We made it, everyone! The NFL Season is upon us… I hope you’re all as excited I am. As the offseason finally draws to a close, here are my 10 best NFL Fantasy Tips. Some are for before the season starts and some will kick in once the regular season begins.
Hopefully, these tips will help you, some are aimed at newer players, but there are a couple of slightly more advanced bits of advice too. Enjoy.
1 – Prepare, prepare, prepare
If you’re reading this article, you’re already doing this one. By far the most important thing you can do is get comfortable and feel prepared, before your draft. Reading up on players is a great start. Find some rankings, or make your own, like I do! [My rankings can be found here: QB / RB / WR / TE]
Once you know what players you want and have a solid feel for the guys you like most, you are ready to go to the final – and most beneficial – stage of preparation.
2 – Mock Draft
This is the most important part, in my opinion. You can know who you like and in what order you rank people, but there’s something invaluable about getting some mock drafts in and seeing it play out in real time. Mock drafting is the best way to experience what your real draft will be like. You get to feel out what the opportunities will be like in each and every round for different players. There will be picks that stand out to you as good value in certain rounds, that you can be looking out for. You also get to experience what the process is for building a team.
Start from the position in the draft you’ve been assigned in your draft [always ask your commissioner nicely if they’d be happy to randomise the draft order in advance!] and you can discover a few different versions of how you’ll start – whether you like going RB RB, RB WR, or an early TE etc – and work out how the rest of your draft will play out after that. The key thing is to have experience with the draft board and get used to the process. If I could only recommend one thing, this is it.
3 – Get your guys!
Fantasy Football is great fun, rooting for more players and encouraging you to watch more football. It’s the best. You do have to root for them, though, so go and get the guys you want! If you draft just based on rankings and don’t throw in any players you specifically like, you miss out on the fun of fantasy.
I’m a Raiders fan, but I absolutely love watching certain players from other teams, so I will draft some of them. For example, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Robert Woods, TJ Hockenson and a few more personal favourites. The ability to follow and support players you like adds to the fun of fantasy. Each year you will have new players to target, with a few based-on fantasy value while the rest are just your favourite players. This year I’ve drafted Jalen Hurts like five times because I think he’s being undervalued, and I drafted DeVonta Smith in one league, so now I can actually get excited about watching an Eagles game (who’d have thought!).
4 – Know your league (and league mates)
This is much easier if you’re only in one or two fantasy leagues, but it’s definitely beneficial. Knowing your league’s settings and who is in it will allow you to understand what you could do differently. Some leagues might have different scoring settings, for example, full PPR, Tight End Premium or 6pt passing TD’s. This will have an impact on your player rankings and some of the different values during the draft. Your opponents in the league can also influence your draft strategy.
Is there a die-hard Patriots fan in your league who misses Tom Brady a little too much? Does one person always seem to take a WR in the first round? Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing the people who do the most research – the most prepared people are the ones who can snipe that value pick you were trying to let slide one more round. Knowing this will always give you an edge, no matter how small. In fantasy football, any edge is valuable.
5 – Don’t assume or predict anything
Despite the preparation and knowing what players you like in what rounds, never rush your pick. After the first 10-20 picks, things start opening up, and you never know who will be there. Always take a second to look over your rankings and the players available, before locking in your pick. This practice should start in mocks. To give a practical example, if you like drafting Darren Waller with your mid-second round selection in every mock, that’s fine, but if Travis Kelce is still available when it gets to your pick, don’t second guess it because you’re used to taking Waller. Obviously, this is easier because the same position, but keep it in mind.
Don’t force yourself to take a mediocre RB3 over Davante Adams just because you’re used to taking RB’s early. Honestly, even if it’s as simple as assuming who will already be gone when your first pick comes up, try to avoid it. Yes, you can work out who you’re most likely to have, but don’t turn down a better player because you’re locked in on one pick. Always make sure you’re making the best pick in that moment, even if it slightly changes your plans.
6 – Don’t overvalue DST or Kickers
If there is one thing in fantasy football that I’ll fight to change in any league, it’s roster composition. I want more offensive players and no kicker. Kickers are a wildcard on any given week. There isn’t a skill factor to drafting a kicker, so I personally don’t bother with them in my leagues. If there is one, don’t overvalue them. Every single year you have this completely unnecessary fight over the best defenses and a good kicker. Don’t waste your time.
Now I’ll make this clear, a great defense can make a difference. A couple of years ago, I took the Patriots DST and they dominated for the first third of the season. The thing is, though, the Patriots weren’t even in the top 5 DST’s taken that year. The key isn’t to draft the best defense, it’s to find the defense with the best schedule early on. There is no point in drafting a top 3 defense in a top-10 round, in my opinion. Get one later with a couple of plus matchups early and play the weekly matchups. Don’t be scared to stream defenses off the waivers once that hot start comes to an end.
7 – Stay active!
This is by far the most important tip for fantasy football newcomers. This isn’t a passive hobby, embrace it. Get invested! On Sunday morning, spend a bit of time deciding on your lineup for the week. Watch Redzone on Sunday night. On Tuesday evening, go and look at what’s available on the waiver wire. Nobody ever wants to take an L because they didn’t check their lineup. It also facilitates the ability to stream players, especially defenses, QB’s and Tight Ends. Those who are most active will often reap the benefits from it. And not just active, but also reactive. When news breaks, be first. If a running back is banged up, look for his backup. If the star cornerback on another team is hurt, maybe promote that bench wide receiver into the starting lineup. No matter how good your team is, it can get better.
8 – Never settle with your roster
Now that was a smooth transition. I’ll say it again because it’s important, your team can always get better. You don’t win at the draft. As we just spoke about, always be active and look to improve. No draft is perfect and the players who start strong won’t necessarily carry it all year. That also means, perhaps more importantly, the people who start off bad might be poised to bounce back.
You should keep an eye on who your league mates drop or bench based on bad performance, it’s possible that you find good value. You’d be amazed. Someone in your league could drop a great player if they’re in bad form. Or, maybe if you send a trade offer for that player whose slacking, you can get a discount. The roster you draft will not be the roster that wins a championship, I promise you that. Naturally, some core pieces will remain, but if you trade the guys you feel are overperforming unreliably and you bring in players you think are going to bounce back to better production, your team will improve over the season – if you’re right, that is.
9 – Roster micromanagement [Advanced Tip]
This is one that a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to. It’s so easy to set your lineup and forget it until the points start adding up. There’s a lot more to it than that, though. On Tuesday, once a week finishes, you can throw your lineup together and consider what you want to do with the waiver wire, etc. Decide what you need to do with streaming, who has good matchups etc and who you expect to play for you. Then on Thursday is where we get to the part that not enough people do.
Here comes the pro-tip. Arrange your lineup chronologically. If you have an amazing running back in your team but he’s playing on Monday Night Football, consider who else you plan on starting, and if you’re going to put an RB in your flex, make it him. Essentially, you want to achieve maximum flexibility. If the player that is in your flex spot starts on Thursday night, you lock up the flex spot and you are completely unable to change the composition of your team. Don’t commit to something 3 days in advance. Put it as simply as this – once somebody has started for your team, they can’t be changed, so put them in a spot that can only be used for them.
The final form of this is reserved for when one of your players is questionable, but their game is later than the other players on the team. Practical example: Your best wide receiver is banged up from last week, and is designated as ‘questionable’, but he’s not playing until Sunday Night Football. In this situation, I recommend picking up another player who you could start in the same game or on MNF. You can put this player in the flex, and then you’ll be able to swap in the other player if they are confirmed to be missing the game (or if you only need a couple of points to lock in a win and don’t need to take a risk).
You’ll be thanking me for this one when someone gets injured and you’re able to quickly react and win your matchup.
10 – Enjoy!!
Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun. When you’re a fantasy veteran and you’re in loads of competitive paid leagues, maybe the competitiveness has a bit more bite to it, but enjoy it. The reason we play fantasy sports is to enhance the experience of following the sport. You will be watching games you wouldn’t usually have watched [or Redzone, I can’t recommend Redzone enough], and you will start to care more about football. You’ll be checking box scores, looking at the matchups for your players, paying more attention in the offseason, scouting this year’s rookies, and so much more. This list of tips is to try and equip you to win, but the most important part, you’ve already done. You made the jump into fantasy football! You’re going to love it.