The Ultimate Guide to Fantasy Football

We are entering the dog days of summer which means two things: NFL Training Camps are about to start and Fantasy Football drafts are right around the corner. I had been making some notes for a FF blog but Bill Simmon’s latest article inspired me to bite the bullet and crank one out. Seriously, who has a cooler job than this guy? His proclamation that we are “not allowed to complain about four things in life: nudity, free food, free drinks and fantasy football” literally had me laughing out loud alone in an empty house.

I have one caveat with this post, if you compete in ANY of my fantasy leagues this Blog is NOT for your eyes. Divert your eyes immediately and if you read this just know that you can forget about Purgatory your soul is going straight to Hell. Good, now that that’s out there lets lighten the mood and get on with it.

My first year playing FF was my senior year of high school during the 2001 season. I finished 3rd that year in a season scared by a scandal in which the best players on one guy’s team were systemically distributed to two other player’s teams. That’s my side of the story anyways. Scandals like this, one-sided trades, and message board boasts are what makes FF so exciting. These things are inevitable. If you are thinking about taking up FF know this: Nobody makes friends playing FF.

So why in the hell would I be any kind of authority on FF? I, aka Cowboys4Ever, have had my fair share of success in the FF world. My first year I finished 3rd. Then I went three straight years winning FF championships. According to Yahoo I have earned trophies in 7 of my 10 seasons in various leagues. My streak ended last year with another 3rd place finish. I decided to give everyone else a break to keep them interested. Yes that is me talking smack, more on this later.

If you are going to play FF do it right. First things first, a live draft is crucial. The draft is the most exciting thing in fantasy football and a computer automated draft of preselected draft sheets takes away all the fun. If you absolutely cannot get everyone together because of geographic reasons instant messaging is a good substitutde. Absolute worst case scenario email but this is very slow and I’ve only done this once. No Individual Defensive Players(IDPs). Definetely go with Team Defenses but if you must go with IDPs IDPBlitz.com is what you are looking for. Play your championship in Week 16. There is nothing worse than riding Curtis Martin to a breakout season only to have him sit in Week 17 because it is a meaningless game for the Jets. People who don’t keep up with their teams make no fun and are usually the source of scandal bc they don’t take it seriously. I suggest not inviting these people back or employing a 3 Strikes and You’re Out rule.
The two league setups that I like break down like this. The best setup is to have 8 teams, you play everybody exactly twice, no byes, top 4 make the playoffs which you play in Weeks 15 and 16. The next best setup is to have 14 teams, you play everybody exactly once, top 6 make the playoffs, top two get first round byes, the playoffs last Weeks 14-16.

Okay now that you have your league set up for a great season here is a guide to the Top 10 things to do to win your league.

10 Dont draft a kicker. Every year I see people draft Venatari, Vanderjagt, or Elam is the 10th round and you want to say something but you don’t. Kicker is the most unusual position because the best player rarely gets the most points. How do you predict if a team is going to be settling for a ton of FGs instead of TDs? Last year the top 3 kickers in our league were Neil Rackers, Jay Feely, and Shayne Graham. How many of you drafted them? How many had even heard of Rackers of Graham? They are too unpredictable and the point differential, atleast in our league ,is too narrow to waste a draft pick.

9 Be conscience of bye weeks but dont let it make your decision. If you can pick up Drew Brees as a starter regardless if he has the same bye week as your starter you never know when your starter is going to go down and worst case scenario you have some good trade bait.

8 Look for reasons why a player can be stopped and leave yourself outs. In poker they always talk about leaving yourself outs i.e. don’t put all your stock in one idea that has a possibility of failig. Here is a freebie that breaks Rule #7 but hey I am a nice guy. Most people are trying to decide who is the top 2006 FF player between Shaun Alexander, Ladanian Tomlinson, and Larry Johnson with about 90% going the way of Larry Johnson. LJ will fall off in his encore to maybe the most amazing 7 game stretch in history. You will realize this when you ask what is preventing a defense from stacking up and taking him out of the game? Gonzo coming off the worst season of his career? If KC picks up Ashley Lelie then maybe but until then I want a guy with some outs.

7 Don’t tip your hand on anything. Draft and free agent pickups are a chess game. The more you talk about who you like and who you are watching the more you show. (Unless of course you are using reverse psychology and you intentionally put info out there bc you have the #3 pick and you want Larry Johnson to fall to you at #3 ;-).)

6 Talk trash. Talk lots of trash. This will make things much more fun and interesting. Even if you are playing for a pot, in the end bragging rights are what matters most. FF will be more enjoyable if you don’t let yourself realize that there is a significant amont of luck involved and this is actually probably a huge waste of time. Don’t be that guy who rationalizes his failures with “Hey I have a life” or “Some of us have a job”. Just take it on the chin and fire back on the message board.    

5 Contract year players. “Rule #1 Never underestimate the other guys greed”. Last year the discussion for the #1 pick was between Shaun Alexander and LT. The deciding factor for me in putting Alexander at the top of my board was that he was in the last year of his contract and he was teething to get paid. The result? An NFL record 27 TDs and a throw back FF type season ala Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk of yesteryear. Contract year guys can backfire if you end up with a weenie who is more concerned with staying healthy then putting up sic numbers. The magic formula is a cocksure blinged out ex-Miami player. These guys are the Tony Montanas of the FF world. Two Scarface references in one bullet, wow.

4 Build with Running Backs, Running Backs, and more Running Backs. They are the most consistent, most predictable, and in 90% of leagues they will score the most points.

3 Draft and build your team for the FF playoffs. Last year was the first year I looked at a player’s schedule for Weeks 14, 15, and 16. If you are thinking about gearing your team around Peyton Manning and in December he is playing on the road, in the cold, against hard-nosed, rough-and-tumble, 3-4 blitz-crazy defenses like Pittsburgh or New England then stop.

2 Don’t take advice 99% of the guys on TV and the magazines are trash. They either are toeing the line and not providing any value that differentiates them or they are making wreckless predictions with no rhyme or reason to get their name out there. How can you advise me if you don’t know A) How points are allotted in my league B) How many teams are in my league and C) What depth I already have at that position.

1 Understand the concept of value When I started using this philsophy is when I started drafting smart and winning. Lets say you are ready to pick Peyton #1 and you predict he will pull down 100 pts this year. LT is second on your list but you only expect him to pull down 85 pts. Do not make a decision based on this alone! Numerically determine every player’s value. Lets say there are 8 people in your league. You expect the 8th best QB to be Michael Vick with 90 pts. You expect the 8th best RB to be Warrick Dunn with 45 pts. Passing on Manning you potentially give up 10 points of value but passing on LT you potentially give up 40 points of value. In short if a position has depth fill another position before there is that huge drop off.

-hj

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