Whether this is your first time playing fantasy football or you have years of experience, it is always wise to have a strategy going into the season. By now, you have had your draft, but you may not be completely sure as to who to put in your starting lineup. For example, you could have taken Peyton Manning to be your quarterback for the year, and now that he is out for a while with an injury, you do not have a reliable second option. All hope is not lost though if your quarterback is not as good as the rest of your team, because it may depend on the scoring rules of your league.
The first players taken in the first round of drafts are usually running backs. Ideally, you want to have two running backs on your team that can score big points each week. Every league awards points for rushing yards and touchdowns, and no other position is guaranteed to score points more than the running back. Some leagues have the option of whether you have to start one back or two, maybe even a third in the flex position. If you have a top tier running back like Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, there is no reason to move them from the starting lineup, other than an injury or a bye week. These players you drafted early, so you need to utilize them each and every week. You cannot expect them to put up big numbers every week, so do not get discouraged after one poor outing. Since backs get about 30 touches each game, there is a high possibility of injury. Since injuries are guaranteed, you must have a reliable stable of one or two emergency backs to put in the starting lineup. Fred Jackson of the Bills or Beanie Wells on the Cards may not be the best names, but if needed they can fill a void well off the bench.
The quarterback position is where you can either win it all or lose it. There are only a few names that will put up monster numbers by the end of the year. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers are the top of the class. They are all set to throw 30+ TD’s and over 4,000 yards in through the air. Mike Vick is in a class of his own as a fantasy quarterback. He may not put up the passing stats as the other top guys, but based on his rushing stats, you may put him over the other guys. Eli Manning and Jay Cutler are players that can put up great touchdown numbers, but in leagues that deduct points for interceptions and fumbles, their value decreases. Manning and Cutler can be valuable backups when your starter has a bye.
The wide receiver position can be the most frustrating spot on any fantasy teams. There are only a few players in the league who are guaranteed to put up points on a weekly basis. Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson will give you big numbers weekly, simply because they are the main targets in their offense. In points-per-reception leagues, these guys have even more value since they get the ball so many times. Guys like Desean Jackson or Santonio Holmes are good players, but are inconsistent in fantasy production. They could have 10+ catches one game, and then be shut out the following week. In almost all fantasy leagues, it is a must to start two receivers, maybe three. A nice scenario would be to have a steady guy like Larry Fitz at one spot, then another guy who can put up big numbers sporadically like Holmes. In leagues where you do not have to start a tight end, Antonio Gates or Jason Witten can be considered better than some second wide receiver options.
One facet of fantasy football that will cause problems is injuries. Nothing can be more frustrating than when your star players has that little “Q” attached to their name, for questionable, which means it is a 50-50 chance whether they will play in the game. Usually, questionable means they will play, or it is a game time decision. If your guy is a game time decision, you should check your lineup a couple times before kickoff. It would be unfortunate for you to take off a guy, then him end up playing and putting up a huge game. In the likely scenario that one of your guys gets a season ending injury, you have to keep your eye on free agents available in your league. It is guaranteed every year that there will be a guy that was not drafted who ends up being one of the top players. Last year there was Stevie Johnson from the Bills who ended up with 93 catches, or Arian Foster who was not drafted early in most leagues, but ended up the NFL’s leading rusher. You really have to be quick on grabbing the guys who have a big first week.
Once your team is all put together, and you are winning games every week, you do not want to make any drastic changes. If the formula is working, do not mess with success. Just let the team do the winning. Do not overthink things. If your top wide receiver is going against the Jets, and you are worried Darrelle Revis is going to shut him down, keep him in your lineup. If he is the top guy, the offense will find a way to get him the ball. When your star running back is going against the tough Pittsburgh rush defense, keep him in there. He may not get the same amount of yards, but they could still get in the end zone one or two times. Whether you are playing just for fun, or for a nice cash prize, or even bragging rights amongst your friends, fantasy football season lets you enjoy the NFL season in a special way. Go out there and grab that championship.