The smart fantasy football owner relies on much more than just numbers, match-ups and luck. You have to be a scout, a gambler, a dealmaker, a coach and a lot more. You'll never have full peace of mind, and you will always be working to improve your squad, even when you have the best record in your league. The road to the championship begins on draft day, and you'll have to be ready for anything as your build your ideal squad. Here are my top 75 tips and observations for your 2008 draft, listed in no particular order, because they are all equally important.
1. Be ready for anything, and adjust on the run. No matter how many mock drafts you take part in or look at, you'll never know for sure what will really happen when the actual draft begins. Don't spend too much time projecting who will go where. Just be ready to make the best possible selection every time your pick comes up.
2. Believe in
3. Think past your first pick. Too many fantasy players spend a lot of time wondering who is going to fall to them or whom they should take in the first round. That's going to be your easiest pick. Be ready just as much for the fourth, ninth and 14th rounds
5. Unless you play in an auction, don't plan on drafting specific players in certain rounds ahead of time. If the guy you wanted in the third round goes off the board before you pick, you'll end up disappointed. If he's still there, consider it a bonus. Focus on groups, or tiers of players at every position, not on individuals.
6. Don't assume anything negative about
7. Don't waste picks on reserve defense/special teams units, kickers and even tight ends. You're only going to use your backup one time in an ideal scenario, and you can pick that unit or player up from free agency. Use those late picks on sleeper candidates from the "Big Three" skill positions.
8. Opportunity doesn't always equal success. Just because
9. All young quarterbacks are not created equal. Among rookies,
10. Don't bother me with schedule analysis. It's all based on last season, and too many changes happen every offseason to realistically determine strength of schedule during the new campaign.
12. We all know kickers are unpredictable, but so are defensive units. When there are key changes among such a large group every season, it won't be easy to project who will play as well as or worse than last year. That's why you don't take defenses in the sixth or eighth round. You don't want to spend one of your better picks on units that are mostly destined to perform uniquely different than they did in '07. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are usually few.
13. Look out if
14. Speaking of the Texans, I'll avoid their running backs on draft day and just keep watching the free-agent list during the season. There is something obviously wrong with a front office's mode of thinking when they still consider
15. Concentrate on filling out your starting lineup on draft day in the early rounds. Don't draft to trade when the quality of player you can deal for is readily available in the initial selection process. Don't load up too heavily at one position early, or your roster will look unbalanced when the draft is over.
16. Try to avoid trading for draft choices in yearly leagues. If you're well-prepared and well-informed, you can just be ready to make optimum choices in every round. Some owners ahead of you are bound to make questionable choices, and you can simply let the best available guy drop in your hands in every round.
18. The Jets have made significant, obvious improvements on their offensive line. Yet that doesn't mean
19. Don't get too excited about
20. Never let 'em see you sweat on draft day. I never let others know what I'm thinking, or yell out in frustration when the guy I want goes one pick ahead of me. Again, if you're well-prepared and well-informed, you'll just make the best possible selections in each round and keep moving. Maintain your composure at all times.
21. Don't be the nice guy and share information on draft day with other owners who are unprepared. You play to win. If someone doesn't know a guy is injured, that's their fault and they have to live with the pick. You're friends after the draft, but during the competitive stages, you don't have any allies. If someone wants to know what you think of a certain player, tell him you'll let him know after the draft.
23. Time-shares at running back are not always a bad thing. Having a quality backup or alternate can mean the starter will not get overworked and should be less susceptible to injuries.
25. Exhibition games are not meaningless. When the backups come in, you'll get a good chance to see what they can do if given quality playing time. Watching preseason games as much as possible can only help you make informed decisions during the later rounds.
26. I'm using the No. 1 pick on
27. Don't be too rigid in planning for bye weeks on draft day. Sure, you want to ensure that you don't have two quarterbacks with the same bye, but be more flexible at other positions. Your roster may look quite different in Week 7, so don't pass on the better player at running back or wide receiver because you have to get your "bye guy" first.
29. Don't hold too fast to the "handcuff" rule at running back. It all depends on who the backup is. I'd rather take a late flier on a guy from another team than use a pick on
31. If you play in an individual defender league, go for linemen who make a lot of tackles first. There's tons of depth at linebacker and lots of good defensive backs.
32. Let's just say if injuries become an issue again in New Orleans, I absolutely love
33. The quality of the running back position has declined overall, but you still have to address the position early, because you have to start at least two guys and want to have more options and depth available if your top RBs disappoint or get hurt. Don't get too cute and start by picking sleepers in the middle rounds while hoping one of them will pan out. You should draft your first running back no later than the third round.
34. I'm worried about
35. Now that
36. I would not be surprised to see
39. The "other" Steve Smith has a good chance to become a worthy fantasy option this year with the Giants. Take a shot on him in the late rounds.
40. I don't think
41. The Titans are committed to making sure
42. If you don't get a top 10 fantasy quarterback, it's been proven that you can win by rotating two lesser-heralded guys.
43. Keep in mind that should you lose
44. Don't buy too much into training camp stories. Everyone looks good in July, according to most hometown newspapers.
45. I'm avoiding
50. I'm staying far away from
51. When in doubt, always take the healthy player over the guy with injury questions on draft day.
53. I still like
56. If you really want to study up on defenses when making your picks, look for teams with a strong defensive line. That's where it all begins in many cases. So you have to like Minnesota. Having a solid front seven is just as good. Seattle has made good strides to develop a solid line and has the best trio of linebackers in the league.
60. More on Adrian Peterson: Yes, there are lingering durability concerns and he may have a few disappointing outings. But no player explodes every week, and he will lead your team to some convincing victories this year with more brilliant outings.
61. After Tomlinson, though, I'm not taking Peterson. Give me
62. If you get
63. Keep track of other people's picks. You don't want to be the guy who calls out names of players who are already drafted, and if you know who needs to fill what needs later in the draft, you can plan for your upcoming picks accordingly.
64. After each pick, make a "short list" of the players you will consider for your next selection. Then you simply take the guy left at the top of your list when your turn comes up. It's great to make "mini cheat sheets" on the run.
65. Bring some goodies to the draft, like snacks and beverages. This way, when you're ruthless during the draft, you still won't look like the bad guy afterwards.
66. Don't bring multiple fantasy football magazines to the draft. Rely on one or two expert sources (like us at
67. The more well informed you are, the better your trash talk will be in the draft room.
68. Get to the draft early. It shows you mean business, and you can get all of the small talk out of the way early before getting down to the important stuff.
69. Respect your commissioner and the league rules. Instead of complaining about the league setup, just adjust to whatever the format is. If you are well-prepared and well-informed (there it is again) you can win in any scoring format.
70. Of all the rookie receivers, I like Buffalo's
71. If you won your league last year, bring the trophy and set it up in front of you wherever you sit on draft day. If you just won money, wear a new NFL jersey and thank everyone for buying it for you.
74. Someone will often make an unexpected pick in the first round, and if you're not in the top two, you will enjoy a pleasant surprise as a player you really liked falls a bit further than you thought he would.
75. Thanks for hanging with me this far. I do lots of research and spit out lots of analysis to save you time. That's the RotoExperts way of doing things. My goal is to help you win your championship this season, because without you, I could not be here.