We are approaching the start of the 2013 NFL Fantasy Football season (fantasy starts long before the NFL) so it is time to start your preparation work. Sure, you could take the easy way out and let your autodraft engine pick your team for you and hope that you will be competitive. However, very few leagues are won this way. You need to gain the advantage at draft time by picking the Sleepers ahead of the other managers and being positioned to pick the waiver wire clean at the appropriate times during the season. So, here is a basic checklist to start with.
Determine what fantasy sports website you want to play on. Even if you are not the Commissioner, you want to investigate the variety of sites available and determine who has the best features and appears to be the easiest to use. Do not be afraid to use a site that you have not seen on national television. Investments in innovation will help you play in a more enjoyable league.
Start building the pool of players that will one day make up your player rankings. Many sites have players ranked at draft time, but everyone in your league will have access to that information. You want your list of players ranked by your expectation of how they will perform this season. If you do your homework before the draft, you should be in position to take home the crown at the end of the season. If it looks iffy, you can always bribe a few other managers to dump players your way.
Now, that player pool is not as easy to pour as a cold beer. Start by going over the free agent movement since the Super Bowl ended. Since the Ravens won the title, it seems like a quarter of the league has changed teams. You also want to flag position battles for the number 1 and number 2 slots in your money positions. No reason to worry about who the number 1 running back is in Cleveland, but you may be concerned about who will win the number 2 slot. You want to focus on news involving these players.
Of course, you better factor rookies into the mix. There was a time when very few made an impact in their first year, but those days are over with. I would have never recommended a rookie QB in days gone by, but the success of Cam, RGIII and Andrew Luck has changed all of that. So, grab the draft results from April. Everyone knows that Montee Ball will be a rookie to draft, but what about Zac Stacy? You want to be the team that drafts him first. Of course, he’ll be known by draft time, so go through all picks and try to imagine where they will factor into the depth chart, even if they will not be the obvious number 2 back. For example, get to know Joseph Randle. Wow, I could just hear a deafening “Who?!”. With DeMarco Murray being a perennial injury risk, Randle could be the feature back on a very good team in no time.
Start digesting news and injury reports, making sure to focus on the teams where you see the best position battles and greatest opportunity for upside. If you keep a comprehensive diary of these happenings, you can trust this more than random articles found before the draft….except mine, of course. I won’t be publishing a mock draft for a few months, though. Too many unknowns. It is a bit foolhardy to rank players right now, though it doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick and Matthew from doing it. It still surprises me that some leagues will draft before July 4th. Good luck with that, folks! Put yourself in the best position to win.