Critical days in fantasy football

As the NFL season reaches the second half, it's time to hone in on your team

Mike Schopp
November 01, 2018 - 10:53 am

Photo: Jason Getz - USA TODAY Sports

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My obsession with drafts and inability to say no to a game added up to an unwieldy 16 fantasy football teams for me to run this year. Most weekday mornings since the season started, I've spent 2-3 hours on this stuff. This is not an exaggeration -- or an advertisement. It's more of a confession.

If you have a fantasy football team, it's important, I think, to take care of it. I'm not talking hours a day necessarily, but you should at least put in a certain baseline effort for the sake of the league. This includes making sure your roster isn't littered with injured players, that your lineup doesn't have anyone in it that's on a bye week, and responding to trade offers. A difference, perhaps, between that baseline effort and what I'm doing is that I'm trying to find and make good trades. That takes time, and it's an element of this that I enjoy.

So if you have 16 teams to run, 2-3 hours a day is really only about 10 minutes per-team. Wow, I just came up with a way to describe this insane time commitment as an "only".

For most of the season I've felt like I was drowning in fantasy football. But for whatever reason lately I feel that I'm keeping pace. Maybe it's like a distance runner struggling for the first few miles but then gaining energy as the race lengthens.

Now it's Week 9 and these are critical times for fantasy owners. You know if you're good, in which case you're starting to set up for the playoffs. You know if you're near the bottom that you can't afford any more losses. And if your team is like most, in the middle, the results of the next few weeks will determine your fate. NFL trends are established. We know who's good and who's important to their teams, and vice versa. But for a few prominent exceptions, players that are injured now are of almost no use anymore. You have pretty much all the information you're going to want, or need.

I have been asked several times, how do you manage this many teams? I don't recommend it. If I didn't have the available time I do before lunch there's no way I could do it successfully. As it happens though, I only have four teams with losing records. Three of those four are my three dynasty leagues, all of which I'm in for the first year. I love draft picks so I'm not bent about this status, and two of those teams have a shot at the playoffs this year anyway.

The Football Guys tools are a big help. They can import your league rosters from most sites and lay out for you recommended matchups based on their projections. I almost never stray from the FBG recommendations. When people ask me start/sit questions I usually beg off because all I ever do is look it up and follow FBG's advice. There's also an app that allows you to evaluate trades and even help you scout them out. This obsession started for me last year partly because I was so impressed with the technology, and I'm still delighted by it.

With this many teams, the FBG research is especially important to me because league formats vary. I'm not sure any two of my leagues have the same format.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of every team's standings and format. If I bothered to master Excel I'm sure I could get a lot more out of it, but I'm too lazy to do that. I can easily see each team's record, waiver status and power ranking (another FBG tool). For posterity I check my cumulative record, which at this time is 74-54.

One league by one, I go into the site and make sure I have the proper lineup set. This part I probably do more out of habit because obviously you don't need your lineup right until Thursday and then Sunday. Now that it's mid-season, it's especially meaningful to size up your status in your league. If you have a good record, I like the idea of scouting out teams with poor records and seeing if you can find a trade. If you have good depth you can try to offer some of it for a losing team's best player, and the losing team might be in a position (and the mood) to agree to that.

You also want to check league transactions each week, looking to see if someone has cut someone you can use. Mistakes get made, but it's more than that. You get into the bye weeks and with injuries too, teams find themselves stuck and just to get through the week will sometimes cut a player you can use.

Trades are probably my favorite thing about fantasy football. I love the pursuit, to find the right combination of players. But just as important as the players themselves is the connection you make with the other owner. I agreed to be in so many leagues that there are a few where I know almost no one in the group. I might know the person who asked me to join and that's it. It's very different from your home league where you've been playing with the same friends for 20 years.

These are not rules per se, but they're things I think about when making a trade offer. I don't want to be the guy who tells the other guy why this trade is good for him. I'll trust that he can figure that out. And you never know how someone is going to see it. Also, I'll never post on a league message board whatever which players of mine are "available". I'll do my own scouting, thank you. Many people will advertise who they want to trade -- and how you can acquire that player for "the right price". When I see that I tend to assume that so-called right price is not what I'll think of as good at all. You know those guys though, the "come and get it" guys. To me those guys tend to be tough to deal with.

I tend to get too caught up in the impression my trade offer might make. Hey, if they don't like it, they don't like it. You have to live with that. The cost for making a trade offer that isn't accepted is zero. I suppose you can make an impression that your offers are too pie-in-the-sky, leaving the other owner to think you're not someone who's fair. But again, there's too much subjectivity in all this to make that much worth worrying about.

Finally on trades, try to avoid leagues where there is any potential for trades being vetoed. I believe strongly that the only condition deserving of a veto is when there is evidence of collusion. Otherwise, two people not only can have varying opinions on players that lead to trades you find one-sided, they should have these varying opinions. That's just part of it. Credit to the owner who has worked out a trade while the others stood still. No vetoes!

You can see how massive a time investment this can become. But hey, why do people play fantasy football? They play for the social aspect, sure. But they also play to win! That's what I'm doing here. If you stay away from waivers and trades, you're probably going to get beat.

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