Fantasy Football Draft Advice

For those of you preparing for your fantasy football draft, there are hundreds of publications and online resources to help maximize your chances to draft the best possible team. I've been playing fantasy football for almost a decade now, and I've come to enjoy it almost as much as the actual NFL games themselves. I've also become really passionate about the fantasy game, and I like talking about it and writing about it.

So while I'm not an expert among experts, I do know a thing or two about fantasy draft strategy. The following are bits of advice that do not necessarily apply to the stats of specific players, but rather overall draft advice for a typical 10 or 12 team league. Here are some general tips:

1. Draft your running backs early-You can get good value at quarterback in later rounds, and you can even land some sleeper receivers later on. But running backs usually fly off the board first. Depending on your draft spot, it's best to pick two running backs first, followed by a WR or QB, or two WRs, or even a third RB and a WR. RBs are the ones that typically produce the most fantasy points, especially if you have a stud like LaDainian Tomlinson or Larry Johnson. The only QBs that come close that kind of production are the likes of Peyton Manning or maybe Carson Palmer.

2. Know your league rules-If your league awards points per reception, pick a receiver that not only gives you yards and TDs, but also catches. Running backs who catch a lot of passes are important in that type of scoring as well.

3. Handcuffs and bye weeks matter-If you have a stud running back who is the focal point of his team's offense, it's always smart to draft his backup in case of injury. Chances are, if the stud RB is in a good offensive system, his backup will put up numbers too if given the chance. As far as bye weeks, don't let them rule your draft, but don't ignore them either. For example, you'll probably draft just two QBs, so make sure those two players do not have the same Sunday off.

4. Pick players in good offensive systems-Bottom line: teams that score points will have good fantasy production. In 2007 that means teams like the Colts and Saints. Also, teams with the best offensive lines will open up holes for their RBs.

5. Stay away from RBBC-It's okay to pick a RB in a committee situation, but best to pick that player as a backup, meaning your third, fourth or fifth RB. Otherwise, your first few RBs should be backs in single RB systems. It's also good to stay away from backs who have goal line replacements that will bogart TDs from your RB. I remember when I had Pittsburgh's Duce Staley a few years ago, and wanting to punch my TV as Jerome Bettis got all the TD carries.

6. Don't underestimate a good receiving corps.-Receivers can be inconsistent except for the top tier guys. But they can still make or break your team, so make sure you get at least one really good one early in your draft.

7. Pick kickers and defenses later-I don't have to tell you that picking a kicker in the fourth round is idiotic--but if you're a beginner, I just told you. Most kickers start getting picked around the seventh round, and most are chosen much later than that. And even then, you can almost always snag a decent one off waivers. Defense is probably a bit more important, so grab a good one in the mid-to late rounds.

8. Stay away from tight ends as receivers-If your league dictates that you pick a tight end, that's one thing. But if you only can choose tight ends as receivers, think twice. Antonio Gates is about the only true TE with WR type numbers. Otherwise you're dealing with players that don't put up yards and only sporadically notch TDs.

9. Study right up until the night before--Websites like DraftSharks are invaluable, especially because you need to know who got injured the day before, or the day of, your draft.

10. Have fun and don't drink too much-Fantasy football is about camaraderie and bonding with your buds. But don't sabotage yourself by drinking eight beers before you start drafting. You don't want your own judgment clouded, because you might do something like pick Matt Stover in the first round. Okay, none of you would ever do something like that, would you? Would you?

Now go have some fun, enjoy your draft, and good luck this season.

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