Fantasy Football: Planning for the Future

Todd Salem@@sportspinataContributor IIINovember 5, 2010

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Jonathan Vilma #51 and Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints tackle Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images)
Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

Do you suffer from depression, anxiety and constant nausea?

Are you always tense or stressed? Is your fantasy football team 2-6 heading into Week 9?

If so, it might be time to look toward next year.

As an aside, if you do not play in fantasy keeper leagues, go ahead and ignore the rest of this column.

Also, grow up. One-year fantasy leagues are for children with no attention span and no follow through.

The key for owners who are out of the playoff chase with six weeks still remaining in the fantasy regular season is to put together a powerhouse starting lineup. Your bench is completely pointless.

If you have some nice bench pieces, some fringe starters who could be valuable to an owner on the cusp of the playoffs, look to make some deals. Hanging on to such a player is a waste of resources.

The goal should be, of course depending on your league settings, to form the best group of keepers possible. If your league allows three keepers, try to form the very best three-man lineup.

Others might try to argue this is poor sportsmanship. Forming a three-player team and using fill-in scraps to complete the rest of your lineup does not give your team the best chance to win each week.

Obviously. But screw them.

If the playoffs are out of the question, winning each week is not in the best interest of your team.

Preparing for next season as best you can is what a smart owner would do. Throwing out a starting lineup that includes Jon Kitna and Julius Jones may not win over the hearts of your fellow leaguemates, but that is nothing to concern yourself with.

As long as you fill out your lineup, you have done your job. Don’t start anyone on a bye, ever.

Don’t start someone who is pronounced out before Sunday, either. That is just common sense.

But the rest is up to you.

So how do you go about creating a team of keepers and scraps? The first step is to find your tradable pieces.

Players who are performing admirably but might be due to decline by next year are perfect targets. Players such as Reggie Wayne or Thomas Jones are guys who still put up solid point totals each week, but may not be great anchors for a 2011 roster. 

The next step is to find other teams in playoff contention with needs. If there is a team in fifth place with running backs on a bye in Week 9-10, and you happen to have a Steve Smith on your roster, make an offer.

Specific players that you get in return are not what should concern you. You cannot try to target an individual.

The key is to concentrate your team’s talent.

Trade Steve Smith and one of your running backs for someone like Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Marshall. Don’t be afraid to simply throw away that running back that your team would technically need to win this week, but does you no good down the road.

Instead, securing an upgrade at wide receiver is the only outcome you are looking to gain. The other owner, in this case, would only suffer a slight downgrade at receiver and would also get a nice fill-in for weeks to come. 

If there are no opponents with obvious needs in the coming weeks, that makes your job a bit harder, but not impossible. Look to take advantage of discrepancies in player value, rather than simply trading for talent upgrades.

Is your quarterback a great value or just living up to expectations? Even players like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are not outperforming their value this season.

Thus, trading them away for a better value is not out of the question. Would you rather have Brees for $45 next year or Mike Vick for $2?

Vick’s 2011 home may be up in the air, but his performance this season most assuredly gives him a starting role come next season. Don’t be afraid to trade straight up for value, even if the player swap is slightly unfair.

The same could be said for dealing one of the top backs straight up for Arian Foster or Ahmad Bradshaw. You lose talent, but gain value, and value is more important to you when planning for next season.

The last step is to fill out your remaining roster with players who all have potential to help you.

Using a bench spot for Brett Favre does you no good. You would be much better off using that same spot for Max Hall or Kevin Kolb.

It is quite possible neither man starts another game the entire season, yet the potential of being a full starter in 2011 is the only thing you’re concerned about.

Other players of this same ilk to target include Darren Sproles and Jerome Harrison. We’ve seen them do it before, they just aren’t being given the opportunity this year for whatever reason.

One often overlooked group of players to target for rosters are the injured. Add Ryan Grant. Why not? He’ll be Green Bay’s starting running back next season. 

In the end, an ideal lineup for your 2-6 squad may look something like this:

QBMike Vick
RBAhmad Bradshaw
RBDarren Sproles
RBCadillac Williams
WRBrandon Marshall
WRKevin Walter
WRArrelious Benn
TEBo Scaife

Sure, most of your roster is complete crap. However, starting next year with Vick, Bradshaw and Marshall is tremendous.

Who cares what the rest of your team looks like? You probably will end the season 3-11, and you should be delighted.

Also, as a bonus, you have something to root for. Perhaps Darren Sproles becomes the go-to back in San Diego next year after Ryan Mathews had such a poor first season.

If something like that happens, your team immediately has pieces that a playoff-chasing team could not afford to wait for.

In the end, of course, it is a disappointment to have such a bad record. Everyone wants to at least make the playoffs, giving themselves a chance at glory, no matter how slim the odds are.

Being eliminated mid-season is embarrassing. That's why you must do everything in your power to make sure it does not happen again next season.

Fantasy football is the biggest crap shoot out of all fantasy sports. Winning is so often based on injuries and matchups.

This does not mean you shouldn't try to swing those odds in your favor come next August. Take your 3-11 season on the chin, but be prepared to win it all in 2011...or 2012, depending on the lockout.


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