© St. Petersburg Times, published September 1, 2002
Tips for your fantasy football draft:
1. Be prepared. Whether that involves surfing the Web, buying magazines or reading the paper, don't be "that guy" that shows up with a six-pack of beer and nothing else. Bring the six-pack and your research materials.
It's always easy to identify the guy who whiffs on doing the requisite predraft work. He's always asking someone else for a draft list, always exceeds the allotted time for picks, generally grinds the draft to a halt and just by blind luck always takes the guy you were about to take.
If you have someone in your league who does this each season, prepare a mock draft list to sabotage him. Then when "that guy" goes around begging for a list, volunteer yours. This season it should read something like this, with notes:
Jay Fiedler, with Ricky Williams, passing game should flourish.
Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier, lots of yards and touchdowns.
Sebastian Janikowski, first-round pick, remarkably consistent.
Dominic Rhodes, more than 1,000 yards last season, Tony Dungy likes to run ball.
Ron Dayne, former Heisman winner, a young Jerome Bettis.
Any Buccaneer offensive player, Jon Gruden and his hot new offense.
Then sit back and enjoy as "that guy" asks midway through the first round, "Is Jay Fiedler still available?"
2. Don't mull those knockout picks so much that you end up taking Shane Matthews over Brett Favre. Sure, Kurt Warner has had a troublesome thumb, but come on. Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, malcontents? Who cares. Williams a nutcase? How does 1,000 yards sound?
3. Grab a running back early. Unless you can get a great quarterback, and there are not many, fill that backfield. Most leagues start two, and in a 12-team league that's 24 running backs. With 32 NFL teams, that doesn't leave much left over.
Marshall Faulk is an obvious top choice. Shaun Alexander, Ahman Green, Williams, Curtis Martin, Stephen Davis and Corey Dillon are a lock for 1,000 and 8-10 touchdowns.
4. The darling of this season's draft is Seattle's Alexander, whose position is the most intriguing among the top 10. Is he right behind Faulk? Green? Martin? Alexander could go anywhere from 3-10, and those who risk that he goes later than sooner may regret it.
5. Fred Taylor and Edgerrin James, what to do? That's a tough one. If James hadn't blown out his knee last season and hadn't pretty much sat out the preseason, he'd be a top-5 pick and Taylor would be close behind. But the injuries cast some doubts. Both have the potential to make someone very happy ... or very angry.
There are other similar questions. Eddie George and his bad toe? Was Priest Holmes a fluke? Will San Diego run LaDainian Tomlinson into the ground (one word: Schottenheimer)? Is Terry Glenn worth the risk? Can Rich Gannon thrive without Gruden?
Answers: Take him, yes (but he'll still get you 1,000), absolutely, no and no.
6. If you have a top-5 pick, then in order: 1. Warner; 2. Faulk; 3. Jeff Garcia; 4. Alexander; 5. Green.
7. Don't bother with a tight end or kicker until after you have a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers and a good team defense (remember, the New Orleans and Baltimore defenses aren't that good anymore).
Beware: Kickers and defenses inevitably create a panicked run on the position. After two go in a row, the race is on.
8. Picking up a QB-WR duo from the same team is always a pretty good plan. But be careful of what duo it is. Garcia-Owens, if you could pull it off (and you shouldn't be able to if your league has any clue), is dandy. Daunte Culpepper-Moss is nice, and Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison is just as nice. Those you can pull off, but at the expense of a running back.
Brad Johnson-Keyshawn Johnson? Proceed at your own risk.