By Jaboner Jackson 8 am | By now, most of our Wonderful Readers would have drafted their Fantasy Football (FFB) teams. I reviewed key elements of drafting including drafting by position, standard deviation, and correlation in the prior Fantasy Football School lessons. If you still haven’t drafted, you can delve into those lessons here. For the remainder of our Readers, it’s time to set about constructing a weekly lineup. As always, the goal of a FFB manager to be to make his or her league’s playoffs. Once you make your league's playoffs, I'll demonstrate other strategies that will maximize your chances of winning your entire league.
Play Your Studs
Managers oftentimes complicate their lives by micromanaging their teams. While matchups are important in setting a lineup, they are not the primary concern. It is impossible to accurately predict how players will perform on any given Sunday. But it is very possible to predict how players will do over the course of a season. Accordingly, always play your studs, no matter what the matchup.
Stud players are First Tier talents that will excel over the course of the season. At wide receiver, this would include players such as Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, and other First Tier players. These players have real talent on the real football field. Play them no matter what the matchup and play them no matter what their performance the prior week may have been. So long as they are healthy, these players will get the job done over the course of an entire NFL season.
Even though Calvin Johnson (WR, Lions) netted only 1 reception and 13 yards against Darrelle Revis and the Jets in Week 9 of the 2010 season, the right choice was to start Johnson. With your stud players, do not worry about matchups. Worry about starting your studs.
Again, real football success equals fantasy football success for stud players. Check out our First Tier wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks here, here, and here. Start these studs no matter what. As the 2011 season progresses, reevaluate your players. If you think you have a stud, start him every week.
Think In Terms of Probabilities
The biggest mistake that FFB managers make is believing that they or someone else can predict what will happen to a player during a given week. If you are listening to someone for advice who guarantees his or her prognostications, shut your ears and run the other way. It’s impossible.
Rather, successful FFB managers think in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. On one of my FFB teams, I have both Matthew Stafford (QB, Lions) and Tony Romo (QB, Cowboys). In Week 1, I think it is highly likely that Stafford will have a strong game against the Buccaneers. I base this on several factors, including Stafford’s preseason showing and the lack of pass rush that I expect the Bucs to generate. I cannot guarantee that he will have a stellar game but I like his chances. If I had to put a number on his chance of success, I would estimate that he has a 70% chance of being a top 8 QB performer for Week 1.
Conversely, I am more pessimistic about Tony Romo (QB, Cowboys) against the Jets. I base this opinion on several factors, including the strong secondary play of the Jets and Romo’s only slightly above average pre-snap play. I would estimate that Romo probably only has a 40% chance of being a top 8 QB performer for Week 1.
Accordingly, I would start Stafford over Romo. But I would also understand that Romo can have an excellent game, albeit less likely than Stafford. Don’t think in terms of absolutes. Think in terms of probabilities.
Recognize Good and Bad Fortune
Trust your judgment and probability assessments. Don’t beat yourself up when you get unlucky and don’t fall in love with yourself when you get lucky. If you had the above probabilities of Stafford and Romo in place, go with it. Don’t kill yourself if Romo actually does outperform Stafford. You played the probabilities and were unlucky. You’ll use this new information in assessing the following week's probabilities. Turn the page.
Successful managers play the probabilities, trust their judgments, and understand the role of luck in FFB.
Understand The Pecking Order of the REAL Team
Although I rely heavily on statistical concepts such as standard deviation and correlation in constructing my team and weekly starting lineups, I never lose sight of the fact that FFB is reflective of REAL football on the field. When picking players for your flex position and #2 and #3 WR spots, consider the pecking order of the REAL football team upon which your player participates.
For example, Dez Bryant (WR, Cowboys) is clearly a special talent on the field but he is also only Tony Romo’s (QB, Cowboys) third favorite option, after Miles Austin (WR, Cowboys) and Jason Wittten (TE, Cowboys). Accordingly, Bryant should start off your FFB season as a low #2 or high #3 WR. He clearly has solid #2 WR FFB talent but his on field situation is murky. It’s okay to play him as your #2 WR so long as you understand that he is a work in progress and that your expectations should be tempered.
If Bryant develops more chemistry with Romo and ends up being favored by Romo ahead of Austin or Witten, reassess your rankings. But understand the REAL team before you slot the player into your FFB team.
Remember Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Unless your player is a stud, do not be afraid to bench him.
In 2010, Cedrick Benson (RB, Bengals) chugged his way through 16 games, 1100+ yards, and 7 touchdowns. These are respectable but not spectacular numbers. In one league in which I played, the owner of Benson started him every week as his #2 RB despite having more explosive options on the bench. By halfway through the 2010 season, it was obvious that Benson’s line was going to be a typical 70 yards a game. But Benson’s owner kept believing that Benson was due for a breakout second half of the season despite there being no evidence to support this notion.
When your non-stud players are consistently not performing, do not hesitate to bench them. The window for making playoffs in your FFB league is small. Focus on opportunities rather than riding out a nonproductive player. Don’t be insane.
Good luck this weekend, Wonderful Readers. While rooting on your FFB players, don’t forget that there is real football being played as well. We’ll cover both.