This is it, the last week or so of heavy duty fantasy football drafting. The offseason feels longer than ever — but it’s all a labor of love.
If you were headed into a draft in 30 minutes and just had a few moments for some advice, a tip, some “swing thoughts” from a caddy — here’s what I might tell you. (As always, your mileage will vary, you know your league better than I do, and of course it’s all contextual — that’s the understood disclaimer to any general discussion we have.)
If you’re looking for a deeper dive on the latest player and team situations, we have you covered there, too.
The Obvious Stuff
• You have to know your rules backwards and forwards. This is so blatantly obvious, I feel sheepish even saying it. But if you’re in as many leagues as I am, it’s not always obvious what the rules are. Do your homework.
• A plan is good, but keep it in pencil. Stay flexible. The only unbreakable rule is no unbreakable rules.
• Listen to all you respect, but make your own decisions. It’s YOUR team. You’re the guy or girl who has to like it.
• My fantasy football experience goes back to the mid-90s. I’ve never seen a year with amazing quarterback depth like we have in 2018. If you’re in a start-one QB league, I beg you, play the value game. You will never feel “stuck” at quarterback.
• Sometimes a too-cute owner will stockpile quarterbacks with the idea that you can trade one from a position of strength. That almost never works, and the surplus is meekly cut soon thereafter.
• I’ll glance at snap counts and shares in-season, but what I mostly care about is how someone is used when they play. And when a part-timer starts to produce, it’s usually reasonable to expect a role increase. The takeaway: if someone is producing but on less-than-full snaps, I don’t care about the latter point. They’re producing.
The Golden Rule
• Play fantasy football with a microscope, not a telescope. Play for Today. Look at the current slate, and short look-aheads. We’ll worry about the playoff weeks later (hopefully, when we’re 6-2 and sitting pretty.) It’s a mistake to try to win Week 15 in August. Win the first month. Win the first game. I can’t say this enough — so much is going to radically change. Live in the present.
• Any strategy can work if you pick the right players, but I want one of my first two picks to be a running back, if possible and if reasonable.
• Wide receiver is deep as usual, but remember some of the guys who are easy to pick in the middle rounds might not be easy to start. Running back is my main priority at the top, but I don’t want to completely tank on receivers, either.
• I don’t draft into injury problems unless I get a significant discount. Some of you have heard me say this 1,000 times. It means, sadly, I do not have any recent Doug Baldwin shares. The market, at least where I have been, has not adjusted.
First thing you do for an online draft is scribble down all the names you think are grossly underranked. You could also queue them, but I don’t like to do too much of that, because I want the better talent visible in queue. Anyway, know where buried treasure is. Awareness is key.
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) September 1, 2018
• If an NFL team has a nothing set of tight ends, don’t let wide receiver gridlock spook you. The Lions are the cleanest example of this.
• If I’m starting any kind of a new league, it’s a multiple-flex league where one of those flexes can also be a quarterback. So, basically, a two-QB league. I also like leagues that start a bunch of players and have modest benches — the more difficult choices a league asks me to make, the more I like it. And with heavy starting requirements, one outlier performance (good or bad) doesn’t automatically swing the result.
• I want a fast start. I want leverage. I want to be aggressive early with waivers. And I view bye weeks as a fantastic opportunity to improve my winning chances, both short-term and long-term. (Your first extensive league audit should coincide with the first bye week, Week 4.)
• I like to put at least one “points scored” team in the playoffs, manually, no matter the won/loss record. Yes, Yahoo’s game allows the commish to do this.
• If you can find someone who shares your NFL world-view, partnering up is practically a cheat code. And you’ll always have someone else who cares about your team, and someone to share the grunt-work with. (If you’re not going to have a co-owner, at least identify 2-3 good friends you can discuss stuff with, privately. We all need someone to hash stuff out with; to talk us out of an occasional bad idea; to tell us the truth, as they see it, in blunt terms.)
• As soon as the real games start, I’ll divorce myself from preseason thoughts quickly. Consider the new information. Play the new position. Anchoring old opinions tied to dated information is the ultimate dinosaur move. Play For Today is as much about not looking back as it is not looking too far ahead.
Did I miss your favorite player or biggest conundrum? Hit me up on Twitter: @scott_pianowski