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I love fantasy football, and it's that emotional connection which as led to me frequently telling family, friends, and anyone who will listen that I play and so should they. When I started playing fantasy in 2001, it was smaller. Only a handful of websites had fantasy leagues available, and those same websites had a monopoly on fantasy advice and news. Now there is a literal cornucopia of fantasy advice from websites, local and national news segments, sports radio shows, podcasts and blogs. This wealth of information is why most people tell feel as if they simply don't have time to play fantasy football.

It’s easy to understand feeling overwhelmed by fantasy football, since most of us already have full lives and aren’t looking to add another time consuming hobby to an already busy schedule. However, if you properly manage your team, you can spend an hour of pre-draft prep, 30 – 50 minutes of actual draft time (depending on your league size and draft type) and small maintenance cycle of ten minutes a day each week and have a very successful campaign. That relatively small amount of time, with a little luck of course, could easily net you the sweet nectar that is the elusive fantasy football  league championship. How? By using your time efficiently. To quote Malcolm X, “In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.” What follows is a practical guide to efficiently prepare, draft and manage your team using the bare minimum amount of time.

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Pre-Draft Prep

15 minutes: Before your draft, familiarize yourself with your league’s scoring system and rules. Know the scoring rules, and the rules governing trades and free agent pickups. You should also know your league's draft of choice, and how that affects you. Email your commissioner or Google anything you don't understand. Try to annotate and keep this information in a single place. For most online leagues, this is done for you. If so, find and bookmark the appropriate page.

30 minutes: Rank at least 200 players. You can find an excellent list of the top 300 players right here on Rotoballer, which not only saves you time , but is a great way to identify the players you’ll want to target. Your goal here is to remove as much inconsistency as possible. In fact, you want to remove anything that will cause cognitive dissonance, which is just a big phrase meaning bad vibes, since this translates into more time you’ll have to spend researching, reading player analyses and studying stats during the season. Target one running back, one quarterback, one receiver, and one tight end to be your foundation players, or players who only sit on the bench during their bye week. As an example, Le'Veon Bell is a phenomenally talented running back, but he’s suspended for 3 games this season.

That suspension equals four weeks (three plus the bye) where you have to spend time deciding who to start in your top running back spot. The resulting cognitive dissonance means lost time and you should remove him from your list. You can take a chance on him, but only after you’ve secured a sufficient foundation running back, a player you can count on to give you consistent performance. Think David Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley or Lamar Miller. Try to avoid rookies, or players who have not had at least six to eight consecutive games of high performance. Once you identify at least five players each for your foundation, (I gave you four running backs already!) try to predict which players are the most likely to fall to your draft pick and when. For the rest of your roster, be aware of the best available players in each position outside of your top five, and why they’re not foundation players as well as when you expect them to be drafted. Rank them accordingly. But, wait! How do you predict when they'll be drafted?

15 minutes:  Mock draft at least the first seven to six rounds a few different times. Your focus should be multifaceted: first you want to test draft strategies that best get you the players you've targeted, second you’ll want to practice identifying other owners’ strategies early, and third you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the draft system. A great help here will be looking through a comprehensive Average Draft Position list for your fantasy football host of choice and noting the ADP on your rankings. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention that Rotoballer includes ADP for each major site in their player rankings. You're welcome.


Draft Day Strategy

30-50 minutes: You already have a plan and a strategy that you’ve practiced, as well as a list of personalized player rankings. You're ready to draft. Remember, stick to your plan. Don’t be tempted to reach for that hot young RB that’s supposed to have the season of his career, despite the fact that he’s never shown any real value. Avoid players who are injured, suspended, or in the twilight years of their life. Leave those players for people who have more time on their hands. Draft at least three running backs, two quarterbacks, five receivers, two tight ends, one defense and fill the rest, if any, of the spots with the best available players. Kickers should be an afterthought, though they should be a thought. Don’t be a Taco. Get one and only one. Finally, during the draft, keep track of where your targeted players end up. Know which teams have players you liked and targeted, and note any deficiencies those teams may have for future trade opportunities. Many online hosts have this on one page. Find and bookmark this page. Trust me, you’ll want that for later.


In-Season Strategy

2 minutes (daily): Find an accurate and comprehensive injury report. Have I mentioned Rotoballer's crack news staff and their amazing injury updates yet? You’re checking this list of injuries for players you own, players you face this week, and potential backups who'll be moving into starting roles. Be aware of major players who are hurt and for how long. Ideally, this list won’t touch your foundation players. If it does, you have backups, unless the injury results in the end of the player's season. In which case:

8 minutes (daily): Comb the top players on the waiver wire and in free agency. You’re looking for more than two breakout games, a backup moving into a starting role or at the very least an extremely favorable matchup. You’ll also be comparing the available defenses to your current defense. If there are better options, don’t claim them via waiver. Wait until they become available in free agency. Savor your waiver for better flavor, or in other words, save your waiver claims to vulture backups to injured players, or ideally to address the players who are injured, on their bye week, or flat out underperforming. Be aware, underperforming requires at least three consecutive weeks of putrid performance to qualify as underperforming. When you claim players off the waiver, you will have to drop a player. Drop the worst player you can afford to, not necessarily the player you’re replacing. If there are no palatable options available, be willing to offer trades using your non-foundation players to fill a need on your team. This is where knowing which players are on which team is a great help. On Wednesday night, lock your lineups in and don’t alter them unless there’s an injury or suspension. If you have a player who is a “game-time decision”, start someone else. We’re on a time budget here.


Optional Strategy

Watch as much football as you can on Sundays, which I assume you would do anyway. I’d strongly recommend any service that only shows games with teams in scoring opportunities. In six hours, you’ll see all but the Monday and Thursday night matchups. Look for big scoring plays, and players who make them, as well as players who are clearly heads and shoulders above their compatriots. Use this knowledge during your daily ten minutes of free agent and waiver wire scouting.


Playoffs Strategy

At this point, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Your team made the playoffs, and if you continue the same regimen you already have in place, with a little luck, you’ll finally be able to add Fantasy Football Champion to your resume.

That's it. Even with time at a premium, you can easily claim your own taste of fantasy football glory. To paraphrase Golda Meir, you must govern the clock, not be governed by it.