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One meaningless preseason game is in the books. ESPN is making their analysts chug Red Bull and stay up around the clock. People are buying already outdated print magazines. And websites everywhere are publishing articles about third- and fourth-string running backs. We have officially reached “Fantasy Football Draft Season” on the NFL calendar.
Nothing on the NFL calendar elicits more authoritative-sounding advice based on less actual expertise than fantasy football. Fantasy draft gurus make the real draft gurus look like Shirley Povich, and those guys are borderline useless. Still, any site or publication with any kind of focus on sports at all will publish a guide to your fantasy draft, and we here at City Paper would hate to leave our loyal sports readership heading into their fantasy drafts unadvised.
(You might think that I am less qualified than the other fantasy football experts out there, the ones who bring you breathless daily podcasts and lengthy player ranking lists, but I assure you that I too have a pulse and the ability to type words on a computer, and have also won at least one fantasy league championship in the last decade or so.)
So here, then, is the Official City Paper 2016 Authoritative Guide To Dominating Your Fantasy Football Draft While Maintaining A Healthy Outlook On Life And Also Just Generally Being A Better Person.
1) Do no advance draft preparation beyond reading this column. Literally nothing. Maybe, if you have the sort of job in which you need to kill a few hours on the internet, go ahead and read some lists of players. Maybe try to know who went where in free agency or whatever. Then, on the day of the draft, find a site to review and see who has suffered significant injuries. Then don’t draft the injured people. Whatever website you’re using for your league management will have the players ranked, and those ratings won’t be any worse than whatever you might find elsewhere, with the added advantage of your not having wasted hours of your life. Instead, use those hours constructively. Take up a(nother) hobby, or reconnect with old friends.
2) If you must read expert fantasy football columns, ignore all of their advice. Or, more accurately, find experts who support what you already want to do. Thanks to the overwhelming volume of fantasy football content, every single strategy you might consider has already been tested, debunked, un-debunked, formalized with an official-sounding name, and built into an app that costs between three and five dollars. All of them are equally likely to work, so you might as well just go ahead and find someone who confirms what you already want to do. That way when other people at your draft make fun of you, you can shut them down and bolster your own self-esteem by casually explaining that you’re just leveraging the Quadruple Ace Tight End strategy or whatever.
3) On draft day, focus on the actual people you know, not the imaginary players on your team. Really, the only reason to play fantasy football instead of the state lottery or some other, more expedient form of casual gambling is to keep in touch with friends. Make the most of that, even if only through sarcasm and casual cruelty. Remember, time spent actively belittling your friend’s pick has more personal value than time spent trying to decide between two equally matched options at running back.
4) Basically, embrace the fact that this game is driven entirely by luck. There is a reason all the experts are wrong most of the time and that none of the copious advice actually gives anyone a distinct advantage: It’s because this game applies an arbitrary secondary scoring system onto an existing game that no one can predict, with an oddly shaped ball that could cost you eight points with a single unfortunate bounce. Accept that. Don’t be the owner wondering why the universe is against you, or claiming that luck has somehow undermined your skill. It’s all luck, and the more thoroughly you embrace that, the happier you will be with your season. When you get frustrated, use it as an excuse to send a cranky email to one of your league mates—remember, building those relationships is the real point of this game!
5) Don’t draft a kicker before the last round. This is the one bit of actual fantasy football advice that is 100% undeniably correct.
Follow Matt Terl on Twitter @Matt_Terl.