The 2008 NFL season kicks off tonight, and with it comes fresh hope for all 32 teams to make it to the Super Bowl.

The game is no longer a spectator sport. According to comScore, roughly 20 million people in this country play fantasy sports, with fantasy football being the top draw. It can be a pretty passionate pursuit.

I know it. I've been playing fantasy football online since the mid-1990s. And believe it or not, the same keys to winning in the make believe gridiron game will also make you a better investor.

Don't believe me? Let's go over a few tips to help you in either endeavor.

Find value where others don't
The first few picks of any fantasy football draft will start the same. LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson will be the first two players to go. Brian Westbrook, Steven Jackson, and Joseph Addai will follow. Did you notice that they're all running backs? Quarterbacks Tom Brady or Peyton Manning may sneak into the list, but the first two rounds of most drafts are mostly a running back land grab. The conventional thinking is that there are only a handful of productive running backs, while quality wide receivers and quarterbacks are plentiful later in the draft.

The logic may be sound, but if you're picking eighth, why would you settle for the seventh or eighth best running back when you can grab Randy Moss and own the top receiver in the game? Sure, you can grab Carson Palmer in the fifth round or Marc Bulger in the seventh, but do you really want to pass on Peyton Manning in the latter half of the first round?

Invest that way. I'm not suggesting that you dive into homebuilders and financials just because everyone is avoiding them, but that is where you should start sniffing. Due diligence is a lot easier when there is plenty of elbow room. If you think Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) are going to make it -- undoubtedly a heavy if -- what are you waiting for?

Know the depth charts
I have a lot of useless information in my noggin. It pains me to know the names of the backups -- and even the backups to the backups -- at the skill positions for most of the NFL teams. However, in fantasy football, knowing these things makes a world of difference. If a player gets hurt or begins to slump, I can quickly pick up his eventual replacement before anyone else.

That's how it works in the investing space. The market rewards those who can look ahead. Once Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced GPS functionality in its iPhones, thorough investors knew that it would be big for Apple and bad for portable GPS makers like Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN). We're waist-deep in hurricane season, and approaching storms mean concerns for casualty insurers and offshore drillers but opportunities for home improvement chains like Home Depot (NYSE:HD) that sell plywood and power generators.

Trade quantity for quality
One of my biggest secrets to winning in fantasy football comes after the draft, when trades take over. I love to bundle good players for a single great one. I traded Reggie Bush and Aaron Rodgers for Peyton Manning. I moved Edgerrin James and Torry Holt for Brian Westbrook. I gave up Willis McGahee and Maurice Jones-Drew for LaDanian Tomlinson. They are fair trades on the surface. I gave up guys who have combined to score more than the elite player I was getting, but I know that I can always fill roster holes with serviceable players later. If you want to win, you need to start the best.

That's how Mr. Market plays. If you're excited about online advertising, you buy Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). You don't want to replace that with a bunch of distant rivals or low-tier substitutes. If you're into digital music, good luck talking any quality-minded investor out of any stock other than Apple. Now that Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) has completed its merger, it's the uncontested champ of what remains a growth industry, despite the pressing debt and costly overhead challenges.

There may be value situations to be had in some of the lesser players in your favorite sectors, and this doesn't mean that you can't pursue those opportunities. However, you still want to own the top dog, unless near-term catalysts lurk that may topple the pooch.

Draft well. Trade well. Work the waiver wire. It's how you win the gridiron game and the Wall Street reality.

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Garmin is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. The Home Depot is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Garmin and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz knows that mastering fantasy football won't look good on the resume, but it certainly makes Sundays more interesting. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the
Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.