Fantasy Football: Avoiding Missteps

Fantasy football is fun, challenging, and a great excuse to get together with your friends for a little friendly competition. It also keeps things interesting throughout the season. For example, when there’s a Thursday night game that may not normally garner your interest, having one of your players going for your fantasy team instantly makes the game a must watch. It also gives you a rooting interest if your NFL team starts to see its season slip away.

To make the most of the fantasy season, do your homework. While reading what experts and fantasy football writers have to say can be a great resource, forming your own opinions based upon the information you gather should be your goal. Owners should build their own rankings tailored to their league’s specific settings.

There are a few things I have learned in my ten plus years playing fantasy football that I would like to share with you: avoiding these pitfalls can help you to have your fantasy team going in the right direction.

Don’t be the person who “wins” on draft night.

Fantasy football leagues are never won on draft night but they can be lost. Don’t be the owner who is looking for the “oohs” and “ahhhs” from league mates after making a selection. Often times the boring players that consistently produce in fantasy are what leads you to a title run. I’m not saying avoid upside plays entirely but minimizing risk should be one of the goals on draft day. Avoid the pitfalls that I have fallen into in previous seasons.

Owners will get excited about players with tremendous upside, and sleepers that they have been tracking all off-season. Then they will build a team comprised of lottery tickets and think, “If this guy is X, Y and Z, then there is no way I can lose.” Those teams are are of injuries and disappointment, leaving owners scavenging the waiver wire for stability.

Take it from an owner who has personally fallen victim to this strategy. A few years ago I thought I was the smartest owner in my longtime fantasy football league. I was going to show everyone how much I knew by being creative with my draft strategy. It was 2012 and I was going to corner the tight end market by selecting both Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in the first two rounds.

I drafted these studs in 2010 thinking I'd outsmart my league. Turns out, I took too many risks

I drafted these studs in 2010 thinking I’d outsmart my league. Turns out, I took too many risks


This strategy alone wouldn’t have been that crazy. I just needed both Graham and Gronkowski to be elite pass catchers to maximize the value I thought I was getting. Looking back, it would have been fine assuming I was more conservative the rest of the way. Had I gone with stability over “upside” with my other draft picks and used my tight ends as the upside plays I could have had a dynamic team that could have contended for a championship.

The problem was, I continued to take risks. In the third round I selected Michael Vick. I assumed he could rebound from his 2011 season and do something similar to his 2010 season. If he bounced back with numbers close to 2010, I had already won my league. However Vick only played 10 games and under performed expectations. The gambler in me didn’t stop there. I found a way to get both Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray on my roster. The poster children for injury risk. If you are keeping score, I have now taken 4 players who were perennially injured. Minimizing risk was the farthest thing from my mind.

The biggest lesson from this season was an understanding of providing balance to my roster. Taking multiple gambles, especially in the early rounds, is recipe for disaster. Owners must go for safety and consistency in the early rounds. As the draft goes along, taking a gamble on players minimizes the risk and gives you the ability to recover if said player does not work out.

Understand who is in your league

Understanding who is in your league can be provide owners with a tremendous advantage. Know the websites the other owners in your league use for research and the websites they use (MyFantasyLeagues, ESPN, Yahoo) for their fantasy leagues. Their rankings are often influenced by whichever site they use. You may find that a player you are high on is rated much lower on that site. This will allow you to wait on said player and gain additional value for your team. Knowing which teams the people in your league root for can also be an advantage.

Know who the players in your league cheer for, it can give you an edge. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Know who the players in your league cheer for, it can give you an edge. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If you are in a league full of Chicago Bears fans for example, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, and Jay Cutler may go higher that they typically do. This can help you land value as the draft rolls along.

In season adjustments

Your work is no where close to over after draft. In fact it has just begun. Leagues are often won and lost based upon finding a stud on the waiver wire or making a trade that improves your team.

I highly recommend creating a list of players that you think have potential but for one reason or another you did not end up with. Pay attention to how they do as the season goes along. If you see a receiver’s targets start to climb significantly, it may mean they are poised to break out. Oftentimes young receivers have to earn the trust of the coaching staff and quarterback. A spike in targets usually means the trust is being earned in games and practices. Being able to claim a player a week or two before they emerge gives owners a tremendous advantage.

Patience is a key as well, both with players you own and players you can potentially trade for. If there was a player you loved coming into the season but for one reason or another they have yet to produce, don’t be quick to click the drop button. In fact, owners who are quick to panic are great trade partners. They often get frustrated with under performing players and will give them away at a massive discount.

Understanding where your players are is pivotal as well. If you own a player that dominated inferior opponents but has a rough stretch the rest of the way, you should be proactive and look to move players who may decline as the season progresses. Understand I’m not saying to trade them away for anything. Make sure you get value for your player. Often times selling a player you believe is over-performing for a struggling superstar, you feel can bounce back often mean the difference between a good team and a championship team.


Value comes in many forms. When assessing trades and whether you should pull the trigger, don’t simply look at player X versus player Y. While a valuable receiver versus an above average tight end might not be “fair” in a vacuum, if the receiver sits on your bench constantly and you can upgrade your tight end slot for the rest of the season, the deal suddenly makes much more sense.

Fantasy owners need to prepare for their draft, know their competition, and avoid pitfalls. Owners that do will have their team heading for a fantasy championship. Make sure you stay active in your leagues, talk smack and most importantly have fun.

After all, it is a game.


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