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Is this a championship team? Odds say no, but this is a group of players that will be fun to cheer on all season.

2011 Fantasy Football Draft Survival Guide

Summer is wrapping up and now is the time where everyone goes football crazy. The game is in full swing at every level, from pee-wee all the way up to the pros. For many, the highest level they will achieve is a fantasy football championship.

I would consider myself a quality fantasy football player. I've played since I was in seventh grade, won a few leagues, and I'm almost always in the top four. I also don't take it too seriously, and that's what keeps it fun. No one should play this game if it isn't going to be fun for them.

This guide could never guarantee you a championship, there's too much chance involved to guarantee that. This guide also won't tell you who to take, that's up to you. What it can guarantee is that you'll enjoy your league, and as we already established, that's the whole point of fantasy football.

Filling your team with players you like might not win the championship, but there's no reason you can't win with a team of players you like either. As an added bonus, you get to root for a team comprised of players you enjoy watching. Say you're a Packers fan, you could take Matthew Stafford (assuming his shoulder stays connected to his body), Percy Harvin, and Matt Forte and win the league if they have great years. Is that fun to root for? Probably not. Draft the guys you want to cheer for every week. A wise group of men once told me, "dying young is hard to take, but selling out is harder." It may go against your fierce competitive nature, but what's worse, dying young or selling out?

Here in Wisconsin, Packers fans are pretty hardcore. Sometimes, they're to the point of delusion. Knowing the other owners in your league can help you win it all come December. Most of the people in my leagues are Packers fans, we also have one owner from San Diego. I go into every draft knowing that I will most likely pass on every Packers and Chargers player. They're invariably overvalued, with the exception of Aaron Rodgers who's going in the first round in most leagues anyways. No one needs Jermichael Finley in the fourth round, but I've seen him drafted there already. If you like someone, don't be afraid to reach for them; as a general rule, however, quality tight ends can be found towards late-middle rounds, kickers and defenses should always be the final two picks.

This may be obvious to most, but you need to have a strategy. There are plenty of strategies to choose from. Many people start with two running backs, back to back. Other owners prefer mixing in wide receivers or one of the top five quarterbacks, I disagree with all of those strategies, however. I subscribe to the "best available player" strategy. Already have three running backs but there's still a star available? Take him. The odds of one of your players either being a bust or getting injured is high enough to make it worth the risk. At worst, someone else will need him and he becomes a trade chip to fill a weak spot of your own.

Just as important as having a strategy is sticking to it. Many a fantasy draft has gone awry by not sticking to the plan. If you want to start with two straight running backs, that's fine, but make sure you follow through. You made your strategy for a reason, and your brain is set to adapt to changes based on that strategy. Everyone else in the league has a strategy and they're sticking to it. If you start going rouge, you're bound to get lost in the wash and end up hastily drafting a defense in round six.

Sometimes the league rules can make matters more complicated. Navigating your way through a normal snake draft is difficult enough for a first timer, but wait until someone throws an auction draft at you. After trying them once or twice, auction drafts have almost always become the draft type of choice for my leagues. We went to an auction for good last year, and there's absolutely no reason to go back. In an auction draft, each team is given 200 fake dollars and each owner takes turns nominating a player to be auctioned off. Each owner gets a chance to at their favorite player, no more missing out on Ray Rice just because you had the eighth pick.

There could be an entire subsequent guide for auction drafts, but it's actually pretty simple.

Follow the same strategies you would in a normal draft. Bump your value up on players you like or want to draft, and don't even consider bidding on players who you wouldn't draft normally.

Finally, fantasy football is one of the only things in life in which talking the talk is just as (if not more) important than walking the walk. Talk trash like it's your job, rip on your friend who welches on that trade he agreed to at the bar last night. There are no limits on the trash that can be spoken in the fantasy league. Let loose, have a good time and for everyone's sake, remember that it's just a game.


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