It’s that time of year again. The season is over, free agency is finished, training camp hasn’t started and the draft is still weeks away. The talking heads keep repeating the same names and pretending they know what’s going to happen, and they’re wrong every year... so instead of hearing ad nauseam about how amazing some rookie’s arm is surely going to be once he gets to the pros, or how fast and strong the next class of running backs is definitely going to be, let’s dial-down the rhetoric a bit and focus on what’s real, tangible and truly matters, both sport and in life:
What is fantasy football?
I remember when I first became interested in fantasy sports, I had no idea what this type of football meant. I thought it was maybe like a video game or something... but no, it turned out that fantasy football was (and forever will be) a game where you and your buddies and/or total strangers form a “league” and then take turns choosing real-life players, based on how you imagine they will perform during the upcoming season.
After finally figuring out what exactly I was signing up for, I then began my managing career in earnest... and during the following few years, played in all types of fantasy formats. I come to you now with what I’ve learned, not to rattle off names and numbers and predictions, but to help you decide if Fantasy Football is right for you, by looking at its entirety and analyzing the trends that I’ve noticed over the years.
the famous Delphic maxim also applies to the virtual gridiron. Ask yourself “what do I want out of this experience”? and think about what you already enjoy about football.
Are you a huge fan of a particular team? Do you just watch the highlights? Have you been sent an invitation to become part of a league, and don’t want to be rude? All these things will impact the choices you make on draft day, and can be figured out beforehand. Fantasy football is a social event more than anything, and should never feel like a chore or create stress... so surround yourself, even virtually, wisely.
This echoes the previous point, but cannot be understated. If you like scouring the waiver wire for hidden gems all season, grinding out draft day in your war-room and enjoy using your bench to its fullest week-in and week-out, then I’d obviously advise to find as big of a league as possible.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a casual fan and only know (or care about) the big names on ESPN, then it might be more fun for you to select a smaller league, where each position on your team will be stacked with big name, blue-chip talent and you’ll never feel like you’ve made a wrong choice (until it’s too late).
You can find a number of leagues and contests, both big and small, at FanDuel today!
The roster positions:
What does your league require you to field? If, for example, you’re expected to show up with three WRs for every game, then you’re going to have to have at least 5 or 6 of them on your team to deal with bye-weeks and injuries - not to mention cold spells and bad match-ups.
Check how many “Flex” positions there are on your roster too, because depending on your personal philosophy and the scoring system in place (which we’ll get to in a moment), you’re going to want to utilize certain types of players more than others in those slots, and should therefore draft accordingly.
This is a big one, and can have ramifications that lead all the way from the draft to the championship. I was once beaten by a guy who only fielded punt-returners, because the league counted return yards more than rushing yards... so needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
Find the tab and see what equals what? Is a passing touchdown worth 4 points, or 6? That will decide how valuable passers are. Are there points per reception (PPR)? Because that will make undersized, jumpy receivers (and soft-handed runners) in pass-happy systems worth way more than usual. This can be a sneaky way to dominate draft day, considering people will be focused on last year’s stats and next year’s hype-beasts... while you patiently build a team of consistent point-creators.
This one seems self-evident, but I’ll repeat it anyway because it’s super frustrating to miss a draft, both for the absentee and the rest of the league who has to watch you auto-draft every damn round. It just cheapens the whole affair.
If you want to play, then do it!
Write it down on your calendar and figure out some way to be present - it's the only live feature that this hobby requires. That and setting your line-up. It takes 30 seconds... After all, what’s the pleasure in beating someone who doesn’t care enough to compete?
It doesn’t take a much to check in on sports-related news these days, especially when everyone and their brother has a smart phone. By connecting logical dots before the news is force-fed into your ears, you’ll be able to maintain a massive advantage over your competition.
Think about it - when a big name gets arrested/retires/gets injured this July, research who’s next in line on the team’s the depth chart and snag the replacement before anyone’s the wiser. This can land you some unknown running back who, halfway through the season, blows up into the next Peyton Hillis.
Don't trust the stats:
Yeah Buffalo gets in the red zone a lot, same as the Ravens, same as KC... you know what they also have in common? QB's that poach running touchdowns from your backfield. Do you really want a RB that is going to lose goal-line touches to his passer on the flip of a coin?
Same thing goes for tight ends. Yeah, some might have great numbers when all is said and done, but 30 points one week and 0 the next isn’t as useful as it sounds.
Let me put it another way: do you really want to take Gronk as your main Tight End option, just because he finished the 2020 season well? Numbers need to tell a story that the eyes can back up, or else it's just smoke and mirrors. Let someone else chase the superstars, you'll get yours if you focus on consistent production, rather then seesaw stats.
Forget the rookies:
I know, I know... there are a few exceptions like DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson. That still doesn’t change the fact that most of the fresh talent that reaches the NFL needs to adapt their game to a learning curve that is too easily dismissed.
It’s been said a million times, but people still think they can read the tea-leaves, draft a dominant college athlete see an immediate impact on the field.
9 times out of 10 you won’t, and it’s really not worth reaching for any rookies before the end of a draft...
Follow your heart:
At the end of the day, the point is to have fun. Imagine if you’re a Jets fan and hate the Patriots. You never watch their games, have a general distaste for their players, their culture and their coach - and curse yourself hoarse twice a season when the rivalry heats up... so what’s the point of drafting one of their players?
There’s no sense in forcing yourself to choose a player just because they score tons of points. You’d be better off just taking someone else and letting the chips fall as they may. After all, nothing is ever guaranteed in the land of Fantasy, and who knows what will help you dodge the bullets of first-round draft busts.
Don’t forget the defense:
An aspect of fantasy football that I discovered rather late, was the existence of IDP leagues. IDP stands for “Individual Defensive Player” and as the term explains, allows you to not only select offensive players for your roster, but also defenders to help round out your team.
This format adds a whole new dimension to the game and allows for deeper drafts and different strategies, to make use of all the extra players that are suddenly available. Make sure to check the point breakdown when joining a league like this, because fumbles, sacks, interceptions, return yards, tipped passes and tackles can all count towards your final score - and will decide if linebackers, DBs or linemen are the most valuable pieces to acquire. Playing this way really adds some spice to the game if things have gotten stale, or if you enjoy watching both sides of the ball.
Where Can I Play Fantasy Football?
There multiple places where you can play fantasy football, however there are two stand out platforms - FanDuel and DraftKings. Between them, these two DFS American giants have multiple fantasy football contests and leagues with prizes reaching into the millions of dollars!
Dan Bernardini wasn't always the camouflage-clad shadow he is today. No, once upon a time he had it all. Six-figure hedgefund gig, designer suits, luxury car... And boy did he love his Sundays by the pool, splashing around with the wife and kids. It was a great life, until the illuminati took it all away. When the financial crisis hit, Dan was suddenly left holding the bag. "Could have happened to anyone" the lawyers lamented, as the feds seized it all...