Or how to not be the sucky rookie after a poor draft
You finally gave in. They’ve been bugging you for 3 years, “You’ve just got to join our fantasy football league!” so finally, following years of verbal prying and abuse, you gave in and joined your first fantasy football league. After all, you think, I’ve always been a huge NFL fan, and I fill out a March Madness bracket every year, isn’t fantasy football essentially just combining the two? So you do a little homework, talk to a few “fantasy” people about how the draft works, clear your schedule and alas, you’re ready. At least as ready as you’ve ever been for an NCAA bracket, right? You have after all won the office pool two out of the last 3 years? As the date grows near, you feel more and more confident that this league is going to benefit greatly from a mind such as yours!
The draft starts at 7 p.m., so you decide to show up 15 minutes early to meet the guys you don’t know and acquaint yourself with the surroundings. It’s at precisely 6:46PM that you find yourself gazing over a roomful of faces you don’t recognize. You can’t help but notice the serious, focused and determined people staring back at you. You think to yourself, I must be in the wrong place. This looks like the campaign headquarters for an incoming politician. Every table is littered with laptops, spreadsheets, tabbed and highlighted books, phones and yellow sticky notes. People seem to be speaking in a foreign language consisting purely of catch-phrases and acronyms. Keepers, Bell-cows, PPR, the turn on the snake, streaming an IDP…What?
Suddenly you realize, you’re not lost, this IS the right draft room. That little yellow sticky note with a few of the names of your favorite players written on it? Yeah, I think it’s time to shove that back in your pocket! That is going to be of no use tonight. This is not the company office pool, and you are frankly…well…under-prepared and overwhelmed. What have you gotten yourself in to?
Is this the predicament you found yourself in sometime within the last 2-3 weeks after drafting for the first time? Relax, it’s not too late. This article is going to tell you (the beginner) how to not suck this year, regardless of how bad the draft went. The following advice provides 10 easy-to-follow steps to legitimize your chances and make you competitive, regardless of the cesspool of a team you most likely drafted.
You can’t win your league in the draft or week 1. But you can lose it. You really don’t know how good your team is until about week 4 or 5. The most common mistake rookie FF managers make is selling star players who underperformed after a small sample size. Veteran FF managers will take advantage of this, either through low-ball trades, or just simply off the waiver wire. Some players really do start the season slow, sometimes it’s purely due to match-ups, sometimes it’s due to injuries, and sometimes there is no reason at all, they just start slow. Do not rush into judgement and be patient.
2. Know your team.
You can conduct your own evaluation of your draft. Most individual fantasy football league sites such as Yahoo and ESPN will grade your draft if you are in their league. But remember these draft grades are based on THEIR rankings. You can import the scoring settings for your league and the players your team in to many different websites that will grade your draft. It’s important to have a very holistic and all-encompassing viewpoint of your team. If the general consensus is that your team sucks, you’ve got work to do, but it’s not a death-blow to your season.
3. Drop your Fanhood
You cannot base ANY part of your fantasy football team on your rooting interests. Anytime you draft, start, sit or acquire a player based on your personal liking or disliking of them, you have moved from fantasy manager to fan. Fan is short for fanatic and fanatics do not win fantasy football leagues. It’s imperative that you be clear-headed about one thing and one thing only…stats. You’re favorite player happens to be the 5th wide-receiver and special-teams gunner on your favorite team? Regardless of your affections towards him, he is NOT fantasy relevant. Conversely, a player on your roster may have just been released from prison and you really don’t think highly of his off-field activities, but if he can score you points, he is an asset. Remember they are on your team as a statistical equation only, not to babysit your kids. You will never meet this person. You will not be judged in society or by God Almighty based on the morality of your fantasy football team.
4. Talk the Talk so You Can Walk the Walk
Learn the lingo of fantasy football. Fantasy football is loaded with different acronyms, buzzwords and catch phrases. It is really hard to talk intelligently with anyone in or out of your league without some basic knowledge of the vernacular. Here are a few. -WR, RB, TE, QB, K, DEF, D. If you need clarification on any of these…you should probably take up collecting bottle caps instead of playing fantasy football.
PPR-points per reception
IDP-Individual Defensive Player
ADP-Average drafted position
Keeper-some leagues designate a player you can keep at the end of your season
FLEX-a slotted position on your team that can either be a RB WR or TE
AVG-Average Points per game
PROJ– projected points
+\- -change in percentage owned
PUP-Player unable to Perform
5. Sweat the Little Things
On a weekly basis, there are many little things that can be done to greatly improve your chances at success. Here are a few to stress.
- Find someone on a team’s eight-week IR list. In other words they can return from a team’s Injured-reserve list after eight weeks. If your league has an IR-slot pick them up and place them in that slot. This will not count against your roster of bench positions and can literally be a freebie boon to your roster for week nine and beyond.
- With very few exceptions, only draft and use linebackers as your IDP’s. They are going to give you the most consistent points through tackles. Also they have a higher chance of adding sacks, fumble recoveries and INT’s to their solo tackles.
- If you have the ability, have at least one backup running back from a run-heavy oriented team. This is called a handcuff. You are essentially waiting for the starter in front of him to get hurt, as this is not only the hardest fantasy roster-position to fill, but the most commonly injured in football.
- Don’t leave dead weight on your bench over the weekend. If you have players on your bench with little to no upside for the coming matchup that you could cut and nobody is likely to pick up, you are wasting a bench spot. Instead, refer to the point above.
- Check your team every Saturday night and Sunday morning to make sure that everyone is healthy and playing.
- Whatever day your waiver-wire is set to, make sure you take advantage of it. Often times championships are won from an owner’s ability to work their league’s waiver system.
6. Use STREAMwork.
The fantasy football definition of streaming is, in short, playing somebody different in a given roster slot weekly that has been picked up off of the waiver wire based on matchup rather than skillset. The best people to stream are IDP’s, Kickers, Defenses, Tight Ends and in some cases QB’s. A kicker rarely scores more than 12 points, and almost always scores 4 points or more. The 8 point gap is usually due to their matchup not their skill. IDP positions can be a little trickier. Obviously if you have a consistent point scoring LB, streaming a new one is not worth it. But have a very short leash on an IDP. Two weeks in a row of low output should warrant a replacement. Streaming a QB is controversial and can be tricky. If you have one of the top-5 QB’s I would advise against streaming. It is up to you to decide what a top-5 passer looks like to you, but usually those top-5 QB’s are point hogs, regardless of their week to week opponent. With those QB’s ranked in the 6-18 spots, projected points can vary greatly depending on the opponent. So you can take advantage of this by switching weekly in favor of the best matchups. BUT BEWARE, if more than 2 people in your league are streaming a QB, you may want to find a longer term solution.
7. Guess What?
Don’t guess at what players are going to do. Use your projections. Every league host provides weekly projections to help guide you. Are those projections always right on? No. Are they ever really right on? No. Projections are just that…someone projecting how a player will perform given many different factors. But never forget, this is your first year of fantasy football and the people making these projections do this for a living. Their guesses are far better than yours. That doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally go with your gut or a hunch, but don’t let this roll in to your weekly strategy.
It is too hard to conduct a proper evaluation of your team any time before week five. By the fifth week of the season you will have a big enough sample size to know if you are a contender or a pretender. Never evaluate your team based on record. Points, and points alone, are the only indicator of which direction your team is heading. The biggest mistake people make in fantasy football is not recognizing when their team is bad. Bad point totals over a long stretch of time = a bad team. If you have discovered through your evaluation that your team stinks, it’s time to make a move. The next step will hopefully guide your team back to fantasy relevance.
9. Trade offs
If you find yourself looking up from the bottom of the standings at the rest of the league, it may be time to make some drastic changes. If you find yourself perched on top, don’t rest, this is the time to strengthen your roster. Here are some guidelines to make a splashy trade.
- Recognize your assets, and if you are desperate, be willing to trade your top assets. Sometimes you may have assets that are worth more to another owner sitting on your bench. In order to make a trade appealing to anyone, you have to be willing to part with literally anyone on your roster.
- Study the teams in your league and acquaint yourself with what you perceive as their roster weaknesses and strengths.
- Offer the teams at the top of your league 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 trades. Try and get back 2-3 starters for the one star you are losing. If you can provide the missing link to someone’s roster, you may be able to get back 3 starters for yours. If you are at the top, look to shed 2 or 3 of your bottom starters or bench players for a missing link player that will put you over the top.
- If you are at the bottom, you may have to make trades that do not look good on paper. Remember you are in a position of desperation, and when it’s all said and done, you don’t want to end the season in last place after just sitting on your hands. If you are at the top, absolutely DO NOT make a trade unless it greatly benefits you on paper. You are in a position of power and in no need to make trades unless all of the risk is on the other person.
- Don’t give up. Pulling off a successful trade can take many attempts. Sometimes, after a few tries it is easiest to just identify through a text message or an email who you want and who you are willing to give up. That way their counters can reflect your interests and you’re not wasting yours, or their time. But don’t start there, you may have access to players on their roster that you wouldn’t believe to be available.
10. Most important of all
Keep fantasy football fun and relevant by keeping it in line with your priorities in life. You are a better fantasy manager, and will find more joy in your experience when your faith, marriage, family and work take precedence over a statistical game that has no eternal impact on yours or the people’s lives around you.
Now you have no excuse to suck…