Cheat Sheet

Fantasy Football For Dummies

From Fantasy Football For Dummies by Martin Signore

Fantasy football is a fun, competitive, and addictive hobby. Get your fantasy season started by drafting players to build a solid team and using coaching tips to keep your team going strong. If you need to improve on a position, try some strategies for trading players and acquiring free agents. Keep a guide handy of important league dates so you don’t miss anything exciting or an opportunity to improve your fantasy football team.

Important Fantasy Football Draft Reminders

The success of your fantasy football team hinges on your draft picks. Use the following draft strategies to minimize risk, maximize gain, and make the tough decisions when it comes to fantasy football draft day:

  • Skill + Opportunity = Success. Always remember this fantasy formula when drafting players.

  • Draft RBs early and often. Your exact strategy will vary based on your draft position, but taking two RBs in the first three rounds is the best approach.

  • Look to acquire an elite WR in the first three rounds. Depending on your league, you should be able to grab a reliable top-five WR to anchor your receiving core for the entire season.

  • Don’t take a kicker or defense too early. You can find plenty of depth at these positions at the end of the draft.

  • Take quarterbacks in the middle rounds. Good, productive quarterbacks aren’t hard to find in the middle rounds. The top-ten QBs will be drafted before the tenth round, though.

  • Understand and take advantage of position runs. Typically, there will be a waterfall effect once a player from a specific position is selected (for example — once the first team goes after a tight end, there will eventually be a mass-scramble from the rest of the league to acquire high-talent tight ends).

  • Don’t draft studs with the same NFL bye week. Most fantasy teams can’t avoid having some players on the same bye week, but having your best players on the same bye can cost you a win.

  • Stick to your draft plan. Trust your cheat sheets (player rankings). You worked hard to prepare them, and you don’t want to let the other coaches sway you into making a mistake.

  • At the same time, be opportunistic. Often, the draft will not go the way you expect leaving you with difficult decisions. If you see that a player that you have ranked very high falls to you, grab him!

  • Grab potential breakouts and sleepers late. You can pick up an average injury replacement during the season. In the later rounds, drafting players who may become studs could win you the league.

  • Consider drafting “handcuffs” for your best players. A handcuff is a player that is in a back-up role but has huge upside. The idea of handcuffing in fantasy football is important, because if one of your best players gets injured during the season, you want to be able to replace him with his backup.

  • After your fantasy football draft is complete, analyze your team for strengths and weaknesses. Begin creating post-draft strategies to help address any areas of concern on your team.

Fantasy Football Tips for Beginners

After you’ve built your fantasy football team through the draft, your job truly begins. Coaching your team means compiling a complete lineup each and every week and deciding which players to pick up and which to release and/or trade. Your weekly coaching decisions will make or break your fantasy season, so make smart decisions by using some helpful fantasy football tips:

  • Don’t panic. The fantasy season is long; think before you trade your studs or dump your sleeper picks.

  • Check your players’ bye weeks. You don’t want to get stuck having multiple stars out of action at the same time.

  • Replace injured players. Check all available player updates to make sure your starting lineup is active.

  • Stay up to date on the latest football news. Sometimes players can get suspended or even traded to other teams, which could affect their fantasy football performance.

  • Assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of your team needs when acquiring players and considering trade offers. What positions are solid, and what positions do you need to improve?

  • Check the free agent pool and waiver wire often. You never know when an owner will drop a player who can help your squad.

  • Look to exploit favorable matchups and avoid bad ones. Every week, your players’ performances will be affected by the quality of their opposition, especially at TE, K, and DEF.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask fantasy football experts for help or advice. Many experts will answer questions via social media or write blog posts about next week’s NFL matchups to help beginners; use this knowledge to help make the best moves for your team each week!

7 Tips for Fantasy Football Trading

During the fantasy football season, you’ll want to trade players to upgrade some weaknesses in certain positions on your team roster. When trading, you target a player and then decide what you’re willing to give up to get him. Fantasy football trading is a critical component to capturing a league championship. As the season progresses, you need to be able to adapt and pivot based on player performances and other factors.

Use these fantasy football trading strategies to put together a successful deal:

  • Buy low, sell high (and vice versa). Trading is all about making your team better without making it worse (in other words, improving one area without hurting another). In order to do this, look to trade for struggling studs who you think will rebound. Trade away your average players who have great stats so far due to soft schedules or injuries.

  • Trade from strength. If you have solid depth at a certain position, you can trade your depth to improve a weaker position on your team. Having a strong bench is a nice luxury, but only your starting lineup can win you games.

  • Make two-for-one offers. Look to upgrade a position by trading two decent players for one true stud. If you can identify a trading partner who has depth issues or a losing record, you can make the deal work.

  • Know the NFL schedule. Most fantasy coaches are so focused on the next game that they don’t plan ahead to avoid bye-week conflicts and poor matchups. By knowing the schedule and the upcoming matchups, you can make trades to avoid problems that could harm your team’s chances, and you can pinpoint teams that are headed for trouble (prime trading candidates if you remind them about their situations).

  • Use fantasy trade evaluator/calculator tools. Several fantasy football trade calculators have emerged online to help you understand if a potential trade is beneficial or detrimental for your team. These tools can help analyze the players’ past performances as well as the difficulty of the players’ remaining schedules.

  • Be unbiased. In order to successfully make a trade, you have to take an unbiased approach. Overvaluing or hanging on to players because you originally drafted them is one way to miss a great trade opportunity. If you’re unsure, ask someone outside of the league for advice.

  • Be proactive, open-minded, and diplomatic. A big key to successful trading is your attitude. The other owners don’t want to be shown up or make trades with a jerk. Look to make offers that help both teams, and consider all offers you receive, no matter how wacky they may sound!

Acquiring Free Agents in Fantasy Football

During the fantasy football season, players who don’t get drafted become free agents — players available to any league team willing to drop an owned player. Use the free agent pool to replace an injured player or someone who’s just not living up to your expectations. Use these tips for finding a free agent to boost your fantasy football team:

  • Check player updates during the NFL games. The early bird gets the breakout player, so to speak, so watch for emerging players on Sundays and be ready to go online and make your move.

  • Beware of one-week wonders. Each week, many lesser-known players have big games, but you must decide the odds of those performances happening again. Surf the Web for information on each player before signing him, and decide for yourself.

  • Monitor intriguing players. Before each NFL game, review the free agent pool and choose a few players who you think could start to break out. If the players step up and you liked them already, look to add them to your roster. Many league providers have a “player watch” tool for this purpose.

  • View the injury report each week. In addition to monitoring intriguing players, always be aware of players’ status in regards to injuries. Let’s say one of your players has a lingering hamstring injury and it’s significantly affecting his performance; consider signing another free agent at that position.

  • Analyze recent trends and stats. During the season, sort the most-recent player stats from the last month or last week. In November, you need hot players, not guys who had big games in September and have since gone cold.

Your Fantasy Football League Calendar

To stay on top of your fantasy football league, keep a calendar of important league dates. Start your season by recording the following information and keeping it next to your computer, or wherever you do your high-powered fantasy football decision-making:

Fantasy Football Calendar of Key Dates
League Name
Draft Day
Draft Time
Draft Location
Draft Pick (#)
Draft Type
Total Team Roster Slots
Bench Players
League Provider
Weekly Waiver Deadline
Trade Deadline
Regular Season Ends
Playoff Weeks
Playoff Slots
Championship
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