So, you’ve finally decided to join the other 59 million Americans and Canadians and build a fantasy football league. Welcome! Depending on how well you do, this season may be the most fun or stressful 17 weeks of your year.
I’ve been an active fantasy football team owner for the last five years, with two championships to my resume. Pittsburgh’s wide receiver Antonio Brown beautifully exposed my AFC West rivals Raiders’ defense in 2015 to get me 30 points on 0 touchdowns, my highest fantasy accomplishment to date. By this point, you’ve probably familiarized yourself with your league’s scoring system, rules, and any relevant guidelines. Now all that’s left is the exciting part: the draft!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that this is where I shine. Last year, I guided a friend of mine (and first-time fantasy team owner) through her entire draft process, encouraging her to select players each week who could go toe-to-toe with the selections of her league-mates. Anyone who has given even 30 minutes to watching football over the last decade probably knows former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a walking bag of bones. Because I remember so well how Dak Prescott was a problem in his Mississippi State days and handled my beloved LSU Tigers, I knew he could compete with the best of them as a rookie.
A few more rational picks later, she too found herself in the exclusive fantasy football championship club. Follow these steps if you also want to experience victory.
Don’t Go for Sexiest Starting Lineup
You may find some peace of mind in securing your entire starting lineup before moving to your bench players, but that won’t guarantee you a championship, or even playoff contention. Even the best players get injured, underperform, or get cut and traded within the first weeks of the season. It’s essential to craft a roster built to withstand the instability of the NFL.
Let’s say your draft is in its fifth round, and you’ve selected three reliable quarterbacks and two satisfactory tight ends. You desperately need both a running back and wide receiver, but the top positional player undrafted so far is a QB. Take the QB! Every draft is different, and sometimes we won’t get our most desirable position, but don’t cripple yourself by evading crucial positions thinking this increases the value of your squad.
Mum’s the Word on Sleepers
So, you have a real intuition about a few sleepers, players who are projected to have breakout seasons, and you want to say you “drafted them when.” Keep that to yourself, my friend. Most owners are focused on securing top 10 running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers. If your sleeper player is ranked 15-20, surely by round six he’ll still be there. You don’t want to draft your sleeper too early in the draft, especially overlooking a pro-bowl starter.
Keep note of that player, and get him on your bench. Victory will taste even sweeter when he shows out midway through the season and your points start multiplying.
Don’t Draft on Emotion
One year I thought I would be funny and draft my players based on who is the most attractive at each position. While I had the most aesthetically pleasing roster, I barely made the playoffs. Turns out Emmanuel Sanders is consistently good at being handsome, just not as consistent in putting up solid numbers week by week.
The goal of fantasy football is to craft the ultimate squad based on players from all 32 teams. We get it, you’re a die-hard Falcons fan and you want Julio Jones to lead your lineup to victory. But what fun is that when you’ve already selected Matty Ice as your quarterback? Fantasy football is more exciting when you truly start imagining the thought of a powerhouse like Aaron Rodgers hurling a perfect Hail Mary to A.J. Green.
Create a Mock Draft
I went my first two years as a fantasy owner relying on my extensive football knowledge and instincts, thinking I didn’t need to do a mock draft. As I mentioned earlier, I barely crept into the playoffs. You want a team you’ll be proud of, and a mock simulation ensures that.
Furthermore, it gives you a chance to observe which players are chosen in which rounds, and that will ultimately alter how you set up your final draft. With 8-12 people playing in a league, your fellow owners will have done some research of their own. You don’t want your college buddy steamrolling over your tight end choice in the fourth round, leaving you scrambling against time without a viable back up.
Your Draft Doesn’t End Once the Squad Is Set
At this point, you’ve bossed your draft. You picked an ambitious team full of elite talent, and your opponents are green with envy. Time to sit back and watch the points roll in, right? Au contraire. If you want that hefty payout, trophy, and bragging rights, you need to treat this team as if it’s your pet. Prepare for the unexpected each week, and act accordingly.
If your third wide receiver is up against the league’s number one defense, you may want to have him sit this week out for an easier competition. Also, from weeks four to 14, certain teams will have bye weeks so you’ll have to pay attention to those empty slots and fill them based on your needs. Even missing one player in any position for one week can seriously ding your chances of making the playoffs.
For me, the most exciting part of fantasy football is trades. It gives you a chance to strengthen your roster while weakening your opponents. You want to be strategic about your trades, though. It might be tempting to accept the first offer you receive, but you’re simply playing into your rivals’ trap. Instead, capitalize on your strengths and determine if the sensible option is to walk away without cheapening your roster halfway through the season.
Fantasy football is undoubtedly a tension-filled experience, but nonetheless provides an entertaining way to watch and follow your favorite teams and players. Under zero circumstances should you abandon your draft. Don’t be that person who gives up on the entire season just because you bottled within the first week.
The beauty of football is the unpredictability of the game. The best you can do in boosting your chances of victory is to keep a watchful eye each week and make power moves. I wish you nothing but sweet success, and should this article guide you to a proper payout this year, my Venmo name is Vinciane-Ngomsi.