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Fantasy Football 2011: 10 Mistakes To Avoid Making in 2012

Cedric HopkinsContributor IDecember 23, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: 10 Mistakes To Avoid Making in 2012

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    With just about every manager out of the championship hunt, I thought I'd give a few lessons on how to make it to your championship next year. And no, not a hypothetical championship, either.

    Not the, "If I would've started Donald Brown over Maurice Jones-Drew, then I would've made it to the championship" kind of paper-champ.

    It's time you land a real championship, and 2012 is your year.

    I'm here to help you navigate around 10 mistakes you probably made this season, and get you primed to have a solid 2012 fantasy season. It's time to learn from your mistakes and get an edge on making it to your championship week.

Mistake No. 1: Relying on Print for Rankings

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    You've heard the poker expression: "If you can't spot the sucker at the table, then it's you." Well, the same applies to fantasy football drafts.

    Come draft day, when you're huddled around your friends, you should be able to pick out the sucker—the guy who is at a serious disadvantage. That guy will be the guy flipping through magazines looking for information on his next pick.

    Magazines have outdated information. And when I say outdated, it could be by the minute.

    Your fantasy draft will most likely take place during the preseason games—preferably after the third week of the preseason when teams begin to rest their starters. That weekend, teams will announce injuries or other issues with players that can make the difference for your virtual squad.

    Don't be the dunce looking at print magazines at your draft. If you're looking at any paper, it should be printed off a website right before walking into your draft. Or better yet, have a website that you trust up on your Ipad or laptop as you're drafting.

    You'll have the information that you need streaming right to you as you make each essential pick. 

Mistake No. 2: Not Mocking It Up

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    My dad drilled his motto into me: "Always be prepared." No matter what you're facing, you have to be prepared for it. 

    When it comes to fantasy football, the way to get prepared for the regular season is to do mock drafts. And with fantasy football becoming a year-round exercise, you can start mocking, well, now.

    At least one website (fantasyfootballcalculator.com), has mock drafts going all year. 

    Some managers know their draft position early, and some have to wait until draft day. Either way, it is essential to have your draft strategy cemented in your mind. 

    Of course, you should be flexible and have contingency plans. You may be set on drafting a quarterback early, but make sure you make a list of the signal-callers that you'll take in the first or second round. If one of those quarterbacks isn't on the board when you're on the clock, go to plan B.

    Don't just draft any quarterback because that was your original plan.

    Develop a sound strategy through several mock drafts, but be ready to stick-and-move if things don't go as planned during your draft.

Mistake No. 3: Getting Lazy in the Late Rounds

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    The first few rounds of a fantasy football draft are filled with excitement. You've been waiting months to draft your team: The adrenaline is pumping and you're rearing to go. You nail all your picks, you grab LeSean McCoy and Drew Brees and even snag Hakeem Nicks—you're set.

    Now that you've gotten off to a solid start, it's time to really focus and make sure you stack your team. The first few rounds will start your season off, but the later rounds is what gives you an edge to keep winning through injuries and bye weeks.

    Making smart picks is essential if you play in a dynasty league where you get to franchise a player for the following season.

    Take for example Steve Smith South. If you paid attention and picked Smith based on his potential, you probably grabbed him in the 10th round or later. He's third in receiving yards this season, behind only Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson. 

    Don't be like the guy in the picture above and sleep on some nice picks in the late rounds of your fantasy draft. Stay focused (and sober), and come away with a solid team with nice depth.

Mistake No. 4: Drafting a QB Too Early

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    One of the biggest dilemmas in fantasy football drafts is when to take a quarterback. The answer is to wait on a quarterback until at least the third or fourth round. 

    If you decide to draft Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady in the first round, then your running back and/or wide receiver positions will haunt you all season long.

    You can land a Tony Romo or Philip Rivers in the third or fourth round of your draft. If you've waited and snagged one of those guys, then you will have someone like Ray Rice or Arian Foster as your running back.

    That's much better balance than putting one guy's performance on your team's shoulders all season.

    And in 2012, there will be at least 12 quarterbacks that can lead you to the playoffs: Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Rivers, Tim Tebow, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub.

    No, you can't rely on Michael Vick.

    Any one of those 12 quarterbacks would suit you just fine in making a playoff run. The difference is in order to secure the services of Rodgers, Brees and possibly Brady, you'll have to sacrifice severely at your other positions.

    With the depth at quarterback, there's no need.

Mistake No. 5: Not Using Social Media

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    I signed up for twitter, but not to tell people I'm bored, like Samuel L. Jackson in the picture to the left. I signed up to get an edge over the managers in my fantasy league. 

    This is one secret that I thought I wouldn't let out, but for my fellow readers at Bleacher Report, I can let it be known.

    The way to use twitter to gain an edge in fantasy football is to follow NFL insiders and fantasy football experts. After you follow them, then set up your cell phone to get their tweets sent to your phone as texts. 

    After you have the twitter set-up as I've explained, you'll get up-to-the-second updates on players. This really is handy during games when players get hurt, and you can use that same phone to go and pick up a backup running back or wide receiver.

    Also, the tweets texted to your phone help just before kickoff when players are game-day decisions.

    When you're away from home on Sundays—you know, out with the girlfriend or wife doing that all important shopping—you can stay on top of all relevant fantasy news.

    And it's all free: even the advice.

Mistake No. 6: Not Checking the Weather

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    Checking the weather on Sunday mornings could mean the difference between winning and losing. And you can't afford to lose, ever. Every win in fantasy football is essential to making the playoffs.

    Rain and wind affect the way the football game is played. If there are gusty winds, heavy rain showers or a blanketing snow storm in the city where your wide receiver or quarterback is playing, that may affect your decision to sit or start that player.

    It may also affect your draft day decisions. Look for teams playing in domes—especially during the fantasy football playoffs. In Week 16, managers are taking comfort in the fact that Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson will be indoors at Ford Field and not outside battling the elements.

    You look here to check out the weather for all NFL games in one convenient package. 

Mistake No. 7: Not Checking Injury Updates Prior to Kickoff

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    There's nothing more frustrating than starting a guy only to find out that he's not active. You need to hawk the injury news like A.J. Hawk is hawking Adrian Peterson in the picture to the left.

    Hawk, hawk and hawk. C'mon, you know that was good. 

    Anyway.

    Every week in fantasy football, there are several game-time decisions. Prior to setting your lineup, you should check the injury reports. And I mean right up to kickoff. 

    A few times this season a player suffered an injury while warming up for the game, including Marshawn Lynch. His owners weren't tasting the rainbow that week.

Mistake No. 8: Not Using the Waiver Wire

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    Every year there are waiver wire wonders that propel fantasy teams into the playoffs. The question is, are you aboard the waiver train?

    This year, such gems included DeMarco Murray, Tim Tebow, Jordy Nelson and Laurent Robinson. 

    Every week, there are different players that are considered hot waiver adds. It's good to claim those guys and see how they develop. Some flop (Tashard Choice) and others flourish (Jordy Nelson). 

    Either way, you should make sure that you have room on your fantasy team to secure a few waiver adds during the season. It could mean the difference between you making the playoffs or not.

Mistake No. 9: Pay Attention to Playoff Weeks

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    In case you forgot, the guy in the picture to the left is Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush. He's pretty much been a disappointment this year based on the preseason hype he received after his arrival in Miami. 

    Bush has stepped up recently and is now garnering attention in the fantasy community. He should've had your attention several weeks ago when I told you to go and trade for him.

    The reason? Because of his playoff schedule.

    He faced the Eagles and Bills in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively. And now he gets the Patriots' horrific run defense in championship week. 

    Bush's situation underscores the importance of evaluating players' playoff schedules during the year. Prior to the season, it's somewhat difficult to tell which defenses will be weak against the run and/or pass. But after a few weeks in, you can get a good read on most teams. 

    That's when it's time to strike. Madly pursue players with favorable playoff schedules during the season. Because getting to the playoff games is important—winning those games is even more important.

Mistake No. 10: Not Reading Local Newspapers

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    Yes, I'm telling you to read the local newspaper. No, not your local newspaper; the local newspapers of the players on your fantasy football team. 

    And no, I'm not telling you to start a subscription of 10 newspapers and have a bunch of smelly, black ink on your fingers. It's all on your computer. 

    The beat writers for each local team are usually plugged in with players and coaches and offer invaluable insight into the team they cover—usually the superstar players on the team, which would be the players on your fantasy football team. 

    You getting this? Keep up.

    Some of the best beat writers—Kent Somers in Phoenix, Brad Biggs in Chicago, Kevin Acee in San Diego—have a pipeline right to the heart of their local teams. You need to connect yourself to that pipeline and read what they have to say...eh, write. 

    And if you won't listen to me about reading the newspaper, then at least listen to the New Orleans cheerleader in the picture screaming at you to read it. Either way, the local newspaper is filled with gold that you should get your hands on. It will help your fantasy football team all season long. 

BONUS MISTAKE: Not Getting Your Girlfriend/Wife Involved

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    When the NFL lockout ended, fans all over the world rejoiced. Wives and girlfriends everywhere wept. For them, the NFL season meant months of Sundays, Mondays, sometimes Thursdays and sometimes Saturday mornings filled with noisy televisions, beer bellies and the dreaded fantasy football leagues. 

    If you happen to be a guy who's with a chick that is into football and actually likes watching the game, I hate you. If you're like the rest of us, I've worked tirelessly to come up with a way to get your female football-hating friend to ease up on you.

    First, use the Kardashians. Instead of telling your wife about Reggie Bush's amazing run (trust me, she couldn't care less about Bush), you need to tell her something like, "I can't believe Reggie Bush is getting back with Kim Kardashian." That will get her attention. Keep up with who the NFL players are dating and keep your main squeeze up-to-date, as well.

    It helps, trust me.

    Then, focus on a player that she may have a secret crush on—say, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Then take the next step, which is a biggie. Start a fantasy football league with family and family friends. You know, the sister-in-law, your 12-year-old cousin, etc.

    You need to include her in the league and make sure she lands one of those guys that she may have a crush on. It will take time, but little by little, she will ask you, "How did my team do?" Try to get some people that she's competitive with in the league—maybe a sister or her best friend.

    The next thing you know, she will be screaming at the television right along with you on Sundays. 

    Fellas, don't push against her dislike of the NFL: it's an immovable force. Instead, bring her walls down, one season at a time by including her. Just make sure she doesn't think you're doing it for a selfish reason or all bets are off. 

    And yes, I know Reggie is getting back with Kim because I'm keeping my wife involved in any way I can.

    By. All. Means. Necessary.

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