I make no secret about my dream job in sports: to be the General Manager of an NFL or MLB team. Until then, I get my fix playing and writing about fantasy sports and giving opinions on sports topics.
I’ve made it a general rule not to play fantasy sports for money. Don’t take this as me looking down on those who do; I get it, for some it is fun for them to play for a wager and makes things more interesting. Me? Just not something I do. I do, however, enjoy providing fantasy advice. So If you’re going to play for money, at least give yourself a chance by adhering to these five tips.
1. Plan The Make-Up Of Your Team Before You Draft
If you go into your league’s draft just blindly picking and building your team you’re not going to win. Period. In my brain it seems like this would be something everyone already knew, yet every year I get people in drafts who “know what they know, and nothing more” and then are surprised when their team isn’t competitive. They go through mock draft after mock draft without really understanding what they’re trying to accomplish. Stop doing this! Have a plan for what you’re going to do; especially if you’re putting money on the decision.
2. Don’t Fall In Love With Stars, Fall In Love With Production
The next four tips all revolve around making and putting in place said plan starting with this little nugget: Unlike the NBA and Major League Baseball seasons, there are 16 games for players to maximize their performance for you.
That means if Peyton Manning isn’t getting it done in November or December, don’t be afraid to cut bait and pick up or consider Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Tannehill, or Teddy Bridgewater; all of whom outscored Manning from weeks 13 on.
3. Know Your “Franchise Player(s)”And Build Around Them
Aaron Rodgers tallied 400+ fantasy points in 2014; Le’Veon Bell had almost 300 fantasy points; Antonio Brown totaled 250+ points for the second straight year; and those numbers don’t include PPR value.
You are going to hear Fantasy Football experts/analysts tell you over and over that the Quarterback position is deep and you can wait, Wide Receivers can be found, and elite Running Backs have to go off the board first. My philosophy is different: Know where you want your points to come from and build around your “Franchise Player(s)”.
I don’t go into a draft thinking about names as much as I do about where are points going to come from. For me, if I have an opportunity to get spotted 30 points before the week begins (Rodgers averaged 29 points per week) then I take it. If I’m in a PPR (Points Per Reception) league, I know I have the option of loading up on the best pass catchers early (Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, etc.) and supplementing them with dual-threat backs (Joique Bell, Matt Forte) or what I consider a top-tier Quarterback flying under the radar (Philip Rivers) later.
Either way, roster construction should be contingent on the kind of team you want to have based on the league you’re playing in (ironically just like in real life) and maximizing your potential to get points. If you’re playing for money, this is doubly important.
4. Schedule Match-Ups Are Important. I Promise. Pay Attention To Them.
Another thing I don’t understand is choosing players without giving any consideration to their actual schedule.
Did you know that Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver, A.J. Green, besides facing Joe Haden (who has recorded a +11 coverage grade against Green through 2013 per Pro Football Focus, hasn’t allowed a touchdown to Green since October of 2012, and has held Green to just 32.5 yards per game their last four meetings) twice in 2015? Did you know that Green will also face seven of the top-10 2014 passing defenses in the NFL when he visits Miami, Buffalo, Seattle, Denver, Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Diego this Fall?
Chances are you weren’t thinking too much about that, but this is just one example of why you should.
5. Become More Advanced (Statistically!)
Lastly, I know some of you don’t want to do this, but statistics help reveal players who were, as I like to describe it, “sneaky terrible”. With sites such as NumberFire, Pro Football Focus, and FiveThirtyEight.com (to name a few) providing useful analysis to help you determine whether a player is the real deal.
Interesting case in point: New York Giants Running Back Andre Williams 2014 rookie season.
When evaluating running backs one thing I like to see is what they’re capable of doing with the opportunities presented to them. In other words, I like to see them do more with less (touches). So when you look at Williams and see a final stat line of 721 yards and 7 touchdowns in 216 attempts you might be inclined to pick him as a “sleeper”.
But a fun experiment conducted by Chase Stuart of FootballPerspective.com shows that Williams, who was below league average in yards per carry in 2014, was fighting an even bigger battle to get to that point. In fact Stuart points out that Williams would have to have 34 of his carries wiped off the books just to reach league average in yards per carry; In other words, 16% of his carries.
Numbers are our friend. Don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.