I love sports as many already know about me. Playing fantasy sports these past five years has intensified that love. I play fantasy football, basketball, baseball, and even NASCAR. I'm very competitive and I love matching my sports knowledge and expertise weekly.
The sport I'm more accomplished in is football. I have made the playoffs in at least one league every season except for my very first. I have a third place trophy, and am back to back champion of my company league.
Getting here wasn't easy, although I know football very well. I had to learn the ins and outs of fantasy, player trends and such. Here are seven tips to help you improve your playoff hopes and championship dreams.
1. Do your research before the draft and season
Fantasy football is not a game where you can go in blind and randomly set a lineup or draft a team and expect a winner. You must watch the games, especially the pre-season games. They show you who may be a breakout player or sleeper this season. Also, use tools such as fantasy articles and magazines with player rankings and cheat sheets. Yahoo! and ESPN both have awesome research tools for free. Both provide extensive draft kits which are worth studying. Finally, watch podcasts and fantasy football specials during the preseason and weekly to help with your lineup. My two favorites are NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL network and Matthew Berry and his various views. Most of us that have won in fantasy owe a debt of gratitude to Matthew. He has become a renowned fantasy guru.
2. Don't draft a QB too early.
Even if you miss the draft and have to go with pre-rankings or if your league is really deep, wait until about the 3rd or 4th round at the earliest to pick a QB. Yes I realize they are often the highest scorers weekly. However, the first few rounds are for building your core. I don't ever take someone like an Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or RG3 early. That goes for the Manning brothers as well. I would recommend a solid 2nd or 3rd tier starter such as Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, or even Josh Freeman. I've won the past two years with backups from the waiver wire such as Dalton two years ago, and Russell Wilson last year.
3. Evaluate weekly and even playoff matchups
This is when the question of who you will sit or start comes into play. Usually teams play better at home. Some play better on turf than natural grass and vice versa. You may be facing the 49ers defense that week in San Francisco and think twice about who you start. Also, weather is a huge factor, especially after November. Teams tend to throw less in the cold, and team defenses shine more. Look at offensive lines also. If they are paving the way for the running game and/or allowing few sacks, you may have some sleepers worth starting. It's a weekly chess match.
4. Know your league settings and know them well.
Read your league description before the draft so you can see the points values, roster positions, and even the playoff weeks. This will help keep your squad sharp on a weekly basis. Also, if your waiver wire closes during the first Sunday game, that is also important, especially for your research and scouting.
5. Always look at the free agency pool and don't be afraid to trade.
You have to manage your team weekly, especially when the bye weeks arise. There may be several weeks where your stars aren't playing, and you need proper depth. Analyze the matchups, how hot a certain player is, and his overall potential. Being proactive can help build you a championship team simply from the pool.
However, at times, it may be beneficial to trade. Don't be afraid; dissect the trade and ensure that your needs and the other owner's needs are met. You can definitely trade your way to a championship. One of the biggest mistakes in all of fantasy sports is to fall in love with a player. That stud could yield you one or more missing pieces. However, don't trade out of desperation, or because it's a bye week and you are short on players. Think long-term.
6. Learn from your mistakes and move on
Certain leagues love to remind you of that bad trade you made, or that player that you dropped that ended up being #1 in yards and touchdowns. It hurts, it really does. But you will not forget it. Just don't let it destroy you. You are playing a game of chance as it is. Learn, keep growing, and keep improving.
7. Have fun, talk trash, but don't let it get personal.
The game of football is supposed to be fun. However every league has cynics that make fantasy football their whole life and love to badmouth and trash the decisions of others. In trades, they may be telling you how to run your team and what you need to do to improve. Good trash talking and discussion is always fun. However, keep it on your league's message boards and don't allow it to escalate to personal attacks. Behave like civilized adults and don't forget what the game is really about.
That being said, have fun and good luck with your fantasy football season!