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Back to work! How the lockout could impact fantasy draft strategy

Brad Evans
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For the past 130 days, the virtual sports world has lived in purgatory while money-hungry billionaires and gridiron heroes, walking around in attire not suitable for tackle football, attended countless summits to work out financial differences. For mopey fantasy fiends longing desperately for a resolution, no amount of time gazing into the painted eyes of their championship bobblehead eased uncertainty. An end to the lockout, and a fantasy-less misery, seemed interminable.

But with the new collective bargaining agreement cemented, and predictable Barbra Favre un-retirement rumors beginning to recirculate, it appears, finally, football has regained a sense of normalcy.

That's right gamers. Fantasy football season is officially here.

Are you ready to bring the noise?

This year, unlike traditional training camps, serves up owners a unique plate of circumstances. Normal tidbits to decipher — overhyped "in-shape" reports, exaggerated coach's speak and meaningless preseason efforts by unknown players (e.g. Victor Cruz in '10) — will again be prevalent, but due to the condensed free agent period and prolonged lay-off fantasy managers could face new challenges, predicaments that may greatly alter draft psychology and preseason team management.

Here are three ways the lockout could directly affect fantasy gameplay: {YSP:MORE}

Bodily harm. Every offseason a player somewhere befriends Little Debbie, devouring the Princess of Pastries' entire sugary catalogue, sometimes, as Seattle's Mike Williams can attest, in mass quantities. Naturally, these Augustus Gloops show up to work considerably overweight. Some players like Chad Ochocinco partook in a variety of exotic calorie-burning exercises to stay in shape. Meanwhile others like Drew Brees and Larry Fitzgerald participated in voluntary training sessions to help maintain their boyish figures. But you know a few lazy daises lounged around, consumed spoonfuls of Crisco and packed on the pounds.

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Because minicamps and OTAs never happened, teams were not allowed to diligently watch over its players. As a result, it's possible more muscle strains, pulls and blowouts could occur over the next few weeks, sparking significant depth-chart turnover. It's imperative for fantasy players to either draft late or, for those who've already opened leagues for business, hawk the waiver wire daily. And, when investing in top-level backs, don't forget to carry a pair of handcuffs.

Players recuperating from offseason surgery are also at a disadvantage. Top-shelf commodities like Peyton Manning (neck), Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) and Marques Colston (knee) each went under the knife to repair major wounds months ago. MJD believes he's on track, but Colston and especially Manning, unable to access team physicians and facilities, are recovering at a snail's pace, enhancing the risk of drafting the roster reliables.

Lost in translation. Imagine your boss suddenly called you into his office to reveal you're the new manager of the "Suntory" account in Tokyo, which requires the overseer to speak semi-fluent Japanese. However, the only Japanese currently housed in your mental database you learned from Styx. Though it may seem outlandish, many free agents and rookies, particularly those at high-skilled positions, will soon face a similar situation. New schemes and systems will be a foreign language to many. And, unfortunately for the signees involved, Rosetta Stone doesn't offer a crash course on the Mike Martz offense. Initially, simplified, stripped-down playbooks will become the norm for franchises with several fresh faces (e.g. Arizona, Cincinnati and Carolina), which could lead to more conservative tactics and unexciting returns. Keep this mind when deciding whether to select players who are expected to change uniforms.

Quality is not guaranteed. Piggybacking on the previous point, unless sought after vets like Kevin Kolb, Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes along with ballyhooed rookies Cam Newton, A.J. Green and Julio Jones can absorb information like a sponge, several missteps should be expected. Chemistry issues between QB and receiver and vice versa, if not resolved quickly, could lead to more turnovers, incomplete passes, poor fantasy production and generally bad football, particularly over the regular season's first few weeks.  However, because of the lower mental demands of the position, fresh-faced or newly-placed running backs should not be heavily discounted.

As the Piano Man crooned last week, established QBs/WRs comfortable with current systems should demand a premium. When torn between Greg Little and Emmanuel Sanders in the beer-hazy rounds, trust the player with familiarity. For the unacquainted, risk of failure is definitely heightened.

So gamers, what impact, if any, do you believe the lockout will have on fantasy draft strategy? Has your level of concern increased for certain players? Are worries overblown? How do you plan to approach your draft this year? Discuss below.

Want to bring the Noise? Follow Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise. And harass him in person, along with esteemed Yahoo! colleagues Brandon Funston and Andy Behrens, throughout August in a city near you. Visit FantasyFootballSymposium.com for more info.

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