Exploiting a Serpentine Draft in Fantasy Football

A serpentine draft is one in which the draft order is reversed at the end of every round as shown below:

RoundTeam
A
Team
B
Team
C
Team
D
Team
E
Team
F
Team
G
Team
H
Team
I
Team
J
1Pick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9PIck 10
220191817161514131211
321222324252627282930
440393837363534333231

The key to exploiting a fantasy football serpentine draft for a competitive advantage is to just look ahead. Knowing what a subsequent team needs or doesn’t need should directly affect a team owner’s drafting decision. This is best explained by a few examples. For these examples, assume a 10-team league with a starting requirement of:

  • One Quarterback
  • Two Running Backs
  • Three Wide Receivers
  • One Tight End
  • One Kicker
  • One Team Defense / Special Team

Serpentine Draft – Example 1

RoundTeam ATeam BTeam CEtc...
1QBRBRB--->
22019WR<---
32122--->

In Round 1 of the example above, “Team A” drafted a quarterback, “Team B” drafted a running back and “Team C” also drafted a running back. On the return trip in Round 2, “Team C” drafted a wide receiver. What should “Team B” do or not do with pick #19 of this draft?

Based on the starting line-up requirements and by looking ahead, “Team B” should not draft a quarterback. Why? Because “Team A” has already drafted a starting quarterback and likely won’t draft another with picks #20 and #21. “Team B” should use pick #19 to draft another position and then draft a quarterback with pick #22, assuming “Team B” actually wants a quarterback at this point in the draft. If “Team B” were to draft a quarterback with pick #19, then “Team A”, with two picks, could very well draft a player “Team B” was hoping to get with pick #22. By just looking ahead, “Team B” can take advantage of the turn in the serpentine path and build a stronger team by getting both the quarterback they want as well as another player that “Team A” may have wanted.

Serpentine Draft – Example 2

RoundEtc...Team HTeam ITeam J
1--->RBQBRB
2<---WRRBRB
3--->WR2930
4<---3231

In Round 1 of the example above, “Team H” drafted a running back, “Team I” drafted a quarterback and “Team J” drafted a running back. In Round 2, “Team J” drafted another running back, “Team I” drafted a running back and “Team H” drafted a wide receiver. In Round 3, “Team H” drafted a wide receiver. What should “Team I” do or not do with pick #29?

Again, based on the starting line-up requirements and by looking ahead, “Team I” should not draft a running back with pick #29 because “Team J” has already drafted both of its starting running backs. It is more likely that “Team J” will use picks #30 and #31 to draft other starting positions rather than using such a high draft pick on a back-up running back. Therefore, “Team I” should use pick #29 to draft another position and then draft a running back with pick #32, assuming “Team I” actually wants a second running back at this point of the draft. If “Team I” were to draft a running back with pick #29, the “Team J”, with picks #30 and #31, could very well draft a player “Team I” was hoping to get with pick #32. By just looking ahead, “Team I” can take advantage of the turn in the serpentine path and build a stronger team by getting both the running back they want as well as another player that “Team J” may have wanted.

We have now seen examples for the 2nd and 9th draft positions, but can this strategy work in other positions as well? The answer is “yes,” but the level of complexity increases the farther away one goes from the turns in the path. Below is an example for “Team H” in the 8th draft position:

Serpentine Draft – Example 3

RoundEtc...Team GTeam HTeam ITeam J
1--->RBRBRBQB
2<---RBWRRBRB
3--->WRWRQBWR
4<---TEQBWRRB
5--->QB484950
6<---535251

Through four complete rounds, both “Team I” and “Team J” have drafted their starting quarterback, running backs and one wide receiver. They both would likely want to draft additional starting wide receivers or a tight end with their next two picks and are not very likely to draft a third running back or second quarterback. With this information, “Team H” would be wise to draft its third wide receiver or starting tight end with pick #48 and use pick #53 to draft a second starting running back, assuming “Team H” actually wants a running back at this point in the draft. If “Team H” drafts a running back with pick #48, then “Team I” and “Team J” with picks #49 – #52 could very well draft a player “Team H” was hoping to get with pick #53. Again, by just looking ahead, “Team H” can take advantage of the turn in the serpentine path and build a stronger team by getting both the running back they want as well as another player that either “Team I” or “Team J” may have wanted.

By following the principles demonstrated in these examples, fantasy football team owners can exploit their position in a serpentine draft for a competitive advantage and build a stronger team.

Update for 2014

Yahoo has instituted a new look for their draft client. It is a much bolder appearance than their classic view; however, if you have used Yahoo for many years, you will probably want to do several mock drafts just to get comfortable with how it works. They have incorporated a new tool that is relevant to this article’s topic. It is a grid of players chosen by position for each team. Without any effort whatsoever, team owners can see at a glance what every team has selected as the draft progresses. There is no need to keep track what positions have been filled and what positions are still needed. It is right there in front of your eyes.

Once inside the Yahoo draft client, follow these two easy steps to get the to grid.

  1. In the middle of the screen will be four tabs: Players, Teams, Draft Results and Standings. Click on “Draft Results” tab.
  2. Next there will be two options: Round by Round and Positions Drafted Grid. Click on “Positions Drafted Grid.”

You should now see all ten teams listed across the top of the grid. The various positions will be listed on the left side (QB, WR, RB, TE, K and DEF). As the draft moves along, each column is updated in real time for the number of each position drafted. It’s a very handy tool.

Related articles at Fantasy Football Impact:

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Exploiting a Serpentine Draft in Fantasy Football

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