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 title.
1. Know the schedule and set a lineup each week
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 advanatge. 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 need 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 victory.
It's also important to remember that the NFL has altered byes and schedules. Owners will have to be even more diligent with their lineups, not to mention do their work on the waiver wire. Byes start the weekend of Oct. 29 (Week 5) with six teams out of action. Six teams have a bye in Weeks 6-8, and four teams are off in Weeks 9 and 11. There are no byes in Week 19. After the regular-season opener between the Saints and Packers, there won't be another Thursday night game until Week 10, when the Raiders travel to San Diego to face the Chargers on NFL Network.
At that point in the season, there will be at least one Thursday night game every week until Week 17. That includes a Thanksgiving Day lineup that includes contests between the Packers and Lions (12:30 p.m. ET), Dolphins and Cowboys (4:15 p.m. ET) and 49ers and Ravens (8:20 p.m. ET). A Saturday night contest between the Cowboys and Buccaneers will be held in Week 15 (Dec. 17), and all but six NFL teams (Colts, Texans, Bears, Packers, FalconsSaints) will play their Week 16 games (fantasy championship week) on Saturday during Christmas weekend (Dec. 24-25). If your league plays through Week 17, it's important to know that all 16 games will be held Sunday, with no Thursday, Saturday or Monday games.
2. Use the waiver wire and check the transactions report
Much like life in general, the NFL season is unpredictable. Injuries will occur, depth charts will evolve, and players who were thought to have minimal value will turn into very valuable assets. In 2010, Michael Vick, Peyton Hillis and Brandon Lloyd 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 out the previous week's top performers and consider potential moves to improve their rosters. Also, be certain to keep tabs on the transactions report. In many instances, owners could be quick to release a valuable player who might get off to a slow start.
3. Make trades to improve weaker positions
The draft is very important to 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 oftentimes find themselves with an abundance of depth at a certain position. That depth should be utilized in trades.
For example, an owner who hoarded featured backs in the draft, or was able to add the likes of Hillis or Benjarvus Green-Ellis off waivers last season, 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 back to make a roster improvement at wideout.
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 falters in the first few weeks of the season could be more desperate to improve and 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 Packers, it never hurts to offer up a member of that team to improve the liklihood of a deal.
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. Brees bounced back to finish with 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 last season after he was traded to the Vikings, owners needed to make a switch to their lineup. But in most cases, it's advised to stick with the studs you've drafted. Their coaches won't quit on them in most situations, 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 most weeks, there will be times 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.