Although fantasy football has been around for years, there are still thousands of new recruits to leagues across the country each and every year. Even though many of the “n00bs” are big football fans, they don’t know a thing about fantasy football. Fantasy football is more than just knowing who is good and who isn’t. It is also requires a significant amount of dedication, more so than just picking the weekly winners for your office pool. Now I don’t expect first timers to dominate the league and take home the championship, but hopefully the tips below can keep you out of the cellar and in the playoff hunt.
Draft a Running Back First
I don’t care what format your league is set up in, drafting a running back first is going to be the biggest return on investment (ROI) available. Your running backs will average more points than just about any other position because they are a vital part of easy touchdowns (think first and goal from the 2) and yards (both rushing and receiving). Don’t be afraid to draft a good running back on a bad team either. While they may not put up Adrian Peterson type numbers, they will probably still outscore a wide receiver and most certainly outdo a second string RB on a great team. For the first couple of rounds, don’t just take the best player available (according to the draft stats) take the best running back available and you will be grateful all season long.
Quarterbacks are Overrated
What was the difference between a quarterback drafted in the first round and a quarterback drafted in the fifth round last year? About 2.5 points per game. By comparison, running backs drafted in the same rounds had a difference of 9.2 points per game. Waiting until the middle rounds to get a quarterback takes a lot of patience and skill, but with a little bit of awareness, you should still be able to pull a QB who won’t kill you. Pay attention to how the rest of the league is drafting – there is nothing wrong with being the last team to take a QB, but if your other draftmates are picking up second and third string QB’s, make sure you jump in there and take one.
Pay Attention to Bye Weeks
One of the biggest mistakes that a rookie fantasy football manager can make is not paying attention to when players take their bye weeks. You might have a stacked team, but if half of them aren’t playing in week 7 due to a bye, you can kiss that win goodbye. Ideally, you wouldn’t want any more than two of your regular starters taking bye’s in the same week. Any more and you run the risk of losing a significant amount of points that week. Magnify this by 3 or 4 weeks and you’ve got yourself quite a string of losses on your hands.
Watch for 2x Combo Points
No, I’m not talking about arcade gaming, I’m talking about QB WR combos. Everyone loves it when their quarterback throws a thirty yard touchdown, but fantasy football owners love it even more when they also have the player on the receiving end of that pass. Deadly combos in past seasons have been Brady/Moss, Cutler/Marshall, Schaub/Johnson, and many others. This must be done with caution, however, because a bad day for your QB also means a bad day for your WR. Some fantasy owners find it best to hedge their bets by making sure that their QB is on a different team as the rest of their receivers, but other owners put it all on the line and go for double points. Keep an eye out for combos that others might be missing as the draft goes on and jump on them if you have the chance.
Don’t Bail too Early
Superstars will be superstars, even if some of them start off slow. Just because Adrian Peterson doesn’t have 8 touchdowns by week two doesn’t mean that you need to drop him. My general rule is to give your starters a three or four week opportunity before you look to make serious changes. Some notoriously slow starters are Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Ben Roethlisberger. Even though they might not be leading the league, they almost always come around after a while. Even though it may not seem like it, 17 weeks is a long season so have patience and don’t throw your whole team away too soon.
Don’t Ignore Defense
Depending on how your league is set up, defenses can be among the highest scoring components of your roster on any given week. A good defense can keep the matchup close, while a bad defense can make you wish the week had a fast forward button. Pro tip: Don’t stick with the same defense all year. Honestly, look for the teams that are playing really bad teams and choose their defense. If possible, look for whoever is playing the Raiders and no matter how they’ve performed all year, don’t play a defense that is going up against the Colts or Saints – You Will PAY.
Tight Ends & Kickers Come Last
The difference between the top and bottom when it comes to points from kickers and tight ends is minimal. Don’t waste a top draft choice on Jason Whitten or Dallas Clark, just because you have the chance to get the best tight end in the league, there are many more positions that can be far more valuable than having a good TE or Kicker. As long as your field goal kicker isn’t a shank-a-potamus, you should be OK with just about anyone.
Don’t be Afraid to Trade
Most rookie fantasy football managers are afraid to trade, simply because they think that the rest of the league is looking to take advantage of them. Now don’t get me wrong, the ability to spot a bogus trade offer will get you far in life, but just because someone wants you to give up your second best wide receiver in exchange for a mid-level running back isn’t always a bad thing. Many times, making a trade will allow both teams to gain an advantage in points. Understanding where your team’s strengths lie and where your weaknesses need patching is crucial when making trades. Just don’t be afraid to make them and you just might get invited back next season.
After all, it is a fantasy league and unless you took out a second mortgage to make the entry fee, you probably don’t have a lot riding on the outcome. Taking some losses on the chin is part of fantasy. Everyone is going to get lucky on a waiver wire pickup that goes off for 3 touchdowns and 200 yards, but you just have to laugh it off and try to be “that guy” the next week. Playing with people you know is a good idea, but don’t be afraid to socialize with other league members, even if you don’t know them. Most people are in this for fun and are more than happy to give you tips and advice.
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