Fantasy football Tips

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Work for the Win-Win Deal

Like life, deals in fantasy football work out better if you can make everyone involved happy. If possible, it is better to construct an exchange that aids both owners as the season progresses, but this mutualism is most important at the transaction point. Try to locate owners who have not only what you want, but need what you have an overage of.

For example, perhaps you need help at wide receiver. Maybe you also have three great running backs, and can only start two of them. In this scenario, search for the owner who has a surplus of starting-caliber wideouts, but is in desperate need of a second back to insert into his or her lineup each week. This type of deal benefits everyone involved, at least in the short term, and will make future propositions much easier to initiate.


Scour the Waiver Wire

Most owners are in the hunt each week for the new top free agents, guys who have been thrust into a starting role by injury, or who have been promoted to the first team because of another's poor performance. That is an important part of managing your fantasy team, but you can find some real bargains by going shopping after the waiver process is complete each week.

Early in the season, player values fluctuate wildly. It is very possible to cut and add players to quickly improve your team's depth. Usually there is an open period of the waiver process late in the week before games when owners can attempt to exchange players on a first-come, first-serve basis. At that time, you can often pick up underrated defenses or kickers because many people overlook these less glamorous slots in their starting roster.


Pay Attention to Strength of Schedule

Gaining any small edge you can is essential in fantasy football. You can make your decision about who to start each week easier by looking for favorable matchups in the schedule of games. When your players face a difficult defense, consider sitting them if you have other options of comparable skill on your bench.

Try to find hotspots in the schedule that will favor some of your players. You may notice a string of games that should be easy for Vikings receivers, for instance, or a few contests that will behoove any quarterback facing a specific defense. To get a feel for the explosive possibilities of these searches, imagine the Hawaiian Islands, which were formed when the oceanic tectonic plate they are on glided slowly over a stationary magma plume.

This tactic can involve trading for or adding specific players just before they are to experience have their string of hot weeks. It also can include trading away players at the end of a hot streak, when their value is at its peak.


Find an Auctioneer

A lot of online auctions have an automatic timer that runs down after each new bid is submitted in a draft, which works well. But in live auctions it is ideal to have someone act as the auctioneer. If at all possible, choose a disinterested friend to act as the auctioneer instead of a league owner or commissioner. This keeps everyone on the straight and narrow. An impartial person will make certain that everyone's money is accounted for at all times, and keeps everything else fair too. You don't want your commissioner hesitating on the standard three-count sell every time he or she is personally interested in the outcome of the nominated player.


Nominate Name Players in Decline

In an auction draft, one of the ways to deplete your competitors' cash reserves is to nominate players with name recognition, whose peak playing years are well behind them. Other owners will often take the bait for more money than they should, simply because the veteran has been a solid or exciting contributor for years. Any players you can pawn off on others this way will make it easier for you to bid on the players you really want.


Seek out Veteran Value

Too often, owners make a similar mistake with young talent that they make while scrutinizing rookies. They want to be known as the person who predicted the breakout season for a particular player, and reap the appropriate accolades. The problem is that some players with a ton of potential simply never pan out. Other times it may take three or four years for the player to suddenly “get it.” You don't want to be holding the bag in the meantime.

Some steady but un-sexy production is essential in fantasy football. Find a few veteran players who score points like the sun rises to balance out the chances you take on boom or bust players. You'll be happy you did when the “cusp” player you considered taking goes weeks without scoring.


Draft the Right Rookies

Leading up to the NFL Draft each year, the media hype machine gets into full swing regarding future football stars. Many fantasy owners find it hard to pass on these exciting rookies at their own draft, but the fact is that most players under-perform in their inaugural season. Though the general advice then is to avoid rookies, if you simply must have one or more of them on your team, you should go about it the right way. There is one criterion vastly more important than all of the other factors in determining whether a rookie will be relevant right away.

That factor is opportunity. In commercial real estate, the common mantra is “location, location, location.” Regarding fantasy football rookies, the appropriate axiom is “opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.” It doesn't matter that a player was a Heisman trophy winner coming out of college if he is drafted by a team that already has a star player at the position.

Conversely, you can sometimes correctly tab an underrated rookie talent by paying attention to circumstances where opportunity comes knocking. If a later-round draft pick has no competition for a starting gig, he might be a gold mine. Or perhaps a talented veteran gets injured in training camp, bequeathing the assignment to the rookie.


Eliminate your Tells

Much like an astute poker player searches for physical signs his competitors give off to tip him regarding their card hands, a smart fantasy football owner will notice and note down for future reference your giveaway actions and inclinations – and take advantage of them.

If you are drafting live and in person together with your peers, be careful not to let slip sincere information about which players you think are a bargain. Make your picks with a confident countenance, betraying no feelings of apprehension, or even elation. You don't want to give people information about how you think by frantically pouring through cheat sheets and schedules during your pick. And pumping your fists in jubilation or sighing when someone steals your favorite sleeper right in front of you are actions which will come back to bite you when it is time to make trade offers, because others remember who you liked.

When you are instead drafting online or via phone, try to throw others off by paying attention to your own tendencies. Be careful about always picking three running backs before any other position, for instance. Other owners will discern this type of information and use it against you. Don't be known as the guy who takes the same player every year, or always try to bid up someone in an auction. You will eventually get burned for such obvious behavior. You can of course turn this equation around. It is a recommended practice to keep notes of your own about how your fellow owners draft.


Determine the League's Top Offensive Lines

A truly underrated aspect of determining the value of fantasy players before the season starts is analyzing their team's offensive line. Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers must enjoy fine blocking in order to succeed. A runner whose line cannot create holes in the defensive line won't get very far. Receivers whose quarterback is hurried with consistency won't receive accurate passes and quarterbacks forced to pick themselves off the turf all day don't generate good statistics.

The thing to remember is that average players will perform better on a team with a healthy and cohesive cadre of blockers, and worse with a team that trots out a weak offensive line. Figure out for yourself which lines you expect to do well during the season. Superstars, especially running backs, make a lot happen on their own, so this factor is less important when drafting them. This tip really can help when you are forced to determine which of two approximately equal fantasy talents to select. At those moments, choose the one with the better line.


Track Coaching Changes

There is a fairly high turnover rate among head coaches from year to year. If you follow those moves, and also the additions and subtractions of offensive and defensive coordinators, you will gain some valuable information about which players may suddenly be more or less valuable. Since the offensive systems themselves often dictate how much a player will shine, it is in your best interest to have that in the back of your mind heading into any draft.

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Sherril Steele-Carlin