All around the Interwebs right now you will find article after article dispensing fantasy football wisdom, telling you specific things to do or not do as you prepare for your drafts.
It’s good to peruse these articles – so long as they are written by folks with proven track records you trust – to see what people who get paid to analyze this stuff think.
But before you get too caught up in projecting Doug Baldwin’s reception yards or Michael Bush’s goalline carries, step back and think big picture.
Fantasy football is a game of taking information about what has already happened, processing it, and using it to predict what will happen in the future. Every decision you make will be based on projecting what will happen next.
You won’t be right 100% of the time. So don’t worry about it.
Even the most thoroughly considered decision can blow up in your face because of injury, sudden ineffectiveness, or GO TO HELL YOU CREEPY RUNNING BACK ROTATING BASTARD!
So rather than sweating the small stuff, make sure you have a handle on the big stuff. And by that I mean make sure that your fantasy football strategy does not include one or more of the following fatal flaws, either by design or by oversight.
Each of the following anti-strategies will push you away from the ultimate goal of winning. And unless you’re an abject loser, I know you won’t tolerate that from yourself.
1. You ignore the lessons of the past
In drafts around the country, Maurice Jones-Drew is being selected in the first round. Normally this would be perfectly acceptable. Look at that sterling track record.
There is just one problem though: MJD is holding out and hasn’t attended a second of training camp this year. Ask Chris Johnson owners how that turned out last year.
How many times do we have to see guys who hold out struggle once they return before we’ll learn our lesson?
Also, consider MJD’s recent workload: 386 touches last year; 333 the year before that; 364 the year before that. 1,083 touches in a three-year span is a lot for any running back, even one as great and durable as MJD.
Thus, even if he does end his hold out before Week 1 (which is likely), I still think it’s safe to assume at least a little bit of a drop off in production after three straight years of heavy pounding.
So here we have two pretty simple, accepted lessons at play: 1) guys who hold out tend to struggle upon returning; 2) running backs who endure heavy workloads in back-to-back-to-back seasons tend to wear down. And you want to make this guy your #1 pick? Not me. No way.
I want as few question marks as possible with my first round pick. I need guaranteed production from that guy every week. Only if I ignore the clear lessons of the past can I consider MJD to be anything close to a guarantee.
The 2012 saga of MJD is but one example. Learn your lessons. Know your history. It tends to repeat itself.
2. You pick a kicker before your last pick (or at all)
Frankly, this just signals to me that you really don’t get it.
Kickers are, historically, the most volatile position year to year. While you can count on solid production from kickers on good offenses, their upside can also be stifled by their offenses scoring so many touchdowns. So sometimes it’s better to take a kicker on just an okay offense, because he’ll get lots of field goal attempts. But what if he has a bad year and only makes 80% of his kicks the year after making 90%? Such fluctuations are the norm when it comes to kickers.
We all have a pretty good idea that Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Lesean McCoy are going to have excellent seasons (barring injury). None of us has a clue who the top kickers will be. And the difference between the #1 kicker and the #20 kicker will be fairly marginal.
For the love of Matthew Berry, don’t pick your kicker until the last pick of your draft … or don’t even draft a kicker at all.
Why not take a flyer on a guy like Jonathan Dwyer instead. If Isaac Redman gets hurt, Dwyer becomes the starter, and you’re holding a winning early-season lottery ticket. If not, you can always drop Dwyer (or someone else) right before Week 1 starts and get a supposed replacement-level kicker who has as good a chance as probably 15 other kickers of finishing in the top 5.
Or, even better, do what we did in one of my leagues and just get rid of kickers altogether. There is very little skill involved in managing the kicker position. It’s mostly luck. Fantasy football is better without them.
3. You buy into rookie hype
Year after year I see people overdraft rookies, especially at running back. This year it’s been Trent Richardson (before he did fantasy owners everywhere a favor and had knee surgery, forcing restraint). Last year it was Mark Ingram. The year before that it was Ryan Mathews. On and on.
It happens at wide receiver too, even though every fantasy football owner worth his weight in beer nuts knows that most wide receivers don’t fully blossom until their third year in the league.
Why, oh why, would you draft an unproven rookie in the first 4-6 rounds of the draft over a guy who has actually done it before? It’s silly. Unless the guy is an uber-talent like an A.J. Green, let him prove himself first. Let another owner be the sucker and accept all that risk. More often than not it’s going to be the right call.
4. You’re a myopic twit
Few afflictions derail a fantasy football season like myopia.
Case in point: several years back I added a productive, promising rookie off the free agent list who had wide receiver/tight end eligibility. Unfortunately, I needed a kicker for a bye week, but instead of dropping my current kicker I dropped said WR/TE, who was also on a bye. Naturally, someone else snatched him up, and he went on to provide WR-like production at the tight end position (70 catches, 1,038 yards, 8 TDs).
The player? Marques Colston, 2007.
My myopia – worrying so much about this week that I failed to take into account the bigger picture – cost me dearly. I was a twit. Don’t be a twit.
Remember that seasons are long. Not everything will be revealed to you during the first 2-3 weeks of the season. Be patient. Think big picture. To use a baseball analogy, don’t sacrifice a potential home run in the future for a meaningless two-out single today.
5. You suffer from transaction impotence
Sometimes, you just have to be willing to pull the trigger.
Again, remember that not all of your moves are going to work out. But if you have an accurate risk/reward gauge, and if you generally understand how past performance tends to predict future results, you probably should trust your instincts more often than not.
Yet too many owners get impotent when it comes time for the big move.
You don’t make the trade that could really improve your roster because all you can see is what you’re giving up.
You don’t put in the waiver claim for the promising sudden stud because you’re worried that there may be something better next week.
You get too worried about validating your draft picks to know when to cut bait and move on.
A meek, flaccid transaction strategy will doom your team. A bold, strong strategy may mean a few fumbles, but it will also lead to some big touchdowns. Unless you’re playing for 4th place, you need to score some big touchdowns to have a chance to win. Be bold.
6. You make moves after Week 1
I see it every year, and every year I laugh.
After one week of play, people go running to the waiver wire to pick up the football version of Tuffy Rhodes while dropping the established veteran who had one off week.
My rule of thumb: I do nothing after Week 1 unless there is a catastrophic injury to account for. Otherwise, I sit tight.
Football teams can change drastically between Weeks 1 and 2. It’s the first real game coaches have to evaluate their team, plus the Week 1 under- or over-performance of individual players can be matchup-related.
The only strategy worse than trusting what you see in Week 1 is trusting what you see in the preseason. I don’t even think about changing my projection for a player until at least Week 2. You shouldn’t either.
7. You become “that guy”
We all know who “that guy” is in fantasy leagues. He’s the douchenozzle who stops paying attention to his roster after Week 3 either because he wasn’t that interested in the first place, he’s getting crap from his wife or girlfriend, or, well, he’s a raging douchenozzle.
Obviously if you are “that guy” you aren’t going to be winning your league. That goes without saying. And really, this entire section could probably have gone without saying.
But I am including it just in case any potential “that guy” douchenozzles are reading this article. If so, do yourselves and your leaguemates a favor right now: bow out. It’s better to quit now when you can be replaced than to quit midseason and harm the integrity of the competition.
8. You ignore matchups
Chances are, your top 4-5 picks are going to be set-it-and-forget-it guys. They should be. But the majority of your roster spots should have some weekly fluctuation based on matchups, which you ignore at your own peril.
As seasons go along, you start to find out which defenses are good against the run and which ones are good against the pass. (This information can be gathered easily here.) It stands to reason that when comparing players of similar track records and talent, you should lean towards the one playing the weaker defense.
Example: last year the St. Louis Rams were putrid against the run. They finished 31st in the league, and their reputation for being a sieve was well-established by Week 7. That week, Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray, who had never rushed for more than 34 yards in a game prior, ran for 253 yards and a touchdown.
If you were paying attention to matchups, you knew that Murray, even as unproven as he was at the time, was a must-start. If all you looked at was Murray’s production to that point (less than 100 yards total, zero TDs), then you probably missed out on a performance that might have led you to victory.
9. You get irrationally sauced on draft night
Look, we all like to enjoy cold beverages on draft night. It’s one of the great joys of drafting. In fact, if people weren’t allowed to drink during fantasy football drafts, overall participation would probably drop by 50%.
But while you’re enjoying a delicious Sam Adams or an Old Fashioned (because your team is named “The Mad Men”), just make sure you do so responsibly. Not only do you want to be able drive home without putting other drivers at risk, you also don’t want to put your fantasy team at risk.
And the risks of drunk-to-the-point-of-irrationality drafting are numerous:
- You could lose your sense of risk/reward and take Maurice Jones-Drew in Round 1 (or a Browns quarterback in any round).
- You might not pay attention to draft trends, thus getting avalanched by the dreading QB and TE runs.
- You might even have impaired motor function that causes you to click on and draft the wrong guy.
So enjoy your drinks responsibly. Otherwise, you might be paying for your draft sins all the way through Week 14.
10. You hold grudges
In 2008, I drafted Cedric Benson with a high pick (4th or 5th round, I can’t remember exactly). He had bounced back from a lost rookie season to garner 647 yards and 6 TDs during his sophomore campaign. Fantasy analysts across the nation were predicting a third-year breakout, and I needed a second running back on my roster. So despite my misgivings about Benson, I took him.
He responded by stumbling for 674 yards and four TDs while playing in just 11 games. Some breakout.
I hated Cedric Benson thereafter. I blamed him for my team’s woes that season. I promised never to draft him or otherwise acquire him again, and I haven’t.
And all I’ve missed out on over the last three years has been at least 1,000 yards and 6 TDs every season. While that’s not superstar production, it’s been great value because Benson has been consistently undervalued after torpedoing his value in Chicago. Twits like me were burned by him, vowed never to draft him again, and then savvy value drafters swooped in and gobbled Benson up for pretty solid RB2 or flex production.
The lesson, of course, is don’t hold grudges. Use past performance to help you predict future success, but don’t let it get personal. These guys are just images on a TV and stats in a box score. If your #1 goal is to win, them treat them as such.
11. Your loyalty blinds you
There is an obvious flip side to #10. While some guys like Cedric Benson burn us, we can also get attached to guys who help us win … and then not realize until it’s too late that the value just isn’t there anymore.
Who can forget Jerome Harrison at the end 2010? He had one of the more memorable finishes to a season in fantasy football history, surely leading some unlikely teams to championships. I know he helped me out.
The downside is that Harrison was highly overvalued heading into the next season, and he inevitably disappointed. Even worse, owners who had Harrison to thank for playoff spots or trophies carried their loyalty to Jerome with him to Philadelphia and Detroit, using up valuable roster spots on him. We know how that turned out.
Harrison hasn’t done a damn thing since that three-week flurry, and blindly hanging onto him probably cost owners who might have otherwise made more objective and fruitful decisions about who to do with their Harrison-occupied bench spot.
12. You throw in the towel too early
You might think that this one is the same as the “that guy” one from above, but it’s not. “That guy” stops paying attention at all because he’s a douchenozzle. “Throw in the towel early” guy simply loses his will to win because he has a loser’s mentality.
If you come out of the gates 0-5, it’s okay to be frustrated. But this is fantasy football. Why the hell can’t you reel off six or seven wins in a row and get right back in the thick of the playoff hunt?
Shoot, having a bad start to the season can almost be liberating. With nothing left to lose you can pull the trigger on high-upside/high-risk trades. If they work, you can become a legend. If they don’t…so what? You were 0-5. No one is expecting anything out of you.
Plus, your league is counting on you. Don’t throw in the towel. Play to win every week…because hey, you just might. And whether you make a legendary run to the playoffs or just screw someone else out of a playoff spot, winning is always sweet.
13. You don’t know who your league’s sucker is
There is an old saying in poker that if you don’t who the sucker is at the table, it’s probably you. The same is true with fantasy football.
If you don’t know who the sap is that you can talk into a trade that straddles the line of being unfair in your direction, it’s quite possible that some other savvy owner is trying to talk you into such a trade right now.
Look around your league. Do you know who to target with a trade offer? Do you know whose transactions to watch because they are likely to get impatient with a sleeper you really like? You better figure it out.
Otherwise, you’re the sucker…sucker.
14. You suck
We’ll just let this general statement cover everything else.
It’s pretty simple: if you suck, you suck. And there won’t really be anything you can do about it.
Obviously you really suck if any of the 13 reasons above apply to you, but general suckiness – such as being a jackwagon – will also be hard to overcome.
So I guess my only advice here is, basically, just don’t suck. Your team is counting on you.
Now that you have read this, go digest it and make sure you avoid each of these 14 fantasy football pitfalls. Every single item listed above is a reason you will lose, a flawed strategy that will put you in a better position to fall short than to come up big.
But should you heed my advice, and make changes where necessary, this article just might end up being one very important reason that you do win your league this year.
Good luck friends.