In its early stages, Fantasy Football leagues were typically dominated by the most knowledgeable football fans. Sadly, those days are over, as the Internet killed the fantasy star.
Technology has improved to the point where every site that provides a league-hosting service not only tells you whom you should draft and when, but they also send you lineup reminders and recommend which players to start on a weekly basis.
The problem is that they don’t just tell you whom to play; they tell everyone whom to play. Everyone includes that guy in the office who only passively follows the game, your girlfriend, and worse yet, soccer fans.
How do you stay on top of the curve in this age of Wi-Fi-generated parity? Here are seven tips to put you back on top of your league.
1. Limit your mistakes on draft day by playing it safe in the early rounds
The early part of the draft is your chance to accumulate top-tier talent, and you want as much talent as possible on your roster come the end of the season. Sure, injuries are unavoidable at times in football, but try to avoid players with a history of getting injured for similarly rated players with a proven track record of durability.
Likewise, avoid players who have a history of inconsistent production when you can draft somebody who historically puts up good numbers season after season instead.
2. Identify and draft a sleeper who will have top-of-the-draft value by the end of the season
Unlike the early rounds where you should draft conservatively, look for players who have the potential to become breakout stars in the middle and later rounds.
Let’s face it: Somewhere around the eighth or ninth round, the highest-rated undrafted players are often no better than those you will find on your waiver wire come mid-season. Instead of wasting a pick on somebody who will be easily replaceable, pay attention to some training camp battles, and take a flyer on a couple of rookie running backs or wide receivers who are impressing their coaching staffs and competing for a starting job.
3. Find a player with top-of-the-draft value via free agency or your league’s waiver wire
This is where proactivity pays off, especially if you’re in a league that has a first-come, first-served approach to free agency. If you are in a league with such a system, take a chance on as many players with high upsides as possible. If they don’t pan out after a week or two, drop that player and try again. One or two of them are bound to hit.
If your league has a formal waiver wire, which allows your league’s more passive players to catch up on injuries and breakout players even if they missed the games on Sunday, be sure not to waste your waiver wire position by claiming a mediocre player. Save your waiver wire priority so you have first dibs when that big injury replacement or breakout player hits the market.
4. Keep a roster spot open
Well, not literally, but always have one roster spot filled by a player who is totally expendable to your team.
When a free agent opportunity arises, you’ll never have to hesitate and worry about whether you’re making a mistake by dropping a player you kind of like for the backup running back who just entered the game on “Monday Night Football” due to a starter’s injury. In those first-come, first-served leagues, seconds matter.
5. After you accumulate talent, trade your depth for potential starters at a position of need
Once you reach the point where your roster is so full of talent that you wouldn’t want to drop any players, that’s when you should start sending out trade offers.
If you have depth, don’t hesitate to offer up a slightly lopsided, two-for-one trade for a player would represent an upgrade as a starter on your team. You will not only improve your starting lineup, but you will also be freeing up a roster spot for the next breakout player when he hits your league’s market.
6. Identify the homer or weak link in your league and make him a trade offer that will appeal to his emotions
It seems like every league has that owner who was born and raised in some place like South Dakota but is a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan.
If you happen to beat him to the punch and land any of his favorite Cowboys, take advantage of the fact that he’s likely highly overrating Dez Bryant or the Cowboys’ defense, and make him a slightly lopsided trade offer. Really, it works more often than you might think.
7. Know your players and their matchups
At FullTime Fantasy Sports, we have several tools to help you chart your players’ performance and their matchups.
Just because you landed a top running back, don’t assume that you should play him every week. Use our Points Allowed Tool and our Strength of Schedule to see if he has a favorable matchup or if he’s being fed to the wolves.
Worried that one of your players is trending downward in recent weeks? Check out his snap count, touches and targets from each game to see if he’s getting phased out of the offense or just on a streak of bad luck.
Think of it this way: We’re not telling you whom to play; we’re giving you the tools to help you help yourself.
If you follow these seven tips and you have a little luck on your side when it comes to injuries, you should be in good shape for your upcoming fantasy season.
In actuality, the best piece of advice I can give to you, these seven tips notwithstanding, is to go out every Sunday and watch what’s happening in all of the games in real time.
And while that requires a bit of a time commitment, if you’re on a website researching Fantasy Football, you probably either have no girlfriend, or she beat you last year and you’re looking for a few tips to get back on top of your game!
Practice makes perfect! Try our Mock Draft Simulator