Thank goodness we have the 2020 NFL Draft. Sure, I enjoy a good simulation. But if it wasn't for the upcoming draft this Thursday, I don't know what the sports talking heads would yammer about this week. I'm not oversaturated yet though, because the NFL Draft is typically accompanied by one of my favorite annual activities: the free mock draft/prediction games.
However, this year seems to have brought far more options than usual. I try to enter anything I can, especially if it's free. So please allow me to be your guide and show you all the fabulous options out there. Of course, due to COVID-19, this year is not like others. If I did bypass a free NFL Draft contest game, let me (@MarkStrausberg) know.
In the meantime, we will start with five games that I have entered currently. In the spirit of the draft, I will break this down NFL Draft prospect style: I'll give you a quick overview, let you know the strengths, the weakness, and then my overall recommendation.
What I will not be doing is providing a mock draft. Nonetheless, you should know that I am 100 percent convinced that Joe Burrow is going first overall to Cincinnati. I am also completely confident that Chase Young is the second player to hear his name called. After that, things get interesting. Of course, the type of free game that you play, might greatly impact what my prediction is for the third slot.
And with that little tease out there, let's start with one of the simpler options out there.
— Compiled by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
FanDuel's $10K Predict the Draft Free Play
Predict the first 10 players drafted in order. You get two points for getting the correct player in the right slot (regardless of team) and half a point if you are one slot off. Score the most points for a first-place prize of a cool grand. Prize payouts quickly diminish after that but finish in the top 30K, you still win at least a nickel.
Very simple and easy to follow. Decent shot to win enough money to buy a gumball. Many folks start to lose interest outside of the top 10. Each person can only enter once.
Each person can only enter once. Credit provided for slot only, independent of team or trade. Ten picks is a very limited number, therefore, expect tons of chalk. The majority of picks will follow the chalk and even novice draftniks can usually pick 70 percent of the top 10.
Go with the chalk for the first two picks. After that, get creative. Have at least one player not typically predicted to go in top dozen picks in your top 10. Even if you get the most points going purely chalk, there's a high probability you will be splitting that number with a gaggle of others who went all chalk. To win even a single dollar you need to finish in the top 1500. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that one of the biggest swings will be where Tua Tagovailoa gets drafted. Personally, I don't see him going third, but many do. Moreover, there's almost always one head-scratcher in the top 10. Try to nail that if you can.
But that's not the only draft prediction game FanDuel is offering.
FanDuel's $10K Draft Challenge Free Play
Predict the top player drafted at each position, as well as the team involved in the most trades. To make things even more challenging, all this must be done while staying under a salary cap. If you pick Joe Burrow and Chase Young, you've used up half your $100 salary cap and still have eight slots to fill when many of the other top options are between $12 and $20. You receive six points for getting the top player picked at a position with points scaled down until the fifth player at a position. Prize payouts are identical to the other FanDuel game already mentioned.
Requires strong cap management strategy. Rewards for correctly assessing players that are under-hyped. Additionally, points awarded for correctly picking a team that jumps all over the draft board. Like the other FanDuel option, this offers a decent shot to win enough money to buy a gumball. One of the few games that gives you five free entries that are all eligible for the big prize.
Many will dislike having to pick a kicker, especially when so few are actually drafted. While this could be a strength, this game requires knowledge of nearly the whole draft, not just the first round. Given that your roster locks before the draft starts, there's no flexibility to modify even late picks as draft unfolds. Steep drop-offs in player tiers.
Take advantage of getting five free entries to mix up your rosters. Even if you go with the same core eight or nine picks, mix up the last one or two spots. For the team picks, if you have the salary to work with I'd spend up for Miami or New England. The former needs to acquire far more talent than most and is in a coveted draft spot. The latter is less desperate for talent, but is known to constantly bounce around the draft board. However, I am spending down and taking the Ravens. They don't have the high upside of the 'Fins or Pats, but I tried to find a draft where the Ravens stayed with all of their original picks and I could not find one. They have one of the highest floors of anyone listed in their salary cost range.
There's a lot I like about this game, but you didn't think FanDuel would offer something and DraftKings would not did you?
DraftKings Draft Challenge, presented by Snyder's Pieces
Very similar to our first game detailed. However, like rivals in other industries, DraftKings felt the need to go just a little deeper here. Instead of 10 picks, it is predicting the first 15. Plus credit is given for being two off of predicted draft slot. Furthermore, DraftKings also is providing bonus points for the number of correct picks. Like FanDuel, first place prize is $1,000. It's a smaller pool of prize payouts, but finish in the top 3825 you still win at least $4, whereas FanDuel $4 payout does not begin until 220th place.
Fairly easy to play. Top 3K entries will win enough money for a Starbucks coffee. Contest leans more heavily to consistent accuracy due to bonus points. The selection interface is not chalk-driven, but alphabetical. It requires a little more skill, which might dissuade the multitude of draft novices.
Corporate partnership always gives me pause. Am I going to get spam for the next six months about my preztel preferences? Like FanDuel game, credit provided for slot only, independent of team or trade. Only the top half of the draft matters. Fifteen is better than 10, but we should still expect tons of chalk. The majority of picks will follow the chalk and even the novice draftniks can usually pick two-thirds of top 15.
Get at least a few WRs in your entry. A number of mocks don't have a WR in the top 10, but I have yet to see a mock that doesn't see at least a couple WRs in the top 15.
This draft is loaded at WR. Some of that is depth-related but the top tier of the position is extremely talented. There's been a lot of debate as to what the order the top three WRs will go and to whom. But I'll bet anyone that at least two of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs III go in the top 15, if not all three.
NFL.com's Predict the Pick
Want to win a three-night-trip and two tickets to Super Bowl LV? Predict the top 32 players taken in the first round on Thursday night, in order, and you'll be on your way to Tampa come February. Scoring is similar to the DraftKings contest above including bonus points for the number of perfect picks, but you are also awarded points if you are three slots away.
Straightforward. The NFL's offering shows you the team slated to pick at the particular spot, which not all of the sites show. Is there a better prize for a faceless NFL fan than a trip to the Super Bowl? Being on the league's sites brings with it an air of officiality as well as some other advantages. That also includes a chance for entrants to donate to Draft-a-Thon, a fundraiser in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Weighs all 32 picks evenly. This contest requires knowledge of more than just a handful of players, but the focus remains on the top 40.
Only one prize winner. A number of "consensus" rankings available as default along with "team needs," which all need to be taken with a grain of salt. Despite the entire first round being included, this contest still does not consider what teams without a first-round pick might do. Only one entry allowed. Chances of winning are infinitesimal.
Given the infinitesimal odds, go with your gut. Seriously. Ignore the draft grades available. They are a distraction. I'm not saying they are not valid. However, I am saying that teams have their own set of draft grades. Even if a majority of teams have similar grades, no one outside of a few select individuals knows what any team's draft grades are. And those select individuals might know their team's grades, but they don't know the other team's grades! Recommending a strategy is a waste of breath. Have fun with it and hope it's your turn to win the lottery.
The NFL, however, is not the only one with a "lottery" draft prediction game available.
ESPN's NFL Draft Challenge
Answer 18 multiple-choice questions about the draft results. Questions vary from the basic and early "How many defensive players will be picked in the top 10" to the very specific and final "What conference will "Mr. Irrelevant" (last pick of the draft) come from?" Get all 18 right including the tiebreaker and you'll be $100,000 richer. Get more right than anyone else and you still will win a thousand greenbacks. In addition, you can submit your entry into Caesars sponsored contest that is also offering two Super Bowl LV tickets and a $1,500 check.
Nice blend of needing familiarity with the ins and outs of the drafts without having to know the 10th-best tight end or 30th-best OT. Questions that could be impacted by the previous day's picks are not locked until that the next day starts. Percentage of entrants choosing that option enables one to choose chalk or contrarian picks. Research needed can be hours, but the time needed to answer questions is minimal. Like the NFL.com game, you can create groups to compete against friends.
One, maybe two, prize winners. Chances of winning are lottery-equivalent. "Important" players defined by ESPN, not the contest entrant. Only one entry allowed. Chances of winning are infinitesimal.
You might think I'd recommend just having fun and not using any strategy here as well given the similar odds of winning. However, other than the tiebreaker, every question has only four options. So you have at least a 25 percent chance of getting each question right. (Of course by the 10th question, random chance puts your odds at worse than 1 in a million, but I'll spare you the math). But the one thing I would recommend is to mix it up a little between the majority response and the minority responses. Study after study has proven that conventional wisdom is not always right, but that conventional wisdom is right more often than the minority opinion.
Therefore, I'm going with the consensus answer of Alabama as to which school will have a player picked first on Day 3 just because it's the consensus. But I'm going contrarian elsewhere. The majority feel that Justin Herbert is likely to be drafted by an AFC West team. Despite agreeing, I'm willing to swim against the grain on that question. Pick and choose where to go against the grain, but do so wisely!