Getting Started: Questions You Should Ask

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Welcome to the Sun-Times coverage of fantasy football for 2010. We're only 18 days away from the start of the NFL season, which means your draft is even sooner. It's go time.

I'll be giving you tips and advice on players heading into the season, and hopefully you've already done some research. But first, here are some questions to answer before you go any further:

1: When is the draft?
Don't be the guy who forgets the draft date. If you're drafting online, you can always auto-draft. And if you are drafting live, you can send a representative (i.e. friend). But if you don't even know when it is, you're in big trouble.

2: What kind of league is it?
The two most popular drafts are standard ("snake" draft) and auction. Standard drafts are when you have a set draft order and you select a player every time your "pick" is up. Auction drafts are a little more complicated, but a lot more fun. In this format, owners are given a certain budget to spend on the draft. Everyone takes turns nominating players, and you big on each player until someone has outbid everyone else. It's much more involved, and requires a great deal of strategy, but much more fun, especially in person.
There are also autopick drafts, where you submit a list of your rankings and your team is automatically selected for you. Lame.

3: What are the rules?
I'm always amazed that, with the popularity of fantasy football, we haven't come up with a standard set of rules. Many are the same, but each league has its own nuances. The big things you need to know:

How many teams? Most leagues are either 10 or 12 teams. It doesn't really matter, but good to know when making your rankings. I prefer 10 teams, because it's easier to gauge where a player will get drafted. If you have the fifth pick, you'll also have pick no. 15, 25, 35, etc. Just a little more symmetrical.

Is it a PPR (points per reception) league? In this format, you get more points for catching passes. Wide receivers and running backs who catch a lot of passes are more valuable.

Do you use individual defensive players? Hopefully not, because that's a whole other level of scouting. If you have the choice, stay away, unless you know your stuff. Otherwise, just stick to team defense/special teams, meaning you draft one team and get their defensive stats, instead of each defensive player.

Any other funky rules? I've seen leagues with two QBs (dumb), two flex players (acceptable) and leagues with 14 teams (overkill). Four playoff teams, six playoff teams, eight playoff teams(!). Double check the league rules to see if there's anything you should be aware of.

4: Who are your opponents?
Find out who is in the league, and who they root for. You could find some insight into their drafting habits. If there are any Bears fans in the league (and there always are) assume guys like Matt Forte and Johnny Knox will go a round or two earlier than they should. On a side note, don't be the one to do this. You win leagues picking with your head, not your heart.

5: Who is running the league?
This is more for the online drafts. There are a number of fantasy football platforms (Yahoo, ESPN, CBS and Fox are the big ones). I will provide a compare/contrast of each later this week, but in the meantime, if you know the platform, do a practice draft, just so you have a feel for it.

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