The 10 Fantasy Football Commandments (2019)
If my wife is reading this (and judging by her constant eye rolls whenever I talk about fantasy football, she probably isn’t;) then I can’t remember any of the girls I dated before I met her. Seriously, not one. Life was but a blur.
Is she looking? No? Ok, cool.
Yes, it’s true, when you get married, you pretty much forget your old flames, and I certainly have. Except for one: Laura (not her real name).
You see, Laura (not her real name) had a bit of a fancy upbringing. And every Sunday, her family would throw this lavish lunch party at their house. The waitstaff wore white gloves and tuxedos, guests wore seersucker suits, and the food was tiny and sounded French. And every Sunday, like the good boyfriend that I was, I attended.
Oh sure, Laura (not her real name) hated those parties herself and knew how much I loved football – both real and fantasy – and she felt awful dragging me to them. But she couldn’t bring herself to lie to her parents. She felt like the ol’ “Dan really doesn’t want to have to wear his college sweatshirt and take the SATs again so he’s skipping the lunch party to make sure he doesn’t finish last in his fantasy football league” just wouldn’t go over well.
One Monday night, I was watching the final football game of the week and was in an insanely close fantasy football matchup. I desperately needed a Reggie Wayne touchdown, and, as the Colts approached the goal-line, I said something silly like, “Please God, let this throw go to Wayne.” Laura (not her real name) overheard me, and boom. Every Sunday from then on, she could accurately tell her parents that I was unable to make the Sunday luncheon because I was attending “religious services.”
I know what you’re thinking – I should have married that girl. I know, but if you met my wife, you’d understand why I didn’t. And although I never have a reason to think of any of my other previous relationships, I’ll always remember the only non-fantasy player I’ve ever known to understand that fantasy football could qualify as a religion…unless my wife is reading this. In which case, what were we talking about?
Anyway, in honor of Laura (not her real name) and her understanding of the religious implications of fantasy football, here are our 10 Fantasy Football Commandments for 2019.
1) Thou shalt honor thy superstitions
It’s not a football movie, but I love “Bull Durham.” Seriously, I’ll watch it whenever it’s on. And one of my favorite lines is when Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is trying to explain a winning streak to Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon). He says, “If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you’re wearing ladies underwear, then you are!”
And you know what? That’s accurate. If you think you draft better when you eat asparagus for dinner or wear your hat backwards, then you do. If you think your fantasy football team performs better because you grocery shop and read your kids Horton Hatches the Egg on Sundays (and I do), then it does.
Don’t let anyone else tell you that not washing your favorite shirt for four weeks because your fantasy team is on a roll is “unsanitary” and “embarrassing to your children.” Respect every streak and superstition. Because if you think it has an impact on your fantasy football performance, then it does.
2) Thou shalt mock draft as often as possible
No matter how much research you do or how much you know about every player, for the most part, it’s all for naught if you don’t practice with mock drafts. How does your team look when you start with two running backs or draft a tight end early? What’s the right move when there’s an insane run on wide receivers in the first three rounds?
The only way to prepare yourself to make the necessary split-second decisions is to practice making those split-second decisions over and over again. Truthfully, this should be the first commandment, but I love that Bull Durham quote, so mocking gets bumped to number two.
Note: nearly every fantasy sports website has a tool that allows you to mock draft against other players. If you’ve done them before, you know they can be time-consuming and often frustrating, when other mock-drafters drop out of the draft after two rounds or think it’s funny to take Keke Coutee first overall. If you find yourself with these same concerns, I’d recommend using the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.
You draft against artificial intelligence that uses individual expert rankings. That means you know that the other drafters know what they’re doing, you know everyone will finish the draft, and the entire thing takes about five minutes. You’ll also get some post-draft analysis, noting your strengths, weaknesses, etc., and you’ll get different results every time you mock, meaning you’ll get to explore nearly every draft-day scenario.
This is not a part of the second commandment. Merely a public service announcement.
3) Thou shalt know thy league settings and roster positions
Seems simple, right? Any fantasy football player worth his salt knows that one’s strategy can vary greatly depending on whether the league is PPR, has a superflex, or awards points for first downs. And yet probably everyone reading this has that person in their long-standing league who still shows up to the draft room and writes in the chat, “How many wide receivers do we start again?”
Truthfully, the mistake of not knowing your league settings happens to the best of them, as it’s not always easy to keep things straight when you play in 10 or more leagues. But put a reminder in your phone on the day before every draft to take five minutes and go to the scoring settings tab in your league page. It’s an easy way to avoid that awful feeling midway through your draft when you think you’re crushing it only to realize you’ve got the scoring settings wrong.
4) Thou shalt honor thy running backs and wide receivers
It can be incredibly nerve-wracking to watch other managers draft backup quarterbacks and tight ends when you haven’t yet filled your starting spot at those positions. Of course, there comes a point where you reach the end of a tier, even your third or fourth tier, when it’s the right time to make a move.
But good teams are built on running back and wide receiver depth. And really, that’s all you care about. So help me, if I see a backup kicker on your team…well, there’s pretty much nothing I can do about it.
But seriously, don’t panic if you’re the last one to draft a player at any other position. Hit your running back and wide receiver depth, and hit it hard.
5) Thou shalt trash talk appropriately
There’s nothing wrong with a little good old-fashioned trash talk, particularly if it’s good-natured. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Lobbing personal attacks, bringing up results from six seasons ago, or discussing an opponent’s real-life favorite football team should all be off limits. It’s just a game, guys, so let’s keep it civil. In fact, your best trash talk is to not talk down to your opponent at all, and simply have a little fun with it.
My preferred method? The fake press conference is always my go-to. I’ve drafted hundreds of fantasy articles at this point, but, in my opinion, the best thing I’ve ever written was a press conference before my championship match debating whether or not I would start Joe Webb at wide receiver in a Yahoo! league when there were rumors that he would start at quarterback for the Vikings that week.
I have it framed in my office. It would be the first thing I would save in a fire, even though it’s still probably available in the Yahoo! archives.
I also enjoy benching your players until just before game time not to allow your opponent to prepare his or her fantasy defense. Mind games like this are critical to getting in your opponent’s head. However you do it, just have fun with it and keep it light. Friendships have ended over less than fantasy football smack talk gone wrong.
6) Remember thy waiver wire day, and keep it holy
We all put enormous energy into our draft preparation, but in-season management is just as important. And that’s why your waiver wire day, whether it be Tuesday, Wednesday, or whenever, is sacred.
Always, without fail, do your research leading up to that day, use your waiver position or budget effectively, and keep your team as strong as possible. No matter how many leagues you’re in, never, for even one week, forget to put in your claims. The little moves you make could be the difference between attaining a championship or not.
And never, ever abuse the waiver wire. Your opponent’s tight end is on a bye, and you want to pick up the best one out there to block him? Totally fine.
You want to pick up every available tight end and then immediately drop them so that they’re all on waivers and your opponent can’t pick up anyone? That’s just not cricket.
7) Thou shalt play out thy entire season
There’s nothing worse than when your fantasy football team gets off to an awful start and your season is done by Week 7. What once looked like a promising roster turned out to be the worst team in the league, either due to injury, bad luck, or just plain poor drafting.
Scratch that – there is something worse. And that’s when you’re in a desperate race for the playoffs with another owner, and you realize his or her opponent is starting two players on a bye and one on injured reserve.
Yes, it stinks to have nothing to play for. But you owe it to your league – nay, society as a whole – to play out your entire season and give it your all. The fantasy gods look kindly on those who respect the game.
8) Thou shalt not be afraid to use thy waiver priority
That first waiver claim is a thing of beauty. You can have any player you want at any time. The world is your oyster.
The problem is that most fantasy owners are so reluctant to use their top priority that they just sit on it for weeks. It’s like when Frank Costanza gets the good parking spot in front of his house. “Once he gets it, he doesn’t go out for weeks [Goal of working a Seinfeld reference into every article remains alive].”
In the meantime, these owners allow holes to fill their rosters and are simply unable to fill them. By the time a player they deem worthy of the top spot comes along, their team has often fallen out of the playoff race.
Yes, it would be nice to have the top waiver spot when that critical running back injury comes. But, for the most part, it’s overrated, and your team is much better served when you feel free to pick up players whenever your team needs to plug holes.
9) Thou shalt never lose a matchup intentionally
Remember that talk about those fantasy gods looking kindly on you for playing out a season to the end? Well, they can also be a vengeful lot, too. And there is nothing they hate more than when fantasy owners lose matchups intentionally.
Sure, there are times when it can be a sound strategy to lose a matchup. If it’s the opening week, your waiver wire grants priority to the worst team, and there is suddenly a fantastic option available, it’s understandable that you might bench some players to finish with the lowest point total of the week. Or you might look to give yourself what you perceive as a better first-round playoff matchup by losing in your final week and getting the second seed instead of the first.
No, do not do this. Do not do any of this. Above all, you must play our beloved game with integrity and honor. Play every game to win (within reason, of course), and your fantasy karma will improve.
10) Thou shalt not overreact to any single performance
It happens every year. Some running back or wide receiver has a monstrous game in one of the first few weeks and owners blow the bulk of their FAAB on him. With rare exception, owners get a serviceable but unspectacular performer for a week or two and little else. And worst of all, when you spend so much FAAB on a player, you feel compelled to keep him in your lineup for far longer than he is useful, further damaging your prospects.
Certainly, early season performances can be indicative of a breakout. Phillip Lindsay, for example, was outstanding all year, and owners who picked him up after his early success benefited greatly. But for the most part, avoiding going crazy over one or two performances is a much wiser strategy than making a big move based on a single game.
On the other side of the coin, you also don’t want to overreact negatively to any performance. The number of spite drops you’ll see in a season is remarkable.
It’s a long season. Ride it out. Actually, “no spite drops” probably deserved its own commandment. I’ll talk to the fantasy gods about it.