Don't let fate decide the makeup of your fantasy football team. Participate in a live draft with these tips.
: Several states officially bar all gambling, including pools in which the organizer does not profit. Know your local laws before organizing a pool involving money.
Step 1: Know the object of the draft Know the basics. Most leagues require you to start eight to 10 players every Sunday: two or three running backs, a quarterback, two or three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense. You'll also choose a number of reserve players, depending on your league.
Step 2: Do research On draft day, each participant takes turns picking players until everyone's roster is filled. In the weeks before the draft, read football news to learn who's hot and who's not. Running backs and wide receivers are the most coveted picks because teams must start at least two of each. Look at mock drafts online for up-to-the-minute recommendations.
TIP: Just because a player performed well last season doesn't mean he'll do well this year. Consider his age, his team, lingering injuries, whether he's known for being erratic, and whether he'll be a free agent at the end of the season.
Step 3: Create a 'cheat sheet' Once you've decided who you'd like to draft, create a "cheat sheet" with names of your top draft picks and alternate picks for each round – each turn you get to select someone.
TIP: If you don't have the first or second pick, include several alternatives in case the players you want are taken.
Step 4: Draft a running back twice Bring your cheat sheet to the draft. In the first two rounds, draft the best running backs available: those with the potential to rush 100 yards per game and score in about 75 percent of the games you play them.
TIP: If you're deciding between two players at the same position, take their home teams' location into account, and err on the side of those who play in warm weather or in domes.
Step 5: Draft two WRs With your third and fourth picks, draft the two best wide receivers available. An outstanding receiver can be counted on to catch for 50 to 60 yards per game and score a touchdown about 60 percent of the times you play him.
Step 6: Get a QB Pick a quarterback in the fifth round. Solid quarterbacks usually throw for 100 to 150 yards per game and throw at least one touchdown.
Step 7: Get more RBs and WRs Use your sixth and seventh picks to choose another running back and wide receiver. Choose players who have different bye weeks from your top two running backs and wide receivers.
Step 8: Choose a tight end and another QB With your next two picks, choose a tight end and a backup QB. Pick someone who can start for your no. 1 quarterback on his bye week, or who can stand in if your QB gets injured and has to miss two or three games.
Step 9: Choose kicker and defense last The number of rounds varies from league to league, but you should alternate choosing backup running backs, wide receivers, and another tight end until you reach the last four rounds, when you'll draft two kickers and two defensive units.
Step 10: Fill any holes Not satisfied with your draft? You can always propose trades to your fellow team owners and use the waiver wire to sign new players.
FACT: Fantasy football generates over $1 billion annually in entry, online-service, and fantasy news fees.