If you are anything like me, the month of July is the worst for sports. Over the years, I have started using this month to start with my prep work for Fantasy Football. Now, who am I to give out fantasy football advice? Well, I started playing fantasy football back in 1997 where you had to open up the Monday morning newspaper and fill out your score card for the week and submit them to the commissioner’s office via phone. We’ve come a long way since those days. I have learned a lot of things along the way and fantasy football has changed just as football has changed over the years.
So who is this Fantasy Football guide for? Honestly, it’s for everyone. I’m going to be breaking things down to the most simplest form. These are principles I’ve used over the years that have always kept my teams competitive. Have I won every year? Absolutely not! There is nothing like having your stud first round running back go down week 2 and then half your team is listed as doubtful that you can barely submit a lineup. Injuries or freak things happen throughout the year. But with these principles and a little lucky, you can compete with the most seasoned player.
Before I get started, I do need to give a special thanks to John and Tom at Romp’s Water Port on Lake Erie. You two were my early teachers in the world of fantasy football. Having talks and hearing the different stories over the course of those summers are things I’ll never forget.
Principle 1: Know the league you are playing in!
This is more important part of playing fantasy football because it will drive the every other part of your fantasy strategy. Are you in a standard league (does not give a points for receptions) or a PPR League (gives a point for reception)? Does your league does IDP (Individual Defensive Players) or Team Defenses? How many teams are in the league (8 to 14)? Who makes the playoffs and what week does the playoff starts? Does the league give unlimited transactions or do you have to pay for each add/drop (I don’t like playing in leagues without unlimited transactions)? All of these questions are going to determine the strategy that you will be using.
Personally, I don’t like to play in a league with more than 12 players and that does not give at least a half-point per reception. Also, I need to know at least half of the people that are in the league. This allows you to know how much trash-talking you can pull off. If you are in a league with your buddies, I highly advise watching The League from FX to learn how to properly trash talk in your league. If you are in a league with your significant other’s father, stick to corny dad joke insults. If you know the people in the league, you can make side wages when you play each other. Some fun ones I’ve used: Winner picks the loser’s team name for a week. Loser buys a round that next week. I try to keep it classy.
Picking a team name is the next important thing. You have three lines of thinking: 1. Something that makes it unique to you. My buddy Ryan routinely used The Pumpout Stinkers. I told you I worked at a Marina growing up. Or if you won the previous year, take your team name as an opportunity to remind other players who is the champion! 2. Make it Phunny. These are usually team names that involve a current football player. There are a bunch of them online. You can use Rolling with Mahommes or Brady’s Bunch. It’s usually best if you have one of these players on your team. I do have a special spot for my brother in law’s team name: Hold my Vick. 3. Oh you are THAT team. These are usually your offensive team names that you usually find at Trivia Night at the local dive bar. Please make sure that members of your league are OK with you using these names. Some people can get easily offended if you use these names. I would always check with the commissioner before you give your team that name.
Fantasy Football League Prep Sheet
Teams in the League: Standard or PPR:Def/IDP:
Playoffs Start:Teams in Playoffs:Championship Week:
Principle 2: Know your scoring system!
We’ve already talked about knowing the difference between standard scoring vs. PPR leagues, but you also need to know about how other positions are viewed. The most common difference between fantasy football leagues is how many points a Quarterback will get per passing touchdown. It can differ from 3 pts to 6 pts per touchdown. The common scoring is for a touchdown pass being worth 4 pts. This is because a solid Quarterback will throw close to 30 touchdowns. The higher point value can put a great emphasis on Quarterback play.
Let’s take a player comparison: Dalvin Cook for the Vikings had 16 Rushing Touchdowns and 1557 total yards. In most leagues (6pts per rushing td and 1pt per 10 yards rushing), Dalvin Cook earn 251.7 points for the season. If we talk about averages per game, that’s roughly 15.7 points per game. Dalvin Cook is considered to be a top tier running back in the 2021 season. But how is that similar to a Quarterback? In the same league, the scoring is 4pts per touchdown pass and 1pt per 25 yards passing. If a Quarterback throws for 3,000 yards (not difficult anymore) and 32 Touchdowns, it would be very similar to Dalvin Cook’s numbers. So why is the conventional wisdom to draft running backs early? It’s because there were 9 Quarterbacks that threw for more than 31 touchdowns and well over 3,000 yards for the 2020 season! Only the monster named Derrick Henry had better stats than Dalvin Cook. That means it’s easier to get great stats from a Quarterbacks in a later round of the draft than it is from a running backs.
The other thing to consider is the point per reception. If you are getting a full point per reception, Stephan Diggs got 127 points before touchdowns and yards are taken into the equation. The more of a full point makes the value of pass catchers more valuable. Ideally, you want a running back that will catch the ball out of the back field and get the majority of rushing touches. These players can lead you straight to a fantasy football championship. Some fantasy hall of fame players that are like this: Marshall Faulk, Ladainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes and Le’Veon Bell. Two most common players in this coming season that fit that mold of a player are Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. Both of these players are coming off injury but should fit in the grand scheme of pass catching running back. Fans of teams that complain that their Quarterback just “dinks and dunks” the ball down the field, usually means that the running back has some fantasy value.
Principle 3: STAY TRUE TO YOUR DRAFT BOARD!
I know I sound like an NFL GM after the real draft, but there is truth to these statements! Prior to every draft, I build myself a list of the top 36 players. I take these 36 players and I rate them into groups of 12. Think of it as giving a round 1, round 2 and round 3 grade. By the time I get to the 4th round, I have 3 players that I think are really ready to contribute to my team. Depending on how the draft plays out, I may get two players that I have a round 1 grade on because another fantasy GM “reached” for a player. In my mind, I never reach for a player because my board states that player is in this tier. So how do I break down my tiers?
Tier 1 players to me are team cornerstones. I play in full point PPR leagues. My tier 1 is mainly pass catching running backs and elite primary wide receivers. People ask me if they should put an Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahommes, or Lamar Jackson in their tier 1? My initial answer is NO! But there are exceptions. How many points does your league give for touchdown passes? If Mahommes passes for 50 scores and your league gives 6 points per touchdown, then it makes some sense to take Mahommes in the first round. Does your league give a bonus for Quarterbacks rushing for 100 yards or a rushing TD? Then Lamar Jackson makes some sense with a first round pick. In the most leagues that I’m involved with, I tend to wait on my QB or look for that late round flyer to take that is a gamble. Waiting a little on a quarterback allows me to load up on my other positions.
After three rounds, I want my team to look like this: At least 1 lead running back, at least 1 primary receiving target (can be a tight end, but it better be Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle) and a player that I’m excited I got. This player is usually someone who dropped that I didn’t expect to be available at the end of round 2 or early round 3. In the end, I STAY TRUE TO MY BOARD. I trust the research I’ve done in the weeks leading up. Which player is in a contract year? Which team has drafted a young player to come replace the aging vet? Who hired a new coordinator due to the old one getting a head coaching position? I don’t let these things drive my decision, but I will take them into consideration.
These are my main things I look for heading into Fantasy Football Season. As we get closer to the season, I will be working on a Top 100 and considering putting together a Tier System for people to try out. At the end of the day, Fantasy Football is supposed to be a fun activity that provides us with an escape from everyday life. Do your work and have some fun with the prep. It’s a lot more fun when you are winning. Plus, if you are ever in Vermilion, a small town in northern Ohio, stop by a little Ice Cream stand called Dairy Dock. You might not learn anything about fantasy football, but at least it’s damn good ice cream.