Five fantasy football guidelines for success

Whether you're an experienced veteran with a wealth of football knowledge or a wet-behind-the-ears rookie who knows more about the "Brady Bunch" than Tom Brady, there are a number of rules that will assist you once your draft has concluded.

Here's our list of five important guidelines that can help you take home a fantasy football league title.

1. Set a lineup each week and know the schedule

This might seem like an obvious rule, but I can't tell you the number of times I've seen owners fail to set their lineups. Not only does that give you less of a chance to win, it also gives your opponent an unfair advantage. You'll also be a target for criticism from the other owners in your league! Whether a player is injured or on a bye week, he needs to be removed as a starter in order to have the best possible chance at victory. Even if that means you're forced to start the Packers' No. 2 running back or the Raiders' No. 3 wide receiver, at least there's a chance to see some points that could lead to a potential win.

It's also important to remember that the NFL has altered byes and schedules, so owners will have to be even more diligent setting their lineups and working the waiver wire. Byes start in Week 4 with two teams (Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers) out of action. Six teams have a bye in Week 7, while all other bye weeks (Weeks 5-6, 8-11) see four teams off the schedule. After the regular-season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants (which is on Wednesday, Sept. 5), you'll also have to remember that there is at least one Thursday night game every week from Week 2-15.

2. Use the waiver wire and check the transactions report

Much like life in general, the NFL and fantasy football are unpredictable. Injuries will occur, depth charts will change and players who were thought to have minimal value will turn into very valuable assets. In 2011, Cam Newton, Michael Bush and Victor Cruz are just a few of the numerous fantasy stars who emerged off the waiver wire in most leagues. In those formats that run waivers and don't utilize a first-come, first-served rule, owners should take the time each Tuesday to check the previous week's top performers and consider potential moves to improve their rosters.

3. Make trades to improve weaker positions

The draft is very important to finding success in the world of fantasy football, but the team you drafted won't be the team with which you finish the season in most cases. Owners who had a solid draft or were successful on the waiver wire will often times find themselves with an abundance of depth at a certain position. That depth should be utilized in trades.

For example, an owner who hoards featured backs in the draft and targets the position on the waiver wire should have had a nice stable of runners. However, if that same owner had less talent at another position, such as wide receiver, then he/she should look to deal a running back to make a roster improvement at wideout. Like I always say, if you're not trading, you're not trying.

It's also important to know the owners in your league (and their rosters) in order to make the most educated trade offers. An owner who has a decent number of running backs probably won't want to add another one via trade, but someone whose backfield has faltered in the first few weeks of the season could be more desperate to make a trade. Also, it doesn't hurt to know what teams or players the opposition roots in trade talks. If an owner is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, it never hurts to offer up a member of that team to improve the likelihood of a deal.

Remember, all's fair in love and fantasy football!

4. In most cases, stick with your stud players

Owners sometimes panic when their studs fail to meet expectations at the start of the regular season. Those failures turn to doubt, and that doubt makes people question whether to keep that stud active on a week-to-week basis. The perfect example of this occurred at the start of the 2007 season with Drew Brees. He was surprisingly dreadful in his first four starts, leading some owners to bench him. (That's not a misprint, people actually benched him!) Of course, Brees bounced back to finish with (at the time) career bests in yards and total touchdowns.

Since then, he's been one of the elite fantasy quarterbacks.

Of course, there are a few limited exceptions to this rule. Once it became clear that Randy Moss' stock had tumbled two seasons after he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings before finishing with the Tennessee Titans, owners needed to make a switch to their lineup. But in most cases, it's advised to stick with the studs you have drafted. Their coaches won't quit on them in most cases, and neither should you.

5. When in doubt, utilize the best matchups

Fantasy football can cause owners major headaches when it comes to those difficult lineup decisions, but the best course of action is to research the matchups and make an educated choice. Outside of the your elite superstars, who will be active in most weeks, there will be times when owners will have to choose between two players with similar value. Unless you've found a crystal ball or have an audience with Nostradamus, the best course of action is to examine the matchups and stick with your final decision. If it works out, great. If not, well, you made the best decision based on the numbers. That's the best you can do!

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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