Due to fans' proclivity and the expansion of daily and weekly games, fantasy sports continues to enjoy robust growth across the United States. According to Time, fantasy players are turning out in droves to sign up for daily and weekly leagues held by startups FanDuel and DraftKings with 56.8 million players in 2015 compared to 33.5 million three years ago.
Much of the success stems from the mountains of money on the line. Time’s report also stresses that fantasy players are now spending on average $162 a year on fantasy, up from $62 in 2012, and it’s all in the name of winning even more through leagues like FanDuel and DraftKings.
Even Silicon Valley heavyweight Yahoo has decided to cash in on the craze. The company, already running one of the most popular fantasy engines across every major sport, announced in July that it will start one-day and weekly fantasy games. Yahoo’s hoping to enter a daily games market that’s expected to garner $2.6 billion in entry fees this year and projected to grow to $14.4 billion by 2020, according to The New York Times.
If you’re a fantasy sports novice and hope to join the party starting with fantasy football this season, here’s six pieces of advice to follow that will help during the draft, on the waiver wire, and throughout the 2015 season.
Can’t Have Enough Running backs
Historically, a well-balanced platoon of running backs is the cornerstone of every fantasy football squad. Whether you are in a 10 or 12-team league, the standard number of squads in almost every league, running backs will be the first 10 to 12 picks selected in each draft. And you do not want to miss out on a player who will get roughly 15 to 20 chances per week to generate points for your squad. We discussed earlier this summer how the number of premier running backs is declining around the NFL, with the passing game overtaking league offenses. Thus spending your very first pick on a topline running back is of utmost importance to success this year or any other.
If possible, try to spend your first two picks on a starting running back, and then focus on wide receivers and your quarterback.
Wait on a Quarterback
Yes, according to FantasyData.com, the six highest scoring players in all of fantasy football were quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees. But an owner’s chances of landing any one of those stud passers is very slim, and spending your first round pick on a quarterback blows up the rest of your draft when you're struggling to find even an average running back in the later rounds.
New fantasy owners should focus on building up their running back and receiving corps in the first four or five rounds, and then turn to quarterback. According to FantasyPros.com’s average draft results, an excellent quarterback like Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, or even Cam Newton can be found as late as the sixth or seventh round this year.
Stay Up On Injuries and Depth Charts
First-time fantasy players will quickly learn that having more information than your opponent is the key to winning any league. And while there’s a number of excellent sites that provide in-depth stats and analysis, the only real way to fully maximize your roster is to stay abreast of the movement of each NFL team’s depth chart and the health of players.
Try using “The Huddle,” a USA Today-powered tool that updates each team’s depth chart. For those who don’t know, a depth chart lists players at each position and deigns who will fill in if someone gets hurt or is performing poorly. For example, if Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is injured, the Falcons depth chart shows T.J. Yates as the player likely to fill in for him.
Set Reminders For Waivers and Your Lineup
Fully understanding the depth chart and keeping up with player news is only half the battle for fantasy players. While it might sound surprising, many forget to set their lineups each week and leave lots of points on the table in the process. That’s why it’s important to set up reminders on your phone, computer, your email, or whatever device offers the best chance of seeing the reminder.
The waiver wire is a whole other matter. Most leagues will allow owners to pick up new players starting the Tuesday or Wednesday of each week. Waivers are only for players who currently aren't on any other team's roster, and thus are available to pick up. Typically a league follows a waiver order that changes after a move is made. So if you are first in the waiver order and you get the player you want, you won't be able to make another pickup until every other owner's claim has been processed. For example, if every owner tries to claim Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson, and you are first in the order, you would get Johnson. But your next waiver claim for say New York Giants receiver Rueben Randle will only go through if no other owner in the waiver order placed a claim for him. FantasyBowl.com breaks down the waiver system a little further as well.
But you also have to remember to put your claims in every week if you need a new player. One of the simplest ways to remember is setting up email alerts through your host site, be it Yahoo, ESPN, Fox Sports, or any other major site.
Your Gut Is Dumb
Too often fantasy players will say: “I know in my gut this guy’s the right pick, even if he’s ranked No. 103,” or “My gut tells me I gotta take this guy No. 1 overall,” and so on. The fact is your gut is clueless about fantasy football or any other sport. A quality pick is made by doing simple research.
Owners should glean through the rankings from the top fantasy sites, but also study up on how players have performed during training camps and the preseason, especially impactful rookies who played a huge role in leagues last season and should do so again this year.
Another way to go is the raw data rankings data compiled by a former New York Times data scientist and his tier system.