One of the fun things about fantasy football is the ability to build something and continue refining it throughout the season in a quest for a league championship. Unfortunately, it seems that many owners are content to follow a strategy of "does this make my team better" when making personnel decisions between draft day and week 16. While this certainly may work to a large degree, it can be very helpful to have a more precise strategy. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of your team and transactions between draft day and the fantasy playoffs.
Look at tomorrow
When the season begins it can be tempting to think that playing your best lineup right out of the gate is the best and only strategy to follow. This is true. However, most teams are at full health in the opening weeks of the season and since injuries can occur at any time, it is important to notch as many victories as possible early in the season. While it is unlikely you will make many roster moves except in the case of injury or if a waiver-wire star appears, it is imperative that you look early at matchups in the first four weeks of the year to determine the best way to win all four games. Perhaps trading a player at the end of your roster for a receiver with a favorable matchup in week 3 is worthwhile. Perhaps planning ahead for the waiver wire and snatching up a player with a tough schedule early via trade is a good idea. All avenues should be considered and even if no transactions are made, careful examination of the first quarter of the season in a vacuum can pave the way for a great season.
Look at next week
It has been my experience that most owners don't look to make trades in the season's first month. Most are content to use the players they drafted to be starters and see where it leads. That said, it is never too early to identify the weakness of another team and offer them a life boat. If a competitor is loaded at tight end but is struggling in a position where you have depth, it can be advantageous to make the first move on a player you covet. As a side benefit, your efforts might prompt the entire league to being making moves which can also work out for you in the future.
Look at next month
Injuries will take place and new superstars will emerge. While you can't predict everything, you can keep an eye on changes that seem inevitable. This year there are a few quarterback situations around the league (Arizona, Seattle) and wide receiver situations (Tennessee, Dallas) where players that were ignored on draft day may get a chance to shine if the players in front of them falter. That's not to say you should start rostering backups for no reason but rather you should keep an eye on what's happening around the league in the early weeks and anticipate changes before they happen.
Look at next year
Well, maybe not next year. But once the first quarter of the season has past it becomes prudent to start looking at playoff matchups in depth. Preseason analysis looks at strength of schedule based on prior years. Four to six games in to the season it is possible to get a feel for which defenses have improved and which have regressed. Do you still have favorable matchups for the last month of the season? If not, is there a player you can begin targeting via trade long before the current owner has recalibrated his projections for weeks 12-16?
None of these strategies are revolutionary in themselves. But compartmentalizing your in-season goals in to smaller pieces can help you focus on the task at hand (winning every week) without sacrificing the season-long goal of winning the title.
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