I’ve been playing fantasy sports, be it baseball, basketball, football, or hockey, since 1998. Of all those, I have found the most success while playing fantasy football.
It’s strange; of those sports, football isn’t my favorite. That would be the NHL. But since I’ve found the most success in fantasy football, and the fantasy season is gearing up to begin, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned through the years.
Know Your Scoring System
Most websites (such as Yahoo!) provide a default scoring-system (i.e., six points for touchdowns, three points for field goals). Before you go into your draft, know exactly what your scoring system will be. Some commissioners’ design scoring so that negative points can occur, while others choose more traditional scoring (one point for each interception).
Normally, return yards do not count for points in fantasy football. In that case, drafting a wide receiver who has few receptions may not help you much. However, if return yards gain points, drafting Devin Hester will help you tremendously.
Know What Positions Each Team Will Be Made Up of
Again, websites using a default system normally use a default lineup. Your team will start one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one team defense, and a kicker.
Before your draft, check the lineup settings for each team, especially if you’re doing a live draft. In leagues that I am commissioner, I usually use the same formula. You can start 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 team defense, 1 K, and 1 other player that is either a RB/WR or TE.
It’s not a big change from the default scoring, but it does affect your lineup when you draft. You have to make sure you have enough players in each position to cover the bye weeks.
Know the Bye Weeks of the Players You’re Looking At Drafting
The biggest affect bye weeks will have are with your QBs. In leagues that I play, I normally draft two QBs. When I draft, I will ensure the QBs do not have the same bye week. If so, you may have to pick up a QB on the waiver wire to cover you for that week. You also have to weigh the bye week when drafting RBs/WRs. When drafting, most websites now include the bye weeks for each player.
Know How You Want to Draft Before You Start the Draft
Each time I go into a draft, I have a sheet of paper with me that lists exactly how many players I want in each position. I stick to that method with each draft. I don’t worry too much about who I will draft (unless I have the first pick). I focus on having the right number of players, not so much which players.
Know How to Pre-Rank the Players Before the Draft
Having Larry Johnson No. 1 on your pre-ranked list won’t help you much if Mr. Johnson breaks his leg in the last game of the preseason and is gone for the year. Keep up to date on a player's status prior to your draft.
If you know the draft sequence before hand, try to get an idea of who’ll be available when it’s your turn. There are only a handful of players that will automatically go in the top five (Ladainian Tomlinson for one).
If you draft later in the round, identify a good second-tier player that will be available when your turn comes around.
Know Who’s On the Waiver Wire
Before and during the season, keep an eye on the waiver wire. I’ve gotten very lucky when another team has dropped an outstanding player because of one or two bad weeks.
On the flip side, I’ve dropped players that I shouldn’t have. Watch the waiver wire. If someone is out due to injury, you may be able to pick them up and put them in a DL slot. You’ll be able to carry that player AND an additional player until the one on the DL returns to the team.
Also, you might be able to pick up a good player who had a major injury the year before. Normally, they’re ranked pretty low. If other owners in your league aren’t paying attention, you might just get lucky.
Know the Matchups
There are many players that you’ll start (Peyton Manning, Terrell Owens, LT) regardless of which team they’ll be facing. Others, you’ll have to see whom they’re matching up against.
Normally, I’d start Reggie Wayne against any team. However, if that team is Denver, and the player he’ll be matched up against is Champ Bailey, I’ll think twice before I start him.
Know the Playoff Schedule For Your League
Your main goal should be to get into the playoffs. After that, matchups really come into play. Playoffs normally occur during Weeks 15, 16, and 17 of the NFL schedule.
I’ve won a lot of regular season leagues, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs because I wasn’t paying attention to matchups. I’ll give you a perfect example.
In the middle of last year, I looked at the waiver wire and the schedule of players I was interested in. Jamal Lewis of Cleveland jumped out at me. The schedule at the end of the year featured some teams he could run on. I picked him up off the waiver wire. Those last three weeks, he gained 383 yards. I won the league title after finishing seventh during the regular season.
Draft Running Backs That Catch A Lot of Passes
Good running backs will get you yards and rushing TDs; great running backs will get you receiving yards and TDs as well. When you draft, try to get RBs that catch passes. Steven Jackson of the Rams is a perfect example. Last year, he rushed for a little over 1,000 yards in 12 games, but he also had 38 receptions for 271 yards. The year before, he had 90 receptions for 806 yards.
Don’t Be Afraid To Trade Star Players
A lot of fantasy-football players are afraid to trade their star players. I’ve always been open to trading top players, as long as I get equal value in return.
Sometimes you can trade one great player for two or three good players. The leagues I’ve done the best in are with teams that I’ve had to make moves with, either through trades or using the waiver wire.
Having Peyton Manning on your team is great, but trading him for Tony Romo and Antonio Gates might pay off for you in the long run.
Fantasy football is a wonderful game to play. It’s grown in popularity each and every year that it has existed. Get into the game and enjoy yourself!