Are You Ready For Some Football? Fantasy Advice For Newbies

August 28, 2007

Because I’m somewhat of a football geek, some of my friends have asked me to write a “girl’s guide to fantasy football”.  Now, I didn’t like the idea of a girl-only guide, because whatever advice and knowledge I have applies regardless of gender and learning the basics is virtually the same experience whether you happen to be male or female.  Besides, I can’t stand it when people assume I know nothing about sports because I’m a girl (the fact that I do a lot of fashion writing probably doesn’t help matters).  Last time I checked, an appreciation of Christian Louboutins and a perfectly executed trick play were not mutually exclusive.

Okay, deep breath.

Anyways, I’ll get off my soapbox and on to the topic at hand.  Here are a few good beginner’s guides if you’ve never participated in a league before – remember however, that rules and scoring systems can differ from league to league, so be sure you’re aware of your league’s idiosyncracies. 

Some drafting basics – prioritize and get your running backs first, quarterbacks second, wide receivers third, tight ends fourth, and kickers and defenses last (unless your league uses individual defensive players, but that seems to be fairly rare, so I’m not going to get into that here).  It’s important to separate your players from their overall team – bad teams can have players that put up good fantasy numbers (for instance, Detroit Lions QB Jon Kitna is typically pretty solid, but his team’s performance falls somewhere between dismal and godawful on the overall scale). 

You don’t have to do insane amounts of research, but it’s a good idea to look over the preseason rankings and have a copy on hand when you draft your team, if only to help you out in the later rounds.  After all, you might have a good idea of who the top players at each position are, but after the first few rounds the marquee names are gone and you’re left asking “who the hell is Bernard Berrian?” That’s why you want to have some kind of plan and a cheat sheet to consult.  Here are the Fox Sports rankings for the top 500 players to get you started.

Another essential point – don’t neglect your backups.  Just because you drafted Peyton Manning doesn’t mean you don’t need a second or even third decent QB, because every team has bye weeks or god forbid, your starters could get injured.  This is (hopefully) painfully obvious, but it’s better to shoot for depth instead of hanging your whole team on a big performer. 

Speaking of bye weeks, watch out for those – you don’t want your best players to all share the same weeks off (there are usually four or five teams on a bye at a time).  However, I wouldn’t spend too much worrying about this on draft day – you can always trade around after the fact, and that brings me to my next point: unless you’re in some kind of insanely strict keeper league, you can always trade or pick up another player on the waiver wire (where the free agents go after the draft and/or they are dropped from a team – in most leagues, waiver wire priority goes in reverse order of the draft picks, your mileage may vary).  It’s also smart to pay attention to injury reports and grab backup players when you hear of a starter getting hurt – after all, the backup is the new starter then.

When it comes to injuries and suspensions, well, that happens.  Many fantasy owners advocate “handcuffing”, or drafting the backups for your star players so that you’ll always have someone to cover for them.  While I’m not necessarily 100% against that strategy, I’d advise you to pick the player with the higher ranking/better stats over the player who backs up your starter.  You can always hit the waiver wire if necessary and this way you’re not putting all your eggs into one basket (or placing all your bets on one team, in this case). 

Finally, start your star players.  Some people will tell you to sit your best RB when he’s facing the NFL’s number defense against the run, but sticking with your top performers will help you more than hurt you in the long run.  Remember, star players are stars for a reason – they put up big numbers, even against good teams. 

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