101 Ways to Become a Better Fantasy Football Player (2021 Edition)
Whether you celebrated yet another fantasy football championship in 2020 or had the kind of season that had you looking ahead to 2021 in October, we’re here to help you reach the pinnacle this year, and in fantasy seasons to come.
Much like the cellists, javelin throwers and cup stackers of the world, there’s always room for improvement in your fantasy approach – and this article is designed to help you sharpen your skills so that you can go into each and every fantasy season ready to dominate and humble your league-mates (unless they’re also reading this article, in which case, you’ll need to work a little harder.)
Here are 101 of the best tips and tricks I can offer to make you a better fantasy football player from start to finish – and while not all of them will necessarily apply to you, if there’s even one suggestion that levels you up from a fantasy perspective, then my job is done!
1) Read and listen to everything, everywhere, all year-round. Whether it’s the hundreds of fantasy football articles published on our site over the course of a fantasy season, or the dozens of fantasy football podcasts we record every year, you have access to an absolute trove of fantasy advice. The keys to a winning fantasy season are contained within these published pieces – and while it’s up to you to decide what to retain and what to ignore, the more you read, the more prepared you’ll be to navigate the fantasy season.
2) Learn from prior mistakes … The overwhelming majority of fantasy football players don’t win their league title (that’s just math, folks.) So if you didn’t, go back and figure out why. Did you struggle to fill a particular positional void during the season? Did you make costly draft mistakes from which you couldn’t recover? Did you make a terrible trade? Pinpointing your mistakes and adjusting your approach the following season is a great way to easily improve your future performance.
3) … But know the difference between a mistake and bad luck. Reaching five rounds for a high-risk player who ultimately underperforms is a mistake. Watching three of your first four picks end up on IR is just bad luck. And yet, too many people put those two transgressions on the same page at season’s end. Don’t be that player: Some bad outcomes are out of your control, and shouldn’t be treated as mistakes never to repeated. Know the difference, and only fix what’s really broken.
4) Know your league-mates and their habits. There’s a popular saying in the business world: “Always be the smartest person in the room.” And that expression fits the fantasy football realm like a tailored suit. Most fantasy players fit into a box – and the more familiar you are with which boxes your league-mates occupy, the better able you’ll be to minimize their strengths, expose their weaknesses and put yourself in position to win that ‘ship at season’s end. We have leaguemate-centric articles here and here.
5) Have a short memory. Scenario 1: You won. Great! Forget about it. Scenario 2: You lost. Sorry! Forget about it. Last year is gone, man. Live in the moment. While it’s important to be able to identify trends that could very well carry over from one year to the next, for the most part, the new football season is a completely clean slate. And that means starting from scratch – even in dynasty/keeper leagues, where many of your player values will likely change dramatically as the new season goes on.
6) Mock draft early and often. Sure, this presents a natural opportunity to promote our Mock Draft Simulator. But that’s far from the only reason we would recommend using and abusing the tool. Like any discipline, practice makes perfect – and what better way to kick off your draft preparation than by completing all kinds of mock drafts from different draft slots based on different draft strategies? It’s the single biggest advantage you can give yourself over your league rivals.
7) Monitor early ADP movement. This can be done easily enough through your mock draft simulations, or you can peruse various sites that offer empirical ADP data. Pay particular attention during signature events like the free-agent frenzy or the NFL Draft, and monitor how those events impact notable players’ ADPs. This way, you’ll be able to spot ADP trends and see how the industry views certain players over the long haul (which can only add to your overall analysis of those players.) You can follow our consensus ADP here.
8) Properly value everyone on your dynasty/keeper roster. Per Matt Barbato’s “Taking Stock of Every Player on Your Roster” feature, it’s vital that you know just how each player on your dynasty or keeper team fits into your short- and long-term plan. That means doing a little more legwork, but knowing how each of your roster pieces fit into the bigger puzzle is vital to building a successful roster meant to win now and be competitive for years to come.
9) Approach your fantasy league like it’s a poker game. For starters, every league has a fish – and if you can’t spot him, it might be you. Secondly, you’ll need to read the league like you read a poker table and adjust your tactics based on the level of competition. Be wary of playing too many hands in the form of making trades, and don’t go on fantasy tilt if you catch a bad beat and lose to a 2-5 team in Week 8 by 0.5 points. Take a similar approach to fantasy as you would to poker, and you’ll have a leg up on your competitors.
10) Dip a toe into the early Best Ball pool. Maybe those set-and-forget leagues aren’t your thing. And that’s fine; many of us prefer the option of editing our weekly lineups. But there are plenty of benefits to participating in an early-season Best Ball league; not only do you get to sharpen your draft game, you’re also at a potentially huge advantage over your competition based on how much research you’ve done to this point (and if you’ve followed our advice, you’ve done a lot.) Check out our vast library of Best Ball articles here.
11) Pay attention to historical trends. It pays to know how the fantasy football sphere is changing from year to year – and this is easy enough to do if you a little digging. Start with our fantasy football leaderboards, which go back as far as 2012. From there, you can see how positional scoring has changed, as well as how marquee players have fared from one season to the next. Use these to inform your decisions for the upcoming season, at least to the extent you feel they’ll help.
12) Use the proper strength-of-schedule metric. Simply studying a player’s upcoming schedule and assigning value based on the strength of the opponent’s overall defensive prowess is a colossal waste of time – especially early in the fantasy season, when we really don’t know anything about how a defense will perform. Use our Strength of Schedule tool to break teams down by fantasy points allowed by position (a much more practical metric), and weight SOS significance accordingly (as in, put more stock in schedule strength as the season moves on).
13) Take points distribution into account. How a player scores his fantasy points is almost as important as how many he ends up by season’s end. Our Points Distribution page lets you see how much of a player’s fantasy scoring was created by rushing/passing/receiving yards versus touchdowns – and therefore determine which players are best-positioned to repeat or even surpass their 2020 results versus those who might struggle to reach those heights based on unrealistic TD conversion rates.
14) Use quality starts rather than relying on raw 2020 stats. Would you rather roster a player who will score 10 points per week for the entire fantasy season, or a player who scores 20 points one week and zero the next? That quandary illustrates the different paths players take to their final point total – and regardless of which player you choose, you need to know the numbers behind the final tallies. Fortunately, our Quality Starts report allows you to see how players fared based on their weekly finishes.
15) Listen to your favorite fantasy podcasts at 2x speed. We won’t tell you which podcasts you should listen to (other than the industry-renowned FantasyPros Football Podcast, of course.) But if you want to fit more podcast listening into your day – or just have time to do other stuff with your ears – then we highly recommend playing the pods at twice the speed. You’ll knock up to 30+ minutes off the length in some cases, and that can lead to a major advantage during a busy fantasy football draft prep season.
16) Ask the experts. Got a question about a tough keeper decision? Want to know how to adjust your draft strategy for a league scoring change? Stuck on who to take with your first-round pick? The experts are here to help – and while we can’t speak for fantasy football professionals elsewhere, our analysts have a strong track record of answering whatever questions you might have. You can reach our analysts (Joe Pisapia, Mike Tagliere, Kyle Yates and Dan Harris) via Twitter by clicking the links listed here.
17) Identify the savviest positional experts. Projecting how players will fare in the upcoming season always has a crapshoot element to it – but like poker, it isn’t entirely a game of luck. Some experts seem to be better at draft accuracy than others – and while we won’t do all of the legwork for you (you’ll need to peruse our yearly Fantasy Football Draft Accuracy rankings yourself), let’s just say that there are plenty of examples of experts who consistently rank among the best in the industry at projecting specific positions.
18) Focus on vacated target recipients. Teams lose receiving threats on a yearly basis – and when they leave, their targets are suddenly up for grabs. The savviest experts are regularly able to accurately project how those vacated targets will likely be distributed the following season. And the accuracy of your cheat sheet depends on your ability to assign those missing targets – so make that a priority whenever you start putting together your initial draft prep.
19) Don’t overreact to pre-preseason news. Imagine how sunk you’d be if you bought all the way into the rumors that Aaron Rodgers would spurn the Packers and force a trade out of Green Bay. Not only do many of the hottest morsels of offseason scuttlebutt wind up being little more than noise, they also lead inexperienced fantasy managers into making bad decisions, or relying on strategies that quickly become outdated. Don’t be that manager.
20) Create your own cheat sheet. Gone are the days where you tote your scrawl-laden notepad to your in-person draft and try futilely to make out your own terrible handwriting. Cheat sheets have come such a long way in recent years – and FantasyPros has the best in the business. Our Custom Cheat Sheet Creator offers a completely individualized experience based on league and scoring format, and you can even add your own tabs and player notes. Cheat sheets are game-changers on draft day, so come prepared.
21) Study as many projection models as you can. We all love perusing those pre-season projections, because they give tangible statistical snapshots of what our fantasy players are expected to do that season. Some people read them for kicks, while others put a tremendous amount of stock in the numbers. If you fit the latter category, it’s imperative that you study a variety of projection models to get a sense of where the industry stands from a stat perspective; our Projections page is a great place to start.
22) Don’t spend much time on bye week mitigation. Ah, bye weeks. The magic numbers that tell us which week our fantasy assets will be completely valueless. Some people spend a lot of time during their draft prep ensuring that they don’t run into bye-week problems; don’t be one of those people. Unless your top six players all have the same bye week, you’ll be fine. In fact, you might as well just punt that week and dominate the rest of the year. That said, it’s still good to manage byes (and you can do so with our Bye Week Cheat Sheet).
23) Invite your league-mates into a multi-user mock. What could be more fun in the weeks leading into your fantasy football draft than pulling some of your league-mates into a private mock draft for a little dry run? The angel on your shoulder will tell you it’s a great way to have a few laughs and build up even more suspense leading into your actual draft; the devil on your other shoulder will suggest that it’s a low-key sneaky way to study your league-mates’ draft tendencies and use that information to enhance your draft prep.
24) Offer up the No. 1 pick if you own it. Here are the finishes for each player taken first overall in fantasy football since 2012 (using PPR scoring):
2012 – Arian Foster (RB4, 15th overall)
2013 – Adrian Peterson (RB7, 39th overall)
2014 – LeSean McCoy (RB12, 61st overall)
2015 – Adrian Peterson (RB2, 29th overall)
2016 – Antonio Brown (WR1, 7th overall)
2017 – David Johnson (RB111, 461st overall; appeared in 1 game)
2018 – Todd Gurley (RB2, 3rd overall)
2019 – Saquon Barkley (RB12, 46th)
2020 – Christian McCaffrey (RB51, 222nd overall; appeared in 3 games)
Of the last nine first overall picks, only four finished inside the top five at their position that season. Granted, you’re getting a very good player there – but most years, the hype surrounding the No. 1 pick far exceeds that player’s eventual fantasy contribution. Put the pick on the trade block, break down the offers you get – and if you like what you see, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
25) If in doubt, throw that keeper out. Keeper leagues come in many forms – but no matter how your keeper protocol works, you should be ruthlessly particular at who you decide to keep. Fantasy football is a fickle game, where player peaks are short and today’s stars are tomorrow’s backups (or out of the league altogether). If you’re not sure about whether to keep a player at whatever cost is attached, you’re probably better off cutting ties. Stick with the sure things wherever possible.
26) Read the player notes. Going the extra mile with your fantasy football research is a critical component to becoming the kind of player your opponents fear – and hitting our extensive library of player profile cards is a great way to accelerate that process. You don’t need to read every word, but each card should give you a comprehensive glimpse not only into that player’s projections, ADP, schedule, etc., but also the most thorough snapshot into how the industry experts feel about him.
27) Mock the day before (or of) your actual draft. All the research in the world is no substitute for a chance to get in some last-minute mock draft action – and setting aside some time to do one or several mocks in the hours prior to your real life draft is an absolute must. Think of it like hitting the driving range or putting green before heading out for a round of golf: strengthening those mock draft muscles can only help enhance your draft performance when the picks actually count.
28) Drafting online? Find your happy place. Remember when Happy Gilmore would occasionally lapse into a dream sequence in which his girlfriend strides into the frame with two pitchers of cold beer while his grandmother wins a slot machine jackpot (among other bizarre happenings)? If you’re drafting online, it’s important for you to find your own happy place. Throw on some music. Set the thermostat to a pitch-perfect 68. Grab your favorite snack. Whatever you need to do to settle in for the best draft performance of your life, you do it.
29) Drafting in person? Drink responsibly. This public service announcement is brought to you by countless thousands of fantasy draft participants who indulged one time too many and wound up with eight tight ends on their roster. In the slightly-altered words of Kenny Rogers, “There’ll be time enough for drinkin’ … when the draftin’s done.” And if you approach the alcohol situation correctly on draft day, you might be enjoying plenty of celebratory suds about four months later.
30) Only bring information you’re only going to use. Some fantasy owners believe you can never have enough draft-day research materials. And they are flat wrong. Not only is sifting through mountains of papers or open browser tabs an unnecessary time sink, the overload of information will often leave you confused an unable to make an informed choice. So it bears repeating: make your own cheat sheet, and keep the extra research content to an absolute minimum.
31) Take all the time you need. There’s this common belief that drafters should already know who they’re going to pick when their turn comes up. But that isn’t always the case – and the act of guilting or shaming a participant into making a selection is bad form. Lighten up, folks! It’s the most fun day of the fantasy season; why rush? So feel free to take whatever time you’re given, draft padawan: you’ve waited all year for this, and every pick in a fantasy football draft is just so important.
32) Treat your draft plan like a dollar-store umbrella. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cheap umbrella the majority of the time; it’ll keep you mostly dry at minimum, and as long as the wind isn’t too fierce, it should get you from Point A to Point B. That’s your draft plan: It’ll work for as long as it works. But if that umbrella ends up catching a gust and buckling in your hand, you need to throw it away. Don’t stick to your draft plan if circumstances dictate that you toss it out. Be flexible, or be stuck holding a crappy umbrella.
33) Use our Draft Assistant. Oh sure, you could just wing it – but why? Linking your league to our Draft Assistant will allow you to track every pick in real time while offering advice on your draft as it’s happening. Use the Manual Draft Assistant for a basic way of tracking your draft one pick at a time, or use the Draft Assistant with Sync feature to have your picks crossed off as they’re made while getting instant analysis and recommendations based on your league scoring, available players and roster situation at the time.
34) Auction draft? Bid strategically. This is a rather general piece of advice, and not exactly groundbreaking (every basic auction strategy guide has some iteration of this tip). But it can’t be overstated: Your bid tactics can help you control the entire complexion of your draft. And you can’t wield that kind of power in a serpentine draft. Build out bid strategies by position, or even by player; combine that with ploys like mixing up your bid raises and jumping in late in the bidding, and nobody will know what you’re up to. And that’s awesome.
35) Focus largely on volume. Fantasy football volume comes in many forms. Pass attempts. Touches and rush attempts. Targets. In every case, you’re usually much better off rostering players at the top end of the category. And while that might seem overly simplistic, it’s particularly vital to bear in mind as you get into the middle or later rounds of your draft. For example, 46 of the 49 running backs with 240+ carries in a season the past five years finished as an RB2 or better. VOLUME.
36) Take your QB approach seriously. It’s not my place to say how you should draft your quarterback – but it is my job to suggest that you don’t dismiss the position altogether, as some drafters do. So many of your fantasy points will come from your quarterback – so whether you splurge early for a Mahomes or a Jackson, or opt instead to stream multiple QBs, your quarterback selection strategy needs to be on point. And of course, we’re here to help with our recommended QB By Committee options.
37) Treat running backs like gold. Fantasy football is a game of asset collection – and running backs are the most sought-after commodity, at least in today’s NFL landscape. So load up on skilled RBs on draft day; not only will you be well-positioned to maximize your running back fantasy return on a weekly basis, you’ll also be a popular trade partner when the three guys who decided to go Zero RB realize you can’t win a fantasy title with D’Andre Swift or Myles Gaskin as your RB1.
38) Snag one top-end wide receiver. When it comes to the top flight of fantasy wideouts, what you see is what you get. In other words, many of the names you see taken in the first few rounds of your fantasy drafts will litter the top of the leaderboard at season’s end. And while it’s certainly easier to find a game-changing WR than a league-winning RB late in the draft or on the waiver wire, the consistency at the top end of the position necessitates taking a sure thing with one of your first picks.
39) Accept that tight ends aren’t your friends. Here’s a look at how the top-10 tight ends of 2020 would have fared had they ranked among wide receivers (in 1/2 PPR formats):
Travis Kelce: WR3
Darren Waller: WR11
Robert Tonyan: WR34
T.J. Hockenson: WR35
Mark Andrews: WR37
Logan Thomas: WR40
Mike Gesicki: WR41
Rob Gronkowski: WR44
Jonnu Smith: WR47
Jimmy Graham: WR48
Yep: the TE3 returned low-end WR3 value, while the 10th-ranked tight end in 2020 fantasy scoring posted numbers good enough to make him a low-end WR4/high-end WR5 in 12-team leagues. And with major question marks dogging at least half of the names on this list, you have to ask yourself: Is it worth spending any pick in the single-digit rounds on a tight end who might put up WR3-4 numbers? Proceed with extreme caution.
40) Leave your K and D/ST slots open. Some experts have advised fantasy owners not to select a kicker at their drafts. This is an especially valuable tactic if your draft takes place earlier in the offseason, since it will allow you to select (and wait on) an actual skill player whom you can just drop for a kicker prior to the season. Take it one step further and leave your D/ST slot empty, and you add yet another skill player who could gain value prior to Week 1.
41) Use our “Who Should I Draft?” tool. No matter how much research you do, sometimes you’re left with a difficult decision – and despite our best advice, you might occasionally want to consult the experts. Fortunately, we can help with that! Our “Who Should I Draft?” feature allows you to enter up to four names at once, while showing you the percentage of experts who favor each player listed. It’s the perfect feature for fantasy owners who are genuinely torn between two similar options.
42) Take an early TE or QB if you wish – but not both. Seeking to dominate the quarterback or tight end positions by taking Lamar Jackson or Travis Kelce is a fine strategy, provided that you commit to effectively filling the RB/WR void that decision creates. But don’t get too cute here: As Mike Tagliere suggests, reaching for both your QB1 and TE1 too early not only leaves you with two gaping holes at the two most important positions in fantasy, it also limits your overall trade capital (since those positions carry much lower trade values than RB or WR).
43) Build the best bench. You don’t necessarily have to wait until you have your entire starting roster (minus K and D/ST if you adhere to the previous tip) to start filling out your bench – but when you do, you need to ensure that you have the best reserve group in your fantasy league. Choose running backs well-positioned to see a starter’s workload in the case of injury, and focus on wide receivers who have easier paths to potential snaps and targets. And focus exclusively on RBs and WRs, aside from maybe having a strong backup QB if you’re looking to stream.
44) Embrace the draft-day trade. You know what you want your post-draft fantasy football roster to look like – but alas, things don’t always work out for you. So why not remedy that with a good old-fashioned draft-day swap? Use the applicable Trade Value Chart to approximate fair value, then start throwing the offers around. You might not get any bites – but if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be a whole lot happier with your team once the final pick is made.
45) Draft for Weeks 4-13. The age-old adage is that you don’t draft your team based on the schedule for the fantasy football playoffs. Let’s go one further with this and suggest that you should also ignore matchups over the first three weeks of the season, when we have literally no idea what teams’ offenses or defenses look like. That leaves the 10-week middle as your focus: Build your team with the intention of dominating Weeks 4-13, and there’s a good chance you’ll be looking at the potential of a long playoff run.
46) Take a shot on a Week 1 “stud.” One of the benefits of building a solid all-around lineup over the course of the draft is that it allows you to comfortably take a final-round shot on a player you would have no issue with dropping after Week 1. And that leaves open the possibility of landing a player that goes OFF in the opening week of the season, sending his trade value skyrocketing (and sparing you having to spend 90 FAAB bucks to acquire him in time for Week 2).
47) Don’t rush to the waiver wire prior to Week 1. Most leagues have a two- or three-day break between the draft and the first waiver/free-agent pickup period. Yet, while there might be a temptation to dive in and start re-tooling the back end of your roster as soon as those waiver doors open, you should be patient. Unless something has happened to devalue any of your picks, or you need to fill those K or D/ST slots you might have left open, you can leave the scrap-heap work to your competition (who might subsequently drop a player actually worth picking up).
48) Take those Week 1 rankings for what they are. Even the most ardent fans of our in-season Expert Consensus Rankings will acknowledge that handicapping the opening week of the season is an incredibly difficult task. It’s worth doing a little more digging into news items and updated depth charts prior to Week 1; a lot can change between the end of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, and the last thing you want is to have to rely exclusively on rankings based almost solely on projections.
49) Don’t overthink your Week 1 lineup. I can’t say it enough: there’s so much we don’t know about how things will transpire in Week 1. So the best thing to do, more often than not, is to trust your gut and choose your lineup based on the information you have at your disposal. Benching a guy you had drafted to start in favor of a late-round lottery ticket, then seeing that lotto ticket post a 1-12-0 line while your benched starter goes for 5-91-1, is near the top of “most annoying ways to start a fantasy season.”
50) Need a K and/or D/ST? Drop players with the lowest potential. So you left the draft without a kicker or defense/special teams unit, and now it’s time to fill those spots. This might be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll face in Week 1 – even more than setting your lineup. So try and prioritize players who have the lowest ceilings; not only are the chances decent that you’ll be able to pick them up again down the road if need be, it’ll also limit the chances of you dropping a boom-or-bust guy who goes BOOM in the opening week.
51) Map out your post-draft outlook. Congratulations! After weeks (or even months) of preparation, you finally have your very own fantasy football roster! But your work isn’t done yet: You’ll want to do a preliminary breakdown of your week-by-week point outlook using a combination of strength of schedule and bye-week distribution. It might not be the most useful long-term analysis tool at this point, but it’s a great way to identify if there are any potential trouble spots lurking at any point during the regular season.
52) Immediately re-calibrate your player values after Week 1. Week 1 of the fantasy football season is like the stock market on rocket fuel. Player values can either launch into orbit, or plunge into the sea. And amid all the craziness, you need to keep the most even keel of anyone in your league. If you’re in a good league, the number of panic-stricken fantasy owners or eager buyers of one-week wonders will be low – but they’re still out there. And it’s up to you to take advantage without losing your own head over Week 1 results.
53) Look for clues in the early numbers. You’ll have plenty of competition for those Week 2 waiver wire pickups (more on them coming up) – but before you take the plunge, be sure you’ve studied the numbers that matter most. Our Snap Count Leaders page tells you which players were on the field the most (this is especially important when evaluating potential wide receiver pickups), while the Target Leaders page (and subsequent articles on the topic) tells you where all of those Week 1 pass attempts went.
54) Use ROS projections to guide your Week 2 waiver path. The frenzy to the Week 2 waiver wire can be completely overwhelming – especially if you’re in multiple leagues, and especially if you had key injuries in Week 1. But don’t lose your head here: A receiver who came out of nowhere to go 9-102-2 in Week 1 isn’t necessarily worth 100 percent of your FAAB budget. Use our rest-of-season projections to see if the experts believe in those Week 1 explosions, or view them as one-week wonders to be avoided.
55) Sell high in the early going – but beware of buying low. If you were able to scoop one of those Week 1 or Week 2 dynamos, you’re probably sitting pretty – so get what you can from whatever desperate owner is willing to pay the price. But be wary of buying low in the first few weeks of the season; not only are smart owners less likely to take a loss on an underachiever, but the player in a buy-low situation doesn’t always bounce back; in fact, sometimes his early struggles are the new normal.
56) Parlay your high waiver priority into fantasy gold. You might not care much for what you see on the waiver wire in a given week, but someone else sure will – so why not use your No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the waiver queue and make a deal? Offer to select the player your opponent wants in exchange for a roster-filler at a position you actually need help in; he gets who he wants, and you get who you want. You could also save that waiver priority for another week, but if you’re truly hurting somewhere, it’s better to fill that hole now.
57) Let us do the FAAB work for you. Our weekly Waiver Wire Rankings feature will continue to feature FAAB recommendations for the top waiver wire options that week. Check out what Joe Pisapia, Dan Harris, Mike Tagliere and Kyle Yates recommend what percentage of your remaining FAAB budget you should spend on a given player, and why. It’ll be the only resource you need to help you figure out how to spend the right amount of FAAB for the player you desire.
58) Consider every player’s early circumstances. If you’re going to properly value your players – particularly early in the season, when the practice is the hardest to do – you’ll need to consider every factor that played into his performances. Were the opposing defenses stout, or swiss cheese-like? Did game script make a big difference? Is the offensive scheme new? Small samples require that you weigh in every potential difference-maker and value each player using these factors.
59) Use Vegas to break ties. Oddsmakers are by no means soothsayers, but they’re great at what they do. And what they do is make millions of bettors sweat every play of every game on every week of the NFL schedule. If you really can’t decide between two similar players, go back to the basics: What do the Vegas lines and totals tell you about how those players’ teams are expected to fare? From there, you should be able to draw conclusions on which player is in better position to return fantasy value.
60) Add a little daily fantasy to your life. If you’re not already one of the hundreds of thousands of football fans dabbling in the daily fantasy phenomenon, what’s stopping you? DFS is here to stay – and it not only offers you an opportunity to make your Sunday a profitable one, it also forces you to conduct the high-level research that’s almost certainly necessary to compete in large-field tournaments. And that research will only make you a stronger season-long player in terms of roster management, player value and stats that matter.
61) Don’t overcompensate for bad weather. Fantasy players look anywhere and everywhere for an edge – and that includes the weather forecast. Every year, a handful of games are played in adverse conditions like blustery wind, heavy rain and freezing cold temperatures – and every year, these weather situations force fantasy players into needlessly difficult roster decisions. But so much of the weather talk winds up being overblown (pardon the pun) – so don’t downgrade your studs unless the conditions are at the extreme end of the spectrum.
62) Disregard home/road assignments when QB streaming. Home-field advantage might work in the sports betting realm, but the best quarterbacks in fantasy football last year were generally better on the road. In fact, six of the top eight signal-callers in fantasy scoring had superior QB ratings when playing outside their home stadiums. This is by no means a suggestion that you should fade QBs at home, but it does render home/road splits as largely meaningless for the purposes of streaming your fantasy quarterback.
63) Avoid connecting your streaming QB to your opponent. At first glance, snagging a quarterback that’s throwing to one of your opponent’s receivers might seem like a great way to negate one of his or her top players. But you need your QB to be one of your top scorers each and every week – and if he has a big game, there’s a good chance that at least some of it will land on that receiver, as well. That only dilutes the impact your QB has on the overall matchup – so try and steer clear of your opponent’s receiving corps if you can.
64) Go mobile whenever possible. The top rushing quarterbacks in the NFL won’t be available on the waiver wire – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find QB rushing yards in the free-agent pile. Let’s examine Gardner Minshew’s rookie season, in which the mustachioed magician rumbled for 30+ yards six times – including three games of 40+ rushing yards. That’s equivalent to a touchdown pass in 4-point TD leagues, and those points can often mean the difference between a narrow victory and a soul-squishing defeat. When breaking a tie, take the superior rusher.
65) Don’t spend much time on your streaming TE decision. Honestly, you might as well throw a dart at a list of free agent TEs and go on your way. Not only does the position offer little in the way of fantasy impact in comparison to QB, RB and WR, its star performances were centred on the top two players, with Travis Kelce and Darren Waller combining for 11 of the top 20 single-game showings in PPR scoring. Lean toward favorable matchups, target high-scoring games, and cross your fingers and hope that you get lucky. That’s the TE streaming credo of 2020.
66) Don’t fall for that breakout TE performance. When you opt to keep a player you had intended to stream, it’s almost always because you believe that player will produce enough fantasy value the rest of the way to warrant a roster spot. Well, don’t expect to take that step with a tight end; here’s a list of the number of players by position to record four or more games of 20+ PPR fantasy points last season:
TEs: 2 (Travis Kelce, Darren Waller)
Of the 20 tight ends to record at least one 20+-point game last season, more than half did it just once. So don’t assume a breakout tight end performance means big things ahead; the chances are good that it doesn’t.
67) Streaming D/STs? Plan a week ahead. We have no shortage of early waiver wire content, highlighted by Mike Tagliere’s Weekend Waiver Wire Stashes. But we understand that roster spots are at a premium, and you might not have room for all of the future stashes you’d like – so let’s tailor this note toward D/ST streamers. And if you’re in this category, it can pay handsomely to look ahead a week. Carrying an extra D/ST might seem counterintuitive, but if you play them right, you could end up with some valuable extra points on a regular basis.
68) Target teams that get sacked a lot. There’s a temptation to try and lock down a D/ST that you can set and forget for the year – but it has already been well-established that smart streaming is the most successful option. And as a general rule, it’s wise to focus on D/STs whose opponents can’t protect the quarterback; in fact, making the opponent the priority ahead of the skill level of your D/ST has proven quite effective the past four years:
2020: 2 teams with 50+ sacks, 4 teams with 50+ sacks against
2019: 4 teams with 50+ sacks, 7 teams with 50+ sacks against
2018: 4 teams with 50+ sacks, 8 teams with 50+ sacks against
2017: 3 teams with 50+ sacks, 6 teams with 50+ sacks against
Not only are sacks great D/ST point providers, they also lead to fumbles and touchdowns. So make them your focus.
69) Don’t deviate from your streaming plan … The ultimate goal with positional streaming is to maximize your point potential by selecting players with great matchups. But many times, a fantasy player will stream someone who goes off, then decide to hang onto that player expecting similar results in the future. Knowing when to cut a streamer coming off a big game (Hint: do it an overwhelming majority of the time) is a critical part of sticking to your game plan.
70) … Even if you have company. Streaming a position is considerably more difficult when other players are doing it, too. And if you’re in that situation, you might be tempted to consider a back-up plan – especially if your league-mates are beating you to the punch when it comes to snagging the best streaming options. But it’s much easier to tweak your streaming approach (we can help with that) than to pivot to a full-time option, since the rest of the league will know you’re desperate at that position and will almost surely look to gouge you in a trade.
71) Lean on the most accurate experts. As the season progresses, you’ll start to see trends emerge with regard to the most accurate rankings experts. And it’s no coincidence that many of the same names wind up at or near the top of the accuracy leaderboard each and every year. We keep our Fantasy Football Accuracy standings updated each week throughout the season, and even give you the option of sorting by category – so if you’re really keen on finding this year’s running back whisperer, we can help with that.
72) Don’t miss our weekly analyst signature features. We have the best in the business when it comes to high-level fantasy analysis – and each of them provides a unique in-season feature designed to help you win a title. So don’t miss Dan Harris’s Trade Value Chart, Mike Tagliere’s Weekly Primer or Kyle Yates’s Fantasy Projections. They spend countless hours researching and breaking down matchups so you don’t have to – and you won’t find a better collection of hard-hitting fantasy features anywhere else.
73) Subtract – and don’t add – bye weeks in trades. Once you get into the regular season’s 10-week stretch of byes (technically nine in 2020, since no teams are off Week 12), it’s time to add a layer of analysis to potential trades: are you gaining or losing bye weeks? Trading a player that has already been off for a player who hasn’t devalues the player you’re receiving in return. Try to limit these instances, while looking instead to either trade players who haven’t had their bye week yet, or by acquiring players who have already been off (or both, if you can pull it off!).
74) Only trade from positions of strength. We get it: You like trading! Everybody does. Who doesn’t enjoy the rush of pulling off a good old-fashioned fantasy football deal? But for every trade you make outside of your strongest positions or categories, you leave yourself potentially vulnerable to an even bigger roster issue down the road. Resist the temptation to deal just for the sake of it, and only pull the trigger if you can afford to absorb the loss of the player(s) you’re trading away.
75) Use our Trade Finder tool. Can’t quite figure out which player you’d like to acquire? We’re here to help! Check out our cutting-edge Trade Finder tool, which provides you with a detailed look at how your team’s fortunes change based both on the players you’re dealing away, and the players you’re acquiring. No tool out there is as thorough when it comes to determining just how good a trade is for you and your opponent – both in the week to come, and over the balance of the fantasy season.
76) Make your initial trade offer a good one. Sure, you could go on a fishing expedition with your Josh Jacobs-for-Austin Ekeler or 49ers D/ST-for-Justin Jefferson offers, but the chances are good that you’ll tick off your league-mates to the extent that nobody will reply – even to a reasonable offer. Come strong with your first proposal, and you’ll show your potential trade partner that you’re serious. And if he or she still declines without a reply, at least you know you legitimately tried to get something done.
77) Give a trade at least an hour before accepting it. Buyer’s/seller’s remorse is a truly terrible feeling in fantasy football, which is why I recommend giving yourself a little reflection time before pulling the trigger on a deal. Use that time to do your due diligence. Double-check that the player(s) you’re receiving are in good health, if they’re supposed to be. Use our Trade Analyzer to ensure you’re not being fleeced. If you’re still happy an hour later, click “Accept.” And if you aren’t, then reject or counter.
78) Don’t fall for the “dueling offers” tactic. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve been in negotiations with another owner, only to have that person suggest that someone else is not only in on the player you want, but has made a better offer. At best, there’s legit competition for the player – and while you can certainly improve your offer if you believe there’s still a fair deal to be made, you should stop short of making a trade in which you feel you’re giving up too much. At worst, it’s a ploy – and a stale one, at that. Look elsewhere.
79) Be nice. Cultivating strong trade partnerships is about so much more than making consistently strong offers. Showing your league-mates respect is the fastest route to trade success. Allow them all the time they need to consider your offer. If someone comes to you with a one-sided proposal in their favor, decline and say nothing. You can take a few more liberties if your co-owners are okay with that sort of thing, but for the most part, playing nice is the best way to earn other players’ trust, and set the wheels in motion for a trade.
80) Make your big moves before the deadline. Nothing gets fantasy owners in a frenzy quite like the trade deadline, when it seems like everybody wants a piece of the action. And while there’s nothing wrong with some last-minute wheeling and dealing, if you’re banking on a deadline-day swap to invigorate your fantasy title hopes, you’re doing it wrong. Get your house in order before the deadline, and only resort to a blockbuster deadline trade if a recent injury or demotion has left you with a major roster hole to fill.
81) Act as if the playoffs start after the trade deadline. Whether you’re cruising to the top spot in the league, fairly secure in your postseason quest or scrambling to get in, you should be treating the post-deadline schedule as if it’s a six- or seven-week path to the championship. That means being extra-aggressive with your roster and start/sit decisions; things can turn in an instant, and the last thing you want is to miss out on a first-round bye, an easier quarter-final matchup or an actual playoff berth because you weren’t hungry enough.
82) Treat strength-of-schedule metrics more seriously after Week 10. There’s no widely-accepted time frame for when strength of schedule becomes more reliable, but in keeping with the theme of this section, let’s say that post-trade-deadline SOS metrics are far more useful than what you’re seeing in the early weeks of the season. And while they still shouldn’t represent the be-all and end-all in your roster decisions, they make for a much more convincing tiebreaker when you’re trying to decide between multiple options to fill your final FLEX spot.
83) Don’t be afraid to make tough roster decisions. There are players you’ll hang onto for a good chunk of the season based on a potential that they never quite reach. And while that’s fine for the first half of the season, you need to do your best to ensure that your late-season roster only features players who might be able to contribute in a meaningful way down the stretch. Don’t hesitate to let go of those stragglers who might have shown promise earlier in the year, but are now just taking up valuable space.
84) Wield your FAAB power (if you have any). Suppose you had the kind of season where you either didn’t care to spend up on a marquee free agent/waiver-wire pickup, or you were constantly outbid. If you’re sitting with a boatload of FAAB bucks after Week 11, then you, my friend, are sitting pretty. Not only can you improve your roster with a potential difference-maker, you’re also well-positioned to block your opponents from doing the same (provided that you have enough FAAB dollars to do so). Make every dollar count, especially late.
85) Know the consistency level of your players. The latter stages of the regular season are a good time to take stock of your roster – specifically, how consistent your top players have been to date. It’s by no means a predictor of future trends, but 10 or 11 weeks of data will tell you plenty about what kind of floor and ceiling your players have. You can then use that information to inform decisions based on whether you need a high-floor lineup, or a high-risk, high-reward configuration.
86) Evaluate your managerial performance and adjust if necessary. Some fantasy league host sites will track your “manager rating,” in which your performance is measured based on how often you started or sat the highest-scoring players on your team. If your host site doesn’t, it’s easy enough to do it manually by going back over your previous matchups and identifying how often you started/sat your top performers. You can use this information to determine whether your managerial skills are tight, or in need of an adjustment.
87) Leading the league? Minimize risk. If you’re riding high at 10-0, 9-1 or 8-2, the chances are very good that you have one of the best rosters in the league (sure, some people get to the top with a middling roster, but it’s somewhat rare). So don’t deviate from whatever has worked for you over the first 10 weeks of the season: Keep rolling your studs out, and force your opponents to take the kind of roster risks that leave them susceptible to low-point performances. Remember: you’re the captain now.
88) Sitting top-4? Play the percentages. Unless you’re at one or two losses by Week 10, you still have some work to do in your goal to reach the postseason. And how you approach those final few weeks of the season is rather simple: Roll with high-floor lineups in matchups where you’re favored, and take one or two calculated risks if your schedule features matchups against superior opponents. Whatever you’ve done has worked to this point, so there’s no need to get too crazy.
89) Scrambling? Throw caution to the wind. Being a low-seed in the playoffs is one thing, but having to sweat out those final few weeks of the postseason grind is almost more stressful. Being at or around .500 with a few weeks left isn’t ideal – which is why you should not only target free-agent or waiver acquisitions with major boom-or-bust potential, but you should be willing to absorb plenty of lineup risk. Now is not the time to be cautious, unfortunately. Strap in and enjoy the ride!
90) Out of it? Become a student. Being eliminated from playoff contention in a re-draft league ranks somewhere between sitting in gum and eating rotten guacamole. Not good, Bob. But you shouldn’t let it suck all the fun out of the season; spend the last few weeks experimenting with different roster/lineup setups, go back and look at where things went wrong, and examine the top rosters in your league to see if there’s anything you can learn from them. Doing that legwork now will only make you a better player in the years to come.
91) On a playoff bye? Repeat Nos. 85 and 86. No, this isn’t technically a new tip, but it still counts. You should put your week off to good use, and that means going back over your regular-season performance and identifying any areas of improvement, along with which of your players have been the most consistent/inconsistent. The chances are good that you’ve fared well as a manager, and that most of your studs have high floors – but there’s always room for improvement in the fantasy football world.
92) Make life difficult for your opponent (if you can). Occasionally, you’ll be in position to put your playoff opponent(s) in a more difficult spot. And you wouldn’t be a fantasy football title contender if you didn’t! Your opponent needs a QB? Snag the best available option off the waiver wire. His starting running back is questionable? Grab the handcuff. Whatever small advantage you can forge through one or two simple waiver moves, you absolutely need to do it.
93) Keep one eye on the championship match. Don’t call it “looking ahead.” Call it “prudent planning.” Whether you’re in the quarters or the semis, you still need to place some of your focus on your potential title game, and whether there are any available players who can either help you, or help your opponent. Making these moves in Week 14 is the preferred play if you have roster spots to burn; it only takes one league-mate with a similar strategy to poach all of the great Week 16 fliers and leave you with nothing.
94) Leave yourself as much lineup flexibility as possible. When you get down to win-or-go-home territory, roster and lineup flexibility become one of the most important parts of your run to the championship. For example, many fantasy players keep a late-game option in their FLEX spot so they can swap him out as needed – and that becomes an even more critical practice in the playoffs, when you might need to swap out a safe play for a home-run option – or vice-versa – depending on the score.
95) Simplify your start/sit decisions. You do not want to be scrambling to finalize your WR3 slot five minutes before Sunday’s early kickoff. By doing as much prep as possible heading into your playoff matchup, you stand a much better chance of avoiding the kinds of decisions that leave you particularly heartbroken in the event you choose the wrong player and lose by a half-point. And above all, trust whatever lineup methodology got you here in the first place.
96) Take a zero if you have to. It’s the scenario of nightmares: you’re up by 0.8 points heading into the Monday nighter, and you have an RB2 left to play. -8 rushing yards, one fumble and an ankle injury later, you’ve taken a truly epic L. Don’t hesitate to leave a roster spot blank (or carry a fifth-stringer as insurance if you have the bench spots) in order to secure the win. Leave no chance that a freak circumstance will topple you right out of the fantasy football championship.
97) Turn your mobile device into a football news feed. Once it’s finals time, you can’t afford to miss a single shred of news with fantasy ramifications. Sign up for news alerts, and don’t miss out on our comprehensive and up-to-date NFL Player News feed. Week 17 (and 18, for those of you who play extended fantasy seasons) will feature plenty of roster decisions geared toward teams preparing for the playoffs, so you’ll need to pay extra close attention to what’s happening with your skill players.
98) Load up on late-game players. This takes the flexibility tip from earlier and magnifies it exponentially. In addition to leaving yourself maximum malleability from a lineup perspective via your FLEX spot, keeping several late-game players on your roster ensures you’ll have plenty of options (even if they might not be the most attractive, given what you’re likely to find on the waiver wire this time of the season). By Sunday kickoff, your entire bench should be full of late-Sunday afternoon/Sunday night/Monday night participants.
99) Hedge your bets. Your quest for a championship doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition (and in fact, the majority of leagues offer a decent second-place prize, so you’re sure to come away with something). Need your star running back to have a big game? Take the under on his Vegas yardage total. Riding a QB/WR tandem? Take the under on their team point total. Sure, it’s not a true hedge, but betting against your fantasy team does increase your chances of making Week 16 a profitable one.
100) Share your winnings. Okay, so this might not make you a better fantasy football player (though you just won the title, so how much help do you really need?). But it does make you a much cooler cat overall. For example, in my home league, the league champion always buys a round for the rest of the league at the following year’s draft. Most leagues have something like this in place – and if yours doesn’t, then this year might be a good time to start.
101) Get back to work. Congratulations on reaching the pinnacle of your league! Polish up that championship belt, get in all of your final digs, revel in your slightly larger bank account and enjoy what will hopefully be an action-packed playoff schedule and Super Bowl. And as soon as you’re done with all that … it’s time to get back at it. So dive into a mock draft. Start building out your 2021 projection model. Throw out some dynasty trade offers. Flags might fly forever, but your league-mates will be coming for you. So stay thirsty.