The 2020 NFL season is finally here. While millions of fans are looking forward to watching live football games or streaming highlights with services like ESPN+, the truly dedicated are already busy drafting teams for their fantasy football leagues. That said, fantasy football continues to grow in popularity (due in no small part to the internet), and it’s no longer as much of a niche hobby as it was even a decade ago.
If you’re one of many who is new to fantasy football and you’re looking to learn the ropes, or if you’re a veteran looking for a way to sharpen up your team management skills to gain an edge, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to see our best tips, tricks, and strategies for how to dominate your fantasy football league.
Know the rules and scoring system
This first one sounds obvious, but if you’re new to fantasy football, you might be surprised at some of the variance you’ll see when it comes to rules and scoring. Most websites and leagues follow standard football scoring (six points for a touchdown and so on), but pay close attention to whether or not other things, such as interceptions and return yards, are scored and how they are scored. Study these rules before the draft so you can form a season strategy ahead of time and properly prepare to pick your players according to their strengths and how you can deliberately tailor those strengths to your scoring advantage.
Know the team formations and plan your lineup
As most fantasy football websites and leagues use default scoring, so too do most use the standard team formation. Still, make sure of this beforehand so you don’t get any nasty surprises come draft time. The commissioner of your league might tweak lineup settings for a variety of reasons and this will naturally affect the draft.
Continuing on that point, it’s a good idea to sit down and write out your ideal lineup before the draft — you’re not choosing specific players just yet (you’ll do that next), but decide how many players you want for each position. Having a lineup plan with the right number of players will make specific player selection easier later. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough players to cover empty positions during bye weeks.
Rank your players before the draft
While you’ve got your pen and paper out and after you’re done planning your team lineup, feel free to write down your dream team — but be realistic. Other people in your league are going to be going for the star players, too, but if you know the draft sequence ahead of time, that can give you an advantage if you have an idea of which players are likely to be available when your number comes up.
Don’t over-focus on the top-tier players, either; identify good second-tier players that other team managers might overlook. Another useful tip to employ during the draft is to identify and pick running backs that are good at catching a lot of passes. These players will net you lots of yards, rushing touchdowns, and even receiving touchdowns. Smoke out the best ones before the draft and snatch them up if you get the chance.
Know the matchups and bye weeks of each player
You’ll probably have at least a few great players that you’ll be starting almost every game, but for the rest, study their teams’ matchups so you know who will be facing who ahead of time. This is another important strategy for tailoring your strategy according to your players’ strengths and weaknesses.
Just as important as knowing the matchups for your players’ teams is knowing their bye weeks. A bye week is a week during which a team isn’t playing at all, meaning the players on that team will be out of commission entirely. This is an especially important consideration for quarterbacks, so make sure you do not commit the rookie mistake of picking two QBs who have the same bye week, only to get a shock when that week rolls around and it’s game time.
Know which players are on the waiver wire
The NFL’s waiver wire can give you an opportunity to snatch up low-ranked players who may nonetheless be very good picks. Such players might end up on waivers because they’re relatively new to the league or might have dropped in rank due to injury the previous year. You can get very lucky here if a great player gets dropped and becomes available. That window is short, though, so always keep an eye on players you’re interested in. Don’t assume other team owners in your league aren’t paying attention, either — the savvy ones certainly will be.
Know your league’s playoff schedule
Naturally, the ultimate goal is to take your fantasy football team to (and win) the playoffs. Matchups are weighed even more heavily here, so pay close attention to your league’s schedule. Even a good team can get knocked out early in the playoffs if the owner isn’t paying enough mind to the player matchups. You should be doing this during the entire season, of course, but developing good team management habits will really pay off when it’s playoff season. Don’t let a good pre-playoff run go to your head and make you let your guard down.
Don’t be afraid to trade
Many fantasy football team managers are rather tight-fisted when it comes to trading. That’s an understandable mindset — nobody wants to do a bad trade, least of all with their star players — but you can turn this to your advantage. Another manager in your league who’s over-eager to snatch up one of your star players might be willing to give you several good players in exchange, allowing you to come out ahead with that trade even if you lose one of your top performers.
Even the best player is only a single player, after all. Just study the field carefully to make sure you are actually getting equal or greater value to what you’re giving up, and don’t get too over-eager yourself and ignore the previous tips about bye weeks, waivers, and so on when trading.