafting" is best achieved with solid TIERED RANKING SHEETS in any draft.
-Take a chance! With tiers you need to put guys you really want on your team higher than orders would put them.
-Upside is important, don't be afraid in your research to overvalue a guy you think is due, and primed for a good year.
-You can have fun at your draft and drink a lot of beers and eat more slices of pizza than usual because you already did the legwork!
-If you can print out on a 11x17 piece of paper, it gives you a plenty of room for important notes.
-Know who you want to pick with your first pick without looking at your tier sheets, you still want to envision your first few picks.
-Last year my 8-10 pick in my main league were Wes Welker, Steve Smith and Marshawn Lynch… I owned up to my tiers.
-Before you touch your tiers, do the research… learn the information and look at the data to define the true value of guys and their current situations.
-Make sure you take my tiers system and make it your own, move players around based on your beliefs - don't just take my word for it.
-Tiers allows you to see your determined drop off at each position so you can target the right guy at each pick before that drop happens.
-Be confident with your tiers and you will prosper.
-Be smart with not going to early on TIER 1 tight ends, but TIERS can help you grab the second best tight end instead of the 10th best WR.
It's pretty simple, I've always fashioned myself a solid fantasy football owner, but with this system in place and the homework being done… it's unstoppable. In the 4 season since I started using this detailed tier system for my drafts, I have: won 1 championship, lost in two championships, had the most points in my league twice (if AP28 didn't get hurt last year 3 times), and had the best overall record in my 10 man league twice… it's been a nice run. One that will continue this season because I have already done my first TIER SHEET in June and will continue to refine it (for myself and for you guys) until draft day.
Just listen to me here, this shit works. Much love! //d-Rx®
We do a great weekly fantasy football podcast: http://pyromaniac.buzzsprout.com
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For more awesomeness, please listen to our podcast on Tiers by clicking play below:
My Last Years 2011 Tiers Video: