Fantasy Football For Dummies
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After you draft your fantasy football roster, you have to be proactive and manage your team each week. Learning how to manage your fantasy football team is critical if you want to win your league.

The most important responsibility a fantasy coach has is to field the best possible team every week. The easiest way to stay in the game and in the championship picture is to make sure you have a complete and competitive lineup before the NFL games begin each week. Here are some common reasons why you need to change your starting lineup each week to stay competitive:

  • Injuries: Injuries happen in the NFL often; they're part of what makes fantasy football challenging. If your best player gets knocked out for the season, you'll be hard pressed to find a worthy replacement. However, with a little research and by counting on your draft depth, you can insert capable players into your lineup each week.

    [Credit: © 2008]

    Credit: © 2008
    Follow the injury report. The NFL teams designate injured players with a P (probably) or greater than 75 percent chance of playing, Q (questionable) or 50 percent chance of playing or D (doubtful or less than 25 percent.)

    Typically, a player designated “P” is started without worry and a player with a “D” designation will probably not play or see much action if played so they should be avoided. The “Q” players are the worrisome ones because they can go either way.

    Watch for injury reports and pay special attention to pregame news so you don’t get stuck with a player who is listed as inactive at the last minute. If you have a player labeled “Q,” and he is playing in the late games or night games, you should be very careful.

    Most of the time you won’t know if that player is going to play until after the early games have started so a lot of your bench may already be locked. In that case, look to play one of your bench players instead to avoid taking a zero.

    Some leagues put all players on automatic waivers come the start of games on Sunday (and any players who may have played in the Thursday night game on that day). Make sure you make any add/drops prior to that happening. Other than the Thursday players, a good rule of thumb is to have your lineup pretty well set on Saturday and leave Sunday for the last second injury substitutions.

  • Matchups: Each fantasy team has a core of stud players that must start every week when healthy. But when making choices at your other lineup positions, you need to consider each NFL game and which of those matchups are more likely to give your fantasy players the best chance to produce.

    When setting your weekly lineup, there is one rule that should govern all: PLAY YOUR STUDS! Often times fantasy owners will out-think themselves by trying to play the matchup or avoid a player competing in a bad weather situation. You drafted a player with a high draft pick . . . play him that way.

    A team is not always filled with stud players. In that case, matchup, weather, and injury factors will need to be taken into consideration when choosing among some players. Do your research before the game and be aware that many things can change hours even minutes before a game can start.

  • Bye weeks: During the season, each NFL team has a bye week, during which you need to bench the team's players. If you prepare for your draft correctly, these open dates won't come as a surprise, and your bench players will be ready to contribute.

  • Performance: Athletes tend to play in streaks, either hot or cold. When making the tougher lineup decisions, you can check the stats for the last few games and see who's playing well and who needs to take a seat on your bench.

    Be patient with your stud players. Every player will have a bad week or two. Try not to make any rash moves with your core group of players.

    Every league provider has different rules governing player movement. Always know your league rules and settings before you draft your team and play the game.

    Know when your lineup locks. Many leagues lock the individual players once their games start. Some leagues lock the entire lineup on the start time of the first game. And in some instances that can be Thursday evening. Make sure your line up is set when it has to be.

During the season, you can add or drop players to replace injured players or to upgrade at positions of need in one of three ways:
  • The free agency pool: In Yahoo! default leagues, all undrafted fantasy players begin the season as free agents, which means they're available to be added to your roster at any time. Many free agent pickups will surprise you and become staples in your lineup.

  • The waiver wire: If another team drops a player, the player goes on waivers for a limited time before becoming a free agent. All coaches then have a set amount of time (usually two days) to decide whether to add him to their teams. This allows for fair acquisition players that are dropped based on the waiver priority system and not just who can get to the computer fastest.

    To add a player on waivers, you must drop a player from your roster. If you have the highest waiver priority — set in reverse order of your draft at the start of the season — you're awarded that player.

    After a claim is awarded, your waiver priority drops to the lowest number. If no owner puts a claim in for a player that is on waivers, and the waiver period has ended, that player will become a free agent, and any team can pick that player up at any time.

  • Trading with other owners: If free agency doesn't help, it may be time to make a trade offer. Of course, making a good trade is easier said than done because you have to give up someone good in order to get someone good.

    Trading is often difficult for novices as many will want to acquire a stud player but be very hesitant to give one of his or her core players. If you are determined to make a trade, you should strive for equity in your early negotiations. Identify where you are either lacking or have depth and try to utilize that to your advantage.

    For example, you have three quality starting RBs (running backs) but only one quality WR (wide receiver.) You could try to find a team in the opposite situation and trade a RB for a WR; both teams win. A more advanced scenario might be that you have three quality RBs and very little bench depth, and you have many players going on a bye soon.

    You can take that one quality RB and trade him for two or three lesser quality players to give you some help during the bye weeks. Of course, if you acquire three players for one, you would need to drop some players to meet the roster requirements.

A good fantasy owner is making moves often. Maybe not every week, and maybe the starting lineup doesn’t change much, but active owners are always looking for better bench players, speculative pickups that could reap future rewards, or potential trades that could better position themselves for playoff push.

Remember: this is YOUR team, you make the calls. You can get advice from every expert or check every ranking, but make your own call. If your gut is telling you to play someone, then do it.

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