Top Ten Fantasy Football Lessons Learned from 2011

In the world of fantasy sports, we are always looking ahead to the future by learning from the past.  We make predictions, presumptions, and projections based on what has already happened.  Sometimes things work out and other times they do not.  But there are some general concepts that apply no matter what the circumstances are when trying to improve your fantasy football performance.  This edition of the Top Ten list will take a look at some of the lessons we learned from 2011 and how we can apply them in 2012.  So, without further adieu, here are the Top Ten fantasy football lessons of 2011.

10.  Be in a PPR league.  As technology has evolved over the past decade or two, so has the game of football.  The NFL has generally become a passing league where quarterbacks and wide receivers are the focal point of the offenses.  With this transition has come a new standard statistic in fantasy football – the point per reception.  Sure there are still some old school leagues out there that simply tally points for scoring touchdowns, but most leagues have embraced other scoring categories such as the PPR.  If you are not in a PPR league, I suggest you try one so you can reap the rewards of the vast aerial attacks throughout the NFL.

9.  Have an iron-clad tiebreaker in your league’s rules for championship games.  Most fantasy football leagues have their championship games during Week 16 of the NFL season to avoid situations where players are being rested for the playoffs.  In between Weeks 16 and 17 usually comes an array of questions and issues regarding ties in the finals and how to determine a winner.  Your fantasy league should have a constitution or written set of rules anyway, but at the very least there should be a delineated tiebreaker to avoid such a mess.  Whether you use previous head to head record, total regular season points, extend the season into Week 17, or have a duel at the OK Corral, you should have some objective measure to definitively determine a winner of your league.

8.  Don’t panic over bye weeks when drafting.  When preparing for the draft, you will inevitably look at the players’ bye weeks and try to avoid drafting too many at the same position who share bye weeks.  That is understandable, but potentially foolish.  The object of the draft is to put together the best team possible over the course of an entire season.  If you have an opportunity to draft great players who happen to share a bye week, do not pass up on that opportunity.  Sure, you may be short-handed or handicapped on one particular week.  But that is just one game.  If you have a great team every other week, then you should ultimately succeed.  The moral of the story is not to let the bye weeks deter you from drafting the player you want.

7.  Be patiently aggressive when making trades.  There are many schools of thought when it comes to making fantasy trades.  Some people are looking to wheel and deal constantly, and others never even try.  Trading is fun and it gets people talking, but it should only be done if it will legitimately help your team (or so you think it will).  Obviously collusion should be illegal and is frowned upon, so under no circumstances should trades be made as part of an illicit or fraudulent agreement.  But people pay money to own a team and they should generally be allowed to make managerial decisions regarding their rosters.  You should scout out other teams who may need a player at a position where you have depth and then capitalize on that surplus.  Timing is everything so don’t wait too long to pull the trigger on a deal.  However, sometimes the best trade you make is the one you don’t make.  Be smart, but trust your instincts.

6.  Listen to the experts on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Channel.  Another tremendous outlet for fantasy sports enthusiasts is the 24/7 channel on SiriusXM satellite radio.  The channel has several shows and hosts that are highly entertaining, intuitive, and intelligent.  They are there constantly to field your questions and provide instant analysis.  Utilize them as a resource because they are there to break down the questions you have.  With so many different styles of shows and personalities, you are guaranteed to find one that matches your taste.  They also have professional players and coaches chime in with the fantasy advice, so it doesn’t get any better than that.

5.  Tight ends are no joke anymore.  These aren’t your father’s fantasy football tight ends anymore.  What was once a black hole for fantasy football is now a position that offers several viable options that produce at incomparable levels.  You shouldn’t be afraid to draft someone like Rob Gronkowski in the early rounds because he is so much better than every other tight end, and most wide receivers.  Tight ends are now more involved in the offense and scoring touchdowns and making receptions at a clip that is unparalleled. 

4.  Tim Tebow will not be a viable fantasy option.  Perhaps I will be struck by lightning or spontaneously combust for saying this, but do not rely on Tim Tebow as a viable fantasy option in 2012.  It has been a miraculous run for him and the Denver Broncos this year, including a shocking playoff victory over Pittsburgh.  But defenses (that are healthy) have figured out how to stop him.  The last three games of the regular season were some of the ugliest by a quarterback in recent memory.  Teams know how to defend Tebow now, and he will have a very hard time making the requisite adjustment to compensate for better defensive schemes.  

3.  You don’t have to take a running back in the 1st round.  One of the oldest commandments of fantasy football was to load up on running backs.  This is because the NFL was once a game centered around running the ball with elite backs who were not sharing carries as part of a committee.  Nowadays, teams have more than one running back who split carries – when teams decide to run the ball.  Additionally, injuries take their toll on running backs a lot faster and more dramatically than other positions.  In 2011, the projected early pick elite backs were Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, LeSean McCoy, and Ray Rice.  There was also Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Darren McFadden, Frank Gore, and Stephen Jackson were just below them in the next tier.  If you look at the statistics for these backs, you will see that just a few of them actually paid their dividends for such an early pick.  Welcome to the new world of fantasy football where wide receivers have entered the equation in the first round.

2.  Monitor the waiver wire constantly.  It should go without saying that you should be constantly checking the waiver wire for players that were dropped by other teams, returning from injury, or activated from the practice squad.  This year, there was no better example than Victor Cruz as a player who came out of nowhere, added as a free agent, and made a distinct difference in your fantasy football league.  This is the best way to improve your team without blowing it up in a blockbuster trade. 

1.  Have a deep bench.  Regardless of the lockout, there were a lot of catastrophic injuries in 2011.  From Peyton Manning to Jamaal Charles, many star players sustained injuries that kept them out for quite awhile.  It is so crucial to have depth on your roster so you can withstand losing a player or two and maintain a successful season.  That doesn’t mean drafting Peyton Manning’s backup – it means drafting reserve players at each position who play enough to contribute fantasy points in the absence of the better player.  If you have depth, you can trade from a position of strength for a player or position that is weaker.  You can also plug someone else in if in fact you lose a crucial player to injury.  Be creative and don’t be afraid to draft lots of running backs or wide receivers to bolster your bench.  I guarantee you will need that bench.

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