You take your fantasy football seriously and the competition is fierce. You need some advanced fantasy football tips to help you construct the perfect roster, focus your in-season strategy, execute trades like a pro, and ultimately go the extra mile to win a championship.
We’re here to help you gain that “extra edge” with our in-depth tips for fantasy football players.
Let’s jump in.
PREPARING FOR FANTASY DRAFTS
Here are 10 tips serious players can utilize to prepare for their draft.
BE YOUR OWN ANALYST
First, create your stat projections for each player based on the type of league scoring you play in. I usually do the top 150 players and then extra quarterbacks and Tight Ends, past the 150. My projections are based on offseason moves of players, coaches, and drafted players. I also review film, analytics, and team dynamics to make decisions. This gives me my own rankings to complete mock drafts with.
AUTO MOCK DRAFTING
Next, use auto mock drafts. Fantasy Pros has created a great platform for this. I complete them as auto because I am only looking to see where players are being drafted without my bias involved. This lets me see where my players are being drafted by others, so I have an idea of where I am high and where I am low on players.
You can compare your players to their ADP on different sites instead, but I prefer doing it via mock drafts, because a standard ADP list doesn’t account for league specific rules and roster construction. Also, several of those ADP lists are based on auto drafters, where QB’s, kickers, and defenses are taken ahead of where they really would go.
Then, complete your own mock drafts to see how you want to construct your roster. It’s important to be drastically different in your mocks to view it from all angles. What does it look like if you take a QB or a TE in the 2nd or 3rd round? How do you respond to safe early and upside later? What about the reverse?
Mock drafts allow you to experiment with different strategies to see what you really want to do in the live draft. It also allows you to figure out the mid-round clusters that will be there later.
Draft Kings holds Best Ball league drafts starting at $1. It is a solid method to mock drafting with actual people because the stakes are real. Even though it is only $1, it’s still an investment which means people take the drafting more seriously. Best Ball is a sharp mock draft.
ROSTER CONSTRUCTION – THE 3:2 RATIO
Now that you know your ideal roster, look to organize the “type” of player you want for each position. By “type” I mean risk vs. reward or weekly consistency of targets vs. touchdown/big-play guys. In other words, high receptions and low touchdowns vs low receptions and high touchdowns. It is wise to not take risky Running Backs. Risk can be defined as either injury or RBBC situation. Running Backs are naturally risky positions anyway so why take on more. I prefer taking risks on Wide Receivers if I can control it.
Next, follow the 3:2 ratio. I want 3 consistent weekly productions for every 2 potential boom/bust players on my team. It’s important to understand this is for weekly scoring and not for season long. Two players can end back to back in total season points but their path to points is much different. I prefer to take my consistent guys at the beginning of the draft and my boom/bust in the later rounds.
Try looking at the draft in reverse. Identify your sleepers and discover the type of players waiting at the end of the draft. Then, work you’re way back up to the top of the draft board. This helps you know what type of foundation to set for your draft in the beginning.
THE IDEAL FANTASY LINEUP
In order to create your own rankings take the top 40 RB’s and top 40 WR’s and separate each into the two different categories. Using these two lists, in conjunction with my rankings and my unbiased mock drafts, I work to create the ideal lineup. I highlight 3-4 players at each round in case my top choice is unavailable. This list is my drafting guide.
PUT YOUR RANKS TO THE TEST
Once you have established your personal rankings put them to the test. Complete mock drafts using your own rankings as your guide. Try to see if you can duplicate your perfect roster. This is nearly impossible, so the real knowledge gained here is what it may look like if you get your 2nd or 3rd ideal player in each round and how that affects your team in the middle rounds.
I want to stick with the 3:2 ratio [consistent weekly productions to boom/bust players]. If my ideal player in the third round does not pair well with the player selected in the second, I may go with the next man on my list if the two are close in my projections. The point is to look for players that will complement each other well overall.
FANTASY LEAGUE SPECIFIC
Then, with the names of your targeted players, complete a mock draft for your specific league. I input every player based on who I believe that the league manager will take. This is based on my knowledge of their draft preferences and based on what their roster looks like throughout the draft. This helps to calibrate my rankings with league member tendencies. Again, I cannot stress this enough. You need to know your league.
Continue adjusting your ranks until you have a pretty good idea of how the draft with go. My list of players for each round is usually down to 3 players. Through the process, I have a solid idea of what rounds I will take a QB and TE based on my RB’s and WR’s selections.
FANTASY DRAFT SPOT MATTERS
The draft spot impacts my approach significantly. The top 15-20 picks are almost set in stone with only 1-2 spots of variations. For example, if you have the 7th pick in the draft, then you don’t have CMC, Barkley, or even Zeke as an option. Those first 2 rounds are roughly easy to predict based on your draft spot and thus it should change your mid-round selection.
Because I want that 3:2 ratio, whoever I draft in the first 2 rounds significantly changes up who I am going to target in the 3-8 rounds. If I select a top 3 Running Back, then I can afford to take on some more risk with high upside players later. If I pick from the back of the draft, I am not afforded the same luxury and will have to approach those later rounds with caution.
After the first eight rounds or so the draft spot’s influence decreases significantly. At that point, all players are dart throws. Even the sleepers. I do, however, switch the 3:2 ratio up and take 3 high risk/high reward players for every 2 safe players.
I don’t believe in taking players like Christian Kirk when I can take a Ceedee Lamb. Even before Hopkins arrived, Kirk proved incapable of WR1 status, where Lamb could be a WR1 with Cooper’s injury history and even WR2 with Cooper. There is no point in having a player on your roster who can’t challenge for a starting spot on your fantasy team.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF DEFENSES AND KICKERS
I think defenses in general are underrated. Most experts say to wait on defense and kicker till the last 2 rounds. But that never happens. Defenses and kickers always start to get taken in the 10th round and later. Even mock drafts that are done by experts, posted to major websites, have experts taking these positions earlier than they say they would.
This is because the chances of finding a bench player that will drastically change your lineup are slim. A player in the 10th can have the same upside as a player in the 16th. But getting a Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker is going to lock down a starting position and help you win the position battle more than 75% of the time.
The same goes for a solid defense. At times I like to carry 2 defenses, sometimes 3. Going back to what I said about how rare it is to hit on later round picks; I’d rather carry multiple defenses to play the matchups. During the season, I will look 2-3 weeks ahead and see defensive matchups and who my opponent’s defenses are and look to either bolster my defense or block my opponent if they have a bad matchup. This becomes a crucial part of the game as you approach playoffs.
If you disagree or have heard otherwise, I’ll ask you this. How many players after the first few weeks do you end up dropping anyways? If you said zero… you’re lying because things happen during that first few weeks as the NFL adjusts. The point is that the last 4-6 picks in your draft are fluid. You might as well solidify a known commodity in your defense and/or kicker.
WEIGH RISK VS REWARDS
I want virtually no risk in the first 2 rounds and as little risk as possible through round 6. Usually, guys in the 3rd and 4th round are players that were once going in the 1st round or early 2nd round, but due to injuries or switching teams, or age; these guys fell to the 3rd or 4th round. I’m talking about players like Todd Gurley, and Melvin Gordon, OBJ, Adam Thielen, etc. Or you get younger players, that could be future 1st round or early 2nd round draft picks… players like DJ Moore, Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay, Jonathan Taylor, and AJ Brown.
To reiterate the point, this is why draft position matters. If you draft in the mid to late 1st round, you may have to take on risk earlier than you would like and thus you need to know who is safer in the 3rd and 4th rounds. The range of acceptable risk positively correlates with the number of proven players.
If you are the 7th pick in a draft it’s possible you start out with a CEH, Tyreek Hill, Todd Gurley, and Mike Evans as your first 4 picks. But why take on all that weekly and season-long risk. If you have CEH, take Julio instead of HIll. If you had an earlier pick and got a Zeke or Kamara, then take the weekly upside of a player over the consistency in the 3rd or 4th rounds.
NFL TEAM AND COACHING TENDENCIES
If it acts like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. The Lions, the Eagles, and Patriots have never been one to trust when it comes to backfields. Now you can add Washington, the 49ers, and possibly the Rams to the list as well. The teams make it difficult to predict RB usage.
Just when you think you have the guy, he’ll miss one assignment and be benched for the next three games. If they have a history of misusing or rotating Running Backs, then I don’t want any part of it. Knowing players is great, but it’s important to take a look at coaching philosophies as well.
IN-SEASON FANTASY FOOTBALL TIPS
Make sure you are employing these strategies from week to week.
Selecting players off the waiver wire is similar to selecting sleepers at the end of the draft. If you’re sacrificing a top waiver spot for those who do rolling waivers or drop money on FABB, it better before someone who again can compete for a starting spot on your fantasy team. If you can’t envision a scenario where you would either play him or trade him, then he probably doesn’t belong on your team.
The best way to use the waiver system is by looking a head a week. Cross reference future matchups with opponents needs and swoop them up early. This way if they hit, you have the chance to start or trade the player.
The second best way to use the waiver system or free agency pool is by being aware of all player’s status for the week. In a Superflex league, I once received a notification that my opponent’s quarterback was designated as “out.” I quickly swooped in and claimed the player before my opponent. I had no intention of starting the quarterback but had every intention of blocking my opponent.
FANTASY TRADE TIPS
I’ve heard it said by Rich Dotson of Dynasty Nerds, “I don’t win trades. I win championships.” It is a solid philosophy when it comes to fantasy trades. Most people try to come out of a trade with the stronger side, but they also develop a stigma for being selfish.
First, when you go into trade discussions the goal is to make your team better and so is the other team’s. Propose trades beneficial to both teams, not just your own. Ask yourself if you would accept the offer in situations were reversed. Your trading partner will respond more positively and more often when you do.
In order to accomplish this, I like to engage in a discussion about team needs. Identify and target their positional need. They will also be more inclined to trade if a need is met.
Having open discussions is the most efficient method for completing trades. Don’t just send blind trades through the app. It does not work. Yes, unfortunately, there are always those managers that just don’t respond, and they should because it’s dumb not to, but without dialogue, you won’t find that sweet middle ground that leads to a successful trade.
After you have successfully identified a team need, send an appropriate trade, but don’t give away the farm. In fantasy, all trades are a barter. The value of a player is subjective and fluid. It’s always changing, and many times it depends on the philosophy of the individual.
In order to find the middle ground, you have to start with a reasonable offer that still has room to grow. However, I caution you on sending low ball offers. Go too low and you won’t get anything done. You’ll never accomplish a trade if the opposition senses selfish intent.
OTHER TRADE TIPS
Don’t rely on trade calculators to make trades. Too many times I’ve been stunned by offers that are considered “fair” but do not benefit my team. Why would you make this trade if there is no benefit? Trade calculators try to determine concrete player values when they are subjective. Don’t fall into the trap.
Most people are experienced enough by now to be wary of a two-for-one offer. The majority of the time, you want the better player. A heap of garbage is still not worth a diamond ring. Don’t let others throw their benched players into the mix in order to sway your vote. The hidden truth is they have the option of picking up free agents, and those players have value in trades.
The trade should lean in your favor if they are the initiators. It is simple. They started the conversation because they wanted something. It is their job to convince you to agree.
The opposite is true too. If you initiate the trade, prepare to sell to them. Though, the best salespeople can successfully reverse the negotiation so they end up selling to you.
It is simple to spot a person who is attempting to reverse the roles. If they initiate the trade, but you’re the one sending offers, then they got you. If someone asks you who you want for player X, simply respond, “Make an offer.”
Lastly, it’s okay to overpay if you believe your team improves.
SETTING THE PERFECT LINE UP
First and foremost, don’t get cute with the starting lineup. Always start your studs. You drafted them early for a reason.
Next, at the start of the week, I look for players with good opportunities. I do not use the projections given by the app. They will only break your heart. I do, however, analyze opposing matchups to see how my receivers and running backs will fair. Mike Clay’s Shadow Report for ESPN+ subscribers, covers individual WR/CB matchups and reviews historical data to predict outcomes.
Sometimes the decision comes down to whether you need a boom to win or a safe play to not lose. If you quickly fell behind on Thursday night and have close the gap – I suggest starting the player with upside. If you are losing by a small margin and need one more play to win – I suggest starting the safe player.
At times, the structure of your roster has nothing to do with talent, but with the schedule. Start the player on Thursday night in your non-flex spot. This allows for more options on Sunday. If a Running Back is questionable for Sunday and ends up sitting out, you are pigeon held into the running back position – even if your next best player is your receiver. Move your earlier games into the starting positional spots.
Typically, statistics and probability are the best measures for choosing your flex. What historically will happen. Are you banking on fluky touchdowns to earn points or is the path to points safer than that?
This may seem like an obvious fantasy football tip but I don’t recommend rostering handcuffs. The odds of them actually bolstering your team are slim so utilize that spot for those with greater upside. Allowing a bench spot to rot by holding the handcuff is poor decision making.
The only exception I tend to make is drafting those few running backs that have the opportunity to explode if given the chance. And when I do take handcuffs, I lean towards players that have no affiliation to my own team. That way if they emerge, I either have an additional quality Running Back to start or at the very least, roster a valued trade commodity.
The closer you get to the playoffs the more you should start acquiring your own handcuffs. You can recover from an injury mid-season easier than in the middle of your playoff run.
PREPARING FOR THE PLAYOFFS
There are too many unknown obstacles at the beginning of the season to make playoffs a factor when drafting. However, it becomes clearer as the season progresses. Continue fighting for your playoff seed until you have locked it down. Then, look ahead at player schedules and preset your line up for every week.
At this point, your team should have its foundation down, so acquire other assets that will beef up your team. This includes securing key handcuffs and holding a second quarterback, tight end, or defense depending on the matchup. Ways of blocking your future opponents should be on your mind as well.
A great way to shore up some roster space without diminishing your team’s value is in fact the two for one trade. Find a team lacking depth and in the playoff hunt. Then, offer them two solid players for one great player. Again, you typically want the better player, but if a team is desperate to make the playoffs, they may just bite. But if they have read this article, then they probably will decline.
Lastely, this includes a review of your potential opponents’ team rosters and identifying their needs. A smart tactic is to roster their needs before they can – thus, weakening their overall potential.
ADVANCED FANTASY TIPS – FINAL THOUGHTS
When your league is full of experienced players, you have to do more to win. Everybody knows the basics so you can’t capitalize on simple league mistakes. You need to find that extra edge to get ahead. Implementing these advanced fantasy football tips will push you to the top. Now get out there and win that championship!
Follow Jeff Roberts on Twitter @FantasyRoberts