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10 Things the Owner Next to You Won’t Think About on Draft Day

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This time of year, every fantasy football magazine and Web site out there are eager to hand you more free advice than Dr. Phil. Problem is, it’s usually about whom to draft, not how to draft. If you’re reading this, we’ll just assume you do your fair share of draft prep. You know who pulled on a new uniform in the offseason and who pulled a hamstring in the preseason.

What you may not be as familiar with is the art of the live, in-person draft — mastering the Xs and Os beyond simply knowing whom to take when. Gaining an edge in all facets of the draft is not nearly as complicated as a Belichick defensive scheme, but it does require special attention. The list below highlights some lesser-known pointers that, when executed correctly, can give you an unseen advantage in your draft.

1. Don’t sing the bye-week blues. This one is easy. When you draft a player, write down his bye week. When you draft a backup, look at the schedule and throw out all the teams that have the same bye week. All too often, owners get caught up in the heat of battle and forget about those annoying little byes.

The not-so-vaunted Bucs DST can actually come in handy.

2. Use the schedule to your advantage. While we’re on the subject of byes, consider this: You were able to snag the Jets Defense in the draft. Nice work. But you need a backup when they’re off in Week 7. Well, don’t just take the best available defense. Look at the schedule a little more closely. The Tampa Bay Defense won’t be near the top of anyone’s draft list. However, the Bucs finished the season allowing over 20 points in just one of their final six games. And guess what? They host the mess formerly known as the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. If you plan on drafting two defenses, you should snatch up one that has a cream puff match up with your last pick.

3. The best defense is a weak offense. In this year’s draft, owners will be all over the great defenses from the states of New York and Pennsylvania. If the top squads have passed you by, think about drafting a defensive unit that plays in a weak division. Both the AFC West and NFC West had a couple of teams that failed to surpass the 300 Points Scored mark. That kind of futility is often the result of giving up several turnovers and taking lots of sacks. You’ll be licking your chops each week your defense gets to face a team like the swooning Seahawks.

4. Don’t wake your sleeping giants. Every owner has at least a few names they’ve scouted as long-shot candidates for a breakout season. They’re called sleepers, and when they come up big, there’s no better feeling in fantasy sports. These off-the-radar players can provide a bigger lift than a Wonder Bra — and they make you look like a genius. But wake your sleepers up too early and you’ll pass up some safer, more reliable picks. Remember, they’re called sleepers for a reason. Let those enticing rookies, relocated vets and huge upsiders slide until at least the middle rounds, when gambling on long shots isn’t too costly.

5. Don’t be afraid to swim against the current. This one may not apply to your league, depending on its size and scoring system. But generally, the beginning of most drafts is a run on running backs because they account for a greater percentage of most teams’ offenses. But there’s always that one owner who just misses out on all the top backfield studs and is forced to go with another position. If that owner ends up being you, don’t get mad — get a top wide receiver. Then, if you’re less than thrilled with your RB choices when the draft snakes around to you, grab another top wideout. When it comes time to fill those running back slots, take a chance on guys that look to be the stronger half of a running back platoon. If you get enough of them, a couple are bound to pay off with some patience, luck and key injuries. This year, you can probably complement WRs like Andre Johnson and Miles Austin with backs like Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Brown.

6. To see the future, you must first look to the past. Look as far back as last year’s draft. If you have access to the draft results, use them. Pay attention to the tendencies of the other owners in your league. Do they go after big names? Do they avoid tailbacks over the age of 30? Do they like to roll the dice on injured players? Do they hoard a particular position? Those trends from last year’s draft are likely to repeat themselves. If you have a good sense of how your leaguemates are going to draft, you’ll be ready for that run on defenses and that drought on quarterbacks after the top tier is off the board.

7. Honor thy draft neighbor. As the draft progresses, keep a close eye on the roster needs of the players picking immediately before and after you. Say you have the 11th pick in a 12-team league. You’ve decided to draft a tight end and a defense with your next two picks. The owner in the 12th position already has a top defense, but needs a tight end. Thou shall not let him have a shot at the tight end thou covets. Grab your man and leave your defense for your turnaround pick.

8. Silence is golden. Attending a live draft in person is always entertaining. The camaraderie, the trash talking, the muffled snickers when someone gets drafted a few rounds too early. Big fun. Feel free to talk it up, but don’t let your strategy show. You wouldn’t blurt out where the destroyer is positioned on your “Battleship” pegboard, would you? So why let your fellow owners in on your opinions or any late-breaking news you’ve heard. That goes for last-minute injuries, benchings and whatever shenanigans Mike Shanahan is playing with the media.

9. Read their faces like a book. Peeking over at the draft list of the guy next to you could get you a bloody nose. But peeking at his facial expression after picks are made could get you inside his head. “Wait, what was that? Did Sully just wince after Chester Taylor’s name was called?” He did, and Sully just let you know he’s looking for a running back next without ever saying a word. Very few owners actually bring their poker faces with them on draft day.

10. It’s never too early to bait the hook. After the first round, keep you ears open for owners who throw a “nice pick” your way after your selection. Chances are, you now own a player they wanted. Make a note of who said it. Then, a few weeks into the season, you might just be able to swap that desired player — and reel in one chosen a round or two earlier in the draft.

I hope this list helps you field the best team possible on draft day — and moves you one step closer to the [Your Name Here] Dynasty.

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