Preparing for your Fantasy Draft:

In my first Premium Fantasy Football article I will focus on the top 10 steps I see to having a successful draft. As the most crucial step in your fantasy football league is also one of the most exciting parts about it; your team's draft. This article will outline tips to maximize the potential for your team to succeed and be able to rub it in your friend's noses at the end of the year.

  1. Get a magazine: I mentioned this at the end of my last article and it's a critical step in being part of any fantasy league. Each publication will have its own ranking so it's up to you to decipher how you think a player will do. It's very important, however, to have a basic understanding where a player stands in the scheme of things. You may be a rabid Bills fan but drafting Drew Bledsoe in the first round won't be a wise decision. And don't just buy the magazine and only look at it during draft night. Read it before hand. Magazine's have a lot of information on players and their situations. Knowing this stuff ahead of time makes it that much easier to make the right decision...

  2. Do your homework: Although reading your fantasy football magazine is part of this step, it's not the only one. Sometimes the magazine will have outdated information. If you're reading this then you're a member to the theInsiders.com network which is a great place to start, take a few minutes to check out each team's site and find out how certain training camp battles are going. You'll look foolish if you draft Tim Dwight only to find out Reche Caldwell will most likely be the #2 WR. More importantly is to keep track of injuries and contract situations. I have already been in a few drafts, and every one of them has seen someone take Michael Bennett even though he's out for the season, but somebody will draft him. I guarantee it. Duce Staley hasn't reported to training camp, but someone will draft him too. Pay attention to that. The guy might lose his position to Correll Buckhalter now.

  3. Get to your draft early: It doesn't hurt to be in your draft room 10-15 minutes early rather than just getting there as time is starting. For one thing, you can get a good look at where you are drafting. If you have the last pick in a 12 team league chances are Ricky Williams, Tomlinson, Holmes, and Faulk won't be there by the time you pick unless someone else doesn't know what they are doing. Prepare to draft a guy that you think will be there, but also prepare that a guy like that will slip. There are always surprises in a draft. Pay attention to them and you will be the one to benefit.

    Another advantage of getting there early is that other players will get there early also. Let them talk about who they like and let them reveal what they know or don't know. Ask questions without giving away what you want to do. It may sound devious, but you are playing to win right?

  4. Hit the ground running: I always draft a RB first. They are the most important position in fantasy because taside from getting the running points often they also benefit from the passing game. It's a solid strategy. Not to mention there are only 32 starting RB's available to draft, but at least 64 WR's. They are a lot more rare. I tend to even try to draft a RB in the 1st and 2nd round. That's not a steadfast rule, so don't pigeonhole yourself into doing that. If the best RB available to you in the 2nd round is Corey Dillion or Jamal Lewis, but a top WR like Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, or Randy Moss or even Michael Vick is available grab a them instead. It all depends on what is available to you and what your needs are. Some people will even strategize to take 3 RB's in the first 3 rounds. The rationalization is that because RB is the most important position and it's easier to grab productive QB's or WR's in the later rounds, you should draft a 3rd RB early so you don't lose production when one of your players has a bye week. I don't necessarily agree with that. In a standard QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, K, D league, the RB that you will get in the 3rd round won't be at that special but you might be passing up a very good WR like David Boston, Peerless Price or Eric Moulds for a guy that's going to sit on your bench mostly. If a guy does happen to fall to you by the time you draft in the 3rd round that you feel should have been taken much earlier then get him and see what you can get for him later once some teams realized that their RB corps is weak. Otherwise, you are just weakening your starting lineup.

  5. Pay attention to bye weeks: This is a very important rule of thumb. Nothing hurts worse than worse than drafting Rich Gannon as your starter and Brett Favre as your backup QB only to realize that they both have a bye week in week 8. Bad move. Scratch players off that have the same bye week unless they are someone you think you can move later on in a trade. Mike Vick and Gannon have the same bye week, but you'll almost certainly be able to trade one to improve a position later on.

  6. Be able to adjust your draft strategy on the fly: So the draft is going on and you realize that you need a backup QB. You waited a little long to draft him, but you have your eyes on a certain player. You know he shouldn't be available but for some reason he is. You know you could use some work at WR or RB still but you can miss the opportunity to draft this guy. OR can you? Take a look at what other teams have done and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results. If every other team has already drafted 2 quarterbacks and your league only starts one, the likelihood that your guy will be taken at this point by someone other than you might be pretty slim. You might be able to let him drop another round or two and picking up a great D or better WR without having to worry about him. It worked for me. I had already drafted Rich Gannon and as the draft went on Drew Bledsoe hadn't been taken I also noticed what most people were going after. I sat on him for another three rounds before I thought I couldn't risk him any longer and finally took him.

  7. Don't panic: This feeds off the last tip. In another draft I was in that had a rule of having to use two starting QBs I saw that Drew Bledsoe was falling hard. It was round 6 when he was finally chosen a pick before me. I had waited a little too long to get him. At that point, the best QB's available were Matt Hasselback, Tommy Maddox and Jake Plummer. To me, there isn't a whole of difference in value on these guys so I waited another 4 rounds before finally picking Plummer who was the last of the three left. I could have taken one of those guys right after Bledsoe was taken and missed out on a better player at another position but I paid attention to the fact that most teams had already taken two QB's and it paid off.

  8. Draft for depth: If your league starts 2 WR's and a good 3rd WR is available take him over a kicker or a 2nd tier TE even if you hadn't taken those positions yet.

  9. Draft your defenses and kickers last: Often it's very hard to predict where defenses will rank and there isn't so much between the points kickers score that any of them are really worth drafting early. Unless a defense like Tampa Bay is available and you feel confident about your other positions you can wait until the end of the draft to get a defense. Two years ago, the Bears D was one of the top 5 fantasy defenses, last year it was one of the worst. Often it's a little too risky to guess on a team like that and miss out on better and stable players. Don't draft a TE too early. Getting Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez or Todd Heap might be tempting in round 3, but there are a lot of better players available at that time I'm sure. The earliest I would draft any of them would be round 4 or 5. After that, keep waiting on a TE, but not so long that you don't get a decent one.

  10. Sit on your team: One of the first impulses after completing your draft is to trade players and see what you can get. You might not be happy about your WR corps and want to improve it at the expense of your terrific RBs. See what people are offering up, but let your team sit for a few days. You'd be amazed at how much better you feel about them after that and might not make a brash trade.
Join me next week when my column will focus on potential fantasy sleepers and don't forget to send me your questions at bills_report@yahoo.com as will be randomly answering three fantasy questions each week every Saturday starting tomorrow.

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