With the transition from rotisserie leagues to modern fantasy leagues over the last decade, fantasy sports has become amazingly popular. The small specialized niche of sports fans who made up the rotisserie universe waited for the baseball, basketball and football seasons with a rabid impatience. They were the people in your high school who knew the stats of players that players that you never heard of.
From the original rotisserie leagues, to the Strat-O-Matic era, to the current fantasy league formats; one thing remains the same. Some players tend to win consistently, and some don't.
There are the rare wins by someone who doesn't have a clue on how to play, but most competitors who win in fantasy leagues do so for definitive reasons that have passed the test of time. The following tips will shed a light on the process of winning fantasy leagues that will garner immediate results.
1. Have A Team Strategy
In a keeper league with a main draft and supplemental drafts, the strategies of your opponents will become clear quite quickly...and so will yours. Developing a good strategy early will allow you to rate the players that fit your style better and will reveal potential steals waiting in the latter part of your draft.
I am in a 10 team keeper league and have been for nine years. Of those years, I have had two three-peats as overall champion and two years head-to-head championships, with two years of rebuilding in-between. Our league is built up of many champions of other leagues and are mostly experienced players, but the teams that are in the running to win championships each year all have solid drafting and week line-ups that follow a strategy.
2. Adjust Your Strategy to Your League's Scoring System
Every league has it's own scoring rules. From PPR leagues (Points Per Reception), to Touchdown Leagues, to Yardage Leagues and more, how your league scores should be the solitary most important factor in setting your team strategy.
For example, in a combination touchdown and yardage scoring system, many leagues will give more points for players gaining yards or touchdowns out of position. The system may award a running back 6 points for a touchdown under 10 yards, but a touchdown ran in by a quarterback may award your team 12 points for the same.
Likewise, a running back throwing a touchdown may also yield more points. If so, you may rate Ronnie Brown from the Miami Dolphins higher than a Shonn Green (NYJ) or Matt Forte (CHI).
3. Draft From NFL Teams That Have a Proven Offensive System
With free agency and player movement overall on the rise, the day of drafting a player just because they were good in college is over. Choosing a system over a player is good; choosing a player that fits the system he's going to is better; but drafting a great player in a good system that fits them is the ideal.
A great example of a system quarterback is Matt Cassell. New England's offensive system, organizational structure and culture fit Matt's gifts and personality perfectly. When Matt went to be the starter at Kansas City, many people drafted him high thinking that his Kansas City production would match what he did in New England. Matt is a good quarterback, but the architect of his success in New England is now the head coach in Denver.
If Josh McDaniels had been successful in bringing Matt to the Broncos, his offensive production and fantasy value be much higher. We would be watching a "baby" Tom Brady, which would've at least put him in the second tier of fantasy quarterbacks. For now, he is a third tier quarterback at best, fantasy-wise.
Kyle Orton, who would be a decent back-up quarterback on most teams, put up career numbers because of the fecund offensive mind of his coach and a system that just works. The team's system makes a difference and should play a major part of your drafting process.
It is safe to say that if their name isn't Peyton Manning, draft the system over the player.
4. Draft a Balance of Older and Younger Players
The temptation in keeper leagues is to draft youth, youth, and more youth. Winning teams are more focused on production than raw potential.
Target one or two rookies who have amazing talent and are drafted into systems that fit them (or that adjust to accommodate them) and who have the potential to start, but put most of your work in proven producers who are in their second to fourth seasons. Barring injury, if the structure of the team stays consistent--same coach, offensive line, defensive strategy, supporting cast--the player who has performed will continue to do so.
It is also good to draft older veterans who have something to prove for a one year benefit. Picking up a player like LaDainian Tomlinson to start on your starters off-weeks could pay dividends to a team in the hunt and that needs a boost. The fact that he is playing behind a great line and is being used a lot out of the backfield as a receiver gives him value. The fact that he feels slighted, disrespected, and finally healthy after being cast away from Chargers after two injury-plagued years gives him even more.
When drafting an older veteran, always draft a younger player with talent and solid production to replace him, if need be.
5. Draft Players Who Are In a Contract Year
Right alongside talent and heart in an athlete is motivation. Passion and motivation make an existential difference in production in real life and in fantasy football.
The general rule is to target players in a contract year for that year's fantasy production alone. If they were consistently playing with passion and motivation prior to the contract year, then target the player for the long haul.
Some players play incredibly well in their contract year and then don't put in the same effort once they get paid. These player have short term value and can be spotted by looking at the scope of their career. Draft players that seem to fit this mold and then trade them at the end of the season. They usually have a high fantasy value and you will be able to get solid players (or draft picks) for them.
Other players play every year as if it is a contract year, but sometimes have been hampered by an injury or have a down year due to other measurables on the team. Target these players and plan to keep them unless someone offers you someone better.
6. Find the Teams in Your League That Don't Have a Strategy That Works and Trade With Them
Every league has a team or two where the GM doesn't have a clue about player value. They draft names over production and tend to draft players from their favorite team rather than one that produces regularly. Target these teams and trade with them.
I believe that all deals should be "win-win" deals. If a GM of say "Team X" has a predilection towards Buffalo Bill's players and is willing to give you Arian Foster and their second round draft pick next year for Trent Edwards, do it.
Although your "win" will end in more winning for your team, it is also a "win" for "Team X" in how they feel about their team. Locate teams like this and it will benefit your results greatly. Often, they will be so happy that you traded them who they wanted that they will be a willing trading partner for years to come.
7. Use Your Supplemental Drafts Well During the Season
Each year there are one or two players that make the leap from good to the status of a "must play every week" starter. Last year, Austin Miles (DAL) showed the signs of the leap early on and helped many teams win championships, the year prior it was Mike Walker-Sims (JAC). Finding those gems early will give long-term benefit to any franchise.
Team defenses also make a huge difference, whether the league you play in uses an overall defense scheme or an IDP system. Although the most valuable player on many fantasy teams is the defense, this article focus is on offensive players.
A bonus tip is to pay attention to offensive players who play on teams with great defenses. Offenses that have more time on the field have more chance to score. This is especially true for running backs.
These tips will help your team finish higher this season and in the seasons to come. With a solid strategy, talented players, and a little fortune falling your way, the league championship will be yours.
Look out for the article coming out later today on last minute pick ups for fantasy leagues called: 2010 Football Fantasy League Last Minute Pickups With Value.