Fantasy Football Draft: A 10-Step Guide

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Most fantasy football previews are a waste of time. Frankly, if you are just starting your fantasy football research in midsummer, don't bother. You are better off with prayer or perhaps animal sacrifice. Drafting well in fantasy football demands more than being merely a fan. You must be freakish. That is, it isn't enough to casually follow the NFL season. You must be obsessively devoted to studying the league year-round; tracking every contract dispute, free agent signing, and off-season minicamp with religious fervor. A fan, for instance is someone who makes jokes about Mel Kiper's hair. A freak thinks jokes about Mel's hair were tired in 2002, but will spend hours explaining how Kiper's analysis is never as good as Todd McShay's.

Nevertheless, despite the futility of last-minute draft advice, we have some.

Don't be an Idiot
Your first-round pick should be a workhorse running back, of the Chris Johnson/Ray Rice/Michael Turner-mold. If your first-round pick isn't a star running back, he should be named Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Any other selection and you should consider voluntarily confining yourself to a psychiatric ward, as you most likely pose a danger to yourself and others.

Be an Idiot
Most draft advisers will tell you to ignore your heart. Don't pick players from your home team or draft guys because they played college ball at your alma mater. Nonsense. A true Dallas Cowboys-hater must never draft Tony Romo, for instance, no matter how late he stays on the board, lest he be forced to root for the massively overrated QB. By the same token, any Jayhawk fan who dares draft Jeremy Maclin will automatically have their name forwarded to KU security, resulting in an instant five-year ban from entry into the entire city of Lawrence, Kansas.

Mock Yourself
Most big fantasy websites host ongoing mock drafts throughout August and into September. Running through a few of them is incredibly helpful in getting a sense of how the marquee talents may fall. Beware, though. Once you actively and seriously participate in a mock draft, a Rubicon has been crossed. You are now pretending to own a pretend football team, a level of sports geekery so deep there can be no return to any kind of normal life.

All Tight-Ends Are Pretty Much Worthless
Brent Celek and Vernon Davis pop to mind, but there are half dozen more just as unproductive. Consider simply refusing to draft or play a TE at all, accepting the forfeit each week as a form of protest against the position's general suckiness and loss of luster since the Golden Age of Gonzalez and Gates.

Don't draft Terrell Owens. Seriously. Just don't.
And if you draft Kevin Kolb in the first-round, you're insane.

Handcuff Your Fantasy Stud
Yes, it sounds much dirtier than it is. Your first-round pick should (see Rule No. 1) be a star running-back. But you must prepare for his off week. If you draft Frank Gore or Steven Jackson, for instance, you'll want to grab a late-round ball-carrier with a good Week 9 match-up to fill in for him. Just pick-up whatever running back is starting against Detroit that week. You'll be fine.

No Popular Preseason Sleeper Pick Has Ever Worked, Ever
This means you, potential Jamaal Charles owners.

Take Kickers Seriously
NFL coaches love to indulge their machismo by denigrating place-kickers, self-destructively according this vital position a second-tier status. Fantasy football owners do the same at their peril. Check out, for instance, these top-ranked kickers and play a little game of "Who Doesn't Belong." There's one factor that makes one kicker an infinitely better bet than all the rest. Who and why? (Answer Below)

Stephen Gostkowski , New England Patriots
Mason Crosby , Green Bay Packers
Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints
David Akers , Philadelphia Eagles

That would be Garrett Hartley. Because of where he plays, of course. When things get chilly in November and December, kicking conditions inside the Superdome promise to be a little bit better than those outside in Philly, Boston, or Green Bay.

Courage!
Do not avoid picking a player because his name is hard to say and you fear others will laugh at you. Rashard Mendenhall, Knowshon Moreno, and T.J. Whoseyomomma should all have reasonably productive fantasy seasons.

Pay Attention or Die
During the later rounds, when jailed wide-outs are being selected, owners' minds tend to wander. This is doubly true if adult beverages are being consumed.

It is enormously important to keep your draft charts up-to-date, marking off each player selected as the rounds pass. The first time an owner selects a player that's already off the board, in addition to losing the pick, fantasy football tradition calls for every other owner to immediately pelt the offender with cups, empty cans, pens, pencils, crumpled up paper and anything else non-lethal on hand. Should the same owner commit the offense a second time, the non-lethal exception is revoked. No one knows what happens after a third offense, because no one has been foolhardy enough to let it happen. Don't let yourself be the first.

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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