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Scott Pianowski

Tip Drill: Dead money goes around the world

The original Tuesday Tippage plan was to talk about auction strategy, but a few audibles were called at the line and the auction piece will instead run Wednesday. In its place, tonight, is this puff piece fine article about "donators" and how to pick them out.

"If you can't spot the sucker at the table, you are the sucker." We've all heard the line and we know where it comes from (that's 2,000 words for another day). How do you recognize the dead money on draft night? Below are a few dead giveaways - don't worry, those entry fees have been paid up front:

Tries to draft first-round talent in the fourth round

This generally is an error of disorganization more than anything else, but still, anyone who thinks Frank Gore is sitting out there at pick 34 is a donator through and through. And you have to wonder, why didn't this chucklehead try to take Gore in Round 2 or 3?

Pays the freight on a career year

Simply put, there's no reason to carry around last year's stats with you, be it on paper or in your mind. Projections, yes. History, no. Steve Beuerlein probably isn't going to throw 36 touchdown passes again. Don't bet on Karim Abdul-Jabbar spiking the ball 16 more times. Charmed-life kicker seasons pretty much don't repeat. Four weeks of nirvana do not make Drew Bennett a Pro Bowler. It's a little trickier when the career year comes attached to a legitimate player - I wouldn't draft Tom Brady in the first round, maybe you would - but generally, it's not wise to pony up for a level of production that we've seen once over the course of a long career.

Spends valuable resources on a kicker or defense

Now this is a real amateur move, like sticking on soft 17 or looking at your chips immediately after peeling pocket aces. Kicker and defense scoring can be unpredictable, sure, but the main reason you don't go out of your way to secure them is supply and demand. In most groups you'll have anywhere from 10-20 unowned kickers and defenses to cherry-pick from every week, very much unlike the other positions (any running back with a pulse gets drafted in any competitive league, for one example).

Furiously shuffles through a magazine for late-round picks

I call this maneuver "haystacking" - it's basically a certainty that your donator isn't going to stumble upon a worthy pick at this juncture, but he's aggressively looking, anyway, desperately searching for a fifth receiver or a backup tight end that he recognizes. Wasn't Kyle Brady a first-round pick one year? Maybe Barry Sanders comes back? (Every so often the haystacker will find a lucky pick by accident, and yeah, it's incredibly annoying. Like being beaten on a one-out draw.)

Gets ticklish for rookies

Hopefully there are a lot of college football junkies in your league, because they'll chase their favorite rookies into the NFL and pay the tax right away. It's a big step from the SEC to the NFC, friends. (The scouting fetish applies even more so in fantasy baseball, where annoying pretend-scouts will pay through the nose to act like they "discovered" the next big thing. For every Tim Lincecum, a lotta Homer Baileys come down the pike. Mind you, when Bailey lands in the post-hype file down the road for a song, maybe we'll buy in.)

Overvalues handcuffs

The Broncos messed with everyone's head back in the 1990s, as Mike Shanahan made us all believe he could take the paperboy and make him a 1,500-yard back after training camp. A few years later Larry Johnson took the baton from Priest Holmes and went ballistic; a blast if you had a piece of it, and a headache if you didn't. But don't let the jackpot winner trick you into thinking the lottery is a good investment. There are some juicy backups who are capable of going off if given a chance, but not every understudy is worth carrying around as a spec play. It's human nature to remember the home runs and forget all the strikeouts. Before you aggressively reach for that handcuff, ask yourself one key question: "Does this backup hold a lot of value to owners not invested in the starter?" If you're not sure of the answer, shift your focus to someone else.

This is not a complete list by any means, so here's where you come in. What amateur moves do you observe, year-in and year-out?

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