By: Mike Estok (Twitter: @maulers86)
Updated: 4/8/2017

When you have a draft pick in hand, I know that the first impulse is to figure out who you want to take, hone in on those one to three players, and investigate all that you can on them to decide between those three. I’d like to caution you, or at the very least mention to you, that there are several factors to consider and pitfalls to avoid when considering what to do with your picks.

Rankings…rankings…rankings… We all love them, and look forward to their arrival. More so, they are a great time filler, especially for those who are ready for the next season to begin. But I want to caution you against using these rankings exclusively, especially the “way too early” rankings right after the previous season ends, or the “pre-combine” or “pre-draft” rankings. There are so many factors to consider that haven’t been settled, that these pre NFL draft lists should be like one of those signs that you see on a tavern poker machine “for entertainment purposes only”.
One of the most vital pieces of information is team fit. Meaning, what team drafts that player. The system that they run (spread, zone, smash mouth, etc.), offensive coordinator philosophy, quality of offensive line, strength of divisional opponent defenses and age of skill position players on that team are some of the factors to consider when viewing a newly drafted prospect. If you find a prospect whose situation can check all or most of these boxes…the sky is the limit (think Zeke Elliott).

Now I’m not saying to totally disregard rankings, there are a lot of great resources out there, this site especially. I’m just mentioning that you don’t have to take those lists as gospel. If you like an RB that you feel is in a perfect situation and have done your due diligence, but he’s ranked as the RB3, don’t be afraid to take him over the higher ranked players.

Team Needs
Another very important factor to consider are your team needs. When considering who to draft with your draft slot, I know that the adage is generally “take the best player available”. My opinion on this is that generally it makes more sense to draft to accommodate your team needs over the top player (unless that RB or WR is so head and shoulders above the player of the position that you need). Take for example if your team has one starting RB on your roster, yet there is a WR sitting there that the “experts” tell you to take. Unless you know that you can trade this WR that you drafted to get a RB that has more value than the RB you would draft, then you should take your highest ranked RB. (A vital point to consider is the ease of trading for a positional player in your league. You may find that your league values RBs over WRs and acquiring one will cause you to overpay, if this is the case, then drafting that WR for trade may leave you stuck with that receiver, and a zero every week for your RB2.)
Another option that you can exercise is trading down to a pick where you can still get that RB, and also get an extra pick or player thrown in on the trade. Be careful though that you don’t trade too low and miss on drafting that RB.
Additionally, beyond a starting lineup, I also like to ensure that I have backups available in case of injury and/or bye weeks. You may not have that luxury right now, but that should always be your goal. An ideal roster will have at least two backups at RB and WR, and at least one backup QB and TE.

Draft Pick Value
Another factor to consider, and personally one of my favorites, is the consideration of what value your draft pick has when compared to established players. Let’s face it; the draft is an imperfect representation of player success. There are only so many measurables that can be analyzed and they don’t take into account such attributes as desire, focus, ability to take direction along with a myriad of other qualities that aren’t mentioned in any pre-draft analysis. Anything can happen when you give a 20 year old millions of dollars….some simply go off the rails.
How do you combat against this? Well, you can trade that pick for a player that has already proven that they can thrive in the NFL. This is a great way to ensure that you not only get a player that has already shown some level of success, but you can also focus in on a specific position of need. Heck, you can even focus on that player that you always wanted on your team but never previously had the chance.
There are several resources out there that provide you some guidance on the value of your pick compared to existing NFL players. For those of you that are risk averse, it’s certainly considered one of the safest ways to build your team.

Final Note
The beauty of fantasy football is that you can make it any way that suits your needs…I’m not only speaking about your team construction but also the time that you invest into your analysis. You can easily get buried in the details, aka paralysis by analysis. Embrace the process and have fun. At the end of the day fantasy football is meant to be fun; it’s a great way to keep connections with family and friends in a friendly, competitive environment.