If it’s September, it’s football season — which also means it’s time for millions of fantasy-football drafts around the world to commence. Heading into any fantasy draft can be intimidating, but football requires a bit more homework, because players get injured more often than in baseball. But there are ways to maximize your in-season points while dealing with the setbacks that are bound to occur.
The first step is approaching your draft in a logical manner. Then, you’ve got to be flexible as the season progresses week to week.
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===Know your league===
A typical fantasy football league roster has one quarterback, two running backs, two to three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, one team defense, and then several bench spots for extra players. Many leagues require two quarterbacks, while others boast a "flex" position, meaning it can be filled by a running back or wide receiver. Knowing which roster spots you need to fill will help with your draft strategy ahead of time.
===Running backs are king===
If you’re in a standard 12-team league and your draft position between one and eight, draft a running back with your first-round pick. They can rack big yardage and touchdowns quicker than any other position, so scoop one up early if you can.
===Bring the knowledge===
There’s no shame in doing your homework. Keep handy your cheat sheet of who you you want to pick throughout the 15 or 16 rounds of the draft.
===Learn from the experts===
There’s no shortage of websites to help you plan your draft strategy. Watch [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/fantasy/ SI Fantasy], [http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy Yahoo Sports], [http://football.razzball.com/ Razzball], [http://www.rotoworld.com Rotoworld] and [http://www.footballoutsiders.com/ Football Outsiders] to know which players’ stock is rising and falling as your draft approaches. If you have a subscription to ESPN the Magazine, then you also have access to their premium [http://insider.espn.go.com/ Insider service], which has an incredible stable of writers and blogs.
===Know your leaguemates===
If you’re drafting in, say, Dallas, then you know (regardless of whether or not you’re a Cowboys fan) the overwhelming sentiment in the draft room will be to pluck players like Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Miles Austin much earlier than the experts say they should go. Use this to your advantage, knowing that some skilled players will inevitably fall to you as the hometown fans pick up their sentimental favorites.
===Check your bye weeks===
The last thing you want is to end up with a QB, RB, and WR all having the same bye week (i.e. when a team has the week off). These occur between weeks 4 and 10, and every team gets one. Most online draft systems will show you [http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/football/ffl/story?page=NFLDK2K10rankstop200 where a player's bye week falls] before you draft him, so be sure to spread the byes out throughout your roster. Otherwise, you’re essentially conceding one week to one of your league’s (lucky) opponents.
===Stick to the plan===
Pick with your head, not your heart. And urge your commissioner to preset the draft order. Pick names out of hat. Rock, paper, scissors. Anything that will let you know beforehand what spot in the draft you need to plan for is a sizable advantage.
===Do a mock draft===
Prepare yourself for the frenzied selections that occur once you’re in the moment. [http://www.mockdraftcentral.com/index.jsp Mock Draft Central] and [http://sports.yahoo.com/ Yahoo Sports] give players to ability to compete in mock drafts.
===Factor in bonuses===
Do return yards count? That might make a running back or wide receiver who doubles as a kick-return specialist extra valuable. Are there extra points awarded for longer field goals? Then someone who kicks in a dome or has an extra-strong leg might be worth taking a round or two earlier than usual.
===Follow the right people on Twitter===
Will Carroll’s handle is [http://twitter.com/injuryexpert @injuryexpert] and he’s earned that distinction, having written multiple books on sports injuries, how they happen, and what to expect from a certain diagnosis. Carroll will give insight on how long a player might be out and how to weather his absence.
Likewise, longtime NFL reporters are great for breaking news and updates on gameday, including [http://twitter.com/MORTREPORT Chris Mortensen], [http://twitter.com/adam_schefter Adam Schefter], and [http://twitter.com/richeisen Rich Eisen]. Likewise, [http://twitter.com/FO_Aschatz Aaron Schatz], the editor-in-chief of FootballOutsiders.com, is always full of football wit and wisdom.
===Check the weather===
You can be as prepared as you want, but if there are thunderstorms in New York, you don’t want to be starting Mark Sanchez of the Jets as your QB. Weather Underground has a [http://www.wunderground.com/sports/NFL dedicated NFL page] with weather forecasts and field conditions for every game.
===Know your apps===
If you’re with Yahoo Sports, the [http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/yahoo-fantasy-football-09/id328415391?mt=8 iPhone app] is free. If your fantasy football league is with ESPN, you can download its [http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/espn-fantasy-football-2010/id389073226?mt= iPhone app] for $4.99.
However, with HuddleHub, available for both [http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/huddlehub-fantasy-football/id387973842?mt=8# iOS] and [http://www.huddlehub.com/droid/ Android], you can manage your Yahoo and ESPN leagues simultaneously for free.
===Watch for meaningful games===
This is a philosophy which should also be applied during the draft, but try to pick up players that you suspect will be playing meaningful games at the end of the season. If there’s a good WR on a team that’s 7-5 in Week 12, chances he’ll be counted upon over the next four games as his team makes a push for the playoffs. This is something you can try to do in the draft, but it becomes critical as the season wears on to pick up players that will be playing hard through to the end.
The last thing you want is to be heading into your championship, anchored by your top-flight RB who plays for a 14-1 team… only to see him rested in the final game, leaving you in the lurch.
===Adjust, adjust, adjust===
Don’t be afraid to make roster tweaks throughout the day, and don’t be afraid to play mid-level players playing against weak teams in favor of better players going up against elite defenses.
===Rise and shine, West coast===
So sorry if you live on the West Coast, but you’re going to get up early from your late Saturday night if you want to make last-minute adjustments to your squad. All games start at 10 am Sunday morning for Pacific timezoners. If you happen to be lucky enough to live in Hawaii, where football kicks off at 7 am local time, well, at least you get to live in Hawaii.
”Originally submitted by [http://www.wired.com/playbook/ Wired Playbook] editor Erik Malinowski.”
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