How To Win At Fantasy Football: Three Things To Avoid

If you are new to the world of fantasy football, then today’s post is for you. Conversely, if you’ve been playing fantasy football for decades and are so into it that you can recite every player’s entire DNA sequence from memory, then this post is also for you. In sum, I will try to cover all the salient aspects of this great game so that you can dominate your league, regardless of your level of experience.

First off, my qualifications:

  • I have been playing fantasy football for 23 years, winning a solid number of titles along the way and making the playoffs nearly every season in highly competitive leagues.
  • I have played using dozens of different scoring formats, drafting styles, league types, and rules of play.
  • I have played in leagues with all types of people, from family members to co-workers to best friends to complete strangers.

Now that you can unquestionably trust my opinion on these matters, just relax and allow my accumulated wisdom to seize control over your brain and lead you to fantasy football success heretofore undreamed of.

In today’s installment we will go over some things to avoid when joining a new league or when your current league is considering making changes.

TD-only leagues

These leagues are to fantasy football what non-alcoholic beer is to real beer (i.e., a poor substitute that is missing the most important part of what makes the real thing enjoyable). In plain English, they suck. Because points are only given for scoring touchdowns and not for yards rushing, receiving, and passing, you inevitably come across laughably idiotic scenarios on a weekly basis. Here’s a quick example:

Tom Brady: 450 yds passing, 35 yds rushing, 0 int, 0 TD

Adrian Peterson: 200 yds rushing, 100 yds receiving, 0 TD

Hugh Jaloozer: 1 yd rushing, 0 yds receiving, 4 fumbles, 1 TD

Any primate capable of simple math can see that Brady and Peterson had huge games which likely led their teams to victory while Jaloozer’s 1 yard forward fall over the goal line was easily canceled out by his four fumbles. Despite this obvious discrepancy in performance, in the moronic world of TD-only fantasy leagues Jaloozer would have outscored the other two superstars 6-0. Even Packer fans can see that this makes no sense.

What’s worse, most TD-only leagues still award 3 points for field goals, thus many weeks the kicker is the highest scoring player on each team. The freaking kicker! Need I say more about these dunderheaded leagues? I have been vigorously lobbying my congressman to outlaw TD-only leagues, but his total lack of interest on the topic combined with his subsequent restraining order against me have slowed this process. Therefore, until the day arrives that joining a TD-only league guarantees a one-way walk to the electric chair, you must assume responsibility for protecting yourself from these devil-spawned black holes of common football sense.

Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Leagues

The vast majority of leagues give points for yards and scores by quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and team defense/special teams. So say you have the Vikings’ defense/special teams, that means you get points for interceptions, sacks, fumble recoveries, safeties, defensive touchdowns, and touchdowns on special teams no matter which Viking player scores said points. It’s a great system and easy to use.

In an IDP league, however, you draft defensive lineman, linebackers, and defensive backs from different teams and only get points when your specific player makes a fantasy scoring play (sack, interception, tackle, etc.). This sounds good in theory, as you are simply doing with defensive players what you are already doing with offensive players in other leagues. But consider this: most people in normal leagues struggle to find the time to do the minimum research and tracking of performance which allows them to field a competitive team. Now take that minimum amount of effort and double it. That’s what is required for IDP leagues.

Regular people have these things they call “lives” that get in the way of putting that much time into a fantasy league. Responsibilities such as careers, kids, spouses, and personal hygiene, nagging as they can be, do need to be tended to at some point. Just remember that if you ever find yourself obsessing over Erin Henderson needing one more tackle in an overtime loss to the Lions so that your fantasy team can win, chances are at that point you are unemployed, without custody of your children, single, and very, very stinky. This depressing scenario can be avoided by simply steering clear of IDP leagues and sticking with traditional leagues designed for functional citizens.

Free Leagues

If someone invites you to join a league and they say it’s “just for fun”, be warned that these leagues are anything but fun. With nothing on the line, people just don’t care about their teams, not to mention that anyone who would join a free league probably doesn’t care that much in the first place.

The plain truth is that an entry fee and cash prizes are needed to make everyone feel invested and spur their active interest. In order to have a truly fun and competitive league, all members must be paying attention and trying their best to win each week. This necessary level of effort is located somewhere in the vast gray area between criminal obsession and complete dereliction of duty, so there is a wide range of work that one can put in and still be a contributing league member. But as long as the minimum is being met the league’s competitiveness should be adequate.

In free leagues you will invariably see Peyton Manning in someone’s lineup even though he is on a bye that week, a team that goes nine weeks without making a single transaction or change, and some dolt dropping Adrian Peterson because he misses one game with a mild ankle sprain. In essence, a general malaise overcomes the league which stifles any excitement or genuine interest. Nothing about this is fun and winning a title in one of these bland leagues is slightly less gratifying than beating your dog in Trivial Pursuit.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to have $500 riding on your team to make it interesting. In fact, too much money can drive people a little nutty, destroying friendships  in the process. I have found that $25 is the minimum amount to maintain someone’s interest and effort. In a ten team league, the champion’s payout from this entry fee would be around $150-$175, more than enough to get league members to put their time in to keep their teams competitive. Dangling this type of cash carrot right after the spendfest that is the Christmas season is a powerful motivator. In short, your entry fee should be high enough to keep all league members active participants, but not so high that they start hiring hitmen to whack each other. A little trial and error will reveal what amount is right for your league.

Now you know what to avoid in the world of fantasy football. Stay tuned, for in our next installment we will go over some types of leagues and rules that will optimize your fun and excitement.



1 Response

  1. ratatouille

    This was a great introduction for those of us who are completely ignorant of what fantasy football really is. Think how exciting math could be for kids who also belong to a fantasy football league! Also…I only bathe regularly because society prefers that I do. If I join a league I will be given a free pass to ignore this social dictate.

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