I am obsessed with fantasy football. I\’ve been participating in leagues since I began watching football in high school. While I can assure you that my passion doesn\’t always equal success, my obsession does translate to thorough preparation. While over preparation doesn\’t mean you will succeed, the more you talk fantasy and get different people\’s opinions the more well rounded you will be.
During the upcoming season, I will focus on each matchup for the Pittsburgh Steelers from a fantasy perspective. I will comment on who might excel that week versus who to avoid for both the Steelers and their opponent. My intentions are for you to be able to use this type of information as yet another source to base your decisions upon. Please don\’t read any recommendations that I will make and take them as guarantees. During the weeks leading up to the season, I will focus on the Steelers and what value I think you should give each player in your fantasy drafts.
One pitfall that I want everyone to avoid is overvaluing their favorite team\’s players. I actually avoided Steelers players for many years in fantasy football drafts because it almost felt like a conflict of interest. As I\’ve been focusing more on the knowledge of player development, I\’ve considered it an edge. However, this is only in certain situations. An example would be Antonio Brown last season. Most Steelers fans saw what he did in preseason and jumped at him. This was an anomaly. There is a psychological tendency to overvalue players that you are more familiar and associated with. Stick with your gut, but don\’t just grab the players that you are overexposed to.
I\’ve been reading around looking for some tips for fantasy preparation to share and I would recommend everyone focus on a general draft strategy and outlining their cheat sheet until training camps start. Then you can switch gears to preseason performance and training camp stories. The analysts at NFL.com had a couple of good strategies for fantasy drafts and it makes for a good read:
- The focus has shifted from running backs early in drafts to a high octane quarterback. The fact that so many teams are running by committee is facilitating this change. Also, teams in the NFL are passing more than ever.
- Drafting a quarterback over a running back early on is logical, depending of course on the scoring system that you use, since quarterbacks are much more consistent year to year and have a lower chance of injury.
- You can gamble on running backs, but stick to sure things at wide receiver. Self explanatory, but because of injuries and age related abilities, running backs tend to be more volatile, and that opens up gaps for sleepers to excel.
- Be aware of the fantasy cliffs. On your fantasy cheat sheets, put lines for each position of what you consider a big drop off in performance. I particularly like this advice, and have used it when drafting middle round quarterbacks over the years.
- Go after rarities. While many draft experts stress drafting the core of your team (quarterbacks, running Backs and wide Receivers), it might be a good idea to draft monsters at less important positions. A tight end like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are examples.
- If you have time when preparing, look at player matchups in Weeks 14 to 16. This is when your team will be in the playoffs more than likely, so players with good schedules here will be more valuable.
- Draft players entering contract years. I will be taking a look at this as it is evident in every sport.
- Avoid players coming off of a career years or who have just signed big contracts. If a player had an uncharacteristically huge year, the odds are that there will be a drop off.
- Focus on the game logs for players. Sure a monster week is helpful, but typically you would want a player to consistently produce each week.
I have a few tips that I have heard or gathered over my years drafting as well:
- Look at what a player did in the last few weeks of last season as a lot of up and comers surge at the end of the season. This can be a sign of the team beginning to focus play calling on that player or flat out that said player has turned the corner.
- Look at their competition, on their own team. Emmanuel Sanders\’ biggest deterrent this season is Brown\’s surge last season. While NFL coaches are excellent at feeding the hot hand, if a player isn\’t getting reps, he can\’t put up numbers.
- Consider the offensive line. If you are looking at a player, understanding the talent level of the offensive line will add or subtract value. You can put a great running back like Matt Forte behind an awful offensive line and he will have a hard time reaching his potential.
- Compare a team\’s passing and running successes. Many teams in the NFL can do both well, or neither well. Meanwhile, certain teams focus on the pass or focus on the run and drafting against that trend can limit effectiveness.
- Look at the coaching changes and what coaches like to do. A new head coach or offensive coordinator can dramatically change the way an offense runs. The best way to gauge break out candidates is usually a coordinator entering a 2nd year, or even a brand new one who might get it right.
- When drafting wide Receivers, look at the talent level at tight end on the team he is on. While tight ends can help move the chains, most good ones get a lot of looks in the red zone, so a receiver on that team might not get as many touchdowns.
- How good is a team at winning and how good is their defense? Teams with strong defenses or that tend to blow out opponents will usually get a lot of points for fantasy players, but might end up running out the clock in the second half. This is especially notable on teams with strong special teams or scoring defenses.
Sorry to cram so much information into one article. But, my hope is that you might grab one or two tips that you like and it will add another dimension to your abilities as a fantasy owner. I can write strategies forever, but remember my original advice, don\’t overdo it. Even if you are new to fantasy football, don\’t overextend yourself and try to do all of these things at once. Stick to one or two focuses a year and see how you like it. Final note: most of this analysis is pre-draft. This means that these tips should influence how you weigh players on your cheat sheet. You want to stay linear and focused during a draft and the last thing you want to do is flip between a million pages.
I will analyze the Steelers specifically on this site, but I will tweet anything fantasy related in the NFL. If you have any questions or want an opinion, send me a message on Twitter. I might not be on all the time but I love talking fantasy football.