A beginner’s guide to managing your fantasy football lineup

So this is your first year playing fantasy football. You’ve already drafted your team, and you’ve had a couple weeks to sit back and watch your players tear it up on the field.

But maybe one of your players went down with an injury. Maybe you’ve already lost one week, and are panicking over whether or not your team can go the distance. Or maybe that competitive streak you never knew you had is making you want to cram a loss down Jim’s gullet this week because he won’t shut up about how good his team is.

Well here are some tips that could help overcome any early stumbling blocks, take you to the fantasy promised land or at least get Jim to shut his fat mouth.

Waiver Wire/Trades

The first thing to remember is championships are never won at the draft.

Using the waiver wire or trading with another team to pick up or drop players can make all the difference in the world.

The waiver wire is essentially a system where teams are placed in an order to get a chance at picking up a free agent player. If you want a specific player, you submit a claim. Once the deadline for waivers comes (in my league it’s Wednesday), as long as no one higher than you on the waiver wire wants that player, he’s yours. Though once you claim a player, you get sent to the bottom of the waiver wire. Of course, if you’re really savvy about who you’re looking to pick up, you could wait until waivers are over and grab a free agent without using your waiver position.

Trades can be trickier to pull off. It takes two to trade. So not only does any trade offer you make have to seem fair to you, it also has to seem fair to the other owner. Which means you have to account for any biases they may have about said player. You can try to “buy low” on a player if they’ve been having a rough couple of weeks, but eventually will rebound. Or if you have a player that’s doing great, but you expect them to come crashing back down to earth you can try to “sell high”. Or, if your league has a sucker, you can just try taking their best players for a song.

Ok, so now you’ve got the players you want, but maybe you’re torn between two or three player to start this week. Here’s some things you want to look for in order to make your best guess at playing the right players.

Workload

This could possibly be the most important factor in making your decision. The saying goes “volume is king” and that mantra has helped people win their leagues for years. The more times your player gets the ball, the better opportunities he has to get you points. Plain and simple.

For Wide Receivers, the key factors are “targets” and “receptions”. For Running Backs, it’s “carries” as well as targets and receptions.

Keep in mind that the game script, or situation, can affect the workload of some players. For example, if a Running Back doesn’t normally catch passes, and his team is down late in the game, he’s less likely to get the ball. Or if a Wide Receiver’s team is up big, they’ll probably run the ball a lot and the receiver isn’t going to see as many passes go his way.

Defensive Matchup

Most experts will tell you that playing against the right defensive matchup is nearly pointless. I disagree, and consider the matchup a great tiebreaker between two players you’re considering on starting.

A player’s odds of having a good game against an elite defense (this year’s Chicago Bears), are less than they would be against a horrible defense (this year’s Miami Dolphins).

Sounds like common sense? I think so too. Sometimes, it’s best not to overthink it.

Scheme

This is probably the most involved thing to factor, and would be best served for the people who want to make Jim eat crow. This could also be considered an in depth assessment of your defensive matchups, as well as your player’s workload.

Do the defenses you have to worry about this week play better against the pass than the run? Or vice versa? Do they have any new injuries that open up a better opportunity for your player? Does their best Cornerback shadow receivers, or only play one side of the field?

How about your players, specifically? Do they run the ball AND catch passes? Do they perform better in the slot, or out wide? Did their Quarterback go down with an injury, and the backup prefers to look in another direction when throwing the ball?

What’s the weather like? Is it torrential rain? How does your player perform in the cold? What kind of music do they listen to while warming up? What did they have for breakfast?

Ok, those last two were just me, screwing around. But if you really, truly want to make the best guess as to who to start, there’s a good bit of homework to do.

Lastly

There are two things to remember that are more important than anything I’ve mentioned so far;

First, you’re still making a guess. Nothing is guaranteed. Players can get injured mid game and completely shatter your hopes and dreams. Players can also defy the odds and have a great game or a horrible game. Sometimes, no matter how much homework you do, there’s no way to predict those things.

Second, HAVE FUN! Dont take this too seriously. Set your lineup, and watch the games. Invite your friends over, order some wings, have a beer (if you’re old enough), and enjoy each other’s company. If all you’re going to do is stress about winning that week, you might just be your own league’s “Jim”.

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