With the NFL season (hopefully) upon us, every football fan’s favorite form of legalized gambling is back: fantasy football. And yes, it can be considered gambling given the randomness and uncertainty that goes into setting the best lineup on a weekly basis over the course of three months or so. There’s no magical cheat sheet, podcast, or Mathew Berry one-liner that can guarantee a successful season.
Despite the obvious, fantasygoers will still dive deep into endless amounts of research and preparation in hopes of gaining an advantage over their competition. Yet there’s no way to predict instances such as injuries, players either underperforming or exceeding expectations, or for Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the Miami Dolphins in rushing yards last season. But, it’s better than going into a draft with no sense of who to watch out for this season.
With all of that negativity being said, it’s time to join in on the tradition and list some tips for those who want to dominate their dorm fantasy football leagues this season.
The first thing every fantasy participant should do is become familiar with their league’s rules, particularly the scoring system. Most websites have two main ways of determining points; standard and points per reception (PPR). The major difference between the two is that PPR rewards players for catching a pass, while “standard” leagues do not. This changes the value of particularly wide receivers based on the league’s format.
“That really changes the value,” said John Collett, lecturer in Gonzaga's Integrated Media Department.
Collett has 20 years of experience playing in his family’s fantasy football league.
Next, and this is for many newcomers to fantasy football, don’t draft a quarterback in the early rounds of the draft. As tempting as it is to take Patrick Mahomes in the second round, more experienced fantasy footballgoers will optimize their early picks by selecting a wide receiver or running back over a quarterback because those players have a higher value.
“Everyone else is very excited when that happens because that means a better player is falling to them,” Collet said.
ESPN’s default settings reward quarterbacks one point for every 25 yards passing, while running backs and wide receivers earn the same amount for every 10 yards rushing or receiving. QBs also will receive four points for a passing touchdown, compared with six points for rushing or receiving touchdowns.
It’s simple math; pick the player who has the chance to score more points.
So, don’t be pressured into taking Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson after seeing Mahomes go in the second round. According to NFL.com, nine of the top 17 fantasy quarterbacks were picked in the 12th round or later.
As alluded to earlier, prioritize running backs when drafting, particularly ones that are known to be good pass catchers. Players who can both run and catch the ball means they have more opportunities to score fantasy points. Last season, nine running backs had 300-plus touches, and all nine finished in the top nine in fantasy points at the position according to NFL.com.
“I just try to draft running backs early,” Collett said. “They’re the most likely to get a lot of touches and score touchdowns.”
Collett isn’t the only one with this mentality; among the running backs to finish the season among the top 24 in fantasy points, 19 were drafted in the sixth round or earlier, according to NFL.com.
Also, be wary of wide receivers not named Michael Thomas. Thomas was the only wideout to top 300 fantasy points in 2019. That comes just a year after seven wideouts broke the 300 fantasy point marker, which tied for the second most in a season in NFL history, according to NFL.com.
This is a perfect example of the randomness that comes with playing fantasy football, and while it’s unavoidable, always try and play it safe. Not to say the trend will continue into 2020, but this sort of decline can happen to any position. And when that happens, claiming players off the waiver wire might be the safest bet.
“Oftentimes there are some unsung players that go undrafted that will be available,” said Ben Comer, a senior at GU who has five years of fantasy football experience. “Trading is also great, but only when you get clear, defined, solid value out of it.”
There are other roster positions and tidbits that have been omitted, but that’s when self-research and instincts come in to play. As Berry said, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” So most importantly, don’t take every statistic from previous seasons as an ascertained truth to predict the games ahead.
And good luck this year.