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Fantasy football strategies

Drafts are considered the most fun and exciting parts of the entire fantasy football experience, but there is some definite work that is involved in order to build a competitive roster. Owners should be sure to have a pen, paper, a list of bye weeks and, of course, the 2007 NFL.com Fantasy Football Preview Magazine, when it comes time for draft day. Furthermore, owners need to also be prepared with some sort of draft strategy.

There have been several different strategies that have become prevalent in recent seasons, and we'll take an in-depth look at five such plans and talk about their effectiveness in your own fantasy football league.

First off, and I can't stress this point enough, it is absolutely IMPERATIVE to have a personal knowledge of the scoring system, rules and roster limitations your league utilizes before the correct plan of attack can even be conceptualized. If you're not sure of the scoring system, rules and roster limitations, you can ask your commissioner for assistance or go to League Home --> Rules on your NFL.com league home page.

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Marshall Faulk was so good in his playing days that we named a fantasy football strategy after him.

1. The Faulk Strategy Named after future Hall of Fame running back and current NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk, this plan suggests that owners should select three running backs in the first three rounds in order to secure depth at what is considered the most important position in the world of fantasy football. Once this requirement has been met, owners should then follow the flow of the draft and select either a quarterback or a wide receiver in the fourth round. The focus of the next few rounds should then be placed on a combination of wide receivers, tight ends or even a fourth running back (which could be insurance for one of the first three runners selected).

Does it work? This used to be a much more popular plan of attack, but the rise in backfield committees has made it somewhat less attractive. It can still be a useful tool in leagues that offers a flex starter, but only if the level of reliable quarterbacks and elite wide receivers doesn't thin out too fast. What's more, owners who want to have some bargaining chips (there is none more valuable than runners) would like this plan in order to have trade leverage in the regular season.

2. The Best-Player Available Strategy The simplest course of action on our list, this plan tells owners to choose the best player available with each selection based on an overall positional rank list (NFL.com has an entire list to use). For example, an owner who has the No. 12 overall selection in a 12-team league would select the 12th and 13th best available players in the first and second round based on the list. Once a position is filled (we will use running backs for this example), then the owners selects the next-best non-back. In the end, this strategy is supposed to allow owners a chance to build the most well-rounded team possible without a huge weakness.

Does it work? This sort of strategy can be useful for rookie owners all the way up to the most knowledgeable and experienced veterans. However, it is important to keep close tabs on the flow of the draft in order to make educated decisions on which position to fill once the first two rounds (which will be running backs in most cases) are finished. Also, owners must be diligent with what positions they've filled and be able to decide when it's time to make choices on overall team depth.

3. The Quarterback Strategy We can also label this the Peyton Manning Strategy, because he is the only quarterback who is worth a first-round selection. An owner who doesn't have one of the top three selections (where LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson are locks) will utilize this plan of attack and decide to take Manning rather than a running back in the first round. After that, an owner will catch up on runners in the second and third rounds. However, it's not out of the question to take a runner and receiver in those rounds based on the flow of the draft, but in most cases it will be backs who are the focal point in the rounds right after Manning is selected.

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Does it work? The one advantage with this plan, of course, is that it allows you to land the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy football. It also allows owners to wait on another quarterback until the late rounds, because Manning has been quite durable as a pro. The downfall is that you won't land one of the elite running backs, and your No. 2 back could be less consistent. This sort of plan is not an option if quarterbacks receive four points for passing touchdowns, but otherwise it can work.

4. The Wide Receiver Strategy Most of us know that running backs will be the main offensive skill position selected in the first two rounds, so rather than follow the trend, this plan suggests that an owner take wide receivers with their first two selections and wait on selecting their first back until the third round. As a result, it is possible to land, for example, Steve Smith and Chad Johnson, and then fill in the backfield with less consistent backs or potential sleeper candidates. Since there will be a plethora of respectable quarterbacks still on the board in the middle rounds, an owner who decides to utilize this plan can then wait a bit to fill that position and still land a decent starter.

Does it work? This strategy is more viable in leagues that reward points for receptions, but we still wouldn't recommend it. While there will no doubt be some backs who emerge as options from off the waiver wire (like Maurice Jones-Drew and Travis Henry last season), a lack of depth and production from the running back position can be the most difficult weakness to fill. Ultimately, an owner who uses this strategy might have to deal one of his/her top wide receivers to add a back.

5. The New NFL.com Strategy The most effective draft strategies can change as the state of the NFL changes, so we've put together a plan that almost guarantees a competitive team. No matter the draft position, an owner should take a back in each of the first two rounds. One of the elite wide receivers should be taken in the third round, and then another wideout or a solid quarterback should be selected in the fourth round (based on draft flow). Top-notch tight ends should still be available in the middle rounds, so don't press to fill that position unless there's a real run. Finally, don't EVER take a kicker or defense until the late rounds, and don't take more than one of each.

Does it work? This plan of attack should work in most cases, unless you end up with two huge disappointments in the first two rounds (such as Carnell Williams and LaMont Jordan last season). In most cases, you'll finish the draft with a stable backfield, at least one elite wide receiver and a solid No. 2 wideout, and at least one (if not two) quality quarterbacks. The middle rounds should also include a solid tight end and some nice reserves, which will ensure a nice all-around roster.

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