Are you ready for some fantasy football?

If you've never played fantasy football, here's why you should.

If you've ever played fantasy football, here's why you always will.

The NFL Draft has become must-see TV for NFL fans. Three months ago, fans devoured the draft for three days, many tuning in all the way from the selection of Andrew Luck at No. 1 to the selection of Chandler Harnish at No. 253. There is nothing irrelevant when it comes the draft.

Now, imagine for the sake of competitive balance, the NFL decided one month after the traditional draft to remove all the skill players from NFL rosters and hold a second draft to redistribute the talent.

Think TV ratings would be pretty good for that?

Now, imagine if instead of NFL teams doing the drafting, you are the one calling the shots in the war room, that you're the one hand-selecting the stars of the NFL for your team.

That, in a nutshell, is fantasy football.

I first played fantasy football in 1992, and I can still remember the rush when I joined some friends in a Chapel Hill, N.C., restaurant and made my first ever draft pick – none other than quarterback Dan Marino.

Twenty years later, draft day for my fantasy league – the National Feetball League – remains one of my favorite days of the year. It's proven to be a great way to keep relationships with several friends from college going, and it's a compelling competitive outlet like few others in my life.

To me, draft day is the single-best day of the fantasy football season, but it's literally only the beginning. The fun continues all season, with something of interest from a fantasy perspective developing every single day.

Come game day, I'm locked in along with my colleagues on covering the Panthers and bringing fans the best coverage possible, but the fate of my fantasy team might cross my mind a time or two.

Bank of America Stadium has a bank of televisions on the back wall in the press box that display every NFL game in progress. At halftime, people surround the screens, and if I happen to pass by, it's inevitable that I'll hear multiple people talking about how the action in front of them is impacting their fantasy team.

This season, the NFL is embracing the wonderful world of fantasy football like never before. It kicks off in earnest on Aug. 22-24 with Fantasy Draft Week, an extravaganza in New York where fans can get fantasy advice from NFL Network experts, enjoy appearances by NFL players and celebrities, and even draft their team in the middle of the festivities.

Free tickets are currently available, and fans can sign up through Friday to win a trip to the event and hold their league's draft there.

It should be a big season for the Panthers from a fantasy perspective. The first player shown in action on NFL's commercial promoting the event is quarterback Cam Newton, and the number of Panthers that rank as viable starters for your fantasy team this season should approach double digits.

Throughout the season, Panthers.com will keep you informed about the ins and outs of fantasy football and provide news and advice to keep you on the winning path.

Now a 20-year veteran of the game and the four-time reigning champion in my league, I can't imagine not playing fantasy football. If you've never played, I can't imagine a better time to start.

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