Help a fairly newcomer to Fantasy Football
September 3, 2010 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I've only really played fantasy football last year, and I did really badly. Help me learn how to play better and get through my draft this year.

In 2009 I played fantasy football via ESPN's interface for the first time ever. I know football pretty well, (I played for about 12 years in my youth) and I rend to watch a ton of the games during the season. However when it comes to "knowing all about the players" and picking great draft picks I tend to fail pretty miserably.

Where is the best place to learn the ins and outs of fantasy football, how to make intelligent draft picks and keep your trades and team managed well throughout the season?

I think our group of friends is holding the draft on Sunday evening so I wanted to have a few days to prepare.

All input welcome!
posted by PetiePal to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
According to my fantasy-football-loving coworkers, Yahoo's fantasy football setup has a bunch of good resources, including player rankings for the draft and such.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:17 AM on September 3, 2010

I like Lance Zierlein's fantasy coverage on his Houston Chronicle blog. I learned a lot from it last year.
posted by IanMorr at 9:39 AM on September 3, 2010

The Football Outsiders Almanac (link to Amazon, but I believe you might be able to download it direct from the F.O. site and get it right away) is an amazing resource. You'd probably be interested in it aside from fantasy, I am and I don't do fantasy anymore. I like the site too.

Aside from that, fantasy resources can be time intensive if you want them to be. If you just want some basic stuff, I'd probably go with Yahoo.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:40 AM on September 3, 2010

I think CBS Sportsline does the best job of keeping information fresh and relevant - trends and players to watch.

In most leagues, RBs have the greatest value.

If you want to be successful, you will need to devote time to watching the waiver wire each week and monitoring match-ups for your team. There will always be 'free agents' during the year that outplay those you drafted. Don't let a players reputation keep you from making a roster move - go by current talent, not how many Pro Bowls they've played in.

You may have a stud player, but against a tough match-up you might be better playing a less-skilled player against a weaker defense.

Ignore the bye week when drafting - if your best RBs both have the same bye week, count on that week as a loss but consider how well they'll do the rest of the year.
posted by Twicketface at 9:42 AM on September 3, 2010

The draft is easy. You can find any number of suggestions for drafts on the internet and depending on how you league is set up as far as scoring, chose from there. The real key is maintaining you team throughout the year. You have to watch games or follow closely and trade or pick up new players constantly. Every week you have to evaluate your squad and check who is available in your league and get rid of you bad players (if it seems like they will stay bad) and pick up good players (if it seems like they will be good). This is key. You will not win with the team you draft.
posted by Busmick at 9:42 AM on September 3, 2010

Forgot to mention that I sometimes check out Bleacher Report's fantasy info, but I haven't gone deep into analyzing them.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:42 AM on September 3, 2010

Buy a bunch of magazines. Look for commonalities among the rankings. Then, for the highly rated guys on the list, evaluate other, linchpin factors, especially the quarterback situation and what that means for them.

I think the biggest area people fall down on -- myself included -- is relying on rankings that are based on raw numbers, to the point where they exclude real-world events.

For example, Arizona has several great receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald, who will rank highly based on his past performance.

However, Arizona's quarterback situation has turned into a complete mess. It is highly unlikely that Fitzgerald will come near his past performance, because the guy throwing him the ball, whoever it ends up being, won't come anywhere near Kurt Warner in sheer throwing ability.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2010

Rotoworld has decent commentary on players.
posted by axismundi at 9:58 AM on September 3, 2010

Razzball has a lot of very specific advice--it's not the most entertaining read, but it's got very detailed information about fantasy scenarios and takes your league's rules into account in their explanations.
posted by gladly at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2010

ESPN's player rankings are actually pretty good this year. Not great, but you won't go wrong just following the ranked order they pre-list for the drafts.

Running backs are usually what you want to fill up on first, with a couple exceptions for particularly good recievers or QBs. If you go through and take the best running back available each turn (until you fill out your starting RBs) then do the same for WR, QB, TE, then fill out your bench, then D/ST and K, you'll end up with a pretty good team no matter what.

One really important thing to consider is whether you are in a PPR (point per reception) league or not. In PPR, WRs and TEs have more value that in a non PPR (since in non-PPR you only get points for yards gained, whereas a player who catches a lot of passes has a lot more value in a PPR league).

And a quick note on Twicketface's comment on ignoring the bye week - true for picking your starters, but once you are filling in your bench it is something you might want to consider (eg if your two start RBs have the same bye, try to make sure you pick up a back up with a different bye instead of the same one).

Ultimately, you can tear your hair out following stats and reading up on mock drafts, but a lot of what happens comes down to luck (of having a good pick in the draft, of having your players have a good week, of picking the right rookie prospect as your final bench slot, etc), so I usually find it is best to just have fun with it and not get too obsessed.
posted by CharlieSue at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2010

1. Note how your league is scored. What kinds of stats do you get the most points for? Are there stats that get a lopsided amount of points? Look at last years statistics to get the leaders in some of these categories.

2. Research the teams of the player you are thinking about drafting. If it's a RB where did their rushing offense rank in the league last year? If a WR what about their passing offense? How experienced/good is their quarterback? Did they lose any experienced/good linemen from last year? Lots of times average players can have above average fantasy stats because of their teams.

3. When in doubt, draft big name players. I generally don't take too many chances on 'breakout' players, because more often than not, they don't live up to the hype. If, however, they do show strength in the first couple of weeks, many people will give a certain amount of value to players with a well known name alone because, of course, they've performed well in the past. (this can be true even if they are washed up!)

4. Don't ALWAYS take the best player available. I usually judge each pick by the player's position among the other players of that position. TEs are notoriously thin, however many wide receivers will put up about the same numbers. Use common sense when using this method though, don't pass up a Tom Brady to get the 3rd best TE.
posted by drewski at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2010

I'm going to go a little against what some of the other folks say and tell you to focus on the numbers. Cool Papa Bell's Arizona issue is a good exception though. You have to make sure there are people to support the player you are looking at, but those types of scenarios are not super common. I've played in a 10 person league for 4 years now, and I won year before last and came in 2nd last year. This is mostly by looking at the numbers. I don't *know* players, and it drives the guys I play with insane. We use CBS Sportsline which has tons of statistics, so much that you can overload easily. RBs get you your points (although last year my QB scored the most points in my whole team - wierd). WRs are probably 2nd.

As far as actual draft advice, you can learn alot by reading people and by paying attention to the conversation that occurs just after a pick. Like CPB's Arizona advice, if someone drafts Fitzgerald and everybody makes fun of the guy for drating him, you might want to stay away from the rest of AZ's players.

You should definitely pay attention to the bye weeks, but don't let it sacrifice a player you think you need.

I very rarely change up my team. Only injuries, jailtime, or a really bad matchup (rare) seem to realy necessitate it. I probably change kickers frequently though.

Look into strength of schedule issues. Some of the magazines will have some good advice with relation to which teams have a good schedule and which to avoid.

Overall try to have fun!
posted by Big_B at 12:51 PM on September 3, 2010

Couple of thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Make sure you understand the scoring rules for your league. For example, my league assigns points for return yardage (kickoffs and punts) as well as TDs. late in the draft, I picked up Josh Cribbs as a WR - he had all of 135 receiving yards last year (about 1 good day for Randy Moss), but over 1500 return yards. Other people weren't paying attention to the rules, and I have a pretty good reserve WR. Someone else mentioned PPR already as well - that's a big deal.
2. FFtoday has a pretty good breakdown of "tiers" of players. Generally, there isn't any ONE player that's going to make or break a team (Peterson/Johnson potentially the exceptions), but usually if you're in/around the same tiers you can be ok.
3. Kicker is your last pick. They all suck, and they're completely unpredictable. Wait until the last round, and pick the person who plays for the best offensive team available.
4. DST is your second-to-last pick.
5. If you have either a very early, or very late, round pick, pay attention to who's between your picks. For example, if you have the 10th pick in a 12-team league, and both guys picking after you on "the turn" have a particular need (say, a QB), assume that the top two options at that position will be gone for your next pick. Is the dropoff between the first and third option worth taking that person now?
6. Once you get going, don't be afraid to make trades, but make sure they make sense for both teams. If someone's got Brady, you're probably not going to pry much out of him by offering a QB, because he's set there. However, if STUPID BERNARD FREAKING POLLARD takes out Brady's knee, and you have a decent backup QB, you might be able to get something of value from him...

I'll write more later if I think of more, but have fun!
posted by um_maverick at 1:46 PM on September 3, 2010

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