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Ron'S ADVICE

As the NFL draws near, so does the 2016 NFL Fantasy Football season (the fantasy football season kicks off long before the NFL season does) so it is time to start your preparation work for your fantasy football league draft(s). Sure, you could take the easy way out and let your autodraft engine pick your team for you and hope that you will be competitive. However, very few leagues are won this way. You need to gain the advantage at draft time by picking the Sleepers ahead of the other managers and being positioned to pick the waiver wire clean at the appropriate times during the season. So, here is a basic checklist to start with.

  1. Determine what fantasy sports website you want to play on. Even if you are not the Commissioner, you want to investigate the variety of sites available and determine who has the best features and appears to be the easiest to use. Do not be afraid to use a site that you have not seen on national television. Investments in innovation will help you play in a more enjoyable league.

  2. Start building the pool of players that will one day make up your player rankings. Many sites have players ranked at draft time, but everyone in your league will have access to that information. You want your list of players ranked by your expectation of how they will perform this season. If you do your homework before the draft, you should be in position to take home the crown at the end of the season. If it looks iffy, you can always bribe a few other managers to dump players your way.

  3. Now, that player pool is not as easy to dissect as a Thanksgiving Day turkey. It will be time-consuming, but well worth it. Start by going over the free agent movement since the Super Bowl ended. Since the Broncos won the title, it seems like a quarter of the league has changed teams. You also want to flag position battles for the top slots in your money positions. No reason to worry about who the number 1 running back is in Minnesota, but you may be concerned about who will win the number 2 slot. You want to focus on news involving these players as injuries take down many running backs each year and you want to be protected.

  4. Of course, you better factor rookies into the mix. There was a time when very few made an impact in their first year, but those days are over with. I would have never recommended a rookie WR in days gone by, but the success of Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin changed all of that in 2014, though not so much in 2015. So, pay close attention to the draft results this coming May. Everyone knows that Laquon Treadwell will be a rookie WR to draft, but what about Sterling Shepard? You want to be the team that drafts him first. Of course, he’ll be known by draft time of your fantasy league, so go through all picks and try to imagine where they will factor into the depth chart, even if they will not be a guaranteed starter. For example, in an under the radar move, Stevan Ridley signed with Detroit. Though he has had a few injury-plagued years, he goes to a team in need of a running back and did have over 1250 yards and 12 TDs in 2012 for the Patriots.

  5. Start digesting news and injury reports, making sure to focus on the teams where you see the best position battles and greatest opportunity for upside.  If you keep a comprehensive diary of these happenings, you can trust this more than random articles found before the draft….except mine, of course. I won’t be publishing a mock draft until mid-August, though.Too many unknowns. It is a bit foolhardy to rank players right now, though it doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick and Matthew from doing it. It still surprises me that some leagues will draft before August 1st. Good luck with that, folks! Put yourself in the best position to win come your draft date.

  6. Evaluate the impact of coaching changes. Teams that have changed head coaches and/or offensive coordinators can greatly change the outlook for player performances based on the way they run their offenses. For example, the Dolphins new head coach, Adam Gase is known as a QB Whisperer. With that, you can expect a bigger year out of QB Ryan Tannehill and his stable of talented wide receivers. Just look at what he did with Jay Cutler in Chicago in 2015. With Hue Jackson now leading the Cleveland Browns, you know that he will have an impact on how the defense operates, which should elevate an already talented unit.

  7. Run through some mock drafts and watch where certain guys are being drafted (Average Draft Position; ADP) and if it is relatively consistent. As the pre-season rolls on, are certain guys falling down the draft board/moving up the draft board? You should have your ADP projections and highlight the players that are a big departure from your expectations as those changes may alter your drafting strategy. As always, there will be a run on running backs early in the draft but I would expect the top WRs to come off the board then as well along with TE Rob Gronkowski. Your drafting strategy is dependent on your league configuration so you should not buy into one set drafting strategy as it may not apply to your league. If you decide to go with WRs and/or Gronk early in the draft, you will most likely need to look into the second tier of running backs. Know when they are going off the board and be prepared to stock your backfield then before chasing a slew of tier 3 guys and hoping to strike oil.

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