Fantasy Roundtable: Even More Draft Strategies

Just like there’s no one way to be successful in gymnastics, there’s no one way to be successful at fantasy gymnastics. In these installments of the Fantasy Gym Roundtable, College Gym News editors will discuss their strategies for a variety of topics, from drafting to setting lineups.

This week, eight editors sat down to discuss more draft strategies: Are there any gymnasts they don’t draft and instead wait to pick up in trades later? How many gymnasts do they draft? How do they fill their draft out all the way to 200?

Have a unique strategy we didn’t discuss here or want to see us discuss a particular fantasy gym topic on a future roundtable? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

How many gymnasts do you typically put on your draft?

Elizabeth: I always fill my draft to the full 200. One year I even had something like 205 on there because it didn’t stop me from adding more. There’s no real chance of you getting anyone on your draft past around 175 at the lowest, but I say better safe than sorry.

Emily M: All 200 for sure. My first year, I mistakenly stopped in the 100s and ended up with several non-competing gymnasts on my team. It was a rough go until trading opened. 

Rebecca: Usually around 220. One year there was a rumor that the program didn’t actually stop running at 200 in the scenario that you do run off the end of your draft, so I do that out of habit now. Anyway, once I get going I don’t want to leave any faves off.

Jenna: Last year there were 23 competitors per conference, which means each conference had a total of 460 gymnasts drafted! To minimize the chance of receiving a random gymnast, I always use all 200 slots. The only exception I can think of is if you’re doing a themed team—in that case it’s probably not necessary to do 200 gymnasts, but otherwise I would always recommend it.

Katherine: On my main team, I’ll do all 200. On my secondary team (usually all freshmen), I’ll just stop when I don’t feel like adding any more, since I’m more likely to get my top picks with that one.

Mary Emma: For my main team, I always put 200. Most years, the 20th gymnast chosen has been around 160 to 170, so it’s definitely worth it to fill all 20 spots. For specialized teams (such as an all freshman team), you don’t have to worry about filling all 200. The 20th pick on my freshman team last year was 33.

Tara: Definitely all 200. Heck, sometimes I’ll go over 200 since the site doesn’t prevent me from adding more! It’s not worth the risk of getting someone random, especially as the number of participants gets larger. 

Kalley: I always do the full 200. I want to minimize the chance of getting someone random. 

Say you want to put 200 people on your draft but start “running out” before you get there. What do you do to find gymnasts for those last handful of spots?

Elizabeth: After I have the bulk of my desired gymnasts on my draft, I tend to go back through the rosters team by team, adding in names I recognize as being decent or individuals I might have missed on my first pass. There’s always a handful I add after the fact that didn’t make my initial list but help fill out the 200 nicely.

Emily M: I look to consistent all arounders on lesser-known teams, like those in the MAC and MIC. Once those are filled in, I start looking at folks who maybe weren’t stars, but competed enough to have an NQS on at least two events and who were solid. Don’t forget about promising freshmen and injury returners, too!

Rebecca: All my teams are feelings teams to some extent, so my bottom chunk is usually reliable performers I’m not a huge fan of but can’t justify leaving off altogether. Failing that, just scroll around on Road to Nationals or sample drafts and see what appeals to you.

Jenna: I would look for under-the-radar gymnasts from lesser-known teams who are stars on one or two events. These gymnasts are the type that others will want to trade for a few weeks into the season, so it’s good to have them in your draft ahead of time!

Katherine: My bottom 25 gymnasts or so are usually freshmen or newcomers I’m less sure of. If you find yourself looking to fill those spots, why not take the chance? Even if you don’t get them (and you probably won’t; I’ve never gotten a gymnast I drafted past the 100 mark), they’re still on your radar for the future.

Mary Emma: I ran into this problem my first year playing, so I ended up going to the Road To Nationals all around rankings and filling up my list from those names. I also went to each individual team’s website and looked through the stats for any standout gymnasts that weren’t all arounders.

Tara: After I do my initial pass, I double check each team’s roster and add in any gymnasts I may have missed. I don’t think I’ve ever not forgotten about someone, whether it be because of injury or a redshirt senior I didn’t know about. Once I catch those, my main criteria is if I’d be OK having that gymnast on my team. If I’m really hurting, I’ll add in a few more freshmen at the end. 

Kalley: After I’ve drafted everyone I want, I’ll look at Road to Nationals and see if there are any athletes with top scores or good NQS that I may have missed for various teams, especially focusing on the smaller conferences where there are likely a lot of options. After that, I’ll add in the freshmen who have the potential to be contributors. 

Are there any types of gymnasts you wait to draft and instead wait to pick them up in trades during the season?

Elizabeth: If I’m not hurting for 200, I tend to wait to draft non-star DII and all DIII gymnasts. There’s a very good chance they’ll go undrafted, and many don’t start scoring effectively until mid-way through the season anyway, meaning even if they were drafted, some inexperienced players in your conference might drop them back into the trade pool because of unsatisfactory scores just before they start to hit their strides.

Emily M: Definitely—the Lindenwood, Bridgeport and Texas Woman’s stars, as well as gymnasts at the Ivies. Those teams tend to start a little slower and then get quite strong by midseason. I also hold off on single event specialists until trading opens, since by then I have a better idea of where my scoring holes are. BYU is a great team to Mine(r)—sorry I couldn’t resist—for available specialists since it is always so deep.

Rebecca: I don’t really use this strategy. With a team of 20 I feel I can afford to be patient with athletes who will get good eventually. I trade mostly for breakout stars no one saw coming or the inevitable few lineup stalwarts who weren’t drafted by chance.

Jenna: I don’t draft freshmen who aren’t locks to make any lineups. I’d rather wait to see how often they compete for a few weeks and then attempt to pick them up in trades.

Katherine: I don’t really “wait” to pick gymnasts up. I mostly make trades to fill holes where they pop up, so it’s more on a “who can give me x event” basis than “who did I miss back in the original draft?”

Mary Emma: I don’t put very many specialists on my draft, but when it comes time to trade, I look through my list of specialists and trade for ones that can help fill in the holes.

Tara: I tend to wait on DII and DIII gymnasts, especially the lesser-known ones. Chances are, they won’t be drafted, and like others said, their scores tend to start slower anyways. 

Kalley: I don’t necessarily wait to try and draft them, but one of my favorite things to do once I have my team is immediately look to see who wasn’t drafted that has the potential to be someone I want to trade for down the road. 

That being said, are there any DII or DIII individuals you know you’re including from the get-go?

Elizabeth: Darian Burns is the reigning USAG all around champion and is a senior year. She’s only going to be better in her final year at Seattle Pacific, and I’m not just saying that because she was my club teammate—OK, maybe just a little.

Emily M: This is a very popular opinion, but I’ll add my voice to the chorus: Maya Reimers. Honestly, I might throw her teammate Julianna Roland in my 200 as well.

Rebecca: OK, I’m the USAG person and I gotta say TWU usually starts slow and Courtney Mitchell has been showing only bars for months on end, so I can’t condone those as useful for January. I also think DII/DIII specialists are more useful to you on the whole, because even the best of the best won’t go much over 39.0 and you’ll be disappointed if you hoped for three reliable events to count on your main team. That said, I usually do a USAG-only team, and I’ll definitely take risks on that. Any of the big Bridgeport contributors and Darian Burns are strong bets. Also consider last year’s USAG nationals hero Katie Bailey of Lindenwood, who has had injury troubles in the past but looks to be in the zone heading into her senior season. Or West Chester’s beam machine Sarah Boyd.

Jenna: Bridgeport has several—Maya Reimers, Kathryn Doran, Crystal Gwinn and Julianna Roland.

Katherine: West Chester has a star in junior Yolanda Nodarse. She’s a beam queen with solid scores on bars and floor, too. She was on my freshman team back in 2018, so I’ll definitely be trying for her again this year.

Mary Emma: I’ll definitely be drafting Courtney Mitchell from Lindenwood, Maya Reimers from Bridgeport and Bria Northrop from Texas Woman’s.

Tara: Off the top of my head, Maya Reimers from Bridgeport. She’s a star on floor. 

Kalley: Bria Northrop from Texas Woman’s is on my draft list.  

How do you decide whether or not to draft someone who was hurt for an extended period of time in 2019?

Elizabeth: Training updates and intrasquad results are crucial here. First I identify any gymnasts that fit into this category then keep an eye out for them and for the type of gymnastics they’re doing (watered down skills, landings onto soft surfaces, full-strength routines) during preseason. Then my final determining factor is whether they not only competed but made any actual lineups in the team’s intrasquad that occurred closest to the start of season/drafts closing.

Emily M: Intrasquad lineups usually answer this question for me. If someone is still not making lineups for an intrasquad, I’ll hold off and look to pick them up during trading should they compete during season. 

Rebecca: Again, 20 gymnasts is a lot from which to get 32 routines! I’m usually fine taking risks, unless there are serious red flags regarding a current injury…

Jenna: They have to have appeared in intrasquad lineups and completed full routines comfortably. Training updates are helpful, but nothing trumps intrasquad appearances in these cases.

Katherine: I haven’t had tons of experience with these types, but if you’re thinking about it, trust your gut. Maybe don’t draft them the *highest*, but if they’ve been present in training clips, go for it. People might avoid them for that very concern, and won’t you be happy you didn’t if they turn out great?

Mary Emma: I’m going to echo what everyone else has said and say training updates and intrasquads. If I don’t see any evidence that they’re training at competition level, I don’t include them in the draft.

Tara: Training updates and intrasquads are the two biggest things for me. Training updates will give me an idea of how their comeback is going. Then the only question is whether they’ll make lineups, which is where intrasquad lineups and performance come into play. 

Kalley: Making intrasquad lineups and showing strength in training videos is key. Also, the type of injury (and events I want the gymnast for) plays into my decision too: Was it a fluke, or has this injury plagued the gymnast for years? Was it something big like an ACL tear and ultimately I’d want her for vault, or is it something that shouldn’t be a factor once it’s healed?

If you could pick one “themed” draft to do for fun, what would you choose?

Elizabeth: I would do a draft with only seniors. Gymnasts in that class have had four years to develop into stars and most are at the top of their game. There’s also the added element of many of being pretty sought-after, so it would be interesting to strategize my draft to ensure I get enough to make a well-rounded team. Plus, this year’s senior class is one of the best, dare I say, ever.

Emily M: I always do an all-Big Ten draft. It’s my beat, I know the teams and it’s just so fun to follow them more closely. Plus, a bonus is that in doing a draft this way I’m more likely to get my most-wanted gymnasts, since most everyone else is drafting the SEC and Pac-12, plus Oklahoma, ahead of Big Ten gymnasts. Last year my Big Ten team had Lexy Ramler, Natalie Wojcik, Taylor Houchin and Olivia Karas. It was a blast!

Rebecca: My USAG team is the best. I treasure it.

Jenna: Over the last few years it seems like there’s been an increase in international gymnasts entering the NCAA, so I’d love to do a draft with just international gymnasts to see how well it would do!

Katherine: You may have thought I was kidding about my one- and two-event gymnast draft last week, but it is 100 percent happening, and I can’t wait for the chaos that it will bring. 

Mary Emma: I’m doing an all EAGL/ECAC draft again this year. Last year, it was a super fun way to get to know my beat a little better. My team last year got close to breaking 197 a couple of times, so there’s definitely a lot of hidden gems in these conferences.

Tara: I love doing an all freshmen draft! It gives me a chance to draft more freshmen and not feel guilty about leaving them off my main draft. The first few weeks are always a game of who will actually make lineups, but one time my freshmen ended up doing better than my main team. If I had to do something completely new, I’d do an all-Coloradan team.

Kalley: I am doing an all MAC/MIC team this year, which I’m actually very excited about. There are some stellar athletes on those teams that are overlooked, and I’m guessing this team will be just as successful (if not more so) than my normal draft. 

Are there any gymnasts you plan to take a chance on because you’re expecting them to contribute on more events this year than in the past?

Elizabeth: I think Sabrina Vega is going to be even more valuable this year than in the past. I’ve always considered to be a two-eventer that also did vault, but I expect her to compete in the AA at least in some meets this year. Go out with a bang and all that.

Emily M: I’m looking at Claire Gagliardi at Ohio State. She did each of floor and bars sporadically last year, rarely both at once. She’s been featured in training clips and is looking very strong on floor, so she’s going on my list.

Rebecca: I am FEELING Kim Tessen this year. I’ve always thought she wasn’t performing to her potential in college, and a solid all around set at the Red Rocks preview combined with a Utah roster that’s hurting a little for depth might mean that this is her year.

Jenna: After Cal’s intrasquad, I’m tempted by Grace Quinn. I’m also going to put Cristal Isa higher in my draft than I expected now that she performed all around at Utah’s preview!

Katherine: Before Bailey Ferrer announced she’s sitting out 2020, I’d have said her. But I’ll vouch for another of her LSU teammates and say Christina Desiderio. We’ve heard she might be vaulting in 2020, but I also think she’ll be more confident on her usual beam and floor than last season. 

Mary Emma: Emerson Hurst from Towson. She was limited to beam for most of the year in 2019, but I’m expecting her to make a push for the all around this year.

Tara: A couple come to mind. Jade Degouveia has looked great on bars this preseason in addition to her excellent vault and floor. I’m also expecting to see more of Emily Glynn on vault and floor. 

Kalley: I have a feeling that Tiarre Sales from Minnesota is going to have a big year. She was training floor (and looked good!) at the preview I went to, and I would just love to see her in the all around. 

When it comes to event specialists, which event(s) do you value over others?

Elizabeth: For some reason, I always end up struggling for people with solid vault scores and also always end up with way too many floor options, so I’ll probably be prioritizing vault specialists—or at least gymnasts who excel on vault—on my draft this year.

Emily M: Beam! There are always your vault/floor stars, vault/bars is a common enough combo and there are a handful of bars/floor gymnasts, so those events are covered by two- and three-event gymnasts, but for some reason beam is always a hole for me. That’s one place where I’ll draft a one-eventer if they’re solid enough. Maela Lazaro comes to mind.

Rebecca: As everyone else says, floor is the least valuable. I won’t kick floor specialists off entirely, but if they can’t go 9.9-plus weekly, they’re just not likely to earn their spot on the roster.

Jenna: Last year I decided not to draft any floor specialists because it’s the highest scoring event with the fewest falls; specialists just aren’t as valuable as on the other events. I found that I was able to get enough usable floor scores by drafting primarily with the other events in mind. It worked out well as I didn’t feel that any of the other events were particularly weak on my team.

Katherine: Beam has been a trouble spot for me in years past. Teams tend to switch their lineups throughout the year once they decide who’s the most consistent, and you can quickly find your gymnast booted out. This year, I hope to avoid that problem by sticking to beamers who’ve already proven they’re reliable.

Mary Emma: Bars and beam for sure. I rarely have an issue drafting gymnasts for floor and vault, as I usually prioritize all arounders, and they tend to be strong on those events. 

Tara: I have a thing for beam specialists. You can never have too many consistently good beamers. 

Kalley: Like Elizabeth said, I always seem to be hurting most for vault. This is the event that seems to have the most potential to be a little too 9.7-y for my liking, so I’ve prioritized vaulters in my draft list this year. 

Are there any gymnasts you’re predicting to have breakout years?

Elizabeth: Hear me out on this one. I know Derrian Gobourne is a national vault champion, but I see her being a star across all four this year. The clips of her floor routine I’ve seen look *fire emoji* and I’m predicting big things for the sophomore.

Emily M: Sierra Brooks is going to be a superstar, but we all already know that. I have my eye on Mia Takekawa at Illinois. The freshman notched a 9.950 on beam during the friendly versus Illinois State where the scoring wasn’t exactly generous. Don’t sleep on Angelica Labat at Illinois State, either: Her Yurchenko one and half is going to take the MIC by storm, and I won’t be surprised if she qualifies to regionals.

Rebecca: Brenna Brooks at Washington was on the rocks during her freshman season, with several injury factors including a touchy elbow, a vault downgrade and a season-long struggle to keep her floor start value at a 10.0. Now her Omelianchik is back, she has a brand new E pass on floor and she looks polished and confident. I also think Mikayla Magee at Georgia can and will do far more than she showed in 2019.

Jenna: Alisa Sheremeta. She was a favorite among more knowledgeable NCAA fans last year, but now that she has transferred to the SEC I can’t wait to see the national audience fall in love with her too.

Katherine: I’m holding out for Morgan Porter to have a killer last season at Missouri. Her gymnastics is often overlooked because of…other things she’s known for…but she’s very consistent and looks to be going for the all around this year. We should finally see her 10.0 start on vault too.

Mary Emma: Savannah Schoenherr. She’s been a staple for Florida on vault and bars, but I think she could make a push for the all around this year.

Tara: I think Makayla Maxwell has huge potential for Iowa State. She had to sit out last season with an Achilles tear, but she’s shown a great Yurchenko one and a half, among everything else.

Kalley: I mentioned it above but Tiarre Sales from Minnesota has just looked spectacular in training videos. Ona Loper, as well. Basically don’t sleep on the Gophers this year. 

Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Tara Graeve, Emily Minehart, Jenna King, Rebecca Scally, Katherine Weaver, Mary Emma Burton and Kalley Leer

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