Fantasy football success in 75 steps
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 Eli Manning. At some point in the career of many quality quarterbacks, "the light goes on" in their heads and everything comes together. Manning isn't about to revert to past form, after his career took a pivotal turn during the '07 postseason. I don't care what his numbers were from last year or how his regular season played out. He's a new quarterback now, and he's going to be a quality fantasy starter in '08.
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
4. Avoid Larry Johnson until at least the fourth round. The offensive line in Kansas City is nothing compared to what it used to be, and a shaky passing game will mean less drives to finish off with touchdowns and more defensive attention on a consistent basis. He'll have to battle hard for most of his yardage this season.
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 Adrian Peterson just because of the Minnesota passing game. The air attack was weak in '07, and that didn't prevent him from delivering some incredible performances. It takes more than just sticking "eight in the box" to stop an outstanding running back who plays behind an elite offensive line.
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 Ronnie Brown is coming off a major injury, and Ricky Williams has obvious issues, don't assume that any Miami running back listed behind those two on the depth chart will break out if given the chance to start. Sure, it's possible, but I won't be wasting even a final-round pick on Jalen Parmele, when I can easily pick him up as a free agent during the season if I need to. I probably won't have to pick him up.
9. All young quarterbacks are not created equal. Among rookies, Joe Flacco isn't ready for prime time if given the chance to start. Matt Ryan could develop much quicker than anyone expects and at least keep defenses honest, which would ensure that Roddy White continues to produce well. Aaron Rodgers still needs more consistent playing time to be respectable, but Trent Edwards is showing some clear signs that he can be a quality player very early in his pro career and will bring some stability to the Buffalo offense.
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.
11. Marvin Harrison is finally done. Think Moises Alou with a football helmet. Reggie Wayne is the new Marvin Harrison. Anthony Gonzalez is the next Reggie Wayne.
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 Matt Schaub stays healthy this season. He may not have any reliable targets other than Andre Johnson and maybe Owen Daniels, who I'm not a big fan of. Yet Schaub does a great job of taking what defenses will give him and can overcome a lack of quality depth at receiver.
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 Ahman Green a starter, and bring in Chris Brown as "insurance."
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.
17. Laurence Maroney will emerge as a fantasy star in '08. He progressively became a better inside runner in '07, and he'll be the complete package as a ball carrier this year.
18. The Jets have made significant, obvious improvements on their offensive line. Yet that doesn't mean Thomas Jones will be anything more than respectable this season. The guy who will really benefit from the improved blocking is Kellen Clemens, who I believe is poised for a breakout season.
19. Don't get too excited about Mike Martz coming to San Francisco. The receiving corps still looks very thin, and Isaac Bruce will regret leaving St. Louis at this point of his career. I'm not drafting anyone from that passing game other than Vernon Davis.
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.