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Drop the Kool-Aid


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Fantasy football is a game of group-think. Fifteen or 20 writers from the usual suspect sports sites rip open the packets, pour them in the water and stir, and fantasy nation guzzles down the Kool-Aid like a team of thirsty post-game Little Leaguers. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing bad about a little Kool-Aid. Fantasy experts are experts for a reason. Good experts spend countless hours dancing with details so minute they would make even Bill Belichick blush – contract negotiations and surgeries and matchups and coaching schematics and yards-to-touch algorithms. I’ve even heard of fantasy experts going to star players’ homes and rooting through the garbage. Okay, this last one isn’t true, but you get what I’m saying.

Here’s the problem: what the experts are peddling isn’t gold; it’s advice. They aren’t handing out those end-of-race Grants and Benjamins – they’re giving you a tip on the No. 4 horse in the seventh. Which is to say, they’re educated guessing. Even the best fantasy gurus get burned on a statistically significant portion of their picks each year, and the honest ones are open about it. So why does fantasy nation treat the prognosticators as Nostradamus every year? Why do we hold up the establishment rankings and strategies as gospel?

Lest you think my intention here is to bash the fantasy shot-callers, let me explain how you can use the late-summer group-think to your vast advantage come draft day. Fantasy nation may be populated by a herd of sheep, but I’m going to tell you how to find yourself baaaing all the way to the barn. Or, you know, if you’re not so into manure, the bank. So put down that Kool-Aid and listen up.

This year’s strategy du jour is to take running backs in the first two rounds of the draft. I’ve even heard some fantasy swamis call for taking backs in the first three rounds. If you’ve been mock drafting (and if you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve graced at least one “let’s pretend to pretend” forum), you know that drafters are gushing over runners in the first two rounds like pre-teen girls at a Justin Bieber concert. But the rub, ladies and gentlemen, is this: there just aren’t that many backs worth taking in the first two rounds.

Lemming-like, mock drafters time and again snag up guys like Matt Forte, Steven Jackson and even Chris Johnson over A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Dez Bryant. And there’s something else, too. Wide receiver is simply not as deep as the experts are saying. Sure, it’s deep if you’re cool with Torrey Smith as your WR2 in a 10-team league, but there’s a better way. Use the sheep to your advantage and get yourself a stud wide receiver in the second and third rounds. Or better yet, grab Jimmy Graham and watch as your value-drafting brilliance shines through with a sweet six-point weekly advantage at tight end. Let the Kool-Aid drinkers use their second round pick on Stevan Ridley and their third rounder on David Wilson. You take Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald and then bite on Le’Veon Bell, Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory in the middle rounds. Your team will thank you for it.

Fantasy experts start the conversation, but don’t let them end it. Let your buddies do that. And as they all go merrily bounding off the cliff together, collect your reward and prepare to dominate your league. There’s no certainty in fantasy, but you can be certain of at least one thing: everyone can’t win with the exact same strategy. Anyone willing to buck the Nostradami this year will open himself up to a world of wide receiver riches. Thirsty yet?