Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Lessons from a 10-team league using a salary cap format

Reviewing a fantasy football salary cap draft is a dicey assignment. Every salary cap league is a unique experience, a snowflake, a specific moment in time. Every salary cap league is weird, but weird in its own way.

My challenge is to try to find some relatable stuff from the salary cap run we had Monday afternoon. It was a 10-manager room (half-point per reception scoring), with $200 budgets to land 15 players. Keep in mind, we did this run before the Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott signings came down (more on that here).

The full results are at the bottom. Let’s run through a few of the lessons learned.

A ton of managers left money on the table, shamefully

And yes, sadly, I was one of those managers. I haven’t seen this much dead money wasted since the 2023 Mets hit the baseball trade deadline. This brings us back to one of the all-time key salary cap strategies:

Don’t be afraid to be aggressive early

It’s okay to over-offer for a star player or someone you really believe in, especially in the early part of the draft. Nothing is worse than having waited too long in the proceedings, to the point that inflation kicks in and you wind up spending your surplus budget on a mediocre player because there’s no one else to get.

Vary your nomination style

Sometimes I throw out a star player because I want to see what the market for his tier looks like. Often I’ll introduce a player I don’t want or don’t need — once you roster a star QB or TE, say, there’s no need to land a second star at that spot. Sometimes you consider a cute nomination, like introducing a backup running back before his elevated teammate enters the room. (I tried to sneak through my Week 1 pet DST — the Ravens, hosting Houston — but that was trampled by editor Jason Klabacha.)

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Sometimes an early curveball makes sense

Matt Harmon nominated Gabe Davis with a $1 offer, the 13th player off the board. Crickets. I’m not sure Harmon actually wanted Davis, because he landed a $46 Stefon Diggs just six players earlier. But there’s something to be said for changing up the flow of a salary cap draft, see if others are paying attention.

A salary cap league usually becomes a draft at the end

A whopping 29 of the final 33 players introduced went for the $1 minimum, which is fairly common in this format. There are two schools of thought when it comes to $1 players, so stay with me.

I generally like to avoid the singletons, because I want agency with my roster, I want freedom of choice. The Vikings DST (hosting Tampa Bay in Week 1) were my lone one-and-done win. I recognize late nominations can often turn into a race to $2 or $3, and I was ready to overbid on what I wanted. In this case, it led to Dak Prescott ($3), Evan Engram ($2) and Justin Tucker ($3, and no, I’m not proud). When you’re stuck with $1 options, the burden of the nomination can be maddening. Introduce someone good, the offer is quickly trampled. Introduce someone dicey, you’re probably stuck with that player.

Some managers will employ a stars and scrubs strategy, which means you overload the front of your roster and you take what’s left at the end. It usually means you’ll have one of the strongest starting teams on opening day, and then it comes down to health and fixing your bench. And heck, sometimes having some cuttable players at the bottom of the roster can make sense — the last thing you want in September is such a crush on your bench that you’re afraid to cut anyone. Fresh stars and fantasy factors enter the league every year. We want to be aggressive with early waiver picks.

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This is how we used our 150 player slots:

  • 16 quarterbacks (the Tua Tagovailoa, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Justin Fields teams didn’t take a second one)

  • 45 running backs

  • 54 wide receivers

  • 16 tight ends

  • 8 kickers

  • 11 defenses

A general theme for each build (full rosters below)

  • Pianow: Lots of B-players, strong bench, only one singleton, two alpha wideouts.

  • Jake: Robust RBs and a vanity tight end (Mark Andrews).

  • Matt: Signature wideouts, obviously. That’s his jam.

  • Mo: Robust starters, two star QBs (I don’t think it was intended, the Burrow-Jackson pairing).

  • Joe: A juicy Niners stack (someone had to do it, Dalton Del Don wasn’t with us).

  • Collin: Stars and scrubs, headlined by Patrick Mahomes, Bijan Robinson, Ja’Marr Chase. Six singletons, two more $2 players.

  • Andy: Stars and scrubs, came out hot with Travis Kelce, Nick Chubb, Tyreek Hill, and Saquon Barkley among the first 16 players introduced. Andy also tried to tailor his nominations to the biases of others (he may or may not have baited me into Jerry Jeudy at $15, who’s to say?)

  • Jason: A Philly passing stack (Hurts, Smith and Goedert) and a lot of value plays.

  • Dan: Robust wide receiver (Justin Jefferson, Sun God), and the recipient of a gift Kenneth Walker for $5 (I think we all walked the dog at the same time).

  • Trevor: Vanity QB with Josh Allen, strong receivers, values at running back.

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More salary cap tips

If you want to go deeper on strategy for the format, here’s some stuff I’ve published over the years:

  • Tip Drill (2010)

  • Five Tips (2018)

  • Salary Cap Tips (2023, with D.J. Short of Rotoworld)

Here are the team-by-team results of the salary cap mock

Team 1: Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Fantasy Analyst

Team 2: Jake Paine, Yahoo Customer Care Specialist

Team 3: Matt Harmon, Yahoo Fantasy Analyst

Team 4: Mo Castillo, Yahoo Fantasy Senior Editor

Team 5: Joe Nazzaro, Yahoo Fantasy Product Manager

Team 6: Collin Brennan, Yahoo Fantasy Podcast Producer

Team 7: Andy Behrens, Yahoo Fantasy Analyst

Team 8: Jason Klabacha, Head of Content for Yahoo Fantasy

Team 9: Dan Titus, Yahoo Fantasy Analyst

Team 10: Trevor Lewis, Yahoo Fantasy Social Editor

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