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Seventy-five tips for fantasy drafts

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For more in-depth insights from award-winning fantasy veteran Scott Engel, check out the Xclusive Edge package, which contains preseason and in-season tools, advice and in-depth analysis.

Each year, there is a ton of information available out there to peruse as you prepare for your fantasy football drafts. Yet most articles tie everything into one subject area, and you must gather much information from many sources to arrive at your conclusions. Each season, I have tied the most important tips and tidbits I can into one single package, so I can simply fire off what's essential to your fantasy planning when and where I feel like it. The normal rules never apply in this annual preseason primer. Yet all 75 of these fantasy football tips for success are applicable to your 2010 outlook.

1. Know your scoring system and stick to it when drafting. This may be the most obvious tip I will list here, yet it is the most important. Any fantasy owner with an ounce of self-respect or experience knows this is rule No. 1.

2. Do not rigidly stick to a pre-set plan when you draft. There is no set formula for success, such as going RB/WR/QB early. Be prepared to adjust on the run in every draft. Take the best available players in the first round or two, and fill out your main starting lineup positions other than defense and kicker in the first six to seven rounds.

3. Don't think you know just exactly how the picks ahead of you will work out. You can never get truly inside of the heads of other owners, and they can change their minds in a nanosecond at any point. Don't try to predict what will happen in a draft, be ready to react.

4. Do not load up with too many players from one team. Heck, sometimes two players from the same offense in your starting lineup can be dangerous, especially if it's a QB/WR connection. If Dallas is held to 13 points in a given week, your Tony Romo/Miles Austin duo could drag your team down to defeat. In most instances, it's best to spread the statistical wealth.

5. Nothing in fantasy football is absolute. Every single player and situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For example, Tip No. 4 does not apply to a Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne duo.

6. Don't overreact to short-term news in the preseason. No one is going to remember the preseason injuries of Larry Fitzgerald and Knowshon Moreno if they are playing well in Week 4. Do not adjust your cheat sheets based on preseason news that will quickly get old.

7. Try to avoid getting caught up in schedule analysis. Too much of schedule breakdowns and predictions are based on last year, and too much changes in the NFL from year to year. Looking at Fantasy playoff schedules in August is often a useless exercise. Too many new trends and storylines will have changed the fantasy landscape by midseason of 2010, and lots of summer strategies will be outdated by then. Make your decisions based on who is the better player and filling areas of need in your draft, not on who someone faces deep into November and December.

8. Opportunity does not always lead to production. Just because a player is high on a depth chart or is more established than his teammates does not mean he is capable of handling a prominent role. Malcom Floyd and Jabar Gaffney are very risky picks who have great potential to flop as NFL starters this year. Neither player has the skill sets to challenge top defensive backs on a regular basis.

9. If one player starts over another, the starter is not always more valuable than the guy listed as No. 2. Starting simply means one player will open the game on the field, but that does not mean he will always see the majority of playing time. This is especially true in running back situations. Tim Hightower and Thomas Jones could be listed as starters this year, but Beanie Wells and Jamaal Charles should out-produce both RBs who could be listed ahead of them on the depth chart.

10. There is no way to go wrong at the No. 1 and 2 overall spots this year. Don't obsess about who to take between Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Johnson will be more explosive at times, Peterson should be slightly more reliable. Both running backs can be the keys to Fantasy championships.

11. Do not overrate Pierre Thomas. The injury to Lynell Hamilton does not necessarily translate into a heavier workload or boost in value. Thomas is not built for a lot of goal-line work or a role as a primary featured runner. The Saints will be careful not to overwork him, and he should function as a quality No. 2 RB if he stays healthy.

12. Avoid the temptation to trade draft picks. If you are well-prepared, you can successfully draft from any slot. There are advantages and disadvantages at every spot, but the owner who does his homework can simply go with the flow of the draft at every turn while filling needs.

13. Do not hesitate to jump on early RB values in PPR leagues. I have seen Michael Turner fall to the late parts of the first round in PPR leagues, and Shonn Greene picked after LeSean McCoy. Even though guys like Turner and Greene won't catch many passes, their other totals will more than compensate for any perceived "shortcomings."

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14. Be proud that you are a fantasy football player. It's no longer the hobby of "geeks", everyone who is anyone plays it. You used to be a geek if you played fantasy football, now you are a geek if you don't. I have interviewed many Major League Baseball players this year, and there seems to be a fantasy football league in every clubhouse. You wouldn't call Nick Swisher or Jason Giambi a geek.

15. Do not buy too much into the Jahvid Best hype. There is talk coming out of Detroit that he may be the best Lions RB in a long time, and the Lions may not be afraid to saddle him with a significant workload. That may be a mistake. Best is exciting and will deliver a handful of impressive outings, but he is not cut out for a major featured role. He lacks a dependable complement and is a breakdown/injury risk if he is leaned on too heavily. Best will be a fine flex player in his rookie year, but the Lions and some fantasy players may be expecting too much, too soon.

16. I would recommend passing on Steven Jackson in the first round and letting someone else take him. The St. Louis offense looks awful again, which means very limited TD opportunities and a lot of defensive attention for Jackson. He is not going to deliver a first-round return, and will be an injury risk as opposing defenses key on him too often.

17. Mike Martz continues to be praised as an offensive miracle-maker, but he may actually have an adverse effect on the Chicago offense. Martz makes the mistake of trying to make his players fit into his system whether they are ideal for it or not, instead of playing to the strengths of his best talents. Jay Cutler is going to be ultra-erratic and only Johnny Knox seems to truly fit the bill as a Martz-type guy early on. These are not the St. Louis Rams of old, and Martz needs to let go of trying to re-create his glory days on teams with much less talent.

18. If you play in an auction league, target two to three top-shelf players who you will bid up no matter what it takes, without blinking. Then, let everything else simply fall into place around your core of elite players.

19. Don't be the owner who drafts a defense in the sixth or seventh round. Yes, the Jets will be quite good, but if you are prepared, you can still nab a solid unit such as Cincinnati or Dallas much later, very possibly in the final rounds. Even if defenses score a lot of points in your league, reaching early based on 2009 production and results is often a gamble. Defensive and special teams TDs can be random and unpredictable in many cases, and many defenses vary in performance from year to year.

20. Mock drafts are a great source of preparation, but do not refer to them as gospel. Every draft has owners with unique thought processes and strategies, and some owners may be experimental in their mock efforts. Also, all human owners may not always be present in a mock, so you can lose some authenticity there. No two drafts are fully alike, especially the real ones.

21. Identify and follow some non-fantasy sources that can make you a more powerful and knowledgeable fantasy player. National writers and publications will often cover key players in greater detail and can offer deeper insights on situations and players that may be important to you.

22. Don't get caught up in the hometown hoopla and let it influence your picks. Someone in Denver will waste a draft pick on Tim Tebow, and someone in Chicago is going to take Devin Hester too early. There is often a local flavor that permeates many drafts, but you should strive to have an objective, national viewpoint.

23. Do not go for a quarterback in the first round in most cases. You usually have to start more RBs and WRs, and should get your top players at those positions first. Running backs are going to fly off the board, and you have to keep pace early or get left with a very shaky-looking No. 1 RB.

24. Ryan Grant and CedricBenson are not "sexy" picks. But Grant gets the job done, and Benson still does not get enough respect. Benson is not in Chicago anymore, so he is not going to suddenly revert to being a bust again. Both players are rock-solid No. 2 Fantasy RBs.

25. Pierre Garcon is underrated. Some savvy NFL types liken him to Anquan Boldin because of his blend of good size and playmaking ability. Garcon sometimes comes off the board after Round 5, where he is a superb value pick for 2010.

26. The seventh overall selection may be the most challenging spot in the first round this year, especially in a PPR league. With Frank Gore and Andre Johnson possibly off the board there, Michael Turner becomes the best choice even though he does not catch enough passes. His other numbers should compensate as previously mentioned. In a non-PPR league, Johnson may not seem to be the must-have he is in the other format, but he clearly the best player at his position and makes a lot of sense there.

27. Deep sleeper alert: If Donald Driver battles injuries, Jordy Nelson could become a worthy fantasy option. Nelson has good hands, quickness and apparent football smarts. He does not have as much pure talent as James Jones, but he is more fundamentally sound.

28. Some owners want to take Ray Rice over Maurice Jones-Drew at No. 3 overall, but they simply want to stir some controversy or try to hope they look smarter than the next guy with a "cute" move. Logic dictates Jones-Drew is more proven and scores more often, and should clearly be taken over Rice.

29. Too many owners show their frustration when the player they wanted gets taken one pick ahead of them. At each pick, you should have a few guys queued up, and be ready with a few options. Sure, you may not always land your ideal pick, and we all get disappointed when hoping a player will fall, but if you are prepared with a short list of preferred players at each slot, you will soften the blow of watching your targeted player disappear.

30. Come to the draft prepared. If you do not know who is injured or who changed teams, that is your problem. Don't ask to borrow a magazine. We're playing to win here, don't expect me to help you. If someone asks for tips or assistance during the draft, treat them like you guys are taking a test in school. "Keep your eyes on your own paper." This may seem to be a hard stance to take, and would not necessarily apply in a league of family members, but the truly competitive leaguers want to win, we can be friends after the draft.

31. Deep Sleeper Alert II: Seattle's Deon Butler could be the next coming of Joey Galloway in Seattle. Galloway was an exciting, productive playmaker early in his career, and Butler has the upside to start at the No. 2 WR spot and make some Fantasy noise as soon as this season.

32. In many drafts of 16 rounds or less, backup defenses, kickers and tight ends can be wasted picks. You can often land a replacement or backup on the free agent list during the season.

33. Targeting specific players ahead of time can be a sometimes-fruitless and frustrating exercise. If you really feel strongly about a specific player and want to land him, especially in a league of experienced owners, you may have to take him a round or two ahead of his Average Draft Position to get the best opportunity to land him.

34. If you do not land an elite QB early, you can stream less-decorated passers in and out of your lineup and still field a winner. Rotating the likes of Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan is a tested, proven method. I have personally won many leagues by playing matchups with non-superstar passers.

35. Do not over-invest in statistical analysis in fantasy football. We're not playing fantasy baseball here. Proper fantasy football scouting takes many variables into account and is forward-looking, and factors such as schemes, opportunity and even emotion and motivation can play heavily into a lot of individual performances. Stats from the past are applicable, but not the main or only factor to consider.

36. You are not drafting to impress other owners. Don't make a pick just because you think it is the trendy one and you want to draw the approval of the rest of the group. It does not matter what anyone else thinks about your picks. If you feel strongly about a certain player, go for it. You may know something everyone else does not.

37. After you draft, try to relax and let the regular season come to you before overhauling your roster. Too many fantasy players get bored and start re-working their team before it even gets a chance to operate. Have faith in yourself that you executed a solid draft. Don't make moves just for the sake of staying busy, or to make something happen. You are not going to improve your outlook too much by tearing your team apart before it has "played a game."

38. I really do not like Matt Moore or Matt Leinart this year. Yet even the bad QBs must complete passes to someone, so I am not expecting huge drop-offs from Larry Fitzgerald or Steve Smith, when he is available to play.

39. The presence of Anthony Dixon and Brian Westbrook should make you more confident as a Frank Gore owner. A deeper RB situation means Gore will not be overworked, and could be less prone to injuries than he has been in the past. A more diverse 49ers offense will also mean defenses cannot key on Gore as much as they have in the past.

40. Do not get locked into targeting handcuffs on draft day. Sometimes, a handcuff is not as apparent as you may believe, and there can be depth chart movement and changing situations throughout the preseason and regular season. For example, in San Francisco, if Gore were to get injured, there could be a time share between Dixon and Westbrook. In Pittsburgh, there is no clear handcuff to Rashard Mendenhall yet. Steven Jackson does not have a prominent handcuff. Many situations are unique, there are no hard and fast rules.

41. Published reports indicate that Clinton Portis could be set for a rebound season. But Mike Shanahan is the devil (cue clip of the Waterboy) when it comes to fantasy RBs, and it would not be shocking to see Ryan Torain or some other unheralded ball-carrier get a shot to play a prominent role in Washington at some point.

42. Julian Edelman is going to be a notable fantasy player, even when Wes Welker is able to play. We have seen the No. 3 WR make an impact in New England before, and Tom Brady has a lot of confidence in Edelman.

43. I have a strong feeling we will see Marshawn Lynch make some true fantasy contributions this season. A running back with that much talent has to get some significant reps, or has to be moved elsewhere. I will gladly take him in the 11th or 12th round, where I have been landing him in early drafts.

44. So many experts are writing off Brandon Jacobs, but the Giants RB has come to camp in better health, and has a lot to prove. If Jacobs is reading the press clippings, he could be motivated to come through with a rebound year, making him a fine value. I have seen him go in the seventh or eighth round in some drafts.

45. Do not get locked into planning for bye weeks when drafting. In many situations, your roster will change by the time the bye weeks roll around, and you should not pass on a player due to bye week concerns. Do not worry about Week Four or Five lineup concerns on draft day. The only position that I apply the byes to is QB, because you will often go with the same passer for a full season.

46. Deep Sleeper Alert III: Hopefully, Chris Johnson stays healthy. If he does suffer an injury, though, Javon Ringer is gritty, determined and would make the most of any opportunity.

47. Aaron Rodgers is not my top-ranked quarterback. Sure, he looks great, but Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have much better track records of annual success. I simply cannot overlook Brees and Manning as the ultimate "safe" picks at QB. I prefer long proven records of success over upside at the position.

48. There are two types of QBs: Those who need a strong supporting cast, and others who make the most of what they have. Chad Henne strikes me as the former for now, so I am not on his sleeper train. Philip Rivers is the latter, and I still regard him as a Top-6 fantasy QB. He will spread the ball around very effectively.

49. Kevin Kolb is poised for a young passer, and is not intimidated by what gets thrown at him defensively. That will mean both very good and some very frustrating outings as a starter this year. Kolb is going to make some big plays and help his Fantasy owners win some games, but there will also be many times when he forces throws and makes mistakes. Use Kolb judiciously, and you will enjoy his better outings.

50. Now that Brett Favre has returned, you can easily insert him back into your Top-8 fantasy QBs. Favre's ankle should not be a major source of concern, as reports are now surfacing that it may have been Ray Childress, not his health, that could have made him consider staying away this year. Plus, Favre never misses games and would not return if he could not handle any more physical pounding. He's back, surely with a clean bill of health.

51. Some preseason performances are not a true sign of what is to come, such as Fred Taylor looking like a Pro Bowler. Other exhibition performances, like Ryan Mathews playing the part of an instant impact player, are more true indicators of what is to come. Some preseason play is meaningful for fantasy purposes, other storylines will quickly fade faster than you can say Troy Williamson.

52. Never let your allegiances dictate how you draft. Rooting for LeSean McCoy for those reasons may be fun, but it will not help your Fantasy fortunes if you pick him over a more established and solid RB.

53. You are going to spend a lot of time obsessing about your first pick, but it may be the easiest one to make. The best drafters have a much broader focus.

54. Know your opponents. You can never know fully what they are thinking, but if you know their usual approaches from year to year, it can help you confidently plan for your draft. In one of my leagues, a few owners do not come prepared. So I know I can pick off a lot of value picks and will have an advantage over the competition. In an experts league, I have to take a totally different approach and be prepared to go much deeper on my cheat sheets.

55. Encourage your league to start a trophy fund. Everyone pitches in 10 to 20 dollars and you order a trophy for the league champion. Having an everlasting memento of victory can be even better than winning money, which can come and go.

56. Over the course of the preseason, a general consensus of where players go in drafts will develop, and you will see a logical run of many players picked in many areas of the draft. Following experts drafts and mocks can give you an idea where certain groups of players may fit into general draft approaches, but many owners will often veer from some norms, and you should not hesitate to break away from conventional approaches when you feel strongly about a certain selection.

57. Not all published mock drafts are created equal. You can learn a lot from experts drafts. But celebrity/non-expert drafts offer a more accurate picture of where the average leaguers may pick players. Non-expert drafts offer a more accurate reflection of the mainstream leagues, where you have a mix of different levels of experience.

58. When you go to the newsstand, the amount of magazines you see can be overwhelming. There are different fantasy magazines for different levels of players, I believe. Take your time and pick the one that is right for you. Spending time in a bookstore that will let you compare and peruse the mags thoroughly is the answer. All you need is one solid fantasy magazine to use as a quick reference guide, but also buy a pro football preview as a handy companion for in-depth scouting reports.

59. Make time every day to stay updated on the latest player news. By the time draft day rolls around, some of what you read in the magazines will be outdated.

60. Do not waste any time analyzing kickers. You can throw a dart and land a solid one. I often go for Rob Bironas or Jeff Reed, and their annual consistency makes them safe, quality selections.

61. This is a now or never year for popular sleeper pick Jacoby Jones. He has apparent talent and upside, but if he does not overtake Kevin Walter in the preseason or early in the regular season, he'll simply go down as a tease. By midyear, we will know the real truth about Jones.

62. The tight end position is deeper than ever, it seems. You don't have to take one too early. Visanthe Shiancoe and Heath Miller can be good value selections, and John Carlson is set for a bounce-back campaign.

63. Anquan Boldin is not being drafted as a Top-10 WR, yet he can certainly perform like one. Boldin has performed at elite levels in the past, and with a strong desire to prove himself worthy with a new team, he is set to post quality WR1 numbers this year.

64. I still believe Felix Jones can be one of the most electric players in the game. Injuries are a major concern, but when Jones is available to play, he can be the ultimate flex option, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

65. Tom Brady has so many quality options this year, he could easily sail past last year's numbers and land just outside the "Big Three" in total QB points in 2010.