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Deciding finally that Fantasy Football is no longer a niche for stat geeks, and as it has made inroads to the mainstream, we decided to get with the program and offer some unsolicited (as if, for us, there is any other kind) Fantasy Football advice.
After 10 years on the internet doing what I do best, we decided to finally try something new, Fantasy Football. Don’t get me wrong, I am not new to Fantasy Football only to writing about it.
I will admit that by now, I have come to hate Fantasy Football. You see to a mathematically inclined stat junkie Fantasy Football can become an obsession. It can easily become all consuming generating all kinds of new useless data, trends and match ups to consider and evaluate. Worst of all Fantasy Football provides very compelling reasons to watch some wretched games, and not even really care about the outcome at all. That therefore is the problem. Paying attention to the individual stats, and who will get the carries, detracts from what we should be focusing on, which is who will beat the spread. I think you can easily discern from my record which years I was heavily involved with Fantasy.
So now I will depart with some wisdom garnered from years of wrecking my (against the spread) record in games that do matter for games that only existed as glorified computer simulations!
First and foremost, Know your league, Know the scoring, know the rules, know your competition… look everything we are talking about here is all relative, in actuality you are going to be playing against other people, and people are fallible, they have weaknesses. Most people, for instance, are predisposed to a particular team, and of course will tend to show that. Look for these weaknesses, signs, places you can get the edge. If you are still reading here at this point, you ALREADY have an edge, hopefully you will find a little tip or tidbit here that can get you that extra edge, the WINNING EDGE!
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The draft is without a doubt the single most important element in building a successful Fantasy Football team. The campaign is a long one though and the season will usually reveal that the same guys who were highly ranked leaders one season, aren’t always the same level of producer the next season. Let that be lesson no. 1 to you. There are certainly many more cases where a guy has been a historical underperformer in fantasy, and continues to be year in and year out. Some marquee fantasy names can fall by the wayside very quickly. The draft however is still the best chance to grab the blue chippers and set your team up for a successful run.
This is where you need to know your league and your rules. In one league I am in, they score individual defensive statistics, in another you get the entire defense and special teams. That one simple difference presents a whole different draft strategy. Does you league have bonus’ points for milestones(100 yards, or a defensive shutout, etc.) do they score points for receptions, is it basically a geared toward touchdowns only or carries/receptions and yardage? Remember we said the game is relative, you need to build your team in a way that will maximize the amount of points you can get in your leagues rules compared to the points the OTHER PLAYERS in your league get.
There are 100’s of good draft strategy articles around the web, (maybe even in our
Forum) and while you can get good info from each and everyone one of those, I personally want to thank you for taking the time to come here and read mine. I won’t be giving you any projections or stats for any individual player or game strategies… at least in this issue. I will however give you general overall strategies to help set you up to get the edge each and every week. As I been saying, Know your team. Draft to fill out YOUR roster. Thus, if you have 3 RBs on your roster, maybe take a WR with the next pick, or a QB. Look at your roster, think in terms of where you are going to get points from, are QB’s the highest scoring position player in your league, are WR’s the next best, or is it a defender that gets 10 tackles a game? Make a lineup card thinking of the guys you will be playing every week, look it over and keep an eye toward getting starters.
1. Don’t panic. Look its impossible to get every good player you want, and probably very likely someone will take the guy you want the very pick before you pick... Then see rule no. 1. Do not panic. Shake it off, don’t dwell on any one pick, and don’t make it worse by making another bad move right after it. If you read over these pointers, and are prepared the eventuality that the guy you are looking at is gone, you will already have another guy targeted, and heck maybe that guy turns into that one piece that gives you the Edge!
2. Be Prepared! Have a list, Check it twice!! Put the guys you want on your list. Keep them on your radar. Yes most leagues have a built in ranking system, and for the rank amateur these lists will do. However if you are a more experienced player you should be able to go through the list and find several players you would rather have instead of the guys ranked ahead of them… move them up! Do this BEFORE your draft day so you are not scrambling. On draft day, if you are prepared, you will see the guys you have targeted standing out.
3. Be More Prepared!! Treat it like a General Manager of an NFL team, the draft is where your team is going to be built, don’t just rely on the leagues default rankings… be ready. Go deep down the list. Lets face it even the more savvy seasoned players will probably only rank the top tier guys. Guys who will be gone by the 2nd or 3rd round. What then? That is where you will see all kinds of 2nd tier guys available who are essential in building a winning team. Don’t just let the default list dictate who you will take. Have a plan, target guys you want, fill your needs out. The better prepared you are the better your selections will be. Go deep, dont just scout out three or four WRs for instance, in most leagues you can play three WR at times anyways. You want to find guys who will be there past the first few rounds. Rank the Top 12 WR from the previous season, in Receptions, and the top 12 in Yardage, combine the lists, have a list of 20-24 contributors there. Same with Running backs, load up with lists of top RBs with carries, yardage and receptions (especially if you are in a PPR league) Delve deeper!
4. DON’T Reach on speculations!! Now this may sound contrary to what I am talking about above, when I say if you value someone higher than they are ranked on the default player ranking list to move them up and then take them. Yet it is really not. Lets look at this another way… There are maybe a dozen top tier guys, guys that you need to target at the very top of the list, franchise type guys. Guys who put up big numbers every week. Outside of the top tier, the rest are pretty much all in two categories, contributors and non-factors, among contributors once you get past that top level, not much separates them. Drafting a non-contributor is not devastating, but it is likely you can get a contributor in the same spot. I won’t give examples because more than likely I will reuse this again and when I do those guys could all be retired, but the point remains. I mean look at the statistical leaders for the previous 3 or 4 years, and odds are the top 2 or 3 passers are the same. Maybe the top RB’s are the same, but be careful these guys have a much shorter shelf life than you think. The top WR’s who lead the league in receptions are usually guys who did it before. Maybe there is 1 break out guy a year who cracks the list, 1 one year wonder but consistently the guys who lead the leagues in catches, yards, TDs are guys who have been in the top 10 before.
Here is another tidbit… FORGET ROOKIE WR’s, just don’t do it, there has not been a WR in the history of the NFL that comes in and leads a league in any category in his first year, not Jerry Rice, not Randy Moss, not anyone… so you will have some rookies that contribute, but DO not place them at the top of your list. See that right there is reaching, when you take a rookie ahead of a guy who has consistently been a contributor. Even veterens on the down side of their careers can usually give you decent fantasy numbers, given the right circumstance. So skip the hot rookie phenoms, heck half the time they don’t pick up the offense til November and if you been starting them you have a huge hole. Even RBs to some extent – need time to pick up blocking schemes… let someone else draft them, and most of the time they will wind up cutting one loose as the tire of their lack of production and you can usually get them on the waiver wire later in the year… when rookies typically start to make contributions, especially on teams that are clearly just playing out the string. Did you get all that?? There is a lot of valuable info right there!!
5. Have a Draft BOARD!! This sounds repetitive and if you are closely following rules # 2, and 3 you already have this. However as the later rounds roll around you are just picking through scraps at that point usually, that is when you can make that solid pickup and get a contributor when most people are just going to get cast offs. The best thing to do to making a draft board, is to spend a few minutes and just go over EVERY team (there are 32, not really a big deal) and jot down the STARTERS at QB, RB, and WR for each team. Typically bad or obscure teams (the ones not on TV that often) are overlooked, and after the big stars are gone, you are basically looking for contributors at that point. While you can project someone should do this or could do that, you can have a list of starters right there at your finger tips, and you might spot a starting RB for a bad team sitting there among back ups. While that guy might not get 2000 yards or something he could be a solid back up with a nice contribution in a spot start for you. Face it a guy who is going to get a bulk of his teams carries will not have to be very good in fantasy simply because he will be getting all the work, and someone has to score for even the bad teams.
6. Scour the Waiver wire! This is another very, very important aspect of Fantasy Football. Time after time the guys who win will do so because of 1 really good move made after the draft. I mean I have seen this one really cash in time and time again. The key is to be on top of it early, and to know whom to pick up, and who to avoid! OK like we said there are always going to be surprises, guys coming from nowhere to be huge impacts in fantasy. Guys in a new situation, where they were a backup elsewhere and are now starting, or an injury to a starter and a back up stepping up, or just an unheralded guy who winds up excelling in a different system. You know that this happens every year, and the team that gets that guy is most often the team that will do very well that season. Look for an explosive rookie who winds up winning a starting job. Now I know this sounds sort of like a contradiction to what I was saying above in rule # 4, but the difference is that this will happen AFTER the draft, usually once they actually play a game or two, and you should be ready to identify which are candidates to pick up. Equally you should be looking at your roster to see who is not contributing, and who you can let go.
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7. Don’t try to stockpile guys. This killed me one season, I was trying to stash a couple extra running backs on my roster when I really didn’t need them and wound up biting me in the end because there was a guy who I spotted about to have a break out year, and he did, but because I didn’t want to part with a couple of my rookie running backs (see that rule no. 4) who were not contributing, but based on POTENTIAL that I was trying to stash. I wound up not picking that other guy up. Well the guy who I should have picked up had a huge fantasy year, and I can’t tell you how many games I lost by a point or two!! Get this, to really throw salt in my wounds, I was eliminated from the playoffs that year by the team that eventually picked up THAT guy, who wound up having a HUGE day against me! So be prepared to identify and cut loose the benchwarmers and pick up a contributor early on.
8. One extra point here, and the pun is intended… kickers. I know you need one, but I NEVER draft a kicker (except in leagues where it is mandated)! I just don’t, look most leagues have 12 teams, and unless someone is dumb enough to take two kickers (then they probably have no business playing fantasy anyways) there will be 20 kickers available after the draft! Draft an extra position player, hopefully you have your list (steps #2, and 3) and maybe pull out an extra starter, or shoot if you are in an active league, maybe even package up a couple of late contributors to get another player you really wanted in a trade. (again assuming you are in a league where people will actually trade guys!!) The point is you can always just get a kicker from waviers even minutes before kickoff that will do the job. (TIP, TIP: I really like to do that, so people won't have a chance to pick up the guy I cut loose and use him that same week!!) Don’t be enamored with kickers it really is hit and miss with them anyway. Lousy teams can give you good kickers – if they can’t get TDs then they will settle for more FGs and the good teams you will likely just be getting extra points anwyays. Believe me, I have played in enough fantasy leagues to tell you that the at least half the free agent kickers will score more points than your kicker, and almost every active kicker on the rosters in your league.
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