Ford’s Five Fantasy Football Tips

Andrew Ford, Staff Reporter

If you’re a Cincinnati Bengals fan like myself or a Cleveland Browns fan, you have not experienced a lot of postseason success when it comes to real football. No matter how much I yell at the screen, the lack of control I have over the team is maddening as I watch year after losing year pass by. 

Fantasy football is where I go to dominate the virtual gridiron with players of my choosing. I can build a fantasy football roster that will at least finish near the top of the standings and likely win at least one playoff game, if not the entire championship, unlike my Bengals or your Browns. My three small, meaningless trophies rest proudly next to my bed reminding me of the success I regularly find when fall rolls around. And so, I shall impress upon you five tricks that I use every year to build a competitive team; if you read nothing else in this article, read the last tip. In the end, fantasy football advice is about as reliable as a professor’s syllabus: it appears solid at the beginning of the year, but by the end, only about half of it was correct. 

#1: Play it safe with your first pick

The key to building the foundation of your team is a consistent point getter who is almost guaranteed to post high numbers week in and week out. Taking a risk on a player early, especially in the first round, will always backfire. Obviously, you cannot always know who will get hurt, but be as confident as possible that your first pick will be around for most of the season. This year, players like Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara are the easy top three choices, but further down the board DeAndre Hopkins, James Conner and Davante Adams are other options who should produce on a regular basis. Be wary of Ezekiel Elliot, who is threatening to hold out for multiple games to build leverage for a new contract. He’d be a great gamble in the second round, but I would be hesitant of using my first round pick on him. Also, Le’Veon Bell hasn’t played professional football in two years because of his holdout last season, and who knows how good he will be after that long of a break? Finally, beware Todd Gurley who has been battling serious knee injuries at the end of last season and the beginning of this year. The Los Angeles Rams drafted a capable backup who will see a lot of playing time this year in Darrell Henderson, so I would think twice about picking up Gurley. 

#2: Take risks later in the draft

While consistency is important early on, start taking risks once you get past round seven or eight. Once you have built most of your starting lineup, look for players who are relatively unknown or may be boom or bust. I try to stay away from drafting too many players who have high floors but low ceilings. I know what Jarvis Landry is going to give me: five to seven catches a game, probably not more than seventy yards, and he’ll do that every week. I would prefer to draft Will Fuller from the Houston Texans, someone who may score two touchdowns and a hundred yards on a given week, or who may not catch a pass. These kind of players can give you huge numbers and you’ll blow teams out. I try to draft at least three players with star potential in my drafts. Additionally, do your research to find diamonds in the rough. Tony Pollard is a running back for the Dallas Cowboys who appears to be in line to start this year if Elliot continues his holdout. Someone like Pollard could easily win you your league if he produces like some analysts are predicting. 

#3: Offensive lines are more important than you think

Here is another reason you should definitely draft Pollard. He will get to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. I am a firm believer that running back talent is not a huge difference maker. Instead, draft running backs who have the luxury of being great maulers up front. The Cowboys are a prime example. So are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Rams. Get yourself a running back from one of those teams and you’ll be happy with the results. Now, don’t completely disregard teams with subpar linemen. The Bengals have one of the worst lines in the league, but Joe Mixon led the AFC in rushing last year. This advice more so applies to later rounds when all the star running backs are gone. It is also true for quarterbacks. Offensive lines are so crucial to successful offensive football that I always focus my late rounds picks on them. 

#4: Check your league’s scoring settings

This tip is especially important if you are entering a league for the first time. Some league commissioners like to tinker with the scoring, or in some places, completely make it their own. I used to play in a league where quarterbacks would get a point for every completion and wide receivers would get ten extra points for a forty yard touchdown, but every catch was worth nothing. This scoring system was a mess, but I won that league twice because I knew how to target players that fit that league’s scoring. Now as a commissioner myself, I make sacks and interceptions cost more points and I am using a half point per reception. And your league will be different, I guarantee it. Try to build a strategy that maximizes your potential within your league’s scoring. It will give you a huge advantage in your pursuit of a championship. 

#5: The waiver wire = championships

If you listen to nothing else, this is what you should take away from this article. The team you draft will not be the team that takes you all the way to the championship. Actively follow the league and find players who are coming on the scene before anyone else finds them. Put in waiver requests on Monday. I assure you, the most successful teams find players during the year that play an integral role later in the season. There will always be four to seven running backs or wide receivers that no one expected to contribute significantly that then finish as top 20 fantasy players at their positions. And if you have a bad draft, you can easily make a late season comeback by always scanning the waiver wire. Trust me, it will make or break your season.