“There’s a lesson to be learned from this, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.” ~Al Bundy, high school football star and esteemed shoe connoisseur
Regardless of how your teams fared last year, there’s plenty to take away from the 2009 season. Some owners will merely glance back at their 2009 campaign and say, “I won. I’m awesome.” Many more will look back and lament, “I lost. I did not ‘dominate my draft’ as my website of choice promised. I suspect I may have fallen victim to marketing hype.” In both cases, an opportunity is being missed. Too many owners only remember the result instead of learning important lessons from the season that was. Let’s examine some of the lessons that can be taken from the past year.
Is Your League “Trade-Friendly?”
How many total trades were there in your league last year? How many of them involved your team? If you’re in the type of league where completing a deal involves an act of Congress, you must adjust your draft strategy accordingly. You may be the type of owner who likes to take a “best player available” approach on draft day. Such a strategy requires an active trading market.
Say you’re drafting in the sixth round and you’re surprised to see Hakeem Nicks still on the board. Unfortunately, you really need a RB and Brandon Jacobs is also available. Who should you take? Nicks is 15 spots higher than Jacobs in your pre-draft rankings, but you’ve already taken a Matt Millen-esque three WRs in the first five rounds. You want Nicks, but you’ll be incorrect in drafting him without an active trading market. Why? Because you’ll need to deal a WR to a team with RB depth. This will allow you to maximize your starting lineup by not having to draft a RB at a point when the best RB available isn’t the best player available. Think back to last year. Were other teams willing to negotiate? Did they leave offers unanswered for days? If your league is trade-friendly, you can select Nicks with confidence. If the only offer you received last year was a kicker for your first born, play it safe and take Brandon Jacobs.
A great thing happened last season. The dominance of the famed Two-Stud-Running-Back drafting strategy ended. Why is this so great? Not long ago, the first two rounds of most drafts were merely a test of one’s ability to cross off running back names as they were selected. One by one they went, until it was your turn to follow suit. Anyone who didn’t take a RB with each of his or her first two picks was ridiculed mercilessly before being unceremoniously removed from the league. Maybe not; some leagues were harsher than others. The problem was that with everyone implementing the same strategy, the players you ended up with depended almost exclusively on your draft position. There was very little flexibility.
Thanks to RBBC and the expansion of passing offenses, that’s no longer the case. With this widespread strategy shift comes an opportunity. Many people recognize the change and simply draft two WRs instead of RBs. Others go WR, RB or vice versa and some may even take a QB in the first two rounds. All of these are acceptable, provided you aren’t tied to any of them. The key is to be flexible. I don’t plan on spending a late second round pick on a QB, but if Drew Brees falls to me he’s mine. Not too long ago such a strategy would have left me with a handcuff as my second RB (and possibly gotten me kicked out of the league). That’s not the case in 2010. Early in the draft it’s important to get players you like rather than positions you’ve predetermined.
Speed of Information
A few years ago the more dedicated owners had an edge they no longer enjoy. Those who spent time checking for the latest news had an advantage because while information was readily available, it wasn’t instantaneously sent to my phone, laptop, television, dishwasher, etc. Today every owner gets bombarded with tons of information via countless media outlets. However, not all of the data is accurate. Much of it is based on speculation. Savvy owners can use this to their advantage by separating the news from the noise.
Remember when Dwayne Bowe was practicing with third stringers? Or when Donte Stallworth reported to camp in the best shape of his life? Or when Mike Shanahan said (insert RB name here) would be the starter? With so many rumors being circulated, player evaluation can be difficult. Still, you can use this information overload to your benefit. One way is to watch games instead of highlights. If a rookie WR goes for 100 yards and a TD, everyone is sure to know of his great game. Think back. How many targets did he have? How did he block in the running game? Didn’t the QB yell at him for running the wrong route? Depending upon the answers, you may have a less favorable view of his performance than those in your league who merely read, “Rookie WR blows up for 100 yards and a score.”
Another way to separate the news from the noise is to learn from experience. Know which organizations are less than forthcoming about items such as injuries and playing time. For example, if Larry Johnson gets 20 carries in a given week I’ll be selling him to anyone who thinks Mike Shanahan has made up his mind. You should too.
Fantasy football is constantly evolving, and learning from the past is necessary to stay ahead of the competition. Even if you were a winner last year, it’s important to discover new ways to improve your teams. Don’t rest on your laurels. You don’t want to find yourself reminiscing of past glory, like a once great football star relegated to selling women’s shoes.
Drew is a lifelong Jets fan. Playing and writing about fantasy football has proven helpful in easing the pain.
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