"Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I'm not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight."
This is for all the Fantasy Football junkies out there who, try as they might, just can't seem to get over the hump and win their leagues. If you fit into that category then I'll guarantee you've missed at least one of the following points on a consistent basis.
1. Know Your League and How It Scores:
This may seem obvious to most but you'd be surprised how many poolies out there make this mistake. If you don't have a firm grasp of your league's type and scoring system then you are doomed in your quest of determining player value. You've lost your league already and the season hasn't even started.
The ranking systems used in most fantasy magazines are based on an auction drafting style with standardized scoring (non-ppr [point per reception]). If you're in a ppr league but using one of these rags as a study guide then you need to manually re-adjust the rankings.
Example: A standardized scoring system will rank Michael Turner ahead of Ray Rice . In 2008 Turner scored 275 fantasy points (he was injured off and on last year so we'll use his 2008 stats) whereas last year Ray Rice scored 242 points. However, in a PPR league Turner would have scored 281 in 2008 while Ray Rice's numbers jump to 320 points (based on the 78 extra points for receptions in ppr-leagues).
Either find yourself a mag that's relevant to your league's scoring system or get out your calculator and create an excel spread sheet. Otherwise you're toast.
2. Keep On Mocking In The Free World:
I have news for you. Michael Crabtree is not a sleeper—he will not be available in Round 14. If you suffer these types of delusions when going into your draft you will only end up disappointed.
Solution: There are several sites you can visit that host live mock drafts (practice drafts). A mock draft is a good way to get your feet wet before the big draft day arrives. I usually do no less then 10 and I record all the results. I then examine them for trends—like which players are consistently drafted later than their pre-draft rankings, who seems to be a popular reach, etc. This information can be invaluable for the novice drafter.
In other words, Crabtree will be long gone by round nine, never mind 14.
3. Free Agents Aren't The Only Dudes Who Change Their Address
You need to pay close attention to coaching changes almost as much as player movement. Coaches have differing philosophies and obviously varying degrees of historical success. This can have a significant impact on the performance of your players.
Example: in 2008 the NY Jets were ranked 16th in total defense, in 2009 they were first. Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard didn't make that much of a difference so what, or who, did? The answer is new head coach Rex Ryan—he was a member of the second ranked Baltimore Ravens defense in 2008 (as Defensive Coordinator).
I paid attention to this fact and drafted the Jets ahead of favorites like New England and San Diego.
Do the extra research on coaches and that might be the edge you need to explode into the playoffs.
4. Know The Draft Needs of Your Fellow Poolies:
I can't stress this enough. If you've heeded the first three steps then you should be more then prepared for every pick, ideally with a shortlist for every round. However, you still need to be flexible enough to roll with the punches depending on how your draft unfolds.
Example 1: It's now your turn to draft and you've short listed two WRs and two RBs for this particular round. Take a look at your draft sheet to see how the other teams are looking. If you notice that most teams are set at RB for now but several are in need of receivers, then take your top ranked wideout now (before someone else does) and you can be confident that at least one of your shortlisted backs will slide to you in the next round.
Example 2: You've neglected the receiver position in favor of stacking your team with multiple top end talents at QB and RB. You're now in the middle rounds and you start to panic that you are leaving yourself exposed at that position.
Solution: Take a look at the other teams. Are they relatively set at WR? If so, you should consider starting the run on TEs. Dallas Clark or Jason Witten will be much more valuable to your team than a wideout like Nate Burleson. There should be a dozen players like him still available so you might as well let him pass if it means you get the top ranked TE.
5. Kickers? We Don't Need No Stinking Kickers!
It never ceases to amaze me when a poolie drafts a kicker with more than 4-6 rounds to go. Don't be that guy.
Every year there's the idiot who thinks he's being clever by drafting "The Best Kicker In Football". Super, you just passed on Ray Rice (this actually happened last year). Thanks for your money, moron.
I always wait until the last two rounds to draft my starting and back-up kickers. Last year I still ended up with David Akers (and Ray Rice) so I lost nothing by sitting on the position until the bitter end.
Kicker is in a constant state of flux and the top ranked guy from last year could be the 20th ranked guy this year. Also, why pass up a player with 170+ point potential like a Jahvid Best or Kenny Britt for a kicker who will at best give you 130 points.
Well hard luck poolies, I hope this helps you in your pursuit of a title. Good luck!