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NFL Fantasy Football: Pre-Draft Info!

Fantasy Football is a fickle beast. For those who have played, even if only for a season, you know how addictive it becomes, and with immediacy.

Whether it's talking trash with buddies, or just something to brag about on Tuesday mornings, as your favorite NFL team lost on Sunday (or MNF), you'll be hooked.

The great thing about FF is that it gives you interest, and reason to care, about other games in the NFL, especially when your team isn't playing.

For some, the fantasy offseason probably began after a heart-breaking playoff loss in one (of a probable dozen) leagues in which you played last year. For others (the Trent Dilfer "I'm already a Champion"), your swag takes you right up to draft time, with only your fantasy football wisdom and excellence as your guide. You don't need anyone to tell you how to draft. You're the proud owner of a printable trophy that you earned…sitting in front of your computer for an entire NFL season screaming as possessions change hands for the players on your fantasy squad. For others, here's a little help…

The weekend of July 7th will be riddled with Fantasy Football drafts, both live and auto. If you're new to the game, or simply have no clue what you're doing, one of the most important things you can do is pre-rank your players. All the sites (ESPN, Yahoo!, NFL, etc.) are going to have them pre-ranked for you, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with the order. Nonetheless, if you get the number one overall pick, and you hate Arian Foster, you may wish you would've moved someone into his 'projected' spot. If you're in a live draft, it's even more added pressure, because as TSTer's sit, foaming at the mouth, in front of their computers awaiting their next selection, you may be on the clock in a matter of seconds, and you're not even sure who just came off the board. Grab your coffee (or beer), you're highlighter, another beer, and be prepared to make fast, informed decisions.

There is, however, words of 'expert' advice from all of the fantasy sites out there, and certainly everyone has their favorites. The fantasy guru that they look to for advice on a weekly basis - the guy who always projects the fantasy 'studs' - and who you'll ultimately think you're wiser than by seasons's end. It's inevitable. You may not have taken one fantasy snap as of right now, but you'll be the Talented Mr. Roto by week 4. I promise you…

Speaking of the aforementioned Mr. Roto, ESPN is filled with an overwhelming amount of FF advice for both novice and expert players. Matthew Berry (click the link for his top 200), aka 'The Talented Mr. Roto,' puts out what's been dubbed his Draft Day Manifesto. In it, he highlights each position, and gives rationale/statistical data behind expected player performance for the upcoming season, as well as player comparisons that could help you get a steal in the later rounds. He'll also give you his '10 keys to success.' It's a must-read for those who are newer to FF, and although lengthy will certainly help you in your draft. He also finishes it off, wislely, with a pic of Heidi Klum. Can't go wrong there…

If you're a) not a fan of ESPN/TMR, or b) simply don't plan on going to their site, also has loads of info certain to help you plan wisely. The Player Profiles and Projections pages will not only rank the players (by position) for you, but it provides you with a glimpse at last year's fantasy stats, and gives a great analysis on each player for the upcoming season. They too, have a Top 200, but again, it's imperative that YOU rank your players. No worse way to start your fantasy season, than to draft a player that you think is going to tank. For those who have their rankings set, but may be looking for some talent later in the draft after the more 'sure thing' players get drafted, they've also highlighted the sleepers, busts, rookies, and breakouts. I feel at this point, I need to mention - if I haven't already - that your players will be none of the aforementioned if/when they get hurt. You will be mad, and they will be dead to you…

For TSTer's, the draft(s) will occur on Yahoo! Like all sites, Yahoo! has their list of projected rankings. After you log into your league, select 'Pre-Draft Rankings' under the Draft Central tab. Again, notice the yellow button that screams, 'Hey, I want to be adjusted to meet your fantasy draft needs!' If your cones and rods are disoriented from having read too many fantasy draft kits, just hit 'play' and rest your eyes for a few moments. Yahoo! has a few must-listen-to videos that'll help you ensure you get elite players, help you avoid the busts, and make informed decisions on new faces in new places.

One more thing to keep in mind when drafting your team, is their strength of schedule. Obviously, your players are only going to perform as well as their opposition will allow. I'd caution you not to select your entire team based on this premise, but FFToolbox has a 2012 Fantasy Strength of Schedule that has some information that may help you prioritize your picks based on some players who could fall into later rounds, and still provide the quality you need at the position. Would it surprise you to know that ATL has the easiest SoS of all QB's? GB has the 11th. That's not to say that taking Aaron Rodgers would be a mistake…because it wouldn't. Rodgers, though, is widely regarded as a top 5 pick, and in some mocks Matt Ryan isn't regarded as a top 10 ROUND pick. Ryan does happen to have a pretty nice pair of WR's, last I checked. Just things to ponder, I suppose.

In summation, there is a cornucopia of Fantasy Football information for you to comb through as you near your draft. For many of you, you're set…. you won last year's league, and it's clear you need no direction in the upcoming draft. For others - cough, Doug, cough - you've done more mocks than St. Louis Rams had drops in 2011. Other sites like FFToday could provide you with some more of the aforementioned rankings, projections, and 'cheat sheets' if you don't see what you're looking for.

Most importantly, find a comfortable place in your home where you can concentrate. I wouldn't recommend the bathroom, but it depends on how much you've consumed, the strength of your bladder, and how long your draft may run. What's the worst that could happen? On second thought, do your draft from the confines of your bathroom.