When you say “Fantasy Football,” the ‘fantasy’ part of that is a relative term. I think that anyone who has played fantasy football for a number of years can attest to how real it actually is. It can get intense! It’s a ton of fun! Most importantly, it brings people together.
I’m sure everyone reading this has yelled at their TV and rolled on the floor because your tight end couldn’t get more than 2.7 fantasy points on Monday Night Football in your league playoffs, or because your kicker missed a 43-yard field goal that would have given you the win (see video below). It’s unbelievable what fantasy football does to you… It’s so great that I’m out here dedicating a huge portion of my website to it over anything else in the world.
That being said…Fantasy Football is officially back everyone! What an amazing time of year. Unless you’re in a dynasty league, you have a clean slate now. It doesn’t matter that Todd Gurley scored 42.6 fantasy points against you in the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter if you went 2-12 last season. It doesn’t matter if you won your league last year (well… it actually does matter, but not for this season. Anyway, congrats!).
The point is it’s a new year and anything can happen. Fantasy Football is a crapshoot. Everyone reads content online, everyone overanalyzes each draft, and everyone overthinks their lineups. It’s human nature when it comes to fantasy football.
However, I am going into my 12th season of my fantasy football league. Throughout my years of playing the best game ever created, I have noticed trends that have helped me to be successful. These set of rules apply to any type of league, and should be followed by every single fantasy football player.
I present to you…Sports Burd’s Seven Steps To Winning Your Fantasy Football League:
1. Draft Running Backs Early
This is my golden rule of fantasy football. If you look back at the teams in your league that have won, I guarantee that 90% of the time, it is because they depended on their running backs to carry them there. You MUST draft your running backs early, and they should be your number one priority going into your fantasy football draft.
Why do I say this? Your running backs are the players who are going to get the guaranteed touches every game. If you have a few stud running backs, they’re going to get 20-25 touches per game if not more, whereas good wide receivers are a lot more volatile in that category. Let’s say that you are in the playoffs, and everything depends on that one week. You need your running backs to be reliable because wide receivers are frequently more inconsistent. Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in football, and he had below 10 fantasy points five different weeks in standard leagues. Todd Gurley, the best running back in fantasy football, scored under 11 points just one week in standard leagues last year. You can’t be relying on wide receivers to win you matchups every week. It just won’t work the majority of the time.
My benchmark rule for this is that within the first three rounds, you must have at least two running backs on your roster, and within the first five rounds, you must have at least three running backs on your roster. My core of LeVeon Bell, Leonard Fournette, and Kareem Hunt led me to the Super Bowl last season, where I faced-off against another team that relied on the running back. Todd Gurley scored 42.6 points in my league (39.6 in standard scoring systems) against me in Week 16. Remember the running backs. If you don’t have them, you won’t win your league, and you won’t even get to the playoffs. It’s as simple as that.
2. Draft Based On Target and Touches (Especially When It Comes To WRs)
My second step to winning your fantasy football league largely ties into the first. I already explained to you that you need to build your team about running backs largely due to the reliability they provide you week after week. If I’m targeting running backs early, I’m likely going to take 1-2 wide receivers within the first five rounds, and then wait a bit later to take more.
Here’s the reason… In 2017, out of the preseason top-ten ranked wide receivers according to ESPN.com, five out of ten of them finished the season in the top-ten of fantasy points for wide receivers. Out of the other five that came from outside the top-ten, two of them were outside the top-40 in the preseason rankings (Adam Thielen and Marvin Jones). Ironically, both were on my team. I drafted Adam Thielen late because I knew he was going to be either the #1 or #2 wide receiver on his team in a shallow wide receiver group, and I picked up Marvin Jones, who proved to be the #1 wide receiver on his team in another shallow wide receiver group. Another player I drafted late last season was Cameron Meredith, who was projected to be the #1 or #2 wide receiver on his roster before tearing his ACL in the preseason.
In 2016, four out of ten of the wide receivers ranked in the preseason top-ten of their position finished in the top-ten. Two of the other six were from outside the top-45. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen with running backs also because it does, but not to that extent. You usually get one RB (rather than 2-3) who is ranked outside the top-40 in preseason running back rankings that ends the season in the top-ten. Last year, it was Alvin Kamara, and the year before, it was Jordan Howard. The difference between those guys and the wide receivers who broke out, is that Kamara and Howard were nearly impossible to project as they were the results on injuries or a player ahead of them being cut mid-year, while the wide receivers were going to be the #1 or #2 wide receivers on their teams.
You need to grab these wide receivers late while your stacking up on running backs in the earlier rounds. For example, let’s look at a few guys this year that are ranked low but are likely to be the #1 or #2 wide receivers on their teams and in shallow wide receiver situations.
- Marquese Goodwin, SF (Ranked #36 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Michael Crabtree, BAL (Ranked #30 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Allen Hurns/Michael Gallup, DAL (Ranked #52 and #56 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Kenny Stills/DeVante Parker, MIA (Ranked #41 and #44 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Ryan Grant, IND (Ranked #82 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Donte Moncrieff/Dede Westbrook, JAX (Ranked #70 and 80 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Robby Anderson, NYJ (Ranked #43 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Chris Godwin, TB (Ranked #73 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Corey Davis/Rishard Matthews, TEN (Ranked #34 and #49 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet)
- Josh Doctson/Jamison Crowder/Paul Richardson, WAS (Ranked #40,#46, and #54 on ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet
These names I listed above aren’t even all of the players that fit into this category. I guarantee that a ton of these names are going to be ranked A TON higher than where they are ranked right now by the end of the season. Why would you grab a bunch of WRs early when these names will be on the board late? It doesn’t make any sense at all. There’s only 32 starting running backs in the league, compared to 64-96 starting wide receivers in the NFL.
3. Wait On A Quarterback (This Year Especially)
I’m not one of those guys that usually says to wait on a quarterback every year. I drafted Aaron Rodgers last season. What’s my point here? I drafted Aaron Rodgers, and I still made the Super Bowl without him in my lineup. The reason behind that is because quarterbacks were so deep last year, that I just picked one up and moved on, and it wasn’t too much of a drop-off. There are some years where I look at the quarterbacks and say ‘wow, there’s only 6-7 good quarterbacks out there.’ This year is not one of those years. I mean… Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Smith are ranked #11, #14 and #15 (according to ESPN’s Standard Cheat Sheet). Those three guys are extremely viable options at starting QB. Alex Smith was the fourth-best fantasy quarterback in the league last year in terms of total fantasy points.
The truth is that if you sort each quarterback in 2017 by average fantasy points per week, the second best quarterback (Carson Wentz, 21.8 PPG) outscored the 14th best quarterback (Dak Prescott, 16.3 PPG) by only 5.3 fantasy points per game. The best was Deshaun Watson with his 24.1 PPG in only 7 games played. Obviously, many leagues have different scoring systems, and that might make the quarterback a bit more valuable in those leagues. I understand that, and I’ll get to that point later. However, in standard scoring leagues (4 points per passing TD, 1 point every 25 yards), the difference between the second and fourteenth best QBs is just so slim, that it’s not worth taking that quarterback early this year. Wait, and stack up on those running backs!
4. Don’t Wait On A Guy You Love – Just Take Him When You Could
This seems like such an obvious point, but one that I’ve seen screw me over, and screw other people over again and again. If you love a guy and know that you need to have him on your fantasy football team, don’t wait to draft him until the round that everyone else thinks you should draft him, but draft him a round or two earlier.
There are so many fantasy football owners that will refuse to take a player in the 6th round because he thinks it’s too early, but will take him in the 7th because it’s where all the experts think he should go. It’s a one round difference! You play to win the game! Take the guy you like. Who cares what all the other guys in your league say about the pick! I got laughed at for taking Tyreek Hill early last year and then I was the one laughing week one when he got me 22.8 fantasy points. Take the guys you like earlier than they’re projected to go. It sounds simple, but it’s not as common as you think.
5. Know Your League’s Scoring System And Use It To Your Advantage
Here’s another important point that is always overlooked. Know your league’s scoring system! I’ll give you a quick example. I play in a league where D/ST start with 20 points. They get a lot more points than D/STs in other standard fantasy football leagues. In fact, it’s a pretty common theme to take a defense earlier than the 10th round in that league. Why? Because if you draft the right defense, they could be putting up 25-30 points a week for you. That’s huge.
Obviously, this could be even simpler, hence PPR vs. Non PPR. For example, if I’m playing in a PPR league, I’m going to value Jarvis Landry much higher than I am going to in a non-PPR league. Landry is at least 5 catches a week, which in a PPR leagues is an extra 5 points. Let’s say a normal week for Landry is 5 receptions for 68 yards. In a standard league, thats only going to be 6.8 points, but in a PPR league, it’s going to be 11.8. This is a simple concept, but it’s awfully important.
6. Know The Other Guys In Your League
When drafting your team, you have to know the guys in your league, and exploit their mistakes to help yourself. For example, I explained how taking running backs early is something that I do every year. I know that some of the guys in my league don’t necessarily go by that rule. They take WRs and QBs early. That’s something to use to my advantage.
Knowing the others in your leagues helps you plan a draft strategy as well. You can map out who you’re going to take where, when you will need to trade up or trade down, etc. I highly suggest that before your fantasy football draft, you take a look at last year’s draft, and study the tendencies of the guys you are drafting against. Jot down notes on all of your findings. Then go back to the year before and the year before, and confirm whether or not your notes are consistent. Then, use those notes to do a mock draft of your league. When you do a mock draft of your league, don’t only do one. Do three or four of them running through all the possible scenarios. If you know your league well enough, it is likely that one of the scenarios will be the real scenario come your draft.
7. Remain Calm At All Times
An essential part of succeeding in your fantasy football league is remaining calm. If your team puts up 52 points in week one, you cannot panic. Don’t be trading all your good players who had bad week ones for decent players who had great weeks. I see so many fantasy owners flipping out after week one, and turning their whole team upside. The truth is, you have to wait 3-4 weeks before making a huge roster change.
In my league, we play that you have $50 of imaginary money to use on the waiver wire for the whole season. I’ve seen people use $40 on that after week one. That’s absolutely nuts! It’s a long season, and many things can happen. Just because your players play badly the first week doesn’t mean you’re going to go 0-14. You could be the guy who picks up Deshaun Watson, and Alvin Kamara and wins four straight games. It’s a long season. Never ever panic. That’s when you dig yourself into a deeper hole.
The Final Takeaway:
All of these seven points are lessons that I have learned throughout my 12 years of playing fantasy football. I guarantee you that if you follow them, you will be rewarded during the fantasy season. That being said, I’d like to officially welcome everyone to The Fantasy Football Nest. I, Dylan Burd, have put a ton of hours in to create content to make sure you are the most prepared person at your draft. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to hit us at at our Fantasy Football Nest Mailbag, or tweet at us @sports_burd! Enjoy everybody.