Fantasy Football Becoming More of a Reality Sport

With the NFL season just finishing week ten, fantasy football owners probably know by now whether or not their team has any shot at making the playoffs.  Some years are better than others when it comes to fantasy football.  Whether its injuries, a bad draft, or just an off year, there are a number of factors that can play into your fantasy team’s success.  But does a fantasy football team’s success have anything to do with the owner throughout the regular season, or is it all luck? 

For the most part, the players that a team drafts ultimately determines the major success of your team during a fantasy football season.  But, in my opinion, being a good general manager can play a huge role in a team’s success.  The GM is, of course, responsible for the draft, so the two go hand in hand.  

Of course, there are always exceptions.  I’ve been in leagues where an owner missed the draft, had the computer auto-pick a great team for him, forgot to set his lineup a few weeks, and still made the playoffs.  This was particularly embarassing since the other nine league members probably spent an average of five to ten hours per week researching fantasy football.  But for the most part, this type of situation is the outlier and usually it takes some serious thought to draft a better-than-average fantasy team.  And some draft strategies work out better than others.

For instance, if you draft running back heavy and take two or three starting running backs early, you’ll have a less explosive wide receiving core.  You could do the same thing with the WRs and have the lesser RBs.  With some luck, and no injuries, either one could pay off for you.  This season I personally went running-back-heavy with Arian Foster (number one pick) and then Jamaal Charles as my third pick.  It’s worked out pretty well so far.

With every fantasy season comes the injury aspect.  Every year there’s always that one player you pick that you wish you wouldn’t have.  Greg Jennings is my screw-up-pick this year.  Fantasy owners with Jennings or MJD this season know my pain.  You can’t predict injuries and MJD in particular was looking like a steal for those that drafted him after the second round (since people were scared to draft him in the first round because of a contract dispute). 

Doug Martin has been a bright spot for many fantasy owners this season including this 67 yard run last week which was part of his 251 yard rushing record performance.

There also is the surprise gamble on rookies that can come up each season.  The award goes to Doug Martin this year.  Lucky for me, I picked him in each of my leagues, so he has been keeping my winning percentage above .500 along with countless others.  Andrew Luck and RGIII have also been a solid rookie from the quarterback position if you waited late to pick.  Some may have predicted the three would do well, but you’d be lying if you thought Martin would be a top-3 running back, and RGIII and Luck would be top-3 and top-10 quarterbacks, respectively. 

Another big gamble in fantasy is on veteran players, especially after having a down year.  Are they going to perform better than they did last year or are they going to keep regressing as they have been?  Players like Reggie Wayne that had an off year last year, got drafted late and were a steal in the sixth to eighth rounds.  Others like Michael Vick, who struggled last year but were still projected to have a great year, have been a complete disappointment for owners.  Sophomore slumpers like Cam Newton have also been a disappointment for fantasy owners. 

Then there are the players who get the big money contract deals and allow the money I feel to get to their heads.  Chris Johnson was a pure stud his first three seasons, but once he signed his big contract deal, his numbers last year went for a dive south and even further this year so far. 

The G.M. aspect of fantasy is what I believe can make or break your year, because from week one, everyone is technically on equal ground.  Yes there are those freak accidents where someone doesn’t set their lineup all year and comes out with a losing record, but those are few and far between.  If your league has the waiver wire like mine does, picking up a quality bench is smart thinking. 

Last, although looked over a lot I feel, the kickers and defenses are quality players to pick up on a week-to-week basis.  I rarely keep the same defense in each week and usually have at least one other on my bench, and play them based on matchups.  Same with kickers.  Early on, Greg Zuerlein was my kicker “steal,” but has been a bench warmer as of late.  Kickers can get hot/cold and are affected by the weather and the type of surface they’re kicking from, so I prefer to play them based on matchups. 

Trading players early on can be a gamble too, but if they turn it around like Chris Johnson has this season, it can be a huge boost for your team down the stretch.   

How players perform is totally out of our control, which is how fantasy gets its name.  Who we draft and what we do once we have them is the human-factor aspect of fantasy that keeps us glued to the TV on Sunday afternoons.  In my opinion, it’s all about the moves you make as the owner of your team. As fantasy leagues wind down and near the playoffs, what will you do as G.M. of your team to stake the claim in your league’s pool of money?
By: Craig Emmert