Fantasy football can be a fickle mistress. After riding Marvin Harrison’s monster 2002 season to a rookie Championship, I’ve experienced all the highs and lows of being an obsessive fantasy player. I’ve made enough mistakes for my experiences to be of use to some people, so I figured I’d share my list of Do’s and Don’ts for this fantasy season.

Do adapt your strategy to the draft at hand. If you’re as obsessive about this stuff as me, you’ve probably already planned out who you’re going to be able to get in the first few rounds and the best possible route to take. But people do unexpected things.  Let the chips fall where they may and be ready to abandon your strategy if there’s a better option.  For example, I tend to wait on Quarterbacks, and that will be my strategy again this year due to the depth of the position, but if Peyton Manning falls 10+ spots from his ADP (Average Draft Position) of 12, and I can get him in the late third or fourth round, I’m taking him. It’s entirely possible that everyone else will have the same strategy as you, causing certain players to drop to a point that you can get them cheap.  Take advantage of that.

Don’t draft based on name recognition. This has worked against me in numerous ways: Either I don’t draft a guy because someone else with a more recognizable name is also available, or I don’t draft a guy because he’s been around for years and you mistakenly think that means he lacks upside. Have a concrete REASON to pick or pass on someone other than preconceived notions. Try not to base your fantasy opinions of players based on initial reactions. Base them on stats, health, visible talent, and surrounding circumstances.

Do try to get a good idea of when players are being drafted. One of the most important stats to put on a cheat sheet is ADP (Make sure the ADP is for a league with similar settings and scoring to your own.) This information is useful because it allows you to get the most value out of your picks. For example, even if you have Andre Johnson ranked as your #3 WR, you wouldn’t want to draft him as the third receiver. Looking at his ADP you could see that he’s going in the middle of the fifth round.  Save those second and third round picks for other highly rated players because you’ll still be able to get Dre in the fourth. It’s OK to pull the trigger on him a round early if you think he’s going to have a great year, just don’t waste a pick on a guy you can get four rounds down the road. Another good use for ADP is identifying runs on certain positions.  You can estimate in what round a tier of a position is going to start coming off the board and get in front of it.

Don’t let any faulty reasoning influence your opinions of players. There are a lot of oft-repeated sayings floating around in the fantasy world that have been disproved or relegated to a “confirmation-bias” type of analysis. Some of these myths include:

  • Contract-year players.  There are numerous articles explaining why this has never had a real effect on player output.
  • Injury prone players. Now, some players are actually injury prone because they have injuries that keep being re-aggravated (Miles Austin and his hamstring) or they have a certain playing style (Adrian Peterson), but other players are simply victims of bad luck.  For example, Aaron Rodgers has missed some time in the past, but that was due to a concussion and broken collarbone.  These types of injuries are not predictors of anything in the future. When it comes to injury, not every game missed is the same thing and every player should be evaluated on a case by case basis.
  • Someone being “due”: An entry level stats class will tell you why this doesn’t hold up. Don’t ever bet on a player or a slot-machine being “due.

Do pay attention to coaching changes. Marc Trestman and Chip Kelly worked magic for the Bears and Eagles offenses last year. What will Jay Gruden’s arrival in Washington do to RG3’s production? He turned Andy Dalton into a top 5 QB, so all signs are pointing to an improvement.  What will his absence do to the Bengals offense? How will Norv Turner’s arrival in Minnesota affect their offensive players?  These are all things to take into consideration.

Don’t worry about drafting players from the same team. Trust your rankings. If you’ve got Alshon Jeffery as the highest ranked player left on your board, don’t pass on him because you took Matt Forte in the first round. They were both able to put up big numbers last year, even if they’re competing with each other for touchdowns.  There’s nothing wrong with having multiple players from the same team on your team as long as they’re both producing.

Do know your scoring and roster settings before you make any rankings or cheat sheets. It’s easy and beneficial to print off an expert’s rankings and use them (after all, they probably know more than you), but if that expert is making those rankings with a different scoring system in mind, it will be wildly inaccurate for you. For example, if your league starts two QB’s, they’re going to be flying off the board and your standard rankings will leave you picking from the bottom of the barrel. Even a slight change, like going from 0 to 0.5 points per reception could push a player up or down a board 10 spots or more.

Don’t make homer picks. If you want to win, pick the best players available – not just the ones you like the best. The only time I condone using favoritism to pick a player is if you’ve got two guys that you can’t choose between, then by all means take your guy.  Just remember, though, that if you put all your rooting eggs into one basket and your fantasy and real-life teams lose, it makes for a shitty week.

Do scour the waiver wire religiously. That’s where leagues are won. Don’t keep a dud on your bench when there’s potential to be had in free agency. You may feel like you’ve invested too much into players you’ve drafted to release them, but that is a “sunk-cost fallacy”, and you’ve got to get over it. Value changes on a week-to-week basis.

Don’t give up on your team until you’re mathematically out of it. Even if your team starts out 0-3, is decimated by injuries, and all hope looks lost, a few key free agent pickups and injuries to the top teams could turn everything around. Things can change quicker than you think in fantasy.

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