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How To Create a Winning Fantasy Football Team

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Win Your Fantasy Football League

Creating a winning fantasy football team takes study of NFL news and trends, projection of players based on that information, a sound fantasy football draft strategy and luck. You’ll need a certain amount of all of these factors to win at fantasy football, but the less you have of the one, the more you’ll need of the others.

Sure, you can walk into a fantasy draft with a cheat sheet and no knowledge of what’s happened in the NFL over the summer and draft a winning team, but you’re going to need all kinds of luck.

For the rest of us who don’t want to leave it up to chance, creating a winning fantasy football team starts with a good fantasy football draft. While free agency and trades can augment a fantasy football squad, if you botch the fantasy draft too bad, you won’t have the team to build around.

Draft a Winning Fantasy Football Team

Drafting your fantasy football team is like laying the foundation of a mighty skyscraper. If the foundation isn’t sound, everything else will be a disaster. When you build a fantasy football team, you want to build a team with no glaring weaknesses, but with a few fantasy football superstars to make the difference between winning and losing any given week.

The draft hopefully lets you collect a few reliable superstars and a handful of breakout players. The rest of your draft, you’ll be drafting players who can give you solid but unspectacular numbers, players to backup your starters or who might come on later on in the year and players who give you some hope in case of major injuries.

Fantasy Superstars – Consistent Difference-Makers

The problem with elite players in fantasy football is their numbers don’t always translate from one season to the next. The NFL is a brutal game. Players get old quickly. Players can get injured at any given time. Some of these will never be the same. This makes fantasy football incredibly fluid, because just about everything fantasy football team is going to draft one or two “sure things” which don’t turn out to be.

That’s why you have to stack the odds in your favor by making smart picks in every single round. Smart picks don’t always turn out to be successful picks, but dumb picks are just giving away chances to hit on a player.

Drafting For Value

Many fantasy owners try to maximize the value of their picks by “drafting for value”: that is, drafting the best player available. This is a smart move, but it can be taken too far. That logic leads a team owner to draft Drew Brees as the 4th overall pick, because he’s a better quarterback than any possible running back who can be drafted there. That sounds logical, but it bad strategy in fantasy football.

Drafting for value not only requires you to know who the best player available is, but also what the value of a pick is. In a 12-team league, only 12 quarterbacks will be drafted as starters. Of these, only about 6-8 will even be drafted in the first few rounds of a fantasy draft. You can wait until the 6th round and draft the 9th-best quarterback. But if you draft a running back in the 6th round, you’re probably getting the 29th-best runner.

So drafting Drew Brees in the 1st round means you aren’t just drafting the best quarterback overall, but you’re selecting the #1 QB and #29 RB, while you could be drafting the #9 QB and #4 RB.

Now, if that #1 qb produced like he did the year before, that might still work. But that seldom happens. Quarterbacks’ numbers fluctuate wildly from one year to the next. The fact is, the chances that 9th ranked passer has similar numbers to that 1st ranked passer are a whole lot bigger than the chances the #29 runner’s numbers are anywhere close to the 4th-best runner’s numbers.

You’re playing the odds in a draft. Drafting for value means drafting the best player available, but sometimes knowing which positions hold the most value. If you can hold off on one position and get almost the same value a round later, you do it. Draft the scarcest player resource.

Drafting a Solid Team

Focus on running backs and wide receivers in the first 5 rounds of a draft. Focus on quarterbacks and tight ends after you’ve built the core of your team (which are RBs and WRs). Mix in a few running backs and wide receivers along the way. Grab a defense or two you believe in, but don’t obsess about getting that one great defense, because their numbers fluctuate too wildly from one year to the next. Don’t stress about kickers. If you have any rule about field goal kickers, in fact, my rule would be to draft one in the last round.

Even when you do this, you’re going to miss on a few of these players.

Reasons Can’t Miss Fantasy Football Players Might Miss

They might get injured. A key teammate might get injured and their offense will suck. No one on the team might get injured and their offense will stink. That younger, faster guy backing up your player might suddenly get more playing time. The player might have a harder schedule than last year, or simply start slowly.

You just never know when you draft a fantasy football player whether he will live up to expectations. That’s why you stack the odds in your favor by stacking the team with as many sleepers and breakout stars as possible.

Scour the Fantasy Football Waiver Wire

Through injury or ineffectiveness, you’ll inevitably be disappointed by a player. When this happens, it’s time to add free agents off the waiver wire. The first month of the NFL season is highly important for adding free agents, because new stars break out in these early contests. Teams will lie about their intentions with players, installing a new starter days before the season happens. Often, one player’s production on the field leads to their promotion to the starting lineup. There are going to be stars who don’t get drafted in a fantasy football league.

Of course, you’ll have to cut players to add new free agents. The higher you draft a player in your draft, the more hesitant you should be to cut that player. Some players start slow. Some fight through injuries and make up for lost time once they get healthy.

Just because a player posts low numbers the first couple of weeks, you shouldn’t discount them.

On the other hand, players at the bottom of your roster should be replaced if they aren’t producing, as long as they are starting. That is, if you drafted a backup runner on the assumption he would be good once he got the chance, you can’t cut him two weeks into the season, because he hasn’t gotten that chance yet.

At the same time, if a wide receiver you drafted late in the draft has some drops and the team’s 3rd receiver suddenly starts being throw to more often, you can drop that player for the free agent you want.

Target one or two high end free agents and aggressively add them to your team in the first week or two of the season. A warning, though: even lousy players can have one good week. If that happens Week 1 of the NFL season, a lot of people will pick up a sorry free agent they’ll be dropping again in 3 weeks.

Trade For That Final Piece

Trades can help team’s get over the top. When trading, it’s best to trade for the best player in the trade. Get the superstar by trading several pieces. Hopefully, you’ve built up some depth on your roster which you can trade away for one extra elite player.

When trading, it’s best to trade players after they have a huge week. It’s also good to trade for players when they either are coming off a bad week or they have a bye coming up. Fight through one bye week to get a player who will help you the remaining 6-8 weeks of the season. Like the stock market, you sell high and buy low.

It’s human nature to want to keep a player who just had a huge week. But if you didn’t have much faith in the player in the first place, you shouldn’t let one week change your evaluation. Don’t give him away, but trade up if possible. If you can’t make a trade for a couple of weeks and this same player has produced 3 weeks in a row, that’s when you keep him.

Create a Winning Football Team

It would be nice to have stars at every position. If you get lucky, you can have big names at every position, whether they become elite fantasy football stars or not. The key is to have production from every position. If you start a 9-man starting lineup, you don’t want one of those 9 positions to be a virtual 0 every week, or else you’re playing 8-men against 9-men. Even one or two superstars won’t make up the difference every week.

So get a core of superstars and then build the roster around those players. Make sure you have your positions covered. Then get solid backups for as many positions as possible. Injuries can make a great fantasy football team look average real quick. You can never have enough depth.

So even if you have solid starters, keep after the trades and free agents throughout the season. Keep up with fantasy football updates all year. When news hits, make last minute roster changes and lineup changes. Outwork your opponents and you might not need a whole lot of luck to have a winning fantasy football team.

But let’s face it: a little luck is required, too.

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