Last year, I wrote a Fantasy Football for Beginners article that was intended be the “Intro to Fantasy Football crash course that I wish someone had written for me before going into my first season”. I thought that for this year, I would follow that article up and touch on some more advanced strategies, concepts, and philosophies that can help a new or more casual player in stepping up their game.
Blocking your opponent
If you’re paying attention to what’s going on with your opponent’s roster, it can sometimes become very obvious that there is something on the waiver wire that they need to help beat you that week. For example, maybe they’ve been streaming QBs, TEs, or DEFs this year and the one they currently have on their roster has a terrible matchup that week. Look to the waiver wire to see what their best option is. If one option stands out high above all the others, pick them up! It doesn’t matter if you need them or not, you can simply drop them later, as long as it prevents your opponent from getting the best option and forces them to make a tougher decision. This can be a very satisfying strategy when it works, just make sure you don’t make your own team worse at the expense of playing keep-away.
The concept of handcuffing your running back by holding the backup on that team’s depth chart on your roster is nothing new. The idea being, if your starting RB goes down, or has to miss time with injury, you don’t have to compete for the backup to sign them off the waiver wire. However, in the time since this strategy became commonplace, the NFL running back landscape has changed drastically.
The prehistoric every down RB’osaurus are nearly extinct save for a handful of the more adaptable variety (i.e. David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, LeSean McCoy, etc). The vast majority of backfields have evolved to fit in with the modern pass heavy, running back by committee, NFL. That said, here’s what you need to know about the art of handcuffing in the modern fantasy RB hellscape, excuse me, I meant landscape.
- Every RB does not have a handcuff.
- If you don’t know who the handcuff is, there probably isn’t one. I like to call these “Hydra backfields” because it seems like if you cut the head off the snake, two more grow in its place. An example of this would be when Latavius Murray missed time with turf toe and everyone was speculating about whether DeAndre Washington or Jalen Richard was the better add. Or perhaps a better example would be when both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick went down and people rushed to sign Dwayne Washington. I could go on, but the point is, if no one seems to know who will inherit the keys to the backfield, it’s probably because no single back will.
- It is more important to have your handcuffs during the playoffs.
- It’s very common for handcuffs to be dropped to waivers over the course of the regular fantasy season which is exactly why…
- You should never feel pressured to draft a handcuff.
- Generally, I prefer to draft good depth at the RB position instead of drafting backups that occupy a valuable roster spot, whom I can’t start on a week to week basis.
- In fact, for the most part, I don’t like drafting handcuffs at all, with a few exceptions…
- I will draft handcuffs with stand-alone value, whether I own the player ahead of them or not.
- Also, handcuffs with excellent offensive lines make for great stashes.
Playing for Upside vs Playing for Safety
I feel like I need to preface this with a quick public service announcement. Don’t live or die based on the projected amount of points that your league hosting site assigns to your lineup each week. That said you generally have some idea of whether or not you’re playing a team that is stacked, making you the underdog. If that’s the case, it may be the time to play that “boom or bust” player like DeSean Jackson that normally stays on your bench. Conversely, if you feel that you are a heavy favorite you may find yourself wanting to start a safer more stable option like Larry Fitzgerald.
Drafting to trade
Don’t do it. It will blow up in your face 9 times out of 10. When you draft a player that you don’t like or need on the premise that you will, soon after the draft, trade them to get something you actually want, is a very bad idea in my humble opinion. Not only is it possible that you will not be able to trade them, you may find that you are stuck holding them on your roster long-term because by dropping them, you will be making another team in your league better and getting nothing in return. I’m generally not in favor of dead weight on my roster. I like to know exactly which player is my “first-cut” as new and exciting opportunities materialize on the waiver wire over the course of the season, as they always do.
Start your studs
I know that this one seems simple and basic and doesn’t belong in a strategy piece, and yet every year, the insanity of the fantasy season takes hold, and we find ourselves trying to get too cute. I love playing matchups when it comes to streaming positions and I will often use matchups as a tie breaker on sit/start conundrums. But you will never catch me benching a stud RB or WR in favor of a “meh” waiver wire acquisition with a plus matchup.
Julio could certainly end up being a decoy. But if I'm going down in the playoffs, it's with my best player. Just how I play
— Mike Wright (@FFHitman) December 10, 2016
For context, this was a tweet from last season, just prior to Week 14 also known as the first week of the fantasy playoffs. At this point in the season, Julio was the #3 WR in half-point scoring. He had also scored double digit points in 8 out of 13 games, including one game where he had over 300 yards receiving.
Now, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of owning ole Julio, then you probably already know that he’s always at least a little bit injured. He was practically born with a limp and should honestly just have his last name legally changed to Jones-Q, because there is always a Q beside his name anyway. Ultimately he did not play in Week 14, but you better believe if he had started, he would have been in my lineup. Don’t lose with your best players on your bench. Start your studs.
It’s very tempting to take this segment and reminisce on good trades that I’ve made in the past. Telling you “here’s what I got done, and here’s how I did it”, but I honestly don’t think you care, and the fact is there are no cookie cutter trades that I can feed you to improve any and every team. What I can give you is some more broad, tried and true strategies:
- One for one trades for players of the same position almost never work. Why would they? You need a selling point. For example: I’ll send you an upgrade at WR in exchange for a similar upgrade at RB. Whatever the case, always, always send along an explanation of what you’re trying to accomplish for BOTH teams.
- Send two offers: One of my favorite strategies is to find two trade offers that essentially accomplish the same thing and send them both over with the message, feel free to pick which one you like best.
- Understand market value: Knowing who you like more and who you like less than the general masses will help in pushing trades through. I make a lot of trades and generally if I posted them as a Twitter poll, I would lose. And I don’t care, because the poll doesn’t show my roster, or my league settings, what moves I plan to make on waivers etc. I don’t mind “overpaying” slightly as long as it gets me from what I’m willing to give up, to what I’m trying to get.
- Overall, just try not to sound too much like a used car salesman and you should be able to get something done.
Also check out 5 Tricks of the Trade, written during Week 10 of last season.