So you want to dip your toe into the murky waters of fantasy football?
Good for you!
I wish you all the luck in the world, because believe me when I say – you will need it. Many will attest that ultimately you can be the greatest fantasy team owner there is, with (in your eyes) the mind of Bill Belichick and a roster as stacked as his trophy cabinet, but none of that will matter a jot if you get some bad luck at the wrong time…
A torn ACL. A broken right finger. A failed drug test. An untimely arrest.
You name it, any number of unlucky factors potentially lie in wait for your team, and as quick as it takes to tear a meniscus, your season can be over.
But leaving aside lady luck, you can take active measures to protect yourself from the person that will become your greatest enemy – yourself. Second guessing oneself, and overly tinkering with a lineup has been the downfall of many an owner.
You will learn all this, but in the meantime here are some tips for somebody starting out in fantasy football. Some may seem obvious to seasoned owners, but a lot are simply things I wish someone had told me before my first season.
I hope you find them helpful and welcome to the game!
- Don’t join a League that plays their Championship in Week 17
This is one that is a no-brainer. During the last week of the regular season, playoff bound teams may be resting their stars, or eliminated teams could be trying out their backups as they look to next season. Either way it’s not a winning formula for a fantasy team having to select backups for their biggest game of the season.
2. Don’t be a “homer”
It might be tempting to select lots of players from the team you follow. The optimistic pre-season rationale being – “Well if the team wins, I win – so double win!!” However, the reality of the situation is that you are entirely tied to the success, or most likely failure of your team, so rather than “double win”, more often than not you just end up with twice the anxiety and a losing fantasy team.
3. Don’t reach for a quarterback
He’s the star of their team so he should also be the star of mine, right? No. Quarterbacks are important in fantasy football, don’t get me wrong, but there are more important positions to focus on before you even consider who you are going to take as your QB1. Look for wide receivers or running backs in the first few rounds – you will be able to snag a decent option to throw for you later on in the draft.
4. Don’t reach for a D/ST
The same logic applies to this point as the previous one. As important as defenses are on a real football team, their relevance is very much dampened in fantasy football. Unless you are playing your rookie season in a league with an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) position, which would be a very bold move – you need not really worry about looking for a defense until someone starts the inevitable run on them. Just don’t let it be you. Most people’s last two picks of their entire draft are D/ST and a kicker.
5. Don’t assume a number one receiver is a number one threat
A number one receiver on a team that has a poor quarterback, or a player that gets double coverage every play due to the fact they play on a team with a lack of receiving options can sometimes be less effective than a number three receiver on a team that spreads the ball around effectively on offense. Look at Cooper Kupp of the Rams – before his injury he was behind Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods (barely) on the depth chart, but he would have been a much better fantasy option than say, Paul Richardson – the supposed number one receiver for the Redskins.
6. Don’t rely on rookies
It is very easy to get carried away with the hype of an approaching football season. Everyone is excited after the draft has taken place and team’s rosters are set for the new year. Everyone thinks that their team’s offseason adds will be the key to their Super Bowl victory. And everyone thinks they can spot the rookie who will be the next Ezekiel Elliott, or Saquon Barkley. Most of the time – they can’t. Just look at Alvin Kamara who was drafted into the NFL in the fourth round. Nobody wasted any of their fantasy draft picks on him that year, yet soon enough he was being added and started in all leagues. Don’t gamble on rookies. It’s simply not worth it.
- Do keep an eye on your players’ BYE Weeks
This happened to me my second year. I was so concerned about not being a ‘homer’ (which happened my first year!) that I picked only the best available at all positions. It wasn’t until after the draft was over that I saw that my quarterback, both of my starting running backs AND receivers were all on BYE during Week 5. As I hadn’t paid enough attention to my bench, it meant that I had to end up dropping a player I drafted in the 5th Round in order to pick up a random startable player. Don’t be like me – keep an eye on BYE weeks.
2. Do look at “hand-cuffs”
A ‘’hand-cuff’ is a player’s backup. They are worth knowing about in case a player is unable to play for whatever reason, thereby thrusting said backup into fantasy relevance. Hand-cuffs are also something to bear in mind if your starting player has a known injury history or (less likely) a love of being arrested or doing PEDs.
3. Do think about the QB situation on a team when selecting WRs and vice versa
If a team has an iffy situation under center for whatever reason, whether it be a porous offensive line, or a rookie quarterback, it can really limit the effectiveness of the team’s wide receivers. And by the same token it doesn’t matter who you have throwing the football, if they have no protection or targets, they will be just as ineffective.
4. Do look for “stacks”
The opposite of the previous point is the elusive “stacks”. This is when you have two elite threats from the same team that connect for you thereby effectively doubling your points. Good examples are QB/TE combo Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce or QB/WR combo Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill or QB/RB combo Patrick Mahomes and… well you get my drift. But a decent stack can win you a league.
5. Do use your bench effectively
Your bench is useful for many reasons, but the main one is obviously as a home for your starters’ replacements. Your bench will change a lot during the season, but it is always worth trying to keep a backup for every position of need, with the exception of defense and kicker. Try to also make sure these replacements have different BYE weeks to your starters – you never know when they will be needed!
Our NFC East reporter is Chris Milner who covers Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants. Chris is a Washington Redskins fan who has followed the game since 2011. He is one of our fantasy football correspondents and also co-hosts the ‘Same Level Fantasy Football’ podcast. Follow him on Twitter @chrismilner