As preseason football begins, fantasy football leagues around the globe have their annual fantasy draft. Some do it for money, others do it for pride. Some are experienced while others are newbies. Regardless of your status in the fantasy football world, you should come prepared for the draft. Here are some tips that will help.

1.     Take a Running back early. These guys don’t grow on trees. Yes, there were more 1,000 receivers (20) than 1,000 rushers (16). But keep in mind, especially in today’s offenses, these running backs are also used in the passing game. Guys like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have their team’s game plan centered around them both on the ground and in the air. Wide receivers will sometimes get rushes, but it is rare.

2.      Take a quarterback or a wide receiver next. Once again, it is a passing league. Obviously, there are fewer quarterbacks than receivers. When it is your turn to draft, pay attention to the highest value on the board. If you are in a league that gives points per reception, it may be a good idea to draft a receiver next. Last year there was only one receiver who averaged over 100 yards a game (Calvin Johnson) and only 3 receivers who averaged over 90 (Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and Calvin Johnson). Compare that to 11 quarterbacks who threw for over 4000 yards last year. Because there’s a higher supply of elite quarterbacks (in terms of fantasy football), the demand for elite receivers may be higher. Draft for value.

 3.     Don’t forget about tight ends. The value for tight ends has gone up greatly in the last 10 years as passing offenses get more complex. Tight ends are typically a mismatch for the defense, especially when they are covered by linebackers. While they don’t always have the yards that elite receivers have, often times they are big red zone targets. In the draft, many times you can find a good quality receiver in the late rounds. But that’s not always the case with tight ends (simply because there are more receivers on the field). Get a good tight end in the 3rd-5th round or you may be out of luck. Getting a good tight end will sometimes separate the average teams from the playoff teams.

4.      Be careful with defenses. Yes, it’s important to gauge the number of points a defense gives up. But a defense that forces turnovers and records sacks may end up scoring more points. Another important thing to consider is many fantasy football leagues throw in special teams (kickoffs and punts) with the defense. This makes teams like Chicago even more deadly because not only do they have a great defense, but they also have Devin Hester returning kickoffs. Don’t go too early drafting a defense but don’t neglect them. Rounds 4-6 are a safe bet. Just pay attention to when they start coming off the board.

5.      Newbies. Yeah, it’s not always a good thing to draft rookies but in many cases they are immediate contributors. Just look at Trent Richardson last year. Every year there is a rookie or two that make an impact. It’s early but a few candidates for this year would be the Rams’ Tavon Austin, the Bengals’ Tyler Eifert, and the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell. Don’t waste an early pick on these guys. Use a late pick on a rookie to add depth. This leads me to one important point…

6.      PAY ATTENTION TO THE PRESEASON! Yes, I understand it’s not the most exciting spectacle to watch. But you can get an idea of what a team thinks of certain players by how much and when they play a guy. This can be extremely helpful with how to judge a rookie’s potential playing time. And for goodness sake, don’t be the guy that drafts a player who tore his ACL 2 weeks ago. Pay attention. Do your homework.

Fantasy football has grown over the years. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, approximately 32 million people played fantasy football in 2010. It’s a testament to just how big of a monster the NFL truly is. So when you’re drafting this year, remember these rules. But above all else, have fun!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @GabePride