Fantasy Football Strategy Advice: Three Rules to Abide By

Later in the week, “Fantasy Football Week” here at Midwest Sports Fans, I will help you analyze every position individually; but first, let’s take a look at fantasy football strategy from a macro view.

Whether you are doing a head-to-head league with a snake-style draft, an auction-based keeper league, or one of the free weekly FanDuel challenges that Drew and I will doing this season, here is some strategy advice that will serve you well this season in the form of three rules to make sure you abide by during the 2011 season.

1. Follow expert advice – but only on players of whom you have no opinion.

People like fantasy sports for a variety of different reasons, but I honestly think the biggest one is the control factor.  As fans, we spend an almost appalling amount of time following something – sports – of which we have almost no control over.

Fantasy sports are different.

Maybe you are a Bengals fan, and you know your team is going to be dreadful this year.  That’s ok.  You can still draft your boy AJ Green, but on YOUR team, you have Peyton Manning throwing the passes.

We love to have control over a team, and every time one of our players does well, it gives us a little dose of pride to share with our friends.

Sometimes, however, our desire to win causes us to give up some of our control, and we start listening to the experts a little too much.  I’m sure all of us, at one time or another, has sat a guy we felt good about in order to follow the “expert’s advice”…and it ended up costing us.  (I won’t bother boring you with one of my fantasy heartbreak stories – which we all have and like to share even though nobody REALLY cares about them – but let’s just say I once needed Todd Heap to score ONE MEASLY point on a Monday Night game…and the experts said he was a lock for double digits…and he didn’t come through.)

Expert advice can be very valuable and helpful.  I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to not have a real job and get to follow fantasy sports for a living like these guys?  Of course it would.  But don’t let them talk you out of something that you think is true.

adrian-peterson-fantasyThis year, the experts are saying that Arian Foster will score more points than Adrian Peterson.  I personally think that’s ridiculous.  Peterson will carry a large workload, and I actually think that Donovan McNabb will HELP him this year, considering Brett Favre’s corpse was manning the QB position last year.

If I have the first pick in the draft, I don’t care what the experts say; I’m taking Peterson (or even Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles for that matter) and laughing my way through the rest of the draft.  Why?  Because I have a strong opinion about it already.  If Foster really is the best player this year, the I can blame myself and admit to everyone I was wrong.  But I don’t think I’m wrong.

However, let’s say it’s late in the draft and I need a TE.  Gates, Clark, Davis, Witten, and Miller are off the board.  How much do I REALLY know about the current Tight End crop?  Should I try to get one of the Patriots’ young guys, even though they will cannibalize eachother all year?  Is Tony Gonzalez still a viable option?  Is Chris Cooley healthy?  Is Todd Heap alive?  Again, we don’t have the luxury of following this full time, so this situation is where the “experts” can really help us.

fantasy football strategy advice

2. This year, the guy with the most boring team may very well win it all.

Let’s just call this the “Ichiro Syndrome.”

Every single year, fantasy baseball owners try to find the “next great outfielder.”  Ichiro, invariably, ends up falling through the cracks.  In one of my drafts this year, Jason Heyward went in front of him.  Why?  Because it’s exciting to draft Jason Heyward.  When you draft him, your buddies will give you a slap on the back, and tell you, “Nice pick.  Dude is gonna be a baller.” And they are right.  He WILL be a great player some day.

On the flip side, for the past five years you have known what you are getting when you draft Ichiro.  You can basically pencil him in to lead the league batting average and hits while contributing nicely in steals and a few other categories.  He won’t strikeout, and he won’t make errors.  But, quite frankly, it’s not that fun to draft him on draft day.

(Granted, Ichiro has finally started to show signs of age and wear & tear this year, but the “Ichiro Syndrome” has worked out for over half a decade, so bear with me; you know what I’m getting at.)

Be warned.  The lockout is going to affect things dramatically this year.

First of all, we can probably expect the rookies to have a below average year (for normal standards).  It’s already tough enough for most rookies to learn the playbook, win playing time, AND stay healthy.  This year, they lost four valuable months of knowledge, practice, and team exercise.

Unless you really think that Julio Jones is going to thrive as the 3rd or 4th option on the Falcons (not ruling this out…remember, only follow the experts in areas you have no clue about), it is probably safer to draft Wes Welker.  Will people rave about Welker when you draft him?  Of course not.  But he’s still Tom Brady’s favorite target, and if he’s healthy you know he’s a lock to catch 100 balls and get you good numbers in yards and TDs.

kevin-kolb-arizonaAnother group of players that the lockout will definitely affect is the newcomers.  Will Sidney Rice, Kevin Kolb, and Braylon Edwards be good fantasy options in the future?  It’s definitely possible.  But they, like the rookies, have been handicapped severely by the lockout.

Even though Kolb will be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, how long will it take him to learn the offense?  And is he even good?  Again, it might be fun on draft day to take Kolb and tell your friends, “I got a steal!  This guy is going to bust out this year!”  But the guy that drafted Eli Manning behind you will be quite happy.  And he will probably end up beating you as well.

3. Nobody will remember if you finish second.

Let’s just be honest: when it comes to fantasy, there is the guy that finished in first place…and everybody else. I have played in I don’t know how many fantasy leagues over the years, but I can only distinctly remember three fantasy football teams I had. Obviously, they were my three teams that won it all. I know I have finished second before, and I know I have finished near the bottom before as well, but I couldn’t differentiate any of those seasons if you were holding a gun to my head.

While it’s true that the guy with the most boring team could win it all this year, don’t be afraid to take a couple of risks. It’s possible that Michael Vick could destroy your team this season. But he could also singlehandedly win it all as well.

In the end, our teams’ respective plights really comes down to one or two picks. If we hit a home run with them, we could very well be hoisting up the trophy at the end of the season.

At the end of the season, only one guy can win.  Trust me, it’s not fun AT ALL to finish second because you didn’t take enough risks.  When it comes to Fantasy Sports, it really is time to do what they say: “Go big, or go home.”

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


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