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War and Draft

For those of us that view this hobby as more reality then fantasy, the importance of the draft ranks somewhere between our birth, marriage and Judgment Day. We submit ourselves to endless preparation during the summer months leading up to that special date. From enduring hour upon hour of statistics in the bask of our computer screen’s blizzard white glow to scouring over depth charts at the wee hours of a usually uneventful Wednesday night. This is all accepted practice, all to prepare you for your “perfect” draft. Your fantasy masterpiece.
This time you have it all under control.

You go through the draft in your head over and over. A monthly, weekly and even sometimes a nightly rehearsal that leaves you entering the draft almost comfortably numb. The scenarios carry you into a hypnotic trance, an almost alternative reality:

He picks Larry Fitzgerald there. I’ll take Marques Colston there then I’ll be able to snag Leon Washington there leaving me in perfect position for the run on TEs.”

The preparation leaves you in a false state of control (maybe this all a little too deep or maybe it’s just me, but I think deep down inside, it’s present in all of us fantasy fanatics) and then, before you know it, it’s D-Day. The draft hits you like a sack of rocks. Hard, dirty, sharp rocks.

“Damn, he took him? That was my sleeper. I’m at the end of the TE rally? Who am I going to take?!?!? Umm … Bryant Johnson!”

D’oh. It happens to the best of us but it happens even more to the worst of us. The funny thing is everyone leaves the draft feeling as if they have the best team. No matter how many times they panicked or how many wrong decisions that they made (which they obviously won’t admit to), they feel they have either the best team or one that is going to compete at a high level. The false reality lingers …

Don’t get me wrong. All the preparation is necessary. The studying is indispensable. There is not enough you can know about players, teams, schedules and your league. You are to go big or you are to go home. If you are serious, which as a fantasy player I hope you damn well are, then the studying will lead you to more efficient and wiser decision making on D-Day. That’s not what I am trying to say here. My point is that there is not enough Matthew Berry, SportsCenter and mock drafting in this world that will guarantee you a draft where you are certain that you have made every right decision and your team is a cut above the rest. In fact, if you look at your league’s turnover through the past year, I am sure you will find only a handful, if that, of superb drafts. None of us are fortune tellers.

However, there are a few things you should know before and continue reminding yourself during the draft; tips that will make you a more versatile manager. A manager who is ready for
almost everything and one that is comfortable on the clock. The following tips will not guarantee a title but if you follow, they will guarantee that you are as capable and prepared (if not more) than your fantasy comrades:

I hope you watched the games: This is a tough one since I’m telling you to do something in the past (or something that requires access to NFL game tapes or a lot of time on YouTube), but seeing a player lives allows you to determine what his true capabilities are, how hard is team is trying to get to the ball and how well he meshes within his system. Sure there are plenty of numbers that try to define a player’s skill set, but if you watch these games it helps you fill in many holes. Was the season a fluke? Is this guy a good QB or good fantasy QB? Will that matter in the upcoming season? You will have a subconscious indication of what a player can do with what is around him. Please watch the games. Don’t just stare at live scoring and don’t just watch the highlights. Pay attention to the games.

Know YOUR league
and take advantage of it: Adrian Peterson may be the consensus first pick throughout the fantasy football internet universe, but is that true in your league? It might not be. What is good for the goose isn’t always necessarily what is good for the gander. I know in my most important league which rewards points slightly different then the standard scoring leagues typically see that I wouldn’t be taking him if I had the first pick. Some REALLY simple examples: If you rewarded one point for every passing yard maybe Drew Brees would be a good choice. No? If you start five WR then maybe getting a couple early would be a heads-up move. What I am trying to say is that some leagues are very distinct (keeper, points per reception etc.) and their rules can be used to work in your favor. One type of research that I find particularly helpful is studying how players actually scored in the previous three seasons. Rank them by position and points scored then study the trends in total points and points per game. 

*Know where, when, what in and who for your player plays

: This is something that can not be taken for granted. Once you are finished studying, do not just forget it all when you are drafting. Keep on reminding yourself that the Lions are a bad team, that
San Francisco is gearing towards the run and that

New Orleans
plays indoors. INSIDE FOR GOODNESS SAKES! These all need to be incorporated in every draft decision. Strength of schedule during the season is great, but just as important is strength of schedule during your particular playoffs. This can also be used for a trade for a player with a favorable schedule down the line. Differentiate late fliers with simple methodology: he is a fourth WR in a run offense but this guy has a clear cut chance of being a No. 2 for a decent QB. Give yourself the best odds and put yourself in the best position.

Learn the player’s trends, age and talent: Has the certain player been on a three-year decline when he is supposedly in the prime of his career? Was he a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent (but don’t put too much stock in this. Watching the NFL for years has taught me that some people have it and some don’t no matter where they went to school or were picked. That’s why you watch the games!) Is he a candidate for a cliff dive for his certain strenuous position and age (Example: RBs over 30)? Is he Ronnie Brown or

Ochocinco-esque scoring 75 percent of their respective points in two games? Is he a consistency king or a boom/bust guy? What is better for my team? I can go on for freaking ever. Learn these things. They will all help indicate what you should expect a player’s ceiling to be, and it will help determine what you should expect. Sometimes if your team is boom/bust you want to take the gamble on another player like that hoping to hit the ultimate lottery, or maybe you want to dial it down a little. It is your choice. Is Clinton Portis ever going to break down? Too many peoples’ surprise, he’s a lot younger and less injury prone then people think he is. Like I said, I can go on forever.

Follow your gut: This may be the most important advice I can possibly give you. If you feel something is or isn’t right about a player and you feel yourself leaning in a particular way then go with it. Your gut is guiding you, and it isn’t a bad thing. This instinct is a culmination of all the studying and preparation leading up to this moment. Something is telling you that this player is the right or wrong pick. It may be a subconscious signal because of something you read or heard that you may not be initially aware of. It may be just that you don’t like the player. Whatever the case may be then you should go with it. You will get over the fact that your instincts may veer you in the wrong direction once in a dozen instances, but you will kill yourself if your gut told you to go with someone who blows up. Trust me, I went against my gut and didn’t take Chris Johnson last year. I don’t want you to make the same mistake. 


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