What An Opportunity

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fantasy Football

In Sports on September 17, 2013 at 8:39 am

It’s that time of year again, the time when the NFL runs the world for five months. The league so dominates American culture that some estimates indicate that two-thirds of Americans watch the NFL at some point each season. If people aren’t talking about the crazy finish to last night’s game, they’re talking about their own fantasy football team; they might even be more interested in their fantasy team. In this case, to succeed in fantasy is to succeed in reality, and here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help you procure your very own championship-caliber squad.

DON’T fail to study and fully understand your league’s intricacies.

Each fantasy league has its own idiosyncratic rules, rewards, and points system. Don’t miss your opportunity to study these closely to gain an advantage over your competitors. For example, if your league awards points for catches in addition to receiving yards and TD’s, then a possession receiver who catches 90 balls for 900 yards and 6 TD’s (someone like 2011-12 Percy Harvin, for example) may be just as valuable as a deep threat who catches 60 balls for 1,100 yards and 9 TD’s (like 2011-12 Vincent Jackson). The glamorous numbers will attract your less astute rivals, and you can gain the upper hand by noticing players of value who are available in later rounds.

DO look for the intangible traits that take a player to the next level of value.

It is easy to fall into the trap of ordering running backs by rushing yards and quarterbacks by passing yards, and never wavering from this list. But a vital component of fantasy success is finding hidden value. Having a running back that runs for 100 yards per game is good. But having a running back that runs for 90 and catches passes for 40 more? Now you’re talking. Similarly, while a quarterback who passes for 3,500-4,000 yards is awesome, a QB who can dependably add in a few rushing touchdowns is even more awesome. Noticing these intangibles will lead directly to fantasy success; when you see potential for points that others may miss, you can acquire the superior players that will take your team to the top.

DON’T overvalue a receiver who is transitioning from being a #2 option to becoming a #1 option.

Anticipating a breakout season from a newly promoted receiver is a common mistake, but make a commitment to yourself to avoid this pitfall. It is easy to think that receiving more attention from his QB is bound to increase his receptions, yards and TD’s. But in reality, the extra defensive attention that a top receiver commands will often offset any potential gains. In the mid-2000’s, Peerless Price and Muhsin Muhammad personified this reality. After seasons of 94 receptions, 1,252 yards and 9 TD’s for the Bills (2002-03 Price) and 93 receptions, 1,405 yards and 16 TD’s for the Panthers (2004-05 Muhammad), these receivers changed teams to become primary options for new QB’s. The seasons that followed were tremendously disappointing, with Price and Muhammad producing just 64 catches, 838 yards and 3 TD’s and 64 catches, 750 yards and 4 TD’s for the Falcons and Bears respectively.

DO take a player’s circumstances into serious consideration, looking beyond his perceived ability.

Good fantasy management goes far beyond name recognition. To achieve success, you must go deeper than drafting someone solely based on the fact that he had a good statistical season the year before; you have to account for all the circumstances surrounding him. For example, selecting a running back because he rushed for 1,200 yards the previous season can be an excellent decision in the right situation. However, if that running back’s team just drafted a “can’t miss” RB in the first round, or signed a high-profile free agent back, then your guy’s prospects for this year have suddenly become far less promising. Make sure that your analysis goes beyond the players themselves; a potential Pro Bowler is not much good to your fantasy team if he’s stuck playing behind a potential Hall of Famer.

DON’T overvalue players on winning teams, or undervalue players from losing teams.

Because the NFL’s winning teams receive so much more attention than unsuccessful teams, players on these victorious teams often receive undue fantasy consideration. In reality, the intelligent fantasy GM realizes that a team piling up wins may be extremely counterproductive for his personal interests. In a worst-case scenario, a coach may bench your best player in week 16 or 17 because their team has clinched everything and has nothing to play for, even though those weeks are your most important of the entire fantasy season. What a nightmare. But even if you do not find yourselves in these regrettable circumstances, understand that a player on a 3-13 team may be the key ingredient to your fantasy championship. Think about it; when teams are losing, they need to score quickly, so they throw the ball. This can create a great deal of (buzzword alert) hidden value, because a TD catch by your receiver with 3 minutes left in a 24-point blowout is every bit as valuable to you as another receiver’s game winner.

DO be active and aggressive on the waiver wire.

If the NFL is renowned for anything, it is its unpredictability. On average, 5 out of 12 teams who made the playoffs the previous year do not qualify the next season… thus the saying, “Any given Sunday.” As a result, analysts have great difficulty forecasting team results in the preseason with any kind of accuracy. In a similar way, fantasy experts often struggle to identify prime fantasy performers in the preseason. Know this going in; the best drafts do not always win fantasy football championships. The NFL is constantly evolving, even from week to week, and preseason predictions are often laughably off base. A key acquisition or two early on can make all the difference for your season. Do not get discouraged and think that you are stuck with those disappointing draft picks; keep your eyes peeled, and when you notice a surprisingly stout defense or a backup RB on a team whose starter just went down for the season, hit that waiver wire hard. Who knows what might happen? Yours wouldn’t be the first team to go from worst to first in a few weeks.

All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com

  1. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

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