Ten Tips & Tricks to Help You Win Your Fantasy Football League in 2021

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The hype is real as we close in on Fantasy Football draft season. It’s an annual tradition that Andy, Mike, and Jason give a new set of tips & tricks to help you win your league. Wednesday’s podcast counted down 10 Tips & Tricks to Help You Win Your Fantasy Football League in 2021.

Over the years, we’ve compiled all of our best of this episode in a book on Amazon, Fantasy Football Unleashed: 55 Tips, Tricks, & Ways to Win at Fantasy Football. Without further ado, here are 2021’s tips & tricks in article form if reading is your kind of thing.

10. “Sophomore Slump or Sophomore Bump”- Jason

There is a LOT of data behind this one. In fact, Jason devoted an entire article to the Sophomore Bump & Breaking Down the Door of ADP and the compelling research our team put together.  Jason presented the overwhelming historical data that shows 2nd Year players are worth swinging away with in fantasy drafts. Before going any further, make sure you give that article a read including what Jason was like as a sophomore in high school.

9. Pull The Weeds- Mike

When you shift to tier-based drafting and away from a top 200 list, you’ve drastically improved your process. Tier-based is a bucket system that allows you to remove the players you don’t actually want to draft. Before the podcast, Mike would make his own tiers based on ranking sources he trusted. While doing so, this would delete players out that he didn’t believe in or want to draft. Those players no longer tempt us during the live draft. The Fantasy Footballers’ full rankings with tiers are in the Ultimate Draft Kit with fully customizable scoring.

8. Age is But a Number- Andy

Specific to Dynasty and keeper leagues, the over-emphasis of age has the potential to submarine championship seasons. 

We’ve been in dynasty leagues 10+ years and see the types of rosters that during the pre-season look like they should be printed out and hung on a wall or chiseled into hall of fame plaques.  But then they completely fall apart, due to the potential of the young players not being reached.  Juggernauts becoming have-nots.  

Oftentimes, it is more likely that an established player provides additional years of value than the likelihood of an unproven young player delivering for your team regardless of draft capital. Marvin Elequin, one of our writers, eloquently spelled this out in his recent Dynasty Lifecycle Series.

Looking at the last 20 years of data, Marvin found that production can incredible production can occur after supposed “peak seasons” for each position:

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  • QB– Peak season- 28; 81% of top-12 QB seasons were past this age
  • QB– Peak season- 29; 64% of top-12 QB seasons were past this age
  • RB– Peak season- 24; 64% of top-24 RB seasons were past this age
  • WR– Peak season- 27; 42% of top-24 WR seasons were past this age
  • TE– Peak season- 27; 40% of top-12 TE seasons were past this age

In other words, take the discount and win a championship with perceived “old and done” players.

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7. The Tilt Terminator- Jason

Always queue one more player than you need. This is a very simple tip and might be the most important tip due to its true practicality. 99% of every single draft day tilt is because you were waiting for THIS GUY or THAT GUY to get back to you….. And they didn’t. Disappointment. Sadness. Worry. Rush. Horror. It all sets in. 

You can avoid this emotional setback every single round of every single draft. It seems simple, it seems obvious… but DO IT. Pick out one more player than the amount of draft picks left before you every single round. Once you are four picks away, pick your five best guys. You might only like two of them as a true WIN. But if those two go, you will be prepared. Your NEXT pick will not feel like you are struggling to make up for some failure. You won’t feel like you made any mistakes. You will stay calm, coolheaded, and ready to dominate the next round. 

Take the hope out of the draft and replace it with joy after the draft. You miss 100% of the draft picks that aren’t in your queue” -Michael Gary Scott

6. “Cooking by the Book” Mike

You know you can’t be lazy – Lazy Town

Waivers are one of the most vital parts of locking in a playoff spot in any fantasy league. But beyond being active, you need to take things a step further and set up a robust system of adds & drops.

Don’t just drop people cause it seems like the easier thing to do; it may make it harder. If you have a player eligible for the IR, move them there and take advantage of the extra roster spot.

But my favorite is taking hold of the “weekend stash”. Throw a backup RB on your roster before the games. You never know what might go down. In 2020, we had a couple of examples that Mike personally used to win a #FootClanTitle in the League of Record.

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  • In Week 2, Christian McCaffrey was injured and Mike Davis (2% rostered) would be the hot pickup the next week in waivers. From Weeks 3-14, he averaged 13.6 fantasy points per game as the RB6! Davis got teams to the fantasy playoffs.
  • In Week 7, Giants backup RB “Bruce” Wayne Gallman (1% rostered) was waiver wire fodder. But for the next six weeks, he averaged 15 fantasy points per game as the RB6. He was startable every single week! But you could’ve picked him up ahead of the waiver wire rush.
  • Tony Pollard was a speculative waiver add when Ezekiel Elliott popped up on the injury report late in the week. Pollard was the reason Mike made the playoffs. And to finish it off, 49ers RB Jeff Wilson Jr. was stashed and epically led Mike to a title.

All of those guys were stashes that simply were about being proactive on the weekend with the waiver wire.

5. “The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants…”– Andy

If you’re a “veteran” fantasy football player, this one’s for you.  If you’ve played a lot of fantasy, we must acknowledge we’re human and build narratives for players based on several factors, and those narratives compound over the years playing fantasy football

  • What they’ve done for your team. We reward them for good seasons. We punish them for bad ones.
  • What you expected them to do when they came into the league
  • What pundits or coaches say they’re going to do
  • What you HOPE they’re going to do

It’s also very easy to believe positive storylines about players you like / or plan to draft / or have on your dynasty team

Try your best to take a step back, and use your brain, not your heart.  So that might mean forgiving and forgetting? It might mean taking the rose-colored glasses off your face.

  • James Robinson was one of the top players on championship teams last year and beloved by those who got to the playoffs with an UDFA.  Yes, he’s a good player. But no, you shouldn’t lean on him the same way you did last year as a reward for all he did for you.  Others from 2020 likely include Justin Herbert, Mike Davis, Myles Gaskin, and Adam Thielen.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Deebo Samuel was one of the most annoying, injury prone, impossible to depend on players last year, and probably made you pull your hair out if you had him.  But we know statistically when he plays, he’s a double-digit player.  Other hated players: Carson Wentz, AJ Green, Michael Thomas, Zach Ertz.  

Clean slate, more brain, less heart.  

Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

4. Stack Attack– Jason

We know that in DFS lineups stacking (pairing a QB with a pass catcher) is darn near a necessity to win. Almost every pro player stacks their QBs to maximize points hitting in bunches. But what about redraft?

Stacking increases your ceiling, but also gives you access to something you desperately need. Correlation is your best friend. No one correlates better with your QB… then a pass-catcher on his own teamRyan Tannehill is going to correlate with AJ Brown (in the same game) wayyyy more than Justin Herbert independently in an entirely different game! If this offense rolls, we all party! Invest in good offenses for fantasy (duh!)

For more on this subject, check out DFS Stacking: The Strategy & Thinking Behind It.

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This is where DFS & redraft crosses over. We are looking at week-to-week matchups. Players that are on the same team give you more BOOM than those that aren’t. There is a RISK of putting your eggs in this basket… but let’s see what data suggests.

Michael Leone of Establish the Run had an in-depth study on this subject. He found that Late Round QBs (Round 10+) that were attached to their teammates had a hit rate of 65% (10-point increase) and outperformed ADP.

I don’t want 3rd place. There is more boom/bust… but to win a championship it doesn’t take a little bit of consistency, it takes a BOOM year. You have to be the best of 12. The best scores often come from a stacked lineup. Think of Josh Allen/Stefon Diggs last year winning the highest percentage of fantasy championships than any other combo.

So who are the examples of late-round QBs with affordable stacking options?

3. True Value of a Touch– Mike

RBs need receptions. Period. We could log off right now if we wanted to.

But just to illustrate this, last year for RBs that finish inside the Top 50 at the position, one reception was worth on average 1.2 points in 0.5-point scoring leagues. In comparison, one rushing attempt was word on average 0.45 points. Both of these are not factoring in TDs. Receptions are just exponentially more valuable and can make up for fewer carries.

That’s not even factoring that it was technically a down year for RB receiving. 2020 saw the lowest amount of total RB receiving yards league-wide since 2012.  That should bounce back in 2021 with guys like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Austin Ekeler being hurt. Here are the number of top-12 RBs over the last five years who saw fewer than 45 targets:

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Year
# of top-12 RBs w/ <45 targets
2016 3
2017 2
2018 1
2019 2
2020 4

Last year was a bit of an outlier with Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, and Antonio Gibson all entering RB1 territory despite the lack of passing game work. For 2021, guys like J.K. can rush go for double-digit TDs again but likely finish no higher than RB15 without the major receptions. Compare that to guys like D’Andre Swift or David Montgomery who go right after him. Josh Jacobs will likely see 250+ carries… but another cheaper RB like Travis Etienne or Chase Edmonds can see 125 carries + 50 receptions will likely do similar OR more damage.

2. “Hold onto your BUTs”- Andy

I’ve seen more teams win championships using a later-round quarterback strategy than those that spent up on quarterback early.  When you go into your draft with a late-round QB as an option for your team, a lot of options regarding other positions open up to you. However, there are plenty of objections to this strategy as evidence by the Voice of Public Opinion (VOPO):

  • BUT – Early QBs are “SAFE”. No, they’re not. No #1 QB has repeated since 2012. Since 2017, only three totals QBs drafted as a top-5 QB maintained their draft position or improved. The other 17(!!!) finished on average six spots lower at end of the season.
  • BUT – Only top QBs put up ELITE numbers.  On average 40 quarterbacks per season put up a top-12 week.  There are a ton of options, and each year new players emerge from the undrafted range:  Justin Herbert last year, Winston in 2019, Goff in 2018.  
  • BUTThat guy stinks!!! He’s a terrible NFL QB! Derek Carr was the #13 fantasy quarterback last year. Cam Newton was #16.  They had 15 combined weeks where they were top-12 quarterbacks.  Never forget Blake “The Snake” Bortles led people to fantasy championships. 
  • BUT – What about when the QB is playing poorly? Matchups, not momentum, rule the day.  When you stream the quarterback position, you want matchups that are advantageous.  
1. “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”- Tim Allen

After a bad start, you may consider giving up or throwing in the towel… This is a new 17 game season and regardless if you start 0-4 or 1-5, you can always turn things around by staying involved and connected. Things shift in fantasy football quickly from injuries and volatility.

Now more than any year ever, the playoffs are an extra week away.

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