Lessons from the Imaginary Gridiron

After winning my 2012 fantasy football league championship I've got a few strategies to share. Warning this blog is all in your mind.

This past Sunday marked the 16th weekend of the NFL season, which was the playoff finals for fantasy leagues around the country.  This was my third year participating in a league at Bradley Real Estate, and I was lucky and crafty enough to come away with my ten team league championship.  Playing fantasy football was a lot of fun this season, and there were a number of ‘smooth moves’ that I made which got me my imaginary crown.

Perhaps the most important thing I did was to make sure my team had solid starters and backup players at every position.  I had two often spectacular quarterbacks in RGIII and Matt Ryan.  These players I initially drafted and I never had to trade for another quarterback throughout the season.  Because RGIII was a rookie he was not grabbedin the early rounds of the draft, so he became a draft day steal for me.

I drafted very good receivers in the early rounds, and when Pierre Garcon got hurt in week five I dropped him.  Garcon had a great first game but got hurt and missed two games, then had two disappointing games before getting hurt again and missing four more games.  I dropped Garcon in week 7, picked him up again in week 12 and he finished out the season strong for me.

Picking up other teams dropped players either because of injury or ineffectiveness was an important strategy for me.  I picked up Steven Jackson in week 6 after Cedric Benson went on IR, and I stuck with him for the rest of the season despite some paltry fantasy outputs.  With 10 teams in the league it was hard to pick-up quality players and I couldn’t find a better option for my third running back behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Ray Rice.  As an alternative to injured and faltering Bradshaw, Jackson came through for me big time in the first weekend of the playoffs with 30 points against Minnesota.

I was not afraid to drop or bench players who weren’t performing.  I dropped tight end Greg Olsen, he was picked up and dropped again by another team and I picked him up for the finals.  I had two great tight ends in Jermaine  Gresham and Owen Daniels, but I didn’t like the matchups both were in for the finals so I dropped Gresham and acquired Olsen who was playing against the Raiders.  Olsen outperformed the other two with 17 points.

Defense and kickers can be overlooked positions, but I scored big time with both by actively dropping and picking up players based on matchups.  I grabbed Seattle to finish out the season because they were playing weak opponents, and they scored 41 for me in week 14 then 16 in week 15, the first weekend of the playoffs.  Conner Barth was a great kicker, except when playing New Orleans so I dropped him the second time he played them, which was the first weekend of the playoffs, and he ended up scoring zero.

Seasoned fantasy owners will tell you never to follow your heart when putting your roster together.  In general I have to agree, but there are exceptions.  On the first weekend of the playoffs I chose Michael Crabtree of my beloved 49ers over Pierre Garcon and Mike Wallace.  Garcon was the favorite target of RGIII who was ruled out for the game and Wallace had been somewhat inconsistent throughout the season while Crabtree was truly on an upswing with Kaepernick behind center.  Crabtree rewarded me with the game of his life against the Patriots scoring 36 points, doubling the output of my receivers on the bench.

Ironically my opponent, last year’s defending champions were playing Tom Brady on that Sunday night game.  We were tied going into the game and it was Crabtree vs. Brady in our fantasy world.  My opponent, also an ardent 49er fan, found himself rooting for the Patriots while I was able to root for my favorite team and win by a mere two points after great performances by both players.  It was fantasy karma.


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