Seven years ago, I was lucky enough to be introduced to fantasy football by fellow Low Upsider, Craig Horlbeck, and from the get-go I was hooked. I loved every second of my draft, even though I had no idea what I was doing. My blind drafting was validated with blind luck a few months later when I won my first-ever week of fantasy football. But I quickly learned how cruel fantasy can be, as I went on to experience that winning feeling only four of the next 13 games, and finished 9th in our ten-man league.
Since then, I’ve gone through the best and worst feelings in fantasy, and have learned a ton along the way. Some of these lessons are strategy-based, but the philosophical have been just as, if not more important. I want to share some of these lessons with the hope that this year of fantasy can be the most enjoyable one for you yet.
And, yeah, I could’ve probably used those thousands of hours of learning on something more productive, but shut up.
1. Quarterbacks Don’t Matter Much
This is going to be the only bit of actual fantasy advice that I give. In real football, there is nothing more important than a drafting a good quarterback. Two out of three of the first picks in this year’s draft were signal callers, and if Gettleman weren’t a stubborn ass, it would have been three for three. Fantasy is a little different.
There are several numbers to suggest that quarterback should be one of your last areas of focus, but I’ll try and keep it to this one: 12. That is the number of starting quarterbacks in the NFL who are startable in one week of fantasy, while the other 20 are either on a team’s bench or sitting there on the waiver wire. This means the pickings are always going to be much larger on a week-to-week basis. I know it seems risky, and the idea of skimping on someone who can score 17-20 points per game for you is scary, but give it a try one year. Instead of reaching for Aaron Rodgers in the second round, boost your receiving core; don’t take Kirk Cousins in the sixth, but instead go for your second RB, or even a solid flex. You may find yourself with a league-winning late-round quarterback (Carzon Wentz) or even a steal off waivers in the middle of the season (DeShaun Watson).
2. Do What You Can To Have A Live Draft
Life is complicated: work happens, people move, some even get married. I understand that it isn’t easy to organize an in-person draft, but it is oh-so worth it. There is no better day of the year than draft day, and doing it with your buddies with a beer in hand is unmatched. You can feel the anxiety clouding the room, only for it to dissipate when everyone collectively shits on the most recent draft pick in a fashion that a chat room can’t do justice. Make it happen and enjoy every second of it. But if you really want to enjoy it…
2B. Have An Auction Draft
This lesson has been one of the most incredible additions to my fantasy football agenda. Auction draft is exactly what it sounds like: everyone in your league has a certain budget, each person announces a player, and the bidding ensues. Each bid comes with a subsequent “Going once, going twice…” from either the commissioner or the app you decide to use. And the tension is maddening.
A snake draft is cool; knowing that you will probably get Antonio Brown at the five spot, and then trying to predict who you’ll snag over the next few rounds is a fun little thing that can build anticipation for weeks prior to the draft. But if you’re getting Antonio Brown, you can kiss your chances at Odell Beckham goodbye. And vice-versa if you’re sitting in the 12 spot, and were hoping for one of the Big Four RBs. Unless one of your leaguemates make the biggest fuck up in fantasy history, that’s not going to happen.
But with auction, everyone is there for the taking. Want Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley? Pony up the cash and they’re all yours. Thought you were a lock to get Martavis Bryant this year? Only if you’re willing to outbid your friend who just dropped $30 on him.
Auction is wildly unpredictable, and you’ll need to give it your undivided attention for the entire draft. No bong breaks, no pizza runs, even trips to the bathroom require your laptop, because you never know when your friend is going to bid on your favorite player, and if you miss it, or if you hesitate for a second too long, too bad.
Take your favorite league, suggest they try auction for one year, and thank me later.
3. Embrace The Luck
I’m not telling you to take Indianapolis’ quarterback (HAHAHAHAHA), but to understand that luck is going to have a huge impact on your fantasy team, maybe more than anything else. I know you did your research on Kareem Hunt before last year’s draft, but there’s no way in hell you thought he was going to be a top-five RB. So quit telling your friends otherwise.
The same thing goes when your friend gets lucky and Antonio Gates scores his first two touchdowns of the season against you. As much as you want to be petty and tell them the only reason they won is because of luck, remember that Antonio Brown took a tipped pass off Phillip Gaines for a 49-yard touchdown last week.
Which also means sometimes luck is just going to fuck you (seriously, everyone of those words links to a season-ending injury). Embrace it, because while thriving off of it is one thing, figuring out how to get past it is one of the best parts of fantasy football.
4. Not Every Play Is Going To Go To Your Guy
This is for the newbies in particular. You know him, and you’ve been him. Every single play of the game goes something like this:
“C’mon, Carson!! Throw it to Larry! Throw it to Larry! He’s fucking wide open c’mon!!”
*dump off to Andre Ellington*
“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT??? LARRY WAS WIDE OPEN! FUCK!!!”
*next play* “
Alright, c’mon! This play better go to Larry…”
*throws it to downfield to John Brown for a 42-yard touchdown*
“God FUCKING dammit!! Larry was literally right there on the other side of the field!! What a fucking dumb play.”
Chill. Bruce Arians is trying to win a game, not your fantasy league. Some plays will go to your guy, others won’t. You can’t expect every week to end with a 62-322-3 statline.
And for the love of god, stop yelling at your mom.
5. Go With Your Gut
Rotoworld. 4For4. ESPN. Fuckin’….other guys. There are so many goddamn options, and when it’s 9:45 a.m. on a Sunday, it can be really hard to figure out whose advice to take for your Flex. Yeah, Mike Wallace has been a top-24 receiver the last three weeks, but Evan Silva says that Jalen Ramsey is going to shadow him all day. Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen has been averaging 22.3 yards a game this season, but John Paulsen says he’s due to blow up against the depleted Cardinals defense. There are hundreds of opinions to follow, and if it doesn’t go according to plan then you’re going to give one of these “experts” 280 characters of your nerd-filled wrath.
I’ve realized over the years that more often than not, I already know who I want to start. You can feel it in your stomach when you set your starting lineup. It’s subtle, but it’s there. See how you feel when you click “Save changes” with Willie Snead in your lineup because Matthew Berry has him in his top-30. If you feel like you’re doing it out of obligation, you can tell.
Roll with your gut. It has the most rewarding feeling when it works, and you know you trusted the process when it doesn’t.
6. Move On From Your Guys
Second-year players in particular, please take note, but this is one that I still struggle with to this day. I know you watched Jarvis Landry more than anyone last year. You saw his ability to get open, his decent mid-air adjustments, his underrated redzone prowess. But trust me, other players are doing this too. Maybe not exactly as I just described, but everyone is far more impressive when you actually watch their stats in real-time instead of on the Yahoo! App.
It can be hard to move on from the guy who did well for you, and even harder to give a second chance to someone who underperformed, but you really need to take it one year at a time. Fantasy football is a fickle mistress, and you should be no different with your past players.
7. Talk Your Shit
This one I just picked up last year, and I’m so glad I did. I always talked my trash after winning, or early in the season before a snap has been taken, but on a week-to-week basis, I was always afraid to run my mouth. Fantasy is centered around luck, and it’s easy to mistake that luck for karma. A lot of owners, myself included, don’t want to talk shit because they feel like as soon as they boast about LeSean McCoy, his knee is guaranteed to buckle. I’m here to tell you that Shady’s meniscus doesn’t give a shit about what you said to your friend this Wednesday.
When going against your undefeated friend in week 9, it really is so much more fun to go into that week after guaranteeing that you’re going to kick his overrated team’s ass. Or if your friend who won the league last year is 2-7 this season and you’re playing him this week, you better be letting him have it. Not only are your pouring gasoline on the fire if you beat him, there’s now an added tension in the slight chance that he beats you by 40 this week. My only rule is to believe what you’re saying, otherwise your trash talk really doesn’t mean anything.
Talk your shit and create a whole new level of competition to fantasy football.