If you play fantasy football, your league draft is likely weeks or even days away.
Preparation is key to any successful draft night. As the owner of six league championships, which included a three-peat stretch from 2011-14, I'm willing to offer advice that has the potential to carry you all the way to your championship.
A big part of a successful draft is avoiding the selection of players you like just so you can cheer for them all season. This was never all that difficult for me as a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, but I learned some tough lessons early when I drafted Buckeyes a few rounds too early.
There are a number of high-impact former Buckeyes who you could target for your squads this season. Use this guide to avoid drafting those players too high and losing their value.
Honorable Mention: New Orleans Defense / ST
New Orleans' secondary is almost exclusively comprised of former Buckeyes, so if you're looking for a defense with heavy Ohio State ties, this is where you should go. ESPN ranks the Saints defense as their sixth-best for the coming season, which is ideal because you'll always have a few league members foolishly take the top defenses in round 12 or somewhere equally stupid.
Bonus points for the possibility of getting that Ted Ginn magic on the occasional return.
No. 5: Terry McLaurin, Washington Wide Receiver
When Terry McLaurin was selected by Washington in the third round of this year's NFL draft, many thought of it as a developmental pick or one to bring familiarity to new quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
As preseason wages on, McLaurin is starting to look like one of the steals of the draft. As Kevin highlighted in Wednesday's Skull Session, McLaurin is starting to look like Washington's best receiver, and if you play things right, he could be the steal of your draft. Keep an eye on projections to avoid selecting him too high, but he's well worth taking a double-digit-round flyer on if he keeps trending up.
No. 4: Carlos Hyde, Kansas City Running Back
It doesn't look like Carlos Hyde is going to be a security blanket late-round selection.
Throughout the summer, the presumption was that starting Kansas City running back Damien Williams would take the majority of snaps alongside Patrick Mahomes in the backfield. But as preseason wages on, it looks like the Chiefs will deploy a running-back-by-committee approach this season, meaning more playing time for Hyde.
With Kansas City's high-powered offense, Hyde is an attractive option in the 11th-13th round range.
No. 3: Curtis Samuel, Carolina Wide Receiver
Curtis Samuel's name has popped up with a growing frequency throughout Carolina's preseason prep. The running back/receiver hybrid came into the league needing to adjust to a full-time receiver role, and reports out of camp indicate he's made a huge leap forward this offseason.
Looking back at last season, his usage in the Panthers offense rose steadily as the season wore on, so all things point to something clicking for the third-year wideout. If he's still on the board when your eighth or ninth round starts, he'd definitely be worth a look.
No. 2: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Wide Receiver
We've reached the no-brainer part of the article.
My draft strategy has always been to go running back-running back in the first two rounds, but if you're in a PPR league, Michael Thomas is someone to consider in the first round if you're picking at the tail-end of it.
No player in NFL history has snagged more passes than Thomas in their first three seasons. He's hauled in 92, 104 and 125 passes in consecutive seasons, which helped him sign a long-term contract that made him the highest-paid receiver in the league.
If you're selecting ninth or 10th in your league and the top five or six backs are already off the board, snag Thomas.
No. 1: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Running Back
If you have a top-two pick in your fantasy draft, try trading back.
It seems crazy to think, but I've personally found more success picking at nine or 10 than picking at the top of the draft. I'd rather have two top-11 rated players than the top player paired with a guy ranked near 20.
If you can't sucker someone into trading draft positions with you straight up and you have a top-two pick, your consolation prize is Ezekiel Elliott.
His holdout situation obviously needs to be watched, but assuming things get figured out, Elliott is a no-brainer top selection. He's one of the most explosive backs in the league running behind one of the best offensive lines, and he's as close to a guaranteed 15-20 points a week as you're going to get.