The best way to learn any subject is to experience it first hand. No amount of cheat sheets, checklists, advice from friends, or new ideas can replace the wisdom that comes with years of experience.
The good news is that it is possible to gain some insights from those who have been there before. Our science is built on the shoulders of giants, and our games are the same way.
The following are tips that every fantasy football professional learns from experience.
1. Understand what type of league you are in.
The type of league is a factor in a player’s worth. Brandin Cooks is a good example; Cooks was a big win in the dynasty leagues last year, but he was nothing more than a dormant option in the rework leagues until this year. After gaining some experience, he projects himself as a potential stud.
2. Know the rules of your league’s roster.
Sure, it would have been great to have Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy as your top three picks, but if the starting lineup can only include two running backs, a lot of points will be wasted as another position suffers. A professional always has a complete staffing plan in mind.
3. Vary the selections based on the scoring system.
Having a great quarterback is nice, but most leagues weaken your scoring ability by reducing the number of points earned from passing stats. Aaron Rodgers is worth a high draft pick with six points per TD and one point per 20 passing yards. Four for TD and one point for 30? Not so much.
The most common example is PPR (points per reception). Wide receivers gain value and running back rankings are mixed. Matt Forte is a mid to low range RB1 in traditional scoring, but in a league that uses PPR, he’s a stud. One point per reception adds 100 points to your total in 2014 alone.
4. Make safer selections ahead of time.
Not all “safe” players can play the season, but risk can be reduced. Every player available early is a great player. Aside from last year, casting Adrian Peterson over Darren “Glass Man” McFadden was a no-brainer for any professional. Early picks are the cornerstone of a team, and there’s no need to pick injury or legal risk in the first round.
5. Draft for hike after starters and alternates are established.
Having a decent middle starter as a second or third backup receiver might sound great, but it’s a terrible idea. Players can and will go down during the season. More importantly, players can and will appear in a given year. Arian Foster the year it blew up, Kelvin Benjamin last year, and Alfred Blue and Davante Adams this year are great examples of “sleepers,” players who surprised most owners and put up high-level fantasy scores. The league champion will likely have one or two starters no one expected, and unless a league uses 20 replacement-level players to cover bye weeks and injuries, they will be readily available.
6. Never write a kicker or defense early.
Every rule has exceptions, but think about the advice above. Acquiring a top kicker or defense requires a pick somewhere between the eighth and the tenth rounds – a good range to pick from those who sleep on the top end. Kickers vary wildly from year to year, and many professional fantasy players use a different defense each week to chase down easy matchups. A “broadcast defense” can outperform even high-level defenses. That doesn’t mean the Seahawks aren’t worth picking – there’s just more value in waiting on superior defense.
These are just the beginning. Entire novels about fantasy football can be written, and each and every rule can occasionally be broken. The key is to remember this one word: value. The best fantasy football owners find ways to generate additional value and acquire better players for less cost.
Follow these tips, play like a pro, and win your league if you can. Good luck!