Pre-ranking players for an autopick draft is all about (1) understanding the computer picking rules and (2) ranking your players to bend those rules in your favor. If you set up your pre-rankings correctly, you can help to overcome annoying rules (such as a requirement to fill all active roster spots, even kicker, before you can draft your bench).
Different services have different rules, many services share the rules they use. Here are the autopick rules for two of the biggest fantasy providers:
Once you examine the rules, you will need to think about a strategy to optimize your draft. If your draft allows you to basically take any player without restrictions, you will probably want to roughly rank all the players in much the same manner as you would for a live draft. This will take some time and thought, but is not too difficult.
However, some systems are more complicated. On Yahoo! you are required to fill every starting spot before any roster spot can be filled. You are also limited as to the number of backups you can select at each position based on the number of starting slots at that position.
The Yahoo! rules are annoying, but can actually be easier to pre-rank than more open systems. Since you do not have to worry about the computer over-drafting at any position, you can basically rank your players in batches by position, with the most important positions ranked first. For instance, I first went through and pre-ranked all of the RB’s and WR’s in the order that I would want to draft them if I had been drafting live. I did mix in a few top TE’s that I thought had value close to a WR into that list. I pre-ranked a few more RB’s and WR’s than I thought could go in the entire draft just to be on the safe side. Next, I pre-ranked all of the quarterbacks in the order that I would want to draft them. My highest rated quarterback was ranked after my lowest rated RB/WR. I then repeated this process respectively with any remaining TE’s, then defenses, and finally kickers. In the end, my draft order looked something like this for a ten team autopick league: Ranks 1-95 RB’s, WR’s, some TE’s; Ranks 96-115 QB’s, Ranks 117-126, remaining TE’s, Ranks 127-146, Defenses; remaining Ranks, Kickers.
Why did I do this? I did this because I value RB’s and WR’s far above the other positions. By doing this I forced the computer to first take all of the RB’s and WR’s that I needed to fill the active roster slots (and maybe a TE if a good one happened to be available). Then the computer filled my QB’s from what was left on my list. In my case, that happened in the 7th round. The computer then took a defense and a kicker and was done with the active roster slots.
The computer then went back and started filling my bench in roughly the same order. Since I had ranked all of the RB’s and WR’s that might go in the draft, I still had a large number of undrafted players at the top of my rankings. So the computer went back and filled those spots first, then moved on to round out my bench with a couple of random backups.
Using this strategy, I ended up with more depth at the key positions, RB and WR than almost anyone else in my autopick league. Both my active roster and my bench slots went first to these positions, giving me a leg up. I was also able to take Ben Roethlisberger in the 7th round, not a spectacular fantasy quarterback, but certainly solid enough for a team already loaded at the key positions. With a bit of careful planning, I believe I was able to beat the system and build a team much like I would have in a live draft in spite of Yahoo!’s tricky rules.