- If you're not in a league, find one and join it.
The number of ways you can play may surprise you. All season, even into the NFL playoffs ... or only four weeks at a time, or even one week at a time. With as little or as much commitment as you like.
Had a whiff of that fruit, but still wary of the berry? Read ESPN Senior Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry's "Fantasy Life." It's a testament to the essence of the joy of fantasy sports, filled with anecdotes. Even if you don't like sports, you may enjoy this book. Just be willing to be convinced.
- Reserve the draft date.
No conflicts. "Fantasy Life" contains plenty of amusing tales about people who ran into problems with this part. Most work out, but you probably don't want to be in their positions.
- Review your league's rules and scoring system.
Fitz: ready to rebound?
If you're a returnee, double-check for rule changes. The format of your league affects every decision you make, sometimes considerably.
Are passing TDs worth four points or six? Do you receive bonuses when players hit certain benchmarks? Can you start a tight end in your flex position? Do you have a salary cap each week? That's just the tip of the iceberg, but once you learn the parameters, you know what you need to do to win.
- Consult a draft guide.
USA TODAY's 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Kit features primer material, tips and, most importantly, cheat sheets and rankings. Brush up before you hit the fake gridiron.
For your draft, you'll need a reference -- printed on paper, exported to a spreadsheet or tattooed on your thigh -- so that you can keep track of your team and all the players who are available. Make notes and adjustments to your cheat sheet as draft day approaches based on what you learn before it.
- Catch up on the news.
The sports section of your local paper and a daily dose of SportsCenter haven't cut it for years.
It won't hurt to tune in to the NFL Network every once in a while to listen to experts discuss the latest. Above all, though, you should make it a habit to keep abreast of core day-to-day happenings in training camps and the preseason with an aggregate source -- like KFFL's NFL Hot of the Wire.
- Figure out which players you like.
Your league's rules and scoring system, the news, your knowledge and tools like ADP (average draft position) will lead you to pinpoint some players who more appealing to you than others. That's good.
- Figure out which players you don't like.
No matter how many analysts stump for their favorite sleepers and busts (and pretend that they're sharing secrets), they miss some. Shocking, isn't it? Don't be afraid to trust your BS barometer.
What do these blowhards know? It's your team. You are armed with info. You have to live with the decision. You are going to collect those winnings.
- Devise your strategy.
When is your first pick? How many tight ends do you expect to be drafted? Who are your value players? Which of your targets is worth a reach? Contemplate questions like these ahead of time.
And remember, something won't turn out as you'd hoped or expected. Don't worry about it. You'll adjust.
- Get to know your league-mates a little.
Or, if you're already pals with the fine people of your existing league, take some time to recall tendencies any of them have displayed in past years.
Fewer and fewer fantasy owners are homers these days -- hey, they play to win -- but the breed isn't extinct. Does one of your league's members value a certain position more? Who reaches for the hyped dudes? Who drafts like it's 2009?
- On Draft Day Eve, choose an outfit.
Your favorite player's jersey, or a T-shirt with a picture of your buddy face-down in a plate of enchiladas screen-printed on it. A Tom Landry Stetson fedora, or a beer helmet. Look, you think you know exactly where this stuff is going to be right before you walk out the door, but it never is.
No one likes to rush. You're prepared to put together the best team on paper, so prepare to leave your home fully clothed. Unless, of course, no clothing is part of the gag. ...
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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