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Start/Bench Lists 101

There are a few basic principles that fantasy football owners should follow when trying to determine who to start and who to bench each week. Following these principles will help you make educated decisions about your starting lineup and, with a little luck, a shot at your league’s championship.

Always start your studs.

“ASYS” as it’s known in the Tank. This is #1 for a reason. DO NOT IGNORE YOUR STUDS. If healthy, these players will carry you to the promised land. Do not get fancy and think just because the Colts are playing the Patriots that you should sit Peyton Manning. Over-thinking your starting lineup can be one of the most frustrating aspects of fantasy football. If you play your studs, you will be rewarded in both the short and long term. Also, reserve the “stud” label for those that truly deserve it. Just because someone is a “stud” in week one, that doesn’t mean they have earned that moniker for the entire season.

Beware of the Bye Weeks.

This seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many times a team starts a kicker or starting defense that is on a bye week and ends up losing by a point or two. Always field a full team. This isn’t ‘Hoosiers’. You do not want to play with a man short just to prove a point.

Evaluate your matchups.

Assuming you’ve done well in your draft and you’ve scoured your waiver wire and grabbed a few leftovers off the scrap-heap, every team has at least one starting position that could be decided on a weekly basis depending on the defensive matchup. If you’re looking at RBs, know how the opposing defenses do against the run. For QBs and WRs, know the opposing defenses prowess defending the pass. Remember the top-ranked defense doesn’t always mean they are top-ranked against both the pass and the run.

Review the injury list.

You should be looking for not only your players, but other players on the same team as your fantasy players. Injuries at one skill position could adversely affect the impact your players on a week-to-week basis. Example: When Rex Grossman got hurt, Muhsin Muhammad went from a potential stud to a WR3 that quick.

Don’t be afraid to “go against the grain”.

Most fantasy football web sites offer their own $0.02 on who to start. This is usually denoted by a % of owners that are starting this player for a given week. I’m not saying you should ignore these numbers, you’ll probably agree with the decision the majority of the time. It’s those rare occasions where the numbers just don’t seem right or your gut tells you to do something different (maybe based on one of the principles above) that this applies. The bottom line is it’s your team. You shouldn’t rely on someone else to make your decisions for you 100% of the time. The web site won’t return your entry fee if you lose by a point and someone on your bench scored four touchdowns.

Don’t lead with your heart.

Another common mistake in fantasy football is starting the players on your favorite team even though you have other players at the same position who are better options. I can’t tell you how many people start Tom Brady over QBs such as McNabb simply because they are Pats fans. Don’t get me wrong, if the matchup is even and you want to start your home team’s QB/RB/WR, go for it. Just don’t sacrifice a potentially strong fantasy performance from a starter to root, root, root for the home team. You’ll be cheering for them anyway.

Read the Start/Bench list.

Written by yours truly, I give my honest opinion each week on who I think will perform well and help lead your team to victory. I do my best to take all the principles I’ve reviewed in this article and give you an assessment that is beneficial to your starting lineup decisions. Am I right 100% of the time? I wish. But, the percentages of right vs. wrong certainly fall on the right side more times than not.

Ask the Tank.

I wish I could answer all the questions about who to start on a weekly basis, but quite frankly, it’s too much for one man to handle. The Tank knows these principles inside and out and they have even added their own to the list. You’ll get anywhere from a one-word response to a couple paragraphs of an explanation why player A deserves to start over player B. If you’re ever on the fence about who to start despite reviewing all of the above principles, you should not hesitate in asking the Tank. Several Shark Staffers troll the tank from time to time and will also chime in with their opinions.

Have fun!

When all is said and done, you and only you have to live with the highs and lows of your fantasy football season. You can choose to do the research and follow every principle here and in the tank and still get burnt from time to time. Some owners won’t do any research, and they’ll rack up wins without breaking a sweat. There’s still luck involved, after all. But, every Sunday you get to cheer like there’s no tomorrow for players on the Chargers, Buccaneers, Cardinals and 49ers you would otherwise not have any interest in. That’s what it’s all about. Try and keep your eye on the ball and enjoy the ride. It’s over before you know it.

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