Unit Two: Team Management
Chapter One – Research
The draft is coming up fast, and you need to prepare. How do you do this?
Everyone has their favorite ways of getting ready, if you’re lucky – a lot of your competition will choose to not prepare at all. I’ll briefly examine some of the ways you can get ready for the draft day (or auction day) and set yourself up for a successful season.
Do your homework in the off-season. In an article I wrote earlier in the off-season, I detailed how you can make use of news reports for any players of interest. This is especially helpful if you are in a keeper league and want more information on your players. Of course, all teams and players (except those holding out) hardly ever have bad news reported about them, unless it’s of a legal nature. Take anything you read with a large grain of salt. You can however glean some pieces of information from off-season news. This homework is qualitative in nature, you can’t really do projections off this news, but you can sense how your players stand in their coach’s eyes.
Player movement, this is a subset of news stories, but of course, this news has the most impact. If a player moves to a new team, their value will change a great deal. If a keeper you have changes teams, research the new situations. Does their new coach run or pass more?
Is the new team’s defense better or worse? Make no mistake; a team’s defense has great effect on that team’s offensive players. If the defense is good, the running game will benefit. If the defense is horrible, the team will most likely have to pass a lot to keep up. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but team’s ability to stop others usually greatly affects offensive play calling.
Running backs need a good offensive line in their new home, QBS need a good line too, and proven WRs. Wide receivers need a quality QB, and a coach that likes to throw the ball. All of these factors should be evaluated when doing your off-season homework.
New coaches of course can affect player value. When Dennis Green went to Arizona last year, I expected a big change, with a lot more passing. Of course, having a QB who can throw the ball is important too. The offensive explosion didn’t hit Arizona last year, but with Kurt Warner in town; you know Coach Green is trying to get vertical with his crop of young receivers. Joe Gibbs came into Washington, and many owners expected a return to old time Redskin football, especially with Clinton Portis running. It didn’t happen, but you can expect that a coach’s style will affect your players’ performance. Read local stories and see what the beat reporters say. Often time they are mouth-pieces for the team, in this case that’s helpful. Those beat reporters will let you know what to expect style-wise from the new coach.
Once you get closer to the off-season, you’ll find more quantitative information. Sites will post projections and ratings and hypotheses…Know this…These are all guesses. Yes, these are educated guesses. Yes, they are most likely better guesses that you can make, but they are still guesses. Though these are guesses, they are very helpful.
One quick note here about fantasy magazines. If you go to a draft (live draft of course) and one of your co-owners walks in with nothing but a fantasy magazine or two and nothing else…just smile. That guy will be no competition for you. No competition at all. Those magazines stats and information were most likely collected right around NFL draft time. Relying on magazines only for fantasy information is a fool’s game; and that owner will lose. Hopefully that owner enjoys himself at the draft and stays interested through the year…but he ain’t winning. With that said magazines can be nice reading material and provide some nice framework for team construction and strategy. There are some very well written magazines out there, and I certainly don’t discourage anyone from buying a magazine, just do use it as your only source of information.
So, rankings and projections – use as many as you can get your hands on and form your own opinion. Make your own rankings using many sources. Of course there are some sites that are going to do better than others, and there is some science that can be applied to fantasy football, but no one’s perfected it yet. Fantasy football is more art than science, especially at the draft. We’ll cover draft day in depth with our next chapter, but there is no one source for perfect football information. So pulling data from as many sources as possible and making your own judgments is the best way to go.
Many people will disagree with this, that’s fine, but think about it. Do you want to just trust one site’s projections, or worse yet, use one site’s draft application to do all the thinking for you? This is your team, your hobby, your God-given right to waste time. Why would you deprive yourself of some of the fun of fantasy football?
No, find a few sources that make sense to you, and come to your own conclusions. There are many sources of information that are free on the internet, and many are high quality. You can pay for fantasy information, and as part of the industry, I thank you for your money, it’s your prerogative. If you search enough you’ll find a few free sites where you can get good solid information and different points of view.
In the end, your off-season research should provide with a few pieces of information you need for your auction or draft:
Long term prospects for keeper leagues
Coaching style and defensive outlook for each team
Position battles and players to handcuff
If you can do the research and get these pieces of information, you’ll be well-armed come draft day. I think that the more you do yourself, the more you get out of the experience. Let the universe of fantasy sites and writers be a guide, there’s a lot of data, knowledge and strategy to be mined out there. You’re the owner of your team; you need to do some homework and the more work you do yourself, the more rewarding your fantasy experience.
Up next, we look at draft day, with an emphasis on live draft Do’s and Don’ts.