In 2013, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that more than 32 million Americans play fantasy football, each one looking for an edge over the competition. Every major sports media outlet has hired more and more staff dedicated to fantasy sports. And articles, sections, and even entire issues of magazines and online publications dedicated to the fantasy aspect of every player in the NFL. That means there’s more and more information available to the fantasy team manager than ever before.
But with so much data out there, it can be hard to know what to focus on — especially if you’re not doing so well in the middle of the fantasy football season. So I’m here to help! Here are my tips to keep your team at the top of your league — or to dig it out of a hole.
Don't be afraid to play the waiver wire
The biggest mistake fantasy team managers make is keeping a player in their starting lineup, or even on their bench, that hasn't been producing based on the player’s name, the player’s projection, or in the hope that eventually the player will have a “breakout” week. Don’t make the same mistake. The best option when a player is underperforming is to drop them. In every league, sleeper players are floating around as free agents. They can quietly provide solid or even above-average numbers. Don't be afraid to quit on a player sooner rather than later.
Take a “buy low, sell high” approach on the waiver wire and in trades
Chances are, if a player has a “breakout” week, they won't be able to match those numbers two weeks in a row. (The one exception to this rule is in surefire stars that put up outstanding numbers every week. Look no further than Julio Jones for a prime example this season.) When looking to add a player, make sure that he has either been giving solid production all season or has been improving slightly in recent weeks. When dealing with trades, try to sell players when their value is highest: after their “breakout” week. You should be able to get a fair return for them, and chances are their production will decline over the rest of the season.
A good supporting cast is essential
If a receiver has above-average talent but doesn't have anyone to throw to them, do they really have fantasy value? The answer is always no. In receivers, think about several factors of the team they're on. Is the quarterback good enough to get them the ball? Is the team more run-based or pass-based? Are other receivers on the team taking away throws? Is the team’s receiving corps so weak that the player will draw double-coverage? Many of the same questions can be asked for tight ends, running backs (addressing the lineman and other backs around them), and quarterbacks (addressing the receiving corps, running backs, and lineman).
Spread your players around many teams
Specifically, your quarterback, receivers, and tight ends. If your quarterback has a bad game or is struggling, his receivers and tight ends will also suffer. Starting two players on a single team can pay off with double points on a good day, but it also risks serious underperformance from both, which can dig you in a serious hole in your weekly matchup.
Place importance on a player’s opponent
A team has defense on the field for one reason: to limit the other team’s offense. Before starting any player on any given week, be sure to look at their opponent and do some research on them. If a team has an exceptional front seven, it may not be wise to start a running back against them. The same goes for a team that has an exceptional secondary with receivers. Don’t forget to examine the matchups around the player, too. A receiver can’t catch passes if his quarterback is constantly being sacked, and a running back can’t run if his line breaks down.
Keep these tips in mind, and fantasy football success is right around the corner!
Photos: Weston Kenney/AP (Jones), Jim Rogash/Getty Images (Patriots)