Draft preview: Fantasy football draft strategies

Everyone has a system when it comes to fantasy football.

Like a Greyhound bus full of senior citizens descending on Las Vegas with a new system to defeat blackjack, everyone believes that his is the best. And similarly, fantasy football comes down to some good planning, knowing the rules and -- maybe most importantly -- a little bit of luck.

But you have to be prepared. Knowing to pick LaDainian Tomlinson (or Adrian Peterson) first is easy, but what do you do for the rest of your picks?

The most important thing is to know your league's scoring system. There is nothing worse than being halfway through your draft and realizing that one 31-yard touchdown run counts more than five 1-yard touchdown runs (true story).

Take some time to study the rules and adopt your strategy accordingly. Of course, if the league commissioner tells you that field goals are worth 100 points and touchdowns only two, he's either kidding or it's time to join a different fantasy league.

It's also important to be cognizant of bye weeks. There is nothing better than being in the middle of your draft and informing your (hopefully obnoxious) buddy that his quarterback combination of Derek Anderson and Marc Bulger have the same bye (Week 5).

With that in mind, let's take a look at some basic strategies to get your season kicked off.

The Mike Shanahan

This strategy involves hording a stable of quality running backs, leaving you vulnerable to an average quarterback and receivers who suffer freak injuries. It also means drafting three running backs at the top of the board, regardless of who is left. Running backs have long been in short supply so it's important to grab as many as you can as early as you can for depth and potential bait for trades.

The bottom line: The rise of backfield committees means there are not 32 full-time starting running backs in the NFL. In fact, you're lucky if you get half of that number. That means you're really stretching to take that No. 3 back, when you could probably get equal value a few rounds later. This strategy was popular a few years ago, before Shanahan himself nearly ruined fantasy football by using a running back by committee.

The Peyton Manning

There are a number of running backs who are locks in the first round. That lists includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Joseph Addai and Frank Gore. But it gets a bit cloudy after that. This strategy calls for a changeup in the first round by taking the best quarterback in the draft, which had been Manning. You can then address your running back situation in Rounds Two and Three, while assuring yourself 300 passing yards and a handful of touchdowns each week.

The bottom line: This was actually my favorite strategy -- until last season. Manning's 2007 fantasy numbers were similar to what he had done in the past, but he was blown out of the water by Tom Brady (who wasn't picked in the first round). With Brady's rise along with newcomers like Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Derek Anderson, using a first-round pick on Manning just isn't feasible. However, there will be temptation to turn this into "The Tom Brady." Someone will reach really early for Brady. Don't be that guy. History shows that Super Bowl losers just don't perform the following season. And even in the AFC East, you can't ignore history. Brady will be good, but he's not throwing 50 touchdowns again.

The Matt Millen

This strategy involves taking a receiver with your first two picks. No, seriously. The thinking being that receivers are also in short supply, and you can get the two absolute best if you jump on them early. This strategy is popular with people saddled at the turn of snake drafts, i.e. Nos. 10-11 in a 10-team league.

The bottom line: Use this strategy and you'll end up finishing like the Lions. Having, say, Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne would be a pretty good get. The gamble, however, on getting your workhorse running back in the third round is just too great. Receivers also are more inconsistent -- and petulant -- than running backs. And yes, even if you are in a league that rewards points for receptions, you are better off getting a running back who can catch out of the backfield (like Brian Westbrook or Gore) is a much better option.

The Tex Schramm

This one is simple: Take the best player available. Bring a complete player ranking and a pen, and just make your selections based on the best player available. The key, of course, is to make sure you balance the selections so that you don't go too heavy on any position.

The bottom line: With this strategy, your team is likely to be more balanced than it would with any of the above. This also is good for first-time players who are just starting to get their feet wet. Or people who plan to drink heavily during the draft.

The Adam Rank

This strategy will involve taking a running back with your first pick, a receiver with your second and going back to running back in the third round. The difference between a second- and third-round pick is pretty minimal, especially in 12-team leagues. This will give you a top running back and receiver that you can rely on each week, and provide just as much balance as The Tex Schramm.

The bottom line: You need to pay attention when using this strategy, especially in the third round. If a strong run on backs has left you short sided in the position, this might be a time to scoop up another quality receiver. You can end up with a team, for instance, like Gore-Wayne-Marques Colston. That should give you great boost in your league, and you will likely still find a quality back such as Julius Jones or Michael Turner in the fourth round. Plus, be on the lookout for some breakout rookie candidates such as Rashard Mendenhall and Kevin Smith later in the draft.

Of course, if this strategy doesn't work for you, blame Michael Fabiano.

And finally, the bottom line about kickers and defense: Use anything but your last pick on a kicker and you deserve to finish in last place. The only defense even partially worth investing a mid-round pick on would be the Vikings. Otherwise that should be your second-to-last pick.

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