There are still about 45-days until the first kickoff of the season, and we are just now starting to get into the meat and potatoes of fantasy drafting. Throughout those next 45-days I will give you tools, lessons, and guides to help get you the gold.

I won't promise you the blueprint to guarantee a championship, because fantasy championships are about as random as Super Bowl championships.  I will, however, give you the tools to get you a team that will compete every week, have a blend of safe yet risky talent, and the potential to win a championship.

Today you will get ten basic rules and lessons that will help you in your draft to build a great team.

1) Have a plan for every scenario

If you haven't done a single mock draft for your league yet, then you are 2-months behind. You must have an idea as to who your opponents will take, and who you should expect to have on your team. If you can have a very good idea as to who you will be drafting with your first two picks, then you will be ahead of the curve. Don't plan on a RB-RB combo if you are picking 4th overall, because there is no guarantee that there will be a RB worth taking in the late 2nd round.

If you are picking 8th and are pretty sure that you will be taking Megatron, then have a plan for your next pick. If all the good rushers are gone do you take a 2nd WR? Do you grab a QB or do you throw away value on Steven Jackson?

You also must mock things out for the better too. If you do the math and when picking 8th determine that you will get Megatron and Steven Jackson then that's great. But what happens if someone like Ray Rice or Jamaal Charles falls to you? You have to know how to take what is given to you and counter these unexpected gifts with smart drafting.

2) Know positional value

In the good old days drafting was easy. You took two running backs to start the draft and the you would continue through the draft taking whatever great values are left. Nowadays rushers are still key, but receivers are twice as valuable, quarterbacks are more consistent in their values, and many tight ends are catching it like the Antonio Gates of old.

The key thing to understand is that there is no one rule to it all anymore. You don't have to take a RB in the first round, but you had better have your options ready to go. I personally think that a first round RB at a good value can be paired very well with someone in the 3rd or 4th like Frank Gore and a sleeper or rookie in the middle rounds. 

The one thing I that I have to pound out is that you should blend it as well as you can. If you go WR-WR-WR and bank on nailing some sleepers, etc. later on you risk too much for my taste. There is rushing talent all the way to the very end, but you will be fighting everyone else for those guys. Blend your picks, and get a good overall team. And don't you EVER bank on being able to grab extra value for trade bait later.

3) The Jimmy Graham Exception

If I would have told you that the Bears defense would have a historically good season last year which included nine defensive touchdowns, then you would be excited about them. And if I told you that they would score 50 more points than any other team then you can bet your bottom dollar that they would have gone in the 5th or 6th round, because they were an unreplaceable asset. 

So why is Jimmy Graham not getting more love? I don't get why everyone else is undervaluing Graham. He is the first and second tier of tight ends, and he could be your team's steal for the very same reasons that I love Drew Brees. Graham's biggest threats this year are an injured Gronk, a 40-year old Tony Gonzolez, and Jason Witten who can't score touchdowns. Oh, and the Cowboys just drafted a TE in the 2nd round who will steal some of Witten's reps. 

There is a legitimate chance that Graham will score 50 points more than any other guy, which is scary. 
I have a theory that is hard to explain, but Graham might be worth taking in the mid to late 2nd round. If you have your choice between Demaryius Thomas and Graham, he might be the better pick. Graham won't score as many points, but the difference in points scored between him and his replacements could outweigh the difference in receivers.

Lets just say that you were determined to get either a graham in the 2nd and a receiver in the 5th, or vice versa. Here are two feasible combos from last year:

Graham -152 points
R. Wayne- 165 points 
(total) - 317

or

D. Thomas- 205 points
V. Davis- 85 points
(total) -290

So if I told you now that you could have the Bears 2012 defense this year. Would you reach to get them? Well here's your chance to get exactly that at tight end.

4 ) Manage your risk

I unfortunately have learned this the wrong way, but learn to find a good blend of risk and consistency in the draft. I know drafting Percy Harvin, RG3, DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden will land you great steals in the draft, and you might average 140 points a week. But you are also setting yourself up for a huge disappointment when all of these guys are hurt. 

At the same time don't you dare go out and draft Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Frank Gore and the rest of the over-conservative draft picks. You have to have the potential to score 120 points in a week sometimes, and not having any risk won't get you there.

Personally I like to nail my first few picks, while blending some sleepers and consistent guys the rest of the way. I love getting some huge boom or bust guys round 3-5 while grabbing Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne types after that.

5) Avoid guaranteed failures

This is one that I pride myself and my teams on. But do not, at any cost take fantasy scrubs. It doesn't take a song to know that Scrubs can't get no love from me. There is no reason that Jonathan Stewart should be on your team. He won't be the TD guy on the team, he isn't healthy, and he shares the ball with 3 other guys. Don't touch him.

Sure Lance Moore could end up with a 1,000 yards at the end of the season, but there is no reason to ever draft him. He is way too boom or bust on a week to week basis to own, so let someone else drop him week 4 after only a single 8+ point game. For that matter don't you dare touch Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas for the same reasons.

There are too many guys that either don't have the potential to start over the other 2 rushers on your bench, and there are too many guys that have a good week one out of every three weeks. Avoid them in the draft and take your high risk-high reward guys. Last year I wound up with RG3, Doug Martin, and Willis McGahee (a solid starter.. Think Chris Ivory this year) while others wasted their picks on Sam Bradford, Carolina running backs, and San Francisco 3rd stringers.

6) Know your sleepers, and know when to get them

This is one of the issues that you see every year. Either people severely overdraft their sleepers, or they wait too long, and that is a skill that must be refined. If you want sleepers that everyone knows about then yes you will have to overpay a little bit, but do not waste a pick to guarantee a guy. Sure you want Montee Ball because of his potential, but if you are taking him in the 2nd round then you don't deserve to draft.

Sure if Montee Ball puts up Doug Martin rookie numbers, then you look like a genius, but if he puts up Mark Ingram rookie numbers then you are done for. At the same time you had better not think that you are the only one that has a good feeling about Bernard Pierce in your league. Do some research to see that he is going in the 9th round, and snatch him in the 8th.

7) Know when to sit


It can happen in the draft that things start to fall apart and a run on quarterbacks is causing you to choose between taking Andrew Luck in the 4th round, or taking your chances later. To say it simply, NEVER substantially reach because you are worried about assets running out. It is better to take a guy of value and worry later on. For every player to settle on, there is a replacement that is close enough later on.

8) Don't overpay on defenses

Remember me saying, "If I told you that the Bears defense would score 50-points more than any other defense, wouldn't you overpay for them." Well unfortunately that just won't happen. There is no defense worth loving so much to take before about the 8th round this year, and I personally won't be caught taking one until at least the 10th. 

9) Don't draft a kicker until the 14th or 15th round

The old tale is that you never take a kicker until the last round, and that is generally true. But some of my best picks ever have been when I take the kicker I want in the 14th and pair up my value pick in the 15th. In general I suggest this tactic if you are picking early in round 14. I have no problem playing the add-drop on kickers, but if I can save the issue by getting a great kicker. More often than not whoever that last bench player you are looking for won't go because any legit leftovers will be gone at that point.

10) Aim for the playoffs

The last piece of advice I will leave you with is that you should always have the goal to make the playoffs, rather than to push for championship. If you get into the playoffs then you have just as good of a chance to win it all as everyone else. Playoff seeding just isn't as important as it is in the NFL, and there are too many teams that will try to build a high-risk champion team that don't make end up making the playoffs.

The second side of it is to always consider your playoff matches a little bit. I don't know how many 11-2 teams that I have had that should be shoe-in champions that fall in the playoffs early because they weren't built the right way. A lot of those 'great' teams have players on 'great' teams that rest, that don't put in the full game, and that just don't have to care as much. It's one of the reasons why I shy from Peyton Manning while also loving guys like Tony Romo that will always be fighting.