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This week The Locker Room is bringing you the third installment of a four-part series on Fantasy Sports . . .

Part III: Preparing for a Draft 

Choosing your players is a sacred task for most Fantasy owners. Most cloak their system of ranking players and even what Fantasy magazines they use in the utmost secrecy. This is all showmanship and not skill. Here are some Fantasy Draft prep secrets:

Avoid the Fantasy magazine trap.

Know from others' experiences that most Fantasy owners make their biggest mistake at the newsstand. Of course, the Fan magazines are not going to tell you that, but it's the truth. It is a little-known Fan secret passed on for generations. Most magazines are complete crap, especially their Mock Draft. News travels too fast for magazines to be effective. It takes AT LEAST several weeks from when the content is written for the magazine to hit newsstands. By then it is stale news. Their so-called experts are usually way off. I have checked some of their projections after the respective seasons are finished. Most of the projections are as accurate as a St. Paddy's Day piss. 

Watch ESPN.

They have specialized hour-long shows for each sport (i.e., Baseball Tonight, NFL Countdown, NHL2Night, etc.). They usually begin airing them a month to several weeks before the actual season begins. Their people follow each team and are physically watching EVERY pre-season practice, workout, exhibition game, etc. They know every time a player is hurt, is in trouble on the depth chart, is out of favor with the coach, or even the last time they farted. You can watch Fox or CNN/SI for some news, but the excellent coverage is on ESPN. Focus on what players are expected to start, forget about the sleepers (see below).

Scour the web.

You wanted the magazine to know all the good players. You can get that all on the web . . . and it's fresh news, not the out-of-date crap in the magazines. You can get lists of players, lists of injuries, up-to-date depth charts, and a whole lot more. 

Some faves:
Fantasyinsights.com (better for football)

League sites: 

Skip the sleepers and the "hot" rookies.

Most rookies don't pan out in their first year in any league. The notable exception is the NBA (where ONLY the rookies shine). Stick with the proven, veteran players. Sure you might pass on the next Kerry Wood, but there are a hell of lot more Tom Martins than there are Kerry Woods. Sleepers are sleepers for a reason--they are asleep! Most sleepers are guys on the proverbial bubble. They have to produce or they are going to be bagging groceries next month. It is safe to assume that if they were going to be that good, they would have shown their true ability already. Superstars are rarely sleepers. Again, you might pass up Kurt Warner, there are a whole lot more Tony Bankses.

Supply and demand. 

Remember that scarcity drives the supply and demand equation. It works in the draft, too. Find out what positions have the fewest superstars or have the biggest drop off in production as the draft wears on. This past football season it was running backs. After the top 6 or 7 RBs were gone, you could forget getting anyone worth drafting, so I knew I had to get one early in the draft.

Have a draft game plan.

You have probably heard of the famous Bill Walsh method of scripting the opening 10 or 15 offensive plays in football. Most NFL and college teams now use this method. The same thing works in the draft. Script out what players you want to draft--by round--and take this game plan with you to the draft. Customize this, if you would like, by scripting that you want either a top 5 pitcher or a top 3 hitter (of course, you need to have your players ranked by whatever method you feel is best). While the "other" guy is scrambling around trying to find out how many starting pitchers he has, you are looking at what good players are still available to draft. 

Pay attention at the draft and notice draft day trends. 

This is the wild card that can throw a monkey wrench into even the best draft game plan. Not to say you should be a follower, but if there is a "run" on running backs, make adjustments to compensate. Have a list of players you can cross off as individuals are taken. Also, make notes for yourself if certain owners at your draft pick certain types of players. This can really work to your advantage. For example, "Joe" (not his real name) ALWAYS drafts Atlanta Braves. He tells stories at the draft about how he knows every guy in the organization personally and he only watches TBS. For God's sake, he's wearing a Braves T-shirt! In any case, his first pick is Maddux, his second is Glavine, etc. If you really want Chipper Jones, you've got to adjust your draft game plan accordingly. 

This is the area where even the best draft magazine can't help you. Draft mags all have these mock drafts with their experts. Guys rely on these mock drafts like the Bible. They are nearly useless because they are not how a real draft works. The experts know which players are good--they follow sports for their livelihood--unlike "Joe" from my example above or "Jeff," who has had several beers before he got to the draft. These are the guys that ask if Pedro Martinez is still available in round #20 because they are not paying attention. 

Which brings me to help. 

Unless you want to split the prize with "Joe" or "Jeff," don't help them out during the draft because they didn't prepare. "Is Mo Vaughn out for the season?" Jeff asks. My answer is always, "I dunno" or "I didn't hear anything." Fan veterans HATE people giving help to the folks that aren't paying attention at the draft. So when Joe asks, "Is David Cone gonna be a starter or a reliever now that he's with the Sox?" Your answer better be "I didn't hear anything" unless you're feeling particularly generous. 

Don't over analyze.

Many Fan owners psyche themselves right out of the draft--BEFORE IT EVEN STARTS. You can only do so much to prepare for the draft. I have known several owners that printed out a list of players immediately before that draft and they have WON THE LEAGUE. While I don't recommend this strategy, it illustrates that you don't have to spend three weeks nonstop preparing for a draft. 

Here's a summary: 

Watch ESPN the few weeks prior to the season, which you probably do anyhow. Don't buy a Fantasy magazine unless you've got $4 burning a hole in your pocket or you're going on a five-hour flight. Check out several web sites to get some lists of players. Make a draft game plan. Watch to see which positions have less talent (supply) or have a significant drop off in talent after the few stars are taken. Skip the sleepers and the hot rookies everyone is talking about and focus on the proven stars. Be mindful of draft day trends and make adjustments to your draft game plan if required. And for Pete's sake, DON'T OVER ANALYZE. Lastly, don't get shit-faced at the draft. Have a FEW beers, but paying attention at the draft is almost more important than preparing for it.

Locker Room is written by Michael Skordeles

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