The optimum time to partake in a fantasy draft comes after the Week 3 slate of preseason games (Aug. 23-27), as a practical means of avoiding injuries with high-end prospects.
But with work/family obligations and logistical difficulties part of the mix, sometimes that's just not possible.
Here are four super-quick tips for successfully navigating (or faking your way through) an early fantasy draft—without the insight of two or three exhibition contests.
(We'll explore specific draft methodologies on Friday.)
1. Do Your Homework
Fantasy championships seldom fall in the laps of absentee or indifferent owners. In fact, a title earned in Week 16/17 is usually the culmination of hard work, roster discipline and excellent preparation in August. Here are three components to that process:
a. Study at least four publications (outside of your commitment to The Fantasy Blog)
Get a sense of what the experts are saying—and what they're not saying about certain players. Find common ground among the pre-raft rankings and drafting trends.
b. Continually monitor the Average Draft Position (ADP) rankings on various Web sites
ADP lists afford owners the chance to get the player they want at the value they need, without the embarrassment of "reaching" for their fantasy services.
**Mock Draft Central ADP
**Fantasy Football Toolbox ADP
c. Mock, mock, mock your way to building draft-day confidence
There's no disputing your childhood piano instructor's creed: Practice makes perfect.
For example, let's pretend your heart is set on Roddy White in Round 2, but after five or 10 mocks, you're pleasantly surprised to see Roddy typically going in the middle of Round 3. The same high-end wideout who averaged 108 catches, 1,343 yards, 179 targets and nine touchdowns the last two seasons.
With that knowledge, you can now focus on securing a pair of stud running backs with the first two picks, knowing White will likely be there in the upper 20's/early 30's.
2. Get To Know Your Fellow Owners
This process is incredibly simple: If you're in a league with friends, just stick to a methodical pre-draft plan of talking trash (like psyching out the competition for players slotted in Rounds 2-5); and in the interest of a little 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 a league with virtual strangers, buddy up to 'em a few minutes before the draft. Find out where they're from (it's human nature to reach for a player from one's hometown team) 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 re-draft players who once led them to a title. You can use that loyalty as leverage for a draft-day trade (if applicable).
3. Come Armed With Cheat Sheets (1-2 pages max)
With 60-90 seconds between picks, you'll never have enough time to peruse a whole notebook of pre-draft insights once the clock starts ticking.
Be organized. Condense your notes. Economize on time. Rank players by specific numbers or color-coded schemes...and above all else, DO NOT send me a Tweet while on the clock. Please hit me up before any selections.
My current slideshow/cheat sheet links:
**Top 150 Overall Players
**QB Starter Rankings
**Top 40 Running Backs (standard scoring)
**Top 60 Running Backs (PPR)
**Top 40 Wide Receivers (standard scoring)
**Top 60 Wide Receivers (PPR)
**Top 25 Tight Ends
**Top 25 Tight Ends (PPR)
**Top 20 Kickers
**Top 20 Defenses Special Teams
**12 Dark Horses For After Round 8
4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake During A Live Draft
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 owners selecting immediately before AND after you in a snake draft.
You'll thank me in the morning...especially after out-drinking the other 11 owners at the post-draft party.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.