One of the most powerful forces in the business world is disruption. Over time, the most successful businesses have been those that disrupted the status quo (ie: the past) by improving upon existing ways and methods to create and capture value where the market believed there was already optimum efficiency. On a macro scale the Internet was one of the biggest disruptions of all time. I believe that the best way to compete in your fantasy league is to try and be as disruptive as possible for your benefit and for the detriment of the status quo (the rest of your league mates).
Of course disruption could mean that you are the loudest, drunkest guy at the draft or the most belligerent on the trade wire and league message boards, but thankfully that’s not what I am driving at.
Being disruptive in a fantasy sense means looking at what the expected behaviors of the rest of the league will be and seeking to move against those patterns in a way that gives you increased value or additional opportunities to improve your team's chances above what your league mates are giving themselves. Sounds obvious but my experience has been that in groups the status quo is a powerful force and whether it be fear of ridicule or lack of aggressiveness, many owners fall into predictable patterns that can be exploited by a disruptive aggressive owner.
One way to do this is to treat your Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) as additional draft picks for a certain category or position. Basically you leave one significant hole coming out of the draft, knowing that you will address it early in the season using your FAAB. This allows you to be more aggressive in building strength in the other positions or categories in the draft, knowing that you are not seeking complete balance. In fact, in trading leagues I would advocate almost never drafting “specialists” ie: closers or one category speedsters or empty average batters because you can fill in later via not only FAAB but trades.
Another way is to use the LIMA plan or other similar strategies where you invest heavily in some areas and minimally in others. I love being in drafts where owners start looking at their rosters spots in the middle rounds and stop drafting for value and start drafting just for position.
Knowing how your league plays is key, but even in a league of complete strangers, you can still be disruptive in a draft and throughout the season if you are prepared coming into the draft room and perceptive during the draft as to what value the others are leaving out there for you. You always need your best players to not bust or get hurt, but to have a real shot at winning, you have to capture the value that others don’t. The best way to do that is to be disruptive and make the picks and get the players that possess that value potential.
If all you do is what everyone else does, then the results of the league boil down to who has the best luck in the draft, FAAB and trading. By looking for ways to be disruptive you are taking control of your fortunes in a way that the other owners are not. Remember, finishing just out of the money pays the same as finishing in last.
On the other hand, the easiest way to ensure that you don’t win your league is to be the player who's on the end of runs at certain positions or who overpays for last year's stars; or maybe who overly downgrades last years bums or who drafts for position as opposed to value. Don’t be the one who follows the status quo.
I have been in many drafts with expert and experienced fantasy owners and watched them reach for players to fill a position when there are much more valuable commodities still available, because at some level everyone is anchored to the status quo. It's your job to resist that every time. Remember that you do not win your league coming out of the draft – no matter what the draft software that you are using tells you. And in fact, if you are overly reliant on the projected standings given to you by your draft software you are probably setting yourself up for in-season disappointment due to overconfidence and false security during the draft. You want to come out of your draft feeling good but also knowing you still have work to do.
You know that over the course of a season you will make many roster moves, some waiver wire add/drops, some lineup changes and in trading leagues, some trades. Therefore, your only goal during a draft should be to fill out a legal roster and bench with the players who – based on your research and preparation – you believe will return the most value relative to their positions on your roster. You won’t be right all the time, no one ever is, but if you take disruptive chances often enough and the rest of your draft is sound, you give yourself the chance to upset the status quo and gain the large profits needed to win your league.
There are few better feelings than winning or finishing well in your league after hearing from your leaguemates following the draft that your team sucks. Of course, if you came un-prepared and drafted a bad team, they are probably right and you won’t be giving them their comeuppance. But if you do your research and are prepared to disrupt and capture the value that the status quo is leaving out there, you are giving yourself the best chance to shut them up and take their money.
We just scratched the surface here, but if you prepare for your draft with disruption as a part of your game plan, you are adding another weapon to your arsenal because, in every draft, the opportunities to be disruptive are there if you prepare yourself to take them.