WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With the amount of people playing fantasy football in this country it blows my mind how many remain completely clueless when it comes to putting together a competitive team. Most of you would be better off throwing your money down at the dog track, and you probably would if the boys at the water cooler were talking about Greyhounds on Mondays rather than Blake Bortles QBR and his girlfriend.
Fantasy football is an easy game to play but not an easy game to win consistently. Anyone can read 15 names off of a list and be right a few times but to be competitive year in and year out you need to do more than that. I’m not promising you championships here but if you read along I assure you a team that will give you a chance.
What qualifies me as an expert? Well, this will be my 18th year playing fantasy football. When I began playing you actually had to call the commissioner’s home phone and request waiver moves. This led to many unhappy marriages. Don’t take for granted the fact that nowadays games can be streamed and trades can be made from a church pew. We have come a long way, folks!
After 18 years I write a weekly blog for a sports station, so needless to say I am remarkably rich and famous from my fantasy prowess. For the better part of those 18 seasons I have been able to field competitive teams and much of that is thanks to some basic guidelines I have followed along the way. With the majority of fantasy drafts taking place over these next two weeks I am happy to share with you my survival guide in the hopes that it finds its way to some lost soul before he ends up posing for a shame calendar.
Let me preface this by reminding you that no one cares about your fantasy football team. I know, I know, it’s shocking but people at BBQs and grocery checkout lanes have their own problems and don’t care about your mystical foresight into Bill Belichick’s backfield. It’s okay to talk about your team among your own league or if someone asks you directly, but nothing says “I don’t understand human interaction” more so than interrupting a conversation about real sports with parallels to your fictional band of brothers.
The following are suggestions and not rules. Above all else trust your gut instinct and past experiences because ultimately you are the one who has to get in bed with Marshawn Lynch if you commit to him. Sleep tight, golden boy.
- Read and listen to as much as you can from different sources – No one is an expert but you’ll never hear fantasy gurus admit that because their livelihoods depend on perpetuating the lie. Matthew Berry is an excellent writer and I enjoy his columns, but it is his full-time job to know fantasy sports and he is wrong about 70% of the time. It’s a game; the real experts are in Vegas cleaning up with their expertise. With that in mind, read every fantasy article you can make time for from August 1st until draft day. Hearing different names and opinions will help you to become comfortable drafting outside of your comfort zone.
- Do not draft players from your favorite teams – Perhaps I am just a jaded Skins fan but this rule should apply everywhere outside of Denver. In my experience, often times you are playing with people who root for the same teams. This puts a premium on players from those teams. Fantasy football is all about value. Despite Larry Michael’s Snyder-approved, scripted hype, the Skins aren’t scoring 40 points per game this year and most likely neither is your favorite team, whoever that may be. Stay away from reaching for your team’s players – when they inevitably let you down it is a double gut-punch.
- Hit the waiver wire hard the first three weeks of the season – You read everything and you still drafted a terrible team. It happens. Now you know how the Raiders feel every year. In the first three weeks a running back will emerge who no one saw coming. If you drafted poorly the waiver wire can be your savior. If that fails…
- Do not be afraid to make trades – Everyone goes to sleep the night after a draft saying, “But if….” For the most part those dreams do not come true and you realize one area of your team isn’t going to last 16 weeks. Don’t hesitate to poach other teams for their excess talent. Team “Stable of Grinders” can’t start six running backs. Throw him an offer, get the conversation started, or just hope his newborn is puking on him when the trade is sent and he accidently hits ‘Accept.’
- Know your league – I don’t mean spending nights peaking in your commissioner’s windows, just know the basics. Who is conservative? Who is aggressive? What positions have they filled in already? Who is fat and drunk? Knowing the answers to these basic questions, especially for the managers drafting before and after you, will help you decide whether or not the 11th round is time to pull the trigger on Justin Hunter….shhhhh. Which reminds me…when will we finally put a bullet in the term “sleeper?” Unless you are talking about the Brad Pitt/Kevin Bacon classic, get that played-out noise out of here.
- Handcuff at least one of your starting running backs – If you are investing a Top 20 pick on a RB you should invest in his backup in the last five rounds of the draft. Or don’t. People drive around without insurance everyday and I’m sure it works out fine for them.
- Waiting to draft a QB is not the worst decision you can make – You’d be surprised how much talent you can amass when your first seven picks are spent on WRs and RBs.
- Respect the phenomenon of the third-year wide out – This year’s class is especially stacked but the third year has always been known to be make-or-break year for WRs. Make a list of five third-year WRs with something to prove this year and target them in the middle of the draft.
- Depreciate the stock of rookie WRs, appreciate the rookie RB – Simple math, it is easier to learn to play the NFL RB position well than it is for a receiver to get their timing down and adjust to the speed of the NFL. Throw in a bad QB and a phenom WR can be rendered useless. Meanwhile starting RBs are dropping like flies and boom your rookie RB is getting 20 touches a game.
- Follow logic the first five rounds – Don’t get cute. Find the guys who will produce. Start making your big reaches in the sixth round and beyond. By the 10th round half your league is drafting the next guy on the list. Go find some upside further down on the sacred “pre-season rankings” list and be your own Matthew Berry.
- You’ve heard it 100 times but never take a kicker before round 15 – I won’t bore you with the reasons why but rest assured that if you do pick a kicker before then the entire league knows you are a jackass who won’t be paying attention after week four.
- Watch college football – You don’t need to be Mel Kiper, Jr., but knowing what type of runner Bishop Sankey was just last year is valuable information you can use while your commissioner is still giggling about the guy’s name.
Best of luck at your drafts, fantasy lemmings.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @RubGun and send your e-mail, questions and topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.