So let's be real, unless it's your favorite team that you've followed all your life we're talking about, you probably don't pay attention to training camp. That's perfectly fine; we're all guilty of not doing our homework. However, what does this mean for your fantasy football team? (Please note, I lean towards Yahoo Fantasy Football.) After all, drafts are going to be starting soon enough and keeper leagues are always on the lookout.
Well, let's start with the basics. Going into your draft (whether it be live or autodraft) you need to know some things about football. One, you need to have a solid idea of who the stars are out there that are guaranteed to see some solid play time and will be getting the ball. Two, you need to know some history about those players at least going back a couple of seasons in order to give them an honest assessment. I'm always wary about that running back who had a fantastic season after having three previous ones in the bottom half of the statistics block. I tend to be more interested in the players who are on a hot streak, though the practicality of this is moot in keeper leagues, so those of you playing for keeps, ignore me for a moment.
Finally, you want to sniff around for those players who could be the unexpected fantasy shrines. Those players that only managed to play a few games at the end of the year or that quarterback who took over for two games thanks to a shoulder injury with the starter. These players could be the next big names. It certainly worked out for Aaron Rodgers.
Take, for instance, Peyton Hillis. In his limited pre-injury time as a rookie with the Denver Broncos, he managed 343 yards on 68 attempts (averaging 5.0 yards per carry) with 5 touchdowns to show for it. Who knows what he could have accomplished if he hadn't been cut short by his late season injury.
Peyton Hillis, charging through the Jets defense.
He even served as a star receiver in game 9 versus the Miami Dolphins. Now he is competing in a strong field of RBs during training camp. If he comes out on top, he may just be a gem for those of us who don't nab Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook (or the litany of other top 25 RBs).
I just want to emphasize that sometimes it's worthwhile to gamble a little. Sure, rookies are practically impossible to judge, especially since the transition from college to the NFL is rather drastic since the gaps in defensive capabilities are obscene and vast. You don't have to take chances during your draft unless you've got multiple leagues and you just want to go for it. Lord knows I avoid it at all costs, if possible, but sometimes I just can't pass up trying to sneak in an early season sleeper hit. If it fails, chances are that there will be a solid replacement floating around undrafted.
So go, draft, take risks (or don't) and enjoy an exciting 2009 fantasy football season!