Last week Derek Carty questioned a variety of fantasy baseball experts, asking them how seriously they should take mock drafts, considering the responsibility they have to their readers to draft players they would actually want to own in a real league. While that article was interesting and I recommend reading through the responses, most fantasy players are not responsible to a community of readers. So today we are going to discuss something more applicable to the masses: how seriously you should take mock drafts.
Almost every fantasy baseball expert recommends mock drafting, and while I am a fan of the exercise, I am not as crazy about it as some. For me, one or two mock drafts in the preseason satisfies my needs because I do not feel that people can improve their drafting skills much by practice. With good rankings one can be confident in, anyone can assemble a winning team.
But that is a discussion for another day. Today we are discussing how you should handle the mock drafts you participate in. My answer: It depends on who else is mock drafting. Similar to this article—in which I mentioned some differences in leagues where you know the people and those in which you do not—the question is whether you are pulling off the equivalent of a one-night stand in terms of drafting, or if you are mock drafting with the same people who will be in your “real” draft.
If you are entering a mock draft with people you don’t expect to deal with again, then try to draft the best team possible. Do not hesitate to draft some of your sleepers, and make it worthwhile by practicing some simple draft skills, like predicting when position runs will happen, or experimenting with a new strategy. You will not learn any more from this draft about when certain players will be taken than you could from simply perusing an ADP table, so do not overvalue the results of your one draft over those of the averages of thousands.
If you are using, for example, Mock Draft Central for your mock draft and plan on using Yahoo for your real draft, understand that the ADP of some players will be skewed because of the inevitable bias that results when drafting on sites that list available players in their rudimentary ranking system and not in some random order. While I do not know exactly how much effect the order of the players has on ADP numbers (something I plan on calculating after 2009 numbers are in), I would imagine it is considerable, considering the prevalence of auto-picking, whether intentional or unintentional.
If you mock draft with a group of people you will be drafting for real with in a couple of months, I would handle the situation differently. First, I would actively not target your sleepers. Even though everyone else will probably be doing the same thing in the draft, you can still get a decent idea of where some players will be taken.
Note that for all of the players you do select, you cannot learn when other people might have wanted to take those players. For this reason, I would try to avoid all players you would want on your team, your real one. No, this does not mean you can take Boof Bonser in round one—you still want to act like a serious drafter.
Besides just avoiding players you want to take, you can also use this opportunity to create false hype for some players. Take Matt Wieters, for example. I guarantee that at least one person in your league is enthralled with the guy and will be willing to pull the trigger on him early. Why not scare the person into taking Wieters even earlier in the real draft by taking him extra early in the mock draft?
Perhaps drafting with random people will be most beneficial if you have the conscience of an 11th century priest. Also, remember that mock drafting is like playing poker with fake chips: The moves will never be honest!
If you are really desperate to participate in an honest draft before your real one and are without any sort of moral conscience, you can always sign up for a random public league, draft as if it were a mock draft, and then not follow the league. While I would never do this, I also would never sign up for a public league expecting to be able to take it seriously.
If you are looking for a good league for this year, last season Derek took the e-mails of interested parties and set them up together to form fun, competitive leagues. He says he’ll do it again this year; watch for details.