Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football


This year I once again dove headfirst into fantasy football, my goal being to rectify the errors I made during the 2020-2021 season. Alas, I ended up making many of the same mistakes, and now I'm here to try and save you from the pitfalls I fell into. I'm no fantasy football expert, mind you, and I don't proclaim to be a guru or to have any real clue how you can win your league's championship. What I can do is equip you with some basic knowledge, knowledge that you acquire only after years of being pummeled by the fantasy gods. 

The most important thing to avoid while playing fantasy football is (ironically) advice about fantasy football. Avoid r/fantasyfootball on reddit (unless it's to check for breaking news) and visit fantasy football YouTube channels sparingly. Too much outside information makes you second guess your decisions, and we don't want that. If there is anything I've learned, it's that your own random intuition about who you draft and what moves you make is more beneficial than what any "expert" advises. 

Now--there is a caveat to this. Staying up-to-date with your general knowledge of the NFL can help, e.g. who is injured, what moves teams are making, what offense they run, which players are starting, who is coaching who, etc. In other words, being aware of the facts is important so that you can make informed decisions. Once you have those facts, it's best to avoid online forums, reddit, or YouTube channels claiming to know what you should do with your players. 

The only one making decisions about your team should be you, because ultimately that's the only way you will feel satisfied while playing fantasy football, win or lose. If you start making decisions based on what others think, you'll just be more frustrated when things don't work out. At least if you go with your gut, you know you went with your gut.

The other major piece of advice I have is to stick with your players--the one major mistake I made in 2020 and in 2021 was not holding on to players who eventually broke out and won leagues. If you know you have a decent player, but they perform poorly for a week or two, give them another chance. Usually they will pan out, and you'll be happy you kept them. 

Alternatively, if your gut is telling you that a player you have isn't worth keeping, don't hesitate dropping them in exchange for someone else who you feel good about. Just be careful not to roster shuffle too much--there's a healthy balance to be achieved here in giving your players time to develop and dropping those who are severely underperforming. The best way to know what to do is to consult yourself--are you hesitating to make a decision? Don't do it. Are you comfortable making a decision? Do it. The worst thing to do, again, is to ask some random person on reddit or YouTube what to do, as this inevitably leads to regret.  

Next, and this might be imposing for a beginner, but consider being active in offering trades to other players in your league. But do so with care--don't be the jerk who offers two backup players for someone's first round pick. Try to make offers that improve both of your teams--if you do enough research it's easy to find several potential deals to be made that are like this. Yes, you might end up making one other team stronger, but it's worth it if you are gaining an advantage over every other team.

Lastly, if you are a beginner to fantasy football, the most important thing to know is that it's practically a game of luck. Skill is a small factor in determining who wins your league. You can improve your chances by keeping up-to-date with NFL news prior to the draft, putting extra hours of effort into monitoring the waiver wire or in making trades, but none of that will help if someone in your league happens to draft multiple top players. Therefore it's not worth obsessing over decisions--once you've done what can be done, set your starters and go with the flow. 

(And to stay true to the theme of this article, feel free to throw all of this advice out if it doesn't work for you.)

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