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  You can search the Internet or the newsstands in June and July, and you'll find a wealth of information about fantasy football and fantasy football leagues. Most of it is statistics. Miles and miles of statistics. And most sites and magazines claim to offer more than all the others. What few offer, though, is sound advice on how to be successful every year. So, visit all the sites and magazines for your stats, but search no more for the secret to winning, because here it is.

I have played in extremely competitive fantasy football leagues for 15 years. I've missed the playoffs only twice, and I've been to three fantasy bowls. I won more games and scored more points than any other team in my league's history. Now, I'll give you my strategy, and it won't cost you a dime. Here is the three-step formula for winning in fantasy football year in and year out.

The first step is to draft for depth. It sounds easy enough, but many people in my league focus on getting their starters, and the rest of the draft is nothing more than throwing darts at names on a stat sheet. I've selected players beyond the seventh round (we have 14 rounds) who have led my team in scoring. I didn't even have them targeted as starters; I just saw the potential, through all of the research I'd done. For example, take special notice of second and third-year wide receivers. They often go overlooked, because their numbers are not spectacular. Receivers take a year or two, before they adjust to the NFL. Chad Johnson is a great example. Also, watch for rookies who may explode late in the season, once they've grasped a system. Lee Evans was a star after week nine this past season.

Step two is to manage your team every week, down to the most minor details. If you've drafted for depth, you'll have lineup decisions every week, because you'll have a team full of players scoring points. Check their histories against weekly opponents (a vastly overlooked strategy by novices). Some players simply flourish against particular teams, just as some teams tend to score differently against certain defenses. This can definitely affect your weekly lineup decisions.

The third step is to watch the waiver wire and make two key trades. No matter how well you've drafted, near the end of the season, you'll need to make changes. It's time to trade away your depth for stars. Also, watch for available players to pick up -- even if they may only help you for one week. I drafted both Domanick Davis and Chad Johnson last season. Later, I traded both, so I could acquire LaDanian Tomlinson. This simplified my weekly lineup decisions, while giving me a player who would score at least one TD every week.

If you stick to this simple formula, no matter what type of league you play in, you'll make the playoffs 85 to 90 percent of the time. That's not bad in any league.


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