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The draft is nearing and you’re not as prepared as should be.

So here’s a quick guide for what should be top of mind when your pick comes up.

1. Don’t get cute in the first round

Fantasy novices and even experts sometimes will make strange choices with the first pick. I don’t care if you’re a Patriots fan and have Tom Brady’s face tattooed on your posterior, don’t spend the eighth overall pick on him. Get a solid foundation with your first pick (ideally your first two) then feel free to experiment.

2. Think about the best offensive situations for the players you’re eyeing

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You probably know who the good teams in the NFL will be, and you want to pick players from high-powered offenses, but consider these mitigating factors.

— Teams that have strong defenses and weak opponents often will play ball control once they get the lead. It’s not always a given, but those circumstances can suppress quarterbacks’ and receivers’ stats while running backs can benefit from getting extra carries.

Micleo Meucci 5 On Stretch Women's Yunus 8 Slip Size Sesto Camel W — Get quarterbacks and receivers from middling or emerging teams with vulnerable defenses. They often get in shoot-outs or have to play catch-up in the third and fourth quarters.

— Conversely, running backs from the league’s bottom feeders often see their usage drop after halftime.

— You probably know the Patriots, Colts, Eagles and Chiefs have tight end-friendly systems, but based on coaching staff changes you can add the Vikings, Packers and Bears to that list. On the other hand, while David Njoku should improve last year’s numbers, new Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley has not made tight ends a big part of his attack in the past.

3. When in doubt, use the online tools

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Many fantasy providers (CBS Sports, ESPN, Yahoo) provide pre-ranked player lists in their online draft room or elsewhere. And some other sites post “average draft position” (ADP) lists for standard and PPR leagues that you can keep open in another browser. Those can be quick-reference guides to see if you’re planning to pick a player too high or if someone’s a steal at that spot — or if you just don’t recognize the names any players left on the board.

READ MORE: Fantasy football's top 35 sleepers: From Royce Freeman to Javon Wims »

4. Have a position strategy

The draft clock is ticking and not only are you unsure whether to take Amari Cooper or JuJu Smith-Schuster at wide receiver, you’re not even sure you should take another wide receiver over your first tight end. Here are a few of draft-order suggestions (through 10 rounds) based on several scoring formats, which of course, you should adjust for the nuances of your league or the available talent at your pick.


PPR (if elite pass-catching running backs Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley or Kareem Hunt are on the board in the first round): RB-WR-WR-RB-TE-QB-WR-RB-WR-RB

PPR (if Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins are on the board after the top pass-catching running backs go in the first): WR-RB-RB-WR-TE-QB-WR-RB-RB-WR

Flex (tight end not required; RB/WR flexible): RB-RB-WR-WR-RB-TE-QB-WR-RB-WR


5. Monitor the news

Paying attention to injuries and roster cuts (or even roster additions) that crop up before the last week of preseason can save you some grief.

6. Reacquaint yourself with your league’s scoring and roster limits

Do you have to draft a tight end? Are two or three quarterbacks required? Do you have some wiggle room in the number of running backs and receivers you take? Does the league’s scoring format favor defenses? It’s easy to forget the subtleties especially if you’re playing in multiple leagues.

7. Do a public mock draft if you have time

Get in a practice run at one of several online mock draft lobbies, which let you participate in a draft with strangers and gives you your picks afterward. Even veterans will miss obvious players they should’ve drafted because of unfamiliarity with the online draft tool or they get tunnel vision with one position. And sometimes you just hit a wrong button. Better to get out the yips during a practice draft than be stuck with a player you really didn’t want.

8. Don’t sacrifice a solid pick by trying to hit the home run with a sleeper

It’s easy to Google one of these sleeper lists right before the draft then lock in on one them in the later rounds. Many sleepers don’t produce right away (sometimes very late in the season) and some never pan out. I have to remind myself every season that sometimes the right pick is not the sexy pick. Solid veterans like Larry Fitzgerald or Doug Baldwin may not possess the upside of young players like Josh Gordon or Kenny Golladay but they’ll probably be the more consistent players.

9. Get a cheat sheet

If you know people who’ve already done their drafts, have them send you their round-by-round draft picks. It’s a place to start. If you have no fantasy friends, print out a recent experts’ mock draft and cross out the players’ names as the draft proceeds. You can also model your draft after a particular expert you like.

10. When all else fails, use autopick

Most fantasy league sites let you program your player preferences or will use its own pre-draft ranking lists to make the picks for you. Most times you can use a combination to target your top choices in the first few rounds and let the computer do the heavy-lifting in the later rounds.


Twitter @_phil_thompson

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