How to Effectively Assess the Quality of Your Team (Fantasy Football)
About 95% of the time, you leave your draft feeling good about your team. You will love some of your teams more than others, but overall, it is rare that you will leave a draft thinking that your team is dead on arrival. Then the season starts.
Fantasy football is a fickle game. The regular season is a mere 13 weeks and the general rule of thumb is once you hit seven losses, it’s over. If you start the season cold, it can be difficult to recover. More troublesome is often a fantasy owner’s tendency to panic. I think it’s much harder to diagnose a good team that is getting unlucky as opposed to a bad team that is finding ways to win.
I’ve won a title from 0-4 and made the playoffs from 1-5 and 0-5. With all three of those teams, I was able to avoid panicking by assessing my teams and understanding that I was just the victim of some really bad luck. At the same time, I’ve also had some bad luck starts to the season that I was unable to recover from. It happens. More often than not, there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to stay the course and hope regression occurs in time to salvage the season. If your team is good, but is losing, there’s not much you can do.
So how do you know if you have a bad team? The first thing you should do is just look at the players on your team, specifically your starting lineup. You know football. You know this game. Are your players good? If they’re not good, then you already have an idea that you may deserve your record. If they are good, then it’s time to dig a little deeper.
The next step is to look at your league’s standings by total points. Where does your team rank in total points? If you’re in the top half, but 1-5 through six weeks, you may be getting unlucky. If you’re top three or better, you almost certainly are getting unlucky. With that being said, one common misconception from fantasy owners is that total points should correlate to win/loss record. Of course it should more often than not, but outlier seasons happen and, most importantly, fantasy football is a weekly game.
I once had a team that had literally zero luck. In both directions. It scored under 90 or over 130 every single week. The sub 90 weeks resulted in losses 100% of the time and the 130+ weeks resulted in wins 100% of the time. Truth be told, I think we’d all sign up for fantasy football working that way. But, as we know, it doesn’t.
Take a look at your matchups by week. Is your high point total a product of consistent performance or is your team scoring 180 one week and 70 the next? If your team is repeatedly posting above league average point totals and you are just running into it, you know that a move isn’t necessary. You should always be looking to improve your team, but don’t split a superstar just because you feel like you have to switch things up because you’re 0-4. Sometimes you just get hit by the wrong side of variance. If your team is scoring points, but you don’t have the wins to show for it, often times the best action is no action.
On the flip side, if your team is off to a fast start, but your point total is lacking (which you can deduce from the same methods above), it is likely time to make a move. Take advantage of your “undeserved wins” in knowing you have a cushion to work with. You can afford to take a couple losses while you tinker and try to figure things out. A smoke and mirrors team is not getting a bye, but it can sneak into the playoffs. While that’s great, the only way to win a championship is to win three consecutive games against, presumably, the better teams in your league. That’s not happening with a fraud team. If you have a weak point total, but are off to something like a 5-2 start, figure out where your team’s weaknesses lie and go target a more desperate team for a deal.
A great way to manipulate the situation is once bye weeks start to hit. If you’re the smoke and mirrors team with a good record, try and make a trade for a superstar during his bye week with a team that can’t afford a loss. You can fill your trade partner’s hole from the superstar on a bye with a quality player while adding another useful player that can help him win that week in exchange for likely taking a loss yourself, but improving the overall quality of your team going forward. Obviously the reverse applies if you’re the team getting unlucky.
In either scenario, whether your team is overperforming or underperforming it’s point total, never get complacent. With injuries and player performance varying from week to week, you should be assessing your team every Tuesday and making an effort to take the appropriate action to put yourself in the best position to win.