Curing cancer is hard; fantasy football isn’t. Keep it simple.
How to Actually Win at Fantasy Football:
The winning formula for fantasy sports is pretty simple and easy but few really follow it totally. I don’t claim to be a guru or an expert but I have won over 71 documented trophies (1st, 2nd, or 3rd place finishes) in basketball, football and baseball; including 27 first place trophies. The following is the strategy that I hope will help players of all levels.
Get into a league that you feel comfortable with:
It’s important to be in a league that you like. Smack talk is fun and is part of fantasy sports but some go too far. I don’t want any drama. I’ve been in leagues with immature hot heads and it can ruin the experience. If you find a good league with good people, then stay in it. Think about being a commissioner of a league and keep the same league every year. I’m in three leagues that have been around for 9, 10, and 15 years respectively.
I personally would not be in a league with more than 12 people. For me, ten people is best. I’ve realized over the years that the more teams that are in a league, the greater the chance that there will be flakes who stop playing due to more teams missing the playoffs. I’d rather be in a league with 8-10 hard core players that never quit, than in a big league where half are quitting by mid season. Again, everyone is different so you have to do what is best for you.
It’s also important to be in a league where you feel good about the scoring settings, and team format. I like a more basic format but you will see some leagues with 2-3 quarterbacks, 2-3 tight ends, and many other interesting configurations in the daily line up. I personally would never be in a league like this, but there isn’t a right or wrong format. Find a format that meets your taste.
Join a league where you can be there for the draft:
I personally would never join a league without a live draft. The draft is part of the skill of fantasy football and although it isn’t vital to have a great team, it is really important. I’ve been playing fantasy sports since 2000 and only once did I win a league with a really bad draft. I ended up with only 4 original players but due to good pickups, I won.
We personally have a “shut up” rule. While the draft is going on, no one can talk about a player that hasn’t been drafted yet. Nothing is more sophomoric than people chatting during the draft ripping or talking up another player that hasn’t been drafted yet. It’s kind of ridiculous to give opponents that you are trying to beat information on players.
How I view the draft:
I don’t follow anyone’s rankings. I’ve never seen a ranking system that I liked or agreed with. The best thing to do before the draft is to look up the players and list them by fantasy points. List all of the players and look at their total scoring points, and then list them by position. Keep these boxes open during the draft. Running backs are at a premium so they usually go first. Obviously their situations may have changed so draft accordingly.
Realize that the NFL has changed. With the new rules greatly favoring passing offenses, seven of the top 10 passing seasons of all time have been seen in the last 3 years. The NFL is going to continue to see passing records fall so quarterbacks and wide receivers have taken on an even bigger role in fantasy sports.
I’m a huge Tom Brady fantasy football fan and he’s won a lot of leagues for me so more than a few times I have chosen him as my first pick. My first and third picks though are usually for a running back and for my second pick I choose a quarterback. Most players draft that way.
I then make a list of my top running backs. I stay away from teams that have a backfield by committee scenario. I’ll draft a less rated player who has less competition over a better player who has a really good backup that steals carries.
I hate when drafters are not prepared for their pick. If you are taking 90 seconds on every pick then it doesn’t show that you are thinking, it shows that you aren’t very prepared. When your pick is coming up, don’t have 1 player that you want to pick. Instead, have 2-3 guys that you want to draft in the pre-draft box. If someone picks the pick you want, you will have a back-up plan. If you have just one guy ready for your next pick and he gets picked, now you are scrambling for 90 seconds to draft someone, and that pick usually isn’t that good. You have more than enough time between picks to choose 2-3 players that you want’ to draft.
There are always players wanting to trade. We laugh because most of the players looking to trade, often are the ones that end up not playing the entire season because their teams aren’t very good.
If there is a player that you really want, don’t lose your mind trying to get them. Most trade offers are fairly ridiculous and most fantasy players over estimate the players they have. I trade on occasion but it’s not a big part of my team.
I personally feel byes are overrated. I do not EVER draft for the byes. I never draft two tight ends or two defenses. I would rather draft a backup running back behind a star than to have a backup tight end that may just help me one week of the year. I don’t even care if I have 4 or 5 players on the same team when I draft. My goal is to get the best possible players during a draft and I will scramble to field a team during my bye week and hope for the best. As long as I get into the playoffs, I feel good about it. Many will disagree but I’m telling you how I do it and my record of winning is pretty good. I’m not going to draft for one week of the year.
I personally would NOT draft a player who is always hurt. It’s my pet peeve. Players like Hakeem Nicks and Darren McFadden would never be on my team. I also obviously stay away from players on really bad teams.
The schedule counts too. For example the Raiders have the hardest schedule in the NFL based on last year’s results. I have NO confidence in Matt Shaub and with a running back by committee scenario I’m not thrilled with any of their offensive players. Last year the Raiders had the second easiest schedule and they won 4 games.
Things like not drafting a kicker until the last pick, being wary of rookie wide receivers, and picking the backups behind your superstar running backs (called handcuffing) are basic knowledge but I’ll add this for players that are just starting.
Strategy during the year:
Realize that everyone will be scouring the free agent market for any injuries or hot pickups. The time that I look at picking up players is game day. While the games are going on, I pay attention to injuries or benching of players and will pick up a player accordingly. When big injuries occur during a game, picking up their replacement can make or break your season. Twitter especially is your friend.
Never bench a player because they are playing a hard opponent. Always go with your stars. If it’s a borderline player, then you may want to replace them but always play your stars.
Look at the NFL weather forecasts during the winter; it takes 30 seconds. Just type in the term NFL weather forecasts in any search engine and it will show you all the cities. Snow storms, cold, or severe downpours can greatly change a game and it’s scoring. Florida is usually good for a few terrible rain storms and cities east of the Mississippi have epic snow storms on game days.
You always want to win every game but your realistic goal is to make the playoffs and win your league. Never quit. In my favorite year, I was 0-4 and in last place. I then had 2 great pickups due to injury and barely made the playoffs. I methodically won in the playoffs and became league champion and the after party was sweet after all the ribbing I took!
It’s smart to be patient but don’t be stupid. If you draft a big name player that was rated high and he’s played terribly, make sure you give them four to six games before you bench them. I try to keep them on my roster though, but every year there are huge busts.
The fantasy football shows on the major sports networks are popular but some of the time they are beyond inaccurate. I don’t know how many times their “insiders” say someone may or may not play, and that player does the opposite. It’s frustrating how wrong they are sometimes so I don’t rely on them. Their rankings are also kind of bizarre to me so I watch them occasionally but most of the time I take it with a grain of salt. If you look at how many times some of these guys are right on their predictions and ratings, or how some rarely if ever win a league, then you’d understand my skepticism.
If I’m wondering about one of my players I usually do a search on a search engine to see if someone will play or not. The best and fastest outlets are local news services who follow their teams closely and it will show up in the search.
I always set my teams on Saturday just in case Saturday night ends up being filled with adult beverages or fun times, or if I have something going on Sunday morning.
If you know you are going to be in the playoffs, start dropping the players that are not going to be a factor, and get players that may help you win. For instance teams that are way ahead in the standings and have clinched home field advantage or a playoff spot will many times bench their stars. The ultimate pick up was when then Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns against Detroit on the final game of the 2011-2012 season. Aaron Rodgers was hurt at the time and Flynn’s game allowed him to sign a big contract with Seattle, and helped fantasy players who had picked him up.
Some people that have been playing fantasy sports for a while sometimes think they are curing cancer and that they are experts, but don’t be intimidated. I never listened to those people. I listened to the people that won leagues and then made a system that I felt good about. If you stop listening to all the “guru’s” and just do the basics, then you have a chance at winning. Evaluating talent is important, and so is choosing players who are in the right situation to succeed and amass good stats. Luck, injuries and other things play a role in fantasy football as well so don’t expect to win all the time. Make a system that works for you. I hope all have fun in the upcoming season, and may all your draft picks and pickups be golden.