How to Suck at Fantasy Football

by Brian Umbaugh

There are several reasons why your league trophy is sitting on that other guy’s shelf in his living room. You came out of the draft with a decent lineup, injuries were minimal, and you didn’t start anyone on bye weeks. So why did you finish 8-6, sliding into the last seed in the playoffs, only to get spanked like…well, that joke is too easy to make.

You fell victim to (at least) one of the classic blunders! First is never start a land war in Asia, but only slightly less famous are these. Some of them may cause a rolling of the eyes or sideways glances from your league-mates; others they may wonder exactly why they didn’t decide to ask the creepy guy from accounting to join the league instead of you. Presented, in ascending order of “not a classically great idea” to “you need to pick up another hobby.”

You don’t show up to the draft.

Triple check your calendar. Schedule the day off from work. Start taking vitamins so you don’t get sick the night before the draft. While missing the draft has happened to all of us at some point. it is a spectacularly bad idea to miss the draft and get that auto-drafted team with seven injured players.

All of your guys are veterans (or rookies, or good character guys, or age 27, etc.)

You like risk? Pick up a few rookies. You don’t? Keep your eyes on the vets, but here’s the point. At the end of the season, the best teams are those where the rosters are plentiful with overperforming guys. Those guys come from everywhere…every type of player, every age, every position, every moral persuasion. Don’t get locked into one ideal, because you’re slicing your available player base unnecessarily. I’m sorry if you don’t want to cheer for Adrian Peterson. But if you don’t get him because of his problems, he’s going to kick your ass at least once this year, and no one is listening to your complaints.

You only know the Top 100 players.

I’m going to assume right now that you don’t use a magazine to draft. If you do, I don’t know what to tell you, but please don’t. 855 fantasy news sites have been updated 12 times since I started writing this sentence. Your magazine has two month old information. I think we already found your problem.

Moving on. You have your sheets printed out, and you looked at them for the second time right before the draft started. You had enough time to know who the QB, RB1, WR1, and WR2 is for most teams, with an occasional TE. If you throw out 30-40 guys for being terrible and add the top five defenses, you’ve studied about 100 guys, right? In a 12 team league with 14 rounds, you have enough knowledge to get you into the 9th round. Then what? You’re picking random guys in the later rounds. My advice–learn the Top 200; it’s generally the QB, RB1-2, TE1, and WR1-3 of all teams, with some sleepers throw in. This will get you all the way through the draft, and you’ll still have quite a few guys on your radar for the waiver wire. Roster depth is more important than your 1st round pick.

You’re not quite sure of your league’s rules.

How in the heck are you supposed to know who to draft if you don’t know how many points a passing TD is worth? Oh, wait…you play in a 2 QB league and just found out on Draft Day? What’s a flex and who can it be? My, oh, my. At some point, you have to realize that just because Julio Jones is ranked ahead of Aaron Rodgers on the ESPN Top 300, he may not be more valuable to you. You have to know roster sizes and starting lineup requirements. You have to know how to get points in your league. If you don’t, you’re not only not going to win, but you’re going to get laughed at quite a bit when you ask stupid questions. If you play in more than one league, it’s easy to confuse your standard and custom leagues. Don’t get sucked into your own hubris; take some time before the draft to review.

You draft too many guys from your favorite team.

There are different reasons you do this. Sometimes it’s just a familiarity bias, especially in the later rounds. You follow the Packers and you’ve heard of Jeff Janis, so why not? Well, he’s not going to get you anything. In addition, you’ll probably hold onto him too long because you can’t bear to drop him. Sometimes you do this because you feel you have a knowledge advantage. You’ve been following every day of training camp, so you know David Johnson is going to rock the Cardinals backfield. While this is a decent way to find a sleeper or two, don’t reach for your own players. If they’re there around where they should be, pick them up. Fantasy is fun when you can double-cheer for your guys, but stop reaching.

You draft your kicker before the 2nd to last round.

People only do this because they haven’t learned the Top 200. They don’t know anyone else’s name, so Stephen Gostkowski sounds good. Matthew Berry has been championing this for years, and he’s 100% correct. The difference between the top kicker and 12th kicker (the last starter in a 12 team league) in 2014 was 36 points, or 2 points per week. It doesn’t matter. Repeat it to yourself, and hear Bill Murray and crew in Meatballs when you do it. “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!” Do not draft a kicker before the 2nd to last round. I have guys that I’ve played with 12 years still drafting their kicker in the 9th round, and they haven’t won in a lo-o-o-ng time.

You stop paying attention after the draft.

There are too many jokers out there that agree to play in leagues, but choose not to pay enough attention. Inattentiveness is the most egregious way to piss off your league-mates and lose at fantasy football. “Oh, man, I just don’t have the time.” Total bollocks, this is. Work gets busy. You get sick. Whatever the reason, there are 168 usable hours in every week. Use one to get your team straight. If you want to play this game, put at least minimal effort into it.

Most people do not consider themselves a fantasy nerd, but you don’t have to be the football version of Bill James to win at fantasy football. People want to play fantasy football to socialize or exert some machismo, but Week 1 comes and most league-mates barely speak to each other anymore. You’re just left with the crappy team you drafted while drinking 17 beers at Buffalo Wild Wings on Draft Day. Listen here…you can’t do the same thing year after year and expect your results to change. Give a damn about your team this year; do a little more research. Create a plan for your team this year. Not enough people start with the desire to win. Have fun and enjoy the camaraderie with your friends. Then beat their ass. Trust me, it’s fun.