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IN THIS MAGAZINE YOU'LL BE INUNDATED with cheat sheets, player rankings and expert mock drafts, all designed to help Joe/Jane Fantasy stay competitive throughout the 2009 season. But it is here—and only here—that you'll be given a tactical road map to a championship. You might even learn a psychological ploy or two for draft day.
1 DO YOUR HOMEWORK. FANTASY CHAMPIONSHIPS seldom fall into the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, a title earned in Week 16 is usually the culmination of hard work, discipline and excellent preparation way back in August. Here are three components of that process.
Study at least four preseason fantasy publications (in addition to this fine page-turner). Get a sense of what the experts are saying—along with what they're not saying—about certain players. Find common ground among the predraft rankings and drafting trends.
Continually monitor the average draft position rankings on various websites. Average draft positions afford you the chance to get the player you want at the value you want without the embarrassment of reaching for his services.
Mock, mock, mock draft your way to building draft-day confidence. There's no disputing your childhood piano instructor's creed: Practice makes perfect. For example, let's say you have your heart set on taking New Orleans's Marques Colston as a WR1 in a standard league, and after five to 10 mock drafts, you're stunned to learn that he's typically going in round 4 (and not a moment sooner). With that inside knowledge you can now focus your energies on getting a stud running back in round 3, knowing Colston will most likely be waiting for you on the flip side.
2 GET TO KNOW YOUR FELLOW owners. This process is incredibly simple to follow. If you're in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical predraft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in rounds 2 through 5). And in the interest of investigative journalism, find out which players will be taken in round 1, pick by pick, just in case you're looking to trade down in the draft.
Now for the fun part. If you're playing in an online league with strangers, buddy up to 'em before the draft. For example, find out where they're from (chances are they'll reach for a player from their hometown team; it's human nature) and/or subtly coerce them into bragging about the best draft pick or trade they've made in recent times. The rationale: Fantasy owners tend to redraft players who once led them to a title. You can then use that loyalty as leverage for a draft-day trade.
3 COME ARMED WITH CHEAT SHEETS (ONE TO TWO pages maximum). Bottom line: With 60 to 90 seconds between picks, you'll never have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of predraft insights once the clock starts ticking. Be organized. Condense your notes. Economize on time. Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes or whatever it takes to save time when you're on the clock.
4 LIMIT YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE DURING A LIVE DRAFT at a bar: Fantasy friends typically enjoy having a few drinks at a local watering hole on draft night. The rule of thumb here: Always consume less alcohol than the two owners selecting before and after you in a snake draft.