When the fantasy football season comes around, you vow not to make the same mistakes as you did last year (pick a defense and kicker early, draft your favorite players, etc.), but you also said that last year and the year before that. Habits are hard to break in life and in fantasy football. Here are some guidelines to succeed in 2007, then in other years you might have not fared as well:
While that might be general advice, most people don’t really know what preparation in fantasy football is exactly. Picking up a fantasy magazine or cheatsheet from the internet as you hustle out the door to the draft or boot up the website is not good draft preparation. Most drafts happen in late July or sometime in August, so training camp has started or pre-season games are going on. The basic things to keep track of are injuries and the depth chart. A fantasy magazine that was printed in June or early July will not know that a player got hurt in training camp or a running back thought to be splitting carries with the starting back will be a total reserve and sit the bench besides special teams. There are numerous websites (NFL.com, ESPN.com, etc.) that will have up-to-date information on all the teams and well as the team websites for all 32 NFL franchises. Knowing the status of all the players is the first step to fantasy success. The biggest blunder you can make is drafting a guy in the first or second round that is out for most of the year and everyone else at the draft knew it but you. You can’t win your league in the first couple picks, but you can lose it.
Everyone should make their own cheatsheet when it comes to a fantasy draft. There are hundreds of different sources to get pre-made sheets, but those should be only a guide. The things to consider when looking at a cheatsheet are: the league rules and statistics used for the rankings they are giving. If your league has a flex position or QBs get 6 points for a passing touchdown or reception points, it will affect the rankings. Another variable is you. The whole idea of fantasy sports is that you are the manager of a team and you have complete control over your roster. If you go to a draft and use the cheatsheet from a website down to the letter and select the highest ranked player remaining when your selection is up, where’s the creativity and individuality in that? You probably don’t know the workings and the latest news from all the NFL teams out there, but I’m sure you know the dirt on a few. If you are a die-hard Patriots fan for example, you have to have an idea of who will get more playing time Kelley Washington or Wes Welker in 3-wide receiver packages. The best strategy is to look through some cheatsheets and draw arrows for changes in your personal rankings or star the underrated players you will target. Then adjust those sheets into your personal sheet. To go one step further you can project the numbers you expect from all the players at the position, total up the fantasy points they would earn, and create the list that way as well. Other factors to consider are injury risks and those on the hot-seat of being demoted in terms of playing time.
It doesn’t matter if you are online or in your friends’ living room, there are some essentials you will need. Your cheatsheet(s), pens, highlighters, folder and roster grids are the minimum. The roster grids are especially important because keeping track of everyone else’s players is as important as drafting your own. If everyone has taken a quarterback, you don’t have to grab your starter earlier than projected because the demand is low, same for tight ends or a 4th running back. Knowing the supply and demand of each position is very important as the draft moves along. Same thing applies if you are in an auction-style league. Knowing how much money your competitors have left can give you insight for future bidding wars.
Generally, lots of people talk trash about other picks during the draft. It is not something to pay attention and you will not benefit from becoming in it. Other owners like to razz others about picking a player too early or talk up their latest injury. The best strategy is to stay in your own lane, trust your preparation and let your roster do the talking when the season begins.
Don’t Always Draft the Best Player Available
While it makes sense to fill your starting lineup (the players you will be earning points most often on your roster) before the reserves in a logical manner, it doesn’t make good fantasy sense. A third running back in a fantasy draft is far more valuable than a tight end or kicker. It may make more sense to draft that reserve running back before your starting quarterback depending on the situation in the draft. There are many draft strategies out there and as part of your preparation, you should explore as many as possible and modify them to your own point of view. Doing some mock drafts, where you are owner of every team in the league, will be a great benefit to adjusting to different things during the real draft.
A risk is not something for your first couple selections. If a player is returning from a serious injury or their playing time is in question, it’s better to pass and let someone else take an early risk by drafting them. Risk-taking is smart and even encouraged in the late rounds of your fantasy draft. These are players who are question marks (because they would have been taken earlier if they were more consistent) but have tremendous upside. Rookies and back-ups to the star players taken in the first few rounds are prime examples of a good late-round risk.
Other than obsessing about beating your friends and rivals in your league, it’s important to remember that fantasy football was intended to enhance your football season and have you interested in NFL games that you otherwise wouldn’t watch. Detroit against Minnesota is a lot more interesting when you need Jon Kitna to throw three touchdowns for you to win that week. So in the end, enjoy your fantasy experience, whether you win or lose, and look forward to adjusting your roster throughout the season and creating a winning team next year.