When it comes to playing (and especially winning) fantasy hockey, no time is more important to the season than draft day. Your fortunes for the year are largely determined in an hour a two of fast-paced decision making. So, it makes sense that preparation is key. A large part of your preparation should center around practice. That's where the mock draft comes in.
Mock drafts have been popular in fantasy football for years now, and it's just starting to catch on in other sports as well, including fantasy hockey. So why do it, and how should you approach it?
Developing a Game Plan
The biggest benefit you get from mock drafting is the opportunity to test out various draft strategies to see how they may play out. This is especially important if you are new to a particular league and its scoring system. The scoring and roster rules can vary dramatically from league to league and each one merits a different approach. For example, most Yahoo leagues differentiate the offense positions by C, LW, and RW, while CBS goes with C and W, and others simply group all forwards together. It makes a big difference how you approach your picks. Quality centers are abundant in the draft, but if you miss out on one of the top left wingers early in the draft, you'll be scrounging for options later.
Mock drafting isn't truly valuable until you know your exact draft position and number of teams in your league. If you draft 8th, there is no point even thinking about Crosby vs Ovechkin. Enter your mock draft in the position you'll draft in so you can see where the chips will fall in the later rounds. While you may not care to stick around until the very end of your mock draft (who cares who ends up on your bench in a mock draft), it's important to draft several times, trying out a different approach with each one. For example, your first time through, plan on taking a goalie with your first pick, then see what quality forwards and defensemen you're able to land in rounds 2-4. The next time through, start with a center, and so on. Most mock draft systems allow you to view your results and come back to them, so you can compare how you did from one go to the next. Take a look at your top several picks from one draft to the next and decide on which roster you'd rather start the season with. That should give you some indication of which strategy to use when it comes time for the real thing.
Timing Your Picks
Most drafts aren't won or lost in the opening rounds. You have to have solid picks throughout to win. A key factor is identifying the proper round to draft your targeted players. You don't want to draft a guy too early, only to have everyone laugh and tell you he would have been available in round 12. When preparing your draft list, it makes sense to target certain undervalued players that you think will have breakout years and try to assess where they'll fall in the draft. Most mock draft sites indicate an ADP (average draft position) that tells you where that player tends to get drafted. For example, it's a good bet that Phil Kessel is due for his best season ever, so how long can you wait before drafting him? If his ADP is 64, in a 10 team league, you can expect him to go off the board around round 6. So if you want to take advantage of his goals, you should target him for round 5, or risk losing him. Arm yourself with ADP rankings for your draft and use them to play out some scenarios in your mock draft.
Discover Sleeper Picks and Warnings
While you might go into a mock draft with some sleeper picks in mind, you are just as likely to discover one or two more by mock drafting. For example, there may be a rookie or a guy who was injured last season that you totally forgot about. Someone in a mock draft is bound to pick him up. Similarly, you might be high on a guy and take him in your mock draft, only to have someone tell you that he signed to play in the KHL. Better off making that mistake on the practice field.
Types of Mock Drafts Available
There are two basic types of mock drafts to consider: fully automated and head-to-head with other "real" people. Both have pros and cons. In a head-to-head with other users, you can benefit from the dialog and bounce thoughts off real fantasy players. Some guys are chatty, but most tend to keep quiet. The downside of these drafts is that they tend to take a long time, and often times, guys will drop out after a few rounds, so you may be sitting there a long time before autodrafting kicks in. CBS and Yahoo are two sites that offer these drafts, but they don't get much participation until late September.
A fully automated draft loses the personal edge, but can be completed in very little time. This obviously gives you the ability to run through many mock drafts without taking a day off work to get it done. The automated draft is new to Landsharkhockey this season. Try it out and let us know what you think. In the past two weeks, we've added several new enhancements based on user feedback, so if you have something you'd like to see, please let us know.