Earlier this month I wrote an article tailored for people looking to get into fantasy football, including advice on where to set up a league and the basics for drafting a successful team. As a follow up, I thought it would be fitting to write a piece for experienced fantasy players looking for an edge to put them over the top.
Defensive Free Agent Moves
Most fantasy football players know that a strong free agent pick-up can be the difference between winning a league and finishing out of the playoffs. Just ask those fortunate souls who were lucky enough to pick up Miles Austin in 2009 as he erupted for 12 straight solid fantasy performances.
Another important use of the free agent pool is to pick up players for defensive purposes as a way to keep an opponent from getting a much needed positional play. For example, it can be very beneficial for an owner to pick up a valuable free agent to stash on their bench, even if that owner does not have a current need at that position. The negative effect of the move on your competitor will result in a positive effect for you, as that owner will not be able to use that player against you in a given week. I have used this strategy extensively, especially when a stud running back goes down and the owner of that player does not have the back up or “handcuff” on their bench. I will jump on the chance of picking up the back-up even if I am deep at running back, just for the simple purpose of hurting my opponent. Some may view this tactic as dirty play, but I think it is an important strategy that must be used if you want to win your league.
Drafting for Depth
A common drafting method used by most fantasy players is to draft the best available player to fill out empty spots on a roster. Once the two running back positions have been filled, these owners then move to tight ends, quarterbacks, and wide receivers, drafting the best available player to fill in empty slots. This strategy works well for beginners, and assures that the owner will have decent players at all positions.
I prefer to draft for value, even if it means taking 4 straight running backs while waiting to fill the other spots of my roster. Drafting for depth gives owners two important benefits. First, it gives the owner depth in the event of injury, something that is all but a given in the NFL. Secondly, it gives owners leverage to make deals to trade for need. This of course assumes that you are in a league with people willing to trade.
Pay Close Attention to Playoff Matchups
Most fantasy football leagues hold their fantasy playoffs in week 15 and 16 of the NFL regular season, in response to NFL teams resting players who have already clinched playoff positions. Skilled fantasy football players understand that some teams like the Colts may clinch a playoff birth long before week 17, and may limit their stars’ play earlier than others. Owners need to keep a close eye on how their fantasy player’s teams are playing, while making trades and free agent moves to help mitigate their risk of having a stud not play in the playoffs.
Playoff matchups should also be a factor when making trades and free agent moves during the regular season. For example, a close trade may be worth making if the player you receive in the deal has an excellent Super Bowl matchup. In addition, free agents may be worth picking up later in the season with the sole purpose of exploiting an excellent playoff matchup. I did this last year with Alex Smith of the 49ers, with Smith carrying my team to a Super Bowl win despite Smith having little value for most of the season.
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