Fantasy Football 101: 15 Tips for Beginners

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Welcome back to Fantasy Football 101!

I remember my first fantasy league like it was yesterday; in fact, I am still a part of it. I was a twenty-something-year-old bartender at a steakhouse in Chandler, Arizona. I had always been a football fan, so when my barback told me they had one spot to fill in their fantasy league, I was all in. The 2009 fantasy season was one to behold for this freshman manager. I made it to the championship – ultimately losing – behind the powerhouse combo of Peyton Manning, Hines Ward, and Ryan Grant.

It was quite an experience jumping straight into the deep end of the world of fantasy football, and while it forced me to learn things on my own, I would have loved a few tips. So here we go – some tips from a seasoned fantasy football player who sometimes feels like I have seen it all.

1. Understand your league scoring – This seems obvious, but in a landscape where you may play in multiple leagues, it is vital that you remember what positions hold more value. Every league has its own scoring system and settings, ranging from the simple to the impossibly intricate. When in doubt, check.

2. Utilize the IR position – Once you are fully aware of your league settings, utilize your IR spots. Seriously. Some leagues will let you stash almost anyone there – injured, suspended, etc. That is the most extreme case, but if it is just a holding spot for injured players, after your draft, drop a player and pick up a couple of guys that are starting the year on IR and let them camp out at the bottom of your roster.

3. Do your research – Look, once in a while, you get that person in your league who strolls into the draft room with five minutes to spare, googles “fantasy football rankings,” and proceeds to draft and, luckily, hits on every player. Ignore this owner. Do not be this owner. Knowledge is power in fantasy football. Listen to podcasts, read draft guides, and peruse Twitter both pre-draft and during the season. Keep this research going, so that if a player is injured, you can quickly run to the waiver wire to search for their backup.

4. Stay active on the waiver wire – Fantasy football is not a set-it-and-forget-it-it activity unless you are playing Best Ball. Keep your eye on injuries, depth chart issues, and rookies starting to make a name for themselves so you can pick them up before another manager has a chance. Set a notification on your phone for breaking news.

5. Stay active with your league-mates – Nobody likes an owner that doesn’t participate. Fill your rosters, start your players, and be a decent competitor at the very minimum. Active participation makes a league more fun for everyone, so encourage interaction and trades if you are the commissioner. Make it easy for owners to interact, whether it be through a group text or a Slack channel.

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6. Look towards the future – As the season progresses, try to stay a week ahead regarding the waiver wire. Try to pick up backups a few weeks before your bye weeks so you don’t get stuck. If the playoffs seem certain for you, look to stash a great defense for the championship week if your league starts a defense. Always have a backup plan. Or three.

7. Take risks – Draft a rookie with upside at the end of the draft. Balancing out risk/reward players is a delicate dance in fantasy football. Solid floor players are the cornerstone of a team, but high upside will win you championships.

8. But boring can be OK at times – Yes, you need to sprinkle in some risk into your team, but you need those consistent, at times boring players to build your team’s base. Don’t turn a blind eye to these players.

9. Check-in pre-game for news – No one wants to miss a player being benched just before kickoff. We live in a world now where you can access fantasy news with the touch of a button. Remember to check inactives before kickoff and adjust accordingly. The NFL likes to keep us on our toes now with games abroad (hello, time zones) and on days other than Sunday or Monday. Do not let yourself lose a matchup because you didn’t know what time it was in London.

10. Get feedback from your league-mates – This is something you need to remind yourself about before the start of the season. Discussing possible changes for your league right after the championship is super helpful. What did people like? Not like? Should you add an extra flex spot? Should you get rid of kickers? Spoiler alert, you should. The secret is trying to anticipate potential issues before they happen so no one gets grumpy with how they are addressed in the league.

11. Go over your decisions, but do not tinker – This is easier said than done. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone back and forth between two players five minutes before kickoff. Toggling between rankings, Twitter news, friends I trust, and sometimes flipping a coin. Tinkering is tough on the soul.

12. Be OK not listening to your heart – The season always starts with sunshine and roses. All your players are healthy, and you have a couple of people from your favorite team on your squad, so the season looks like it’ll be great! You’ll be able to cheer on your team while watching your fantasy points skyrocket! Any Denver Bronco fan who drafted Russell Wilson last year might have a bone to pick with you on that one. It is hard enough to know when you have to cut bait and bench or even drop a player, but the sting is even stronger if you hold on too long. Listen to your head.

13. Flex correctly – The guys say it every Thursday; make sure to get your flex players out of your flex spot. Give yourself as much flexibility as possible as the weekend progresses to make lineup switches.

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14. Stop checking the score of your matchup – Yea, this is a tough one. Hitting refresh is something I do a lot on game day, and I have to talk myself out of it too. But it is just too easy to get too confident or down on yourself after the morning games. You’ve done the work; try to sit back and enjoy the ride.

15. Most important thing to remember – fantasy football is a game, treat it as such and have fun!

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