Time. Everyone's done songs about it. From the Chamber Brothers to Jim Croce to Styx to Cyndi Lauper to Hootie and the Blowfish. It's the most precious resource we have (besides chocolate ice cream). It can be your friend, just as often as it's not. But it's also the number one reason why people who want to play fantasy football, do not.
"I'd love to play, it sounds like so much fun, but I really don't know if I have the time for it." That is THE most common refrain I hear from people who have still yet to dangle their legs in the water of fantasy. Well, that's a misconception, because you do have the time, whether you know it or not. First, I'm going to get you over the mental hurdle of Time, and then the physical one, so you can play fantasy football in 2012 and then wish you had done it five years ago. You won't believe how easy it is to participate. (I know, I'm a regular Tony Robbins.)
THE MENTAL HURDLE
It sounds daunting to play fantasy. You see your friends talk fantasy all the time and it seems like that's all they're doing with their lives (it is). You hear stories about how Johnny has spent all week trying to trade for Mike Wallace and it's close, but not quite there. You have this image of people spending hours upon hours engaged in fantasy. Blowing off their families for fantasy. Blowing off their jobs for fantasy. Getting fired for browsing the web for a 'deep sleeper', which you don't really understand what that is. You can't go up against that, right? You'll embarrass yourself against these "pros" and who wants that? But you don't have to to be that involved to be successful.
Let me re-iterate that: you don't have to spend more than 15 minutes a week on your team to be successful. Last season in our NFL Experts League, NFL Network reporter Alex Flanagan hardly did anything with her team after she drafted it. She was busy, always traveling for work and trying to balance her home life. She didn't pick up any free agents and didn't make any trades. She just submitted her lineup every week. Where did she wind up? The regular season champion and lost in the championship game - and, had she replaced an injured player with someone from her bench, would have won the league. A LEAGUE MADE OUT OF FANTASY FOOTBALL EXPERTS. And this was spending almost no time on her team! It can happen to you.
I don't want you to get wrapped up in free agency and trades yet, I'll address that at the end of the column. Believe me, it'll be okay. Right now, I'm going to get you through what's first: the draft, which is something that a) some people take a lot of time to prepare for, and b) becomes time consuming with actually picking out the day and time and then participating in it. Sounds like a lot. Well again, this is something that you can spend as little as 15 minutes on - total. Counting everything.
THE DRAFT - OR AUTODRAFT
You don't think you know enough to draft a team. You're afraid of making a huge mistake and getting ridiculed. You can't commit to the time the draft is being held. Surefire obstacles in the past, but no more. Let me ask you this: how would you feel if collectively, our Fantasy Live crew made up of me, Michael Fabiano, Adam Rank, Eliot Harrison, Matt Smith and Dave Dameshek came to your house and drafted for you? You'd feel pretty good (but poor because we would eat all of your food. At least I would. Eliot doesn't eat gluten so you'd be safe with him). That's basically what autodrafting is. Autodrafting is letting the computer make the selections for you. You don't need to type a keystroke. When your turn is up, you automatically get the highest rated player, guaranteed. No question marks on your team. We at NFL Fantasy Live list all the fantasy players in the NFL from best to worst. So really, you have experts drafting for you. And autodrafting is popular. Usually, there will be between 2-3 owners per league who are doing it that way - because sometimes life gets in the way of fantasy football in terms of anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, bachelor parties, soccer games, and cutting the grass.
Now in theory, you need to do nothing and you'll draft a team that's pretty decent. But here's where the "15 minutes" of prep time for your draft comes in. The night before your draft, be sure that if a player is injured and his playing status is in question for either a good portion of or the entire season, you take him out of your rankings, that way you won't wind up drafting someone who's hurt and won't play in 2012 - like I saw happen a few times with owners who took Peyton Manning in the 2nd round last year. There will probably be between 4-8 players who fall into this category.
And that's it. Seriously, that's it. You can sit in front of your computer and watch the picks go by, or you can go to the beach and come back and see your team after it's done. You do not even need to be present to draft. Of course, drafting yourself and talking trash are an exceptional amount of fun, which you'll find out eventually. But for now, as you're just getting into it, you can follow this missive and be ready for the season. And if you have any questions specific to your league, your commissioner will be there to help you. No one's going to bite your head off or say you asked a dumb question. No matter if they're a great guy or a weasel, your commissioner wants everyone to be on as equal footing as possible, and will explain things to you like how to navigate your league's web-site and make sure your lineup is set.
Then let me take it from there. This season, on NFL.com, I'll be taking you, the novice fantasy player, under my wing. I'll be giving you regular advice on what to do with your roster - and again, I promise, the weekly amount of time fantasy football will take can be as little as 15 minutes. I'll give you everything you need each week in one column. How's that for packaging? Now I really sound like Tony Robbins. Or Susan Powter. But let's stop the insanity. That's to come later on. Right now I want you to get in a league and come up with the wildest name for your team you possibly can. (At the moment I'm pretty particular to 'Dwayne Bowe Connection', but to each their own.)
This is where the fun starts.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download his weekly Cover 2 podcast with Steve Wyche at nfl.com. Talk to him on twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.