How to Win at Fantasy Football
Tips for Winning Your Fantasy Football League
Mastering how to win at fantasy football strategy requires a reassessment of talent and strategies every single season. Fantasy football continues to evolve, with a few of the old truisms not quite as true as they were even 5 years ago. Winning at fantasy football is about finding a few difference makers, then adding solid performers around them at every position throughout the season. While the fantasy football draft is the most important part of team building, what you do after the draft is often what separates your team from your rivals.
The best advice that we can give you about winning a league championship in a good fantasy football league is that it requires a commitment. It’s not as big of a commitment as some of the less active participants make it out to be, but you want to be plugged into the NFL news from at least late-July (if not year-around) until the last week of your fantasy playoffs. Beyond that, there are several aspects of fantasy football you want to focus on.
- Draft Preparation
- Drafting a Solid Team
- Work the Waiver Wire
- Work the Trade Front
You want to be prepared for your fantasy football draft, which requires setting aside time to read online publications, keep an eye on the latest NFL injury updates, watching a little preseason, staying abreast of training camp news, and studying the depth charts the weekend of the draft. This should keep you up-to-date on the latest trends in the NFL and fantasy football.
Next, you want to put together your own fantasy football rankings list. You want a separate list for each starting position in your league: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, defense, and even field goal kicker. Study expert predictions and projections, and look over a magazine or online cheat sheets to get an idea what other owners and experts think. You might mix in a few mock drafts and “average draft position” lists, for good measure.
You want the pulse of the fantasy football world before you make out your lists. This isn’t to impress in your mind what you should be thinking, as getting an idea of the relative value of players and letting you plan your strategy for where you want to draft certain players. You don’t want to draft a player 5 rounds too high that no one else would have wanted for a while. That’s a bad value, no matter how well the pick works.
Once you have analyzed the date, make out your own draft lists by position. Next, draw a line between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd tiers, so you have a quick reference where (in your mind) the talent level drops off. Generally, you want to draft from a tier only when it’s starting to thin out, unless it’s your strategy to draft two players from that position in that part of the draft.
Drafting a Solid Team
Drafting a solid team requires you to plan your draft strategy based on value, and not on reaches for players. Don’t draft Drew Brees with the 2nd pick of the draft, no matter how good you think he’s going to be. If you want Brees, trade down and take him later in the 1st, but get something out of that draft position. Better yet, don’t draft a quarterback in the first 4 or 5 rounds, and see whether that produces a better final roster. You might be starting Philip Rivers or Matt Schaub every week, instead of Brees, but you’ll also be starting Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson, instead of Ronnie Brown.
That isn’t to say you should blindly draft marginal running backs high, but if you’re going to target high value non-runners high, target wide receivers.
I’ve written elsewhere that the gap in points production between the #1 quarterback in 2009 (Aaron Rodgers) and the #10 quarterback was 5 points-per-game, while the gap in points production between the #1 and #10 running back was over 9 points-per-game. The difference between the #1 and #10 wide receivers was roughly 7 ppg, while the difference in the #1 and #10 tight ends was roughly the same. It’s great to have that high-scoring QB on your team, but it’s a deeper position and less of a difference maker in fantasy football than running backs and wide receivers, and even tight ends (whom you get much lower).
Draft for value, then. Try to select players just before they go off the board, not rounds before anyone else would want them. It’s one thing to draft them a half-round higher than projected, if you’re afraid someone you think is going to break out or be a sleeper is going to be drafted before you draft again. Good fantasy owners do that all the time. Target the guys you want, but that’s why you look at all those projections, mock drafts, and ADP lists, so you have a feel for when a player is about to go off the board.
Work the Waiver Wire
Once the draft is over, hopefully you have a solid roster to work with. If you don’t, your season is probably over. But even if you have a great team, almost all fantasy rosters could use some improvement.
Think about it. If an NFL team drafts 7 players and 3 of them turn into productive starters (eventually), that’s considered a good draft. Less than half of the guys pan out, even for teams that scout players 365 days a year. So it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to hit on all 16, 18 or 20 draft picks you make.
That means you’ll need to add talent after the draft, and your best bet is to scour the free agent lists for guys who slipped between the cracks at the fantasy draft. Remember, not every NFL players is going to end up on fantasy rosters in your league, so the fantasy football waiver wire is a lot more useful than the in-season NFL waiver wire.
If you are aggressive to start the season and you have a little luck, you can add a couple of mix-in starters to your roster. You might get a breakout receiver that helps your playoff push. If a star running back or quarterback goes out for the year, you might add a free agent who is just as good as high round fantasy draft picks. You might think all the backup RBs got snatched up at the draft, but running back depth charts can be hard-to-predict in the NFL.
Most of these players won’t pan out. You’ll add a few one-week wonders along the way. If you realize that’s the case, it’s time to drop that player and add a new free agent. Keep trying. No matter how good your starters are or how much depth you have, you should be improving your roster by small increments all year. With the violence of the NFL, there’s never any telling when you need that depth. And if you don’t need it, you can package those extra players in a trade proposal for that extra star you want.
Work the Trade Front
Which brings me to fantasy football trades. This can be the most frustrating part of fantasy football, because most trade proposals turn into nothing. Owners tend to overrate their own players, which means they aren’t going to think as much about your players as you do. Many are paranoid that you know something they don’t about injuries or depth charts, especially if you’ve won a lot in your league. Some are afraid of trading a player who breaks out and helps someone else win a title, for fear they’ll look foolish. So trades are hard to make happen in certain fantasy leagues.
Trades also cause the most controversy. Invariably, someone makes a trade that seems one-sided at the time. This can cause hard feelings and require tough decisions and tougher talk on the part of the commissioner. This can dampen trade talk, too, since no one wants to be the dunce who made the bad trade. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Make trade proposals throughout the season, based on the other team’s needs (as you see them). Put yourself in their shoes and see how a trade might help their chances, while still improving your team’s chances. Reply to trade proposals from other owners, and make counter-proposals when it seems a deal can be done. But most of the time, you want to take the initiative, so you set the trade agenda. This way, you don’t have to be the one paranoid your trade partner knows something you don’t know.
Often, a well-timed trade is what puts a fantasy team over the top in their league. If you’ve had a good draft with a few sleepers and breakout players, and you add a few productive free agents, you can built up a roster that makes it easier to make trades. Teams with the best depth are the ones who are most likely to be big players on the trade front, so work to build up your team’s roster at every step of the way.
Getting Lucky at Fantasy Football
Of course, having a little luck doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to win at fantasy football. One huge dose of luck is being lucky enough to avoid major injury in a sports as violent as pro football. An underrated part of most NFL Superbowl Champions is the relative health they have. The New Orleans Saints actually had the services of Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey for the Superbowl, when all three players have had trouble finishing seasons in the past. (Just an example.)
Another piece of luck is having your players “go off” in the playoffs. You can dominate all season, have one bad week, and still come up short. I played in 5 leagues in 2009 and had the #1 point producing team in 3 of those 5 leagues, only to see two of those dominant teams get beat out in the playoffs by inferior teams. (Favre to Sidney Rice with :22 left against the Bears on Monday Night was the difference in one league. Argh.)
I shouldn’t complain, since I’ve had my share of lucky breaks throughout the years. I wanted to point out that not everything is under your control in fantasy football, though: your mission in fantasy football should be to make the playoffs (and get a bye, if that’s allowed). But once you get to the single-elimination round, anything can happen.
Winning at Fantasy Football Tips
So mastering how to win at fantasy football requires preseason preparation, good drafting strategy and execution, free agent additions, hard work in the trade market, and a fair measure of luck. Make it your goal in fantasy football to be a consistently winning team and a perennial contender. Set yourself up to win the big game enough times, and it’s bound to pay off.
For more information related to how to win at fantasy football, see some of the following pages:
- How to Manage a Fantasy Football League
- Where to Get Live Football Scores
- How to Play Fantasy Golf
- How to Start a Fantasy Football League
- How to Draft in Fantasy Football
- How to Cheat at Fantasy Football
- Fantasy Football Leagues
- Fantasy Football Sites
- Fantasy Football Advice
- Fantasy Football Tips
- Fantasy Football Strategy
This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 at 10:48 pm and is filed under Games, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.