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10 Things I Learned After Conducting 10 MLP Mock Drafts

by Erik Tice on

I love drafts. Fantasy football drafts? Love them. Analysis of players and skill sets. The creation of a draft plan that has some structure, but also has some contingencies. Rapid reaction to the flow of the draft and understanding other GMs and their strategies.

I love it all.

MLP drafts up until this point have been intriguing. From season to season, figuring out who is going to get drafted higher or lower. The snake draft is a very known quantity and helps GMs target players around their pick numbers.

However, this year brings change and excitement, with the draft being an auction-style draft. 

In order to make sure I felt comfortable with the format, I completed 10 mock drafts myself, acting as the GM for each team every time.

Here are my takeaways:

Overpaying for your second player can be devastating for your budget

While a quick one-two punch is a legitimate strategy, overpaying for your second draft slot can be devastating on your third and fourth picks. In one of my mock drafts, a team took Anna Bright at slot No. 9 and Rachel Rohrabacher at No. 16. That gave them enough money to draft number No. 42 and No. 45 overall for two guys. 

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In a different draft, a team took Federico Staksrud at No. 7 and Pablo Tellez at draft slot No. 18. That gave them the draft capital to pick two women at No. 33 and No. 48 overall – not the best place to be in.

There will NOT be a descending amount paid for each draft slot

If GMs are paying close attention to their budget (and the budget of others), they may end up paying more for a draft slot than a previous draft slot. It ended up happening in nine out of the 10 mock drafts.

This happens for a multitude of reasons: 

  • The team with the highest dollar amount left knew they may have to overbid to get the player they wanted.
  • When a team is competing for the same type of player as another team, specifically two teams drafting a high-level guy to start with and there has been a run on high-level women, and there is really only one left that both covet.

There are going to be certain draft slots where the cost drops significantly

This happened in every single one of the 10 mock drafts I completed. There are two specific spots where the draft slot values plummeted:

  • Draft slots No. 10-14 – In some of the mocks, the price for these draft slots was reduced by more than half.
  • Draft slots No. 24-27 – Similarly, the price for these draft slots reduced by 150-200 percent in a matter of just four picks.

It will be interesting to see how much the first slot goes for

I literally have no idea how much draft slot number one is going to go for. I have this slot going anywhere from 900,000 draft points to 970,000 draft points (maximum bid for one draft slot) in the mocks I have done. 

Jimmy Miller mentioned recently on his podcast that if you draft a player in 2024 and want to keep them in 2025, before the 2025 season, it will cost you 50 percent of whatever you paid for that slot in 2024. Example: I pay 900,000 "draft points" for draft slot No. 1 and I draft Ben Johns. If I want to keep Ben Johns in 2025, I will also need to pay MLP $450,000. That is a HEFTY price to pay, and I am sure someone is willing to pay it.

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Having a little extra money for your third and fourth pick could have you done with the draft in the 30s

In eight out 10 mock drafts conducted, at least one team finished their draft before the 40th pick. In almost every case, the teams that end up doing so are taking their first pick with either the 10th, 11th, 12th, or 13th draft slot. From there, the teams wait until the late teens before the second pick. 

This saves capital for the team to take a player in the late 20s and then another in the 30s. I personally love this strategy – Some of the best players at the top are super close in talent level, but getting your fourth pick before some teams have even gotten their third pick makes a big difference.

In one of the mock drafts we conducted, there was a team that even finished drafting with the 23rd pick overall. That team looked like this:

  • No. 12 - Hayden Patriquin
  • No. 14 - Hurricane Tyra Black
  • No. 20 - Lea Jansen
  • No. 23 - Zane Navratil

A lot of the draft slot auction will depend on how many owners are willing to spend their own money

Here is a breakdown of how much teams are able to spend: Each team gets 500,000 in "draft points" - basically it's make believe money that each team is able to spend to obtain draft slots. In addition to the 500,000 draft points, each team is also allowed to use up to an ADDITIONAL $500,000 of their own money (to be paid directly to MLP) in order to obtain the same amount of draft points.

Some owners may be cautious in spending their own money, while others may be very willing. Some ownership groups paid a hefty sum to join MLP, then paid an additional $400,000 just to be in the Premier Level in 2024. Paying an additional amount for draft picks may not be appealing to them. For others, winning is everything – they don’t care about the money.

Friendly reminder: All player contracts are already set. The dollar amounts being used to buy draft slots are just interactions between MLP Teams and MLP itself. If a team pays 500,000 draft points for the 10th draft slot and picks Thomas Wilson, Wilson doesn’t see any of that money - he already has a contract that is completely separate from the MLP Draft auction amounts.

I am predicting at least 2-3 teams will just stick with their 500,000 draft point allotment, forcing them to draft players later in the game. I would bet at least half of the teams use their full 1 million they are allowed. The rest will land somewhere in between.

MFFM and FFMM will still dominate the gender order pattern in this dynamic auction draft

In previous drafts, this was the case. Just because this is an auction draft instead of a snake draft, I don’t see this changing.

Either teams get a big-time dominant guy and then go for two women OR two high-powered women and then get two guys. This is especially true with three or four Premier Level women deciding not to play in 2024.

With a significant number of holdouts, especially on the women's side - there will be a premium on the second woman picked for each team

Great segue. Lucy Kovalova, Lauren Stratman, Mary Brascia, Maggie Brascia, and Jorja Johnson are all not playing MLP in 2024. In addition, there are quite a few players who are either high-level Challenger Level or low-level Premier Level players who are not playing: Jill Braverman, Megan Fudge, Susannah Barr, and Milan Rane.

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All of this means that there will be new faces in the Premier Level this year. According to our tiered player rankings, there are 18 women who are locked in the Premier Level, with six spots available. 

Having Allyce Jones or Andrea Koop as your second woman pick is a lot safer than taking a flier on an up-and-coming player with a lot of unknowns.

GM’s must pay attention to how much money other teams still have available and who they think those teams may draft next

If teams are not calculating these things as they occur, they will probably end up in one of two bad spots:

  • Losing bids on draft slots where they want a certain player
  • Overbidding on draft slots

If nothing else, through the 10 mock drafts I completed, I learned that the draft goes quickly. GMs should have someone keeping track of each team’s pick, how much draft capital each team has, and what needs each team has.

Although it is a virtual, live-streamed draft, it’s not guaranteed that MLP will be keeping track of all this for each team.

The GMs that adapt their strategy on the fly quicker than others will be the most successful

You really only want to spend up to 350,000 draft points on your first draft pick? What happens when all of the dominant guys have gone and there is one left, but the other team without a dominant guy is now bidding 375,000 draft points and you really want this slot?

What should you do if you really want to pick two women early and you got one, but the second woman you are targeting is now the best available? Do you know what other teams might be targeting the player you want? How much money do they have available to spend? Can you wait another two picks with the knowledge that the teams bidding on the current draft slots really need a man?

The old adage is true: Knowledge is Power. The teams that have a team of people working on their draft will probably come out with the best roster on paper. Multiple people looking at things from every angle is key. The other key is going into the draft with a set game plan that has contingencies.

 

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