After reviewing my top 10 tips for a successful fantasy football draft, find out how to manage your fantasy team and make the playoffs.
Part II: Making the playoffs
The fantasy draft is just one part of the winning formula for an owner to make the playoffs and emerge victorious with a league title. Here are five tips to help manage your team during the regular season and clinch a playoff berth.
1. Catch a rising star.
New fantasy stars emerge every season, and some can still be claimed via the waiver wire after the first week.
Be aware of injuries, in case a lesser-known veteran can replace an injured star and get the chance to flourish. Last season, fulfilling the No. 1 role vacated by an injured Marques Colston, veteran Lance Moore was plucked off waiver wires and gave teams a surge at the wideout position. New Orleans’ Pierre Thomas and Baltimore’s Le’Ron McClain contributed down the stretch because of injuries in the backfield.
Sometimes, emerging players receive a chance to shine in the game plan. Arizona’s Steve Breaston and Houston’s Kevin Walter assumed larger roles in their offenses and posted solid games to help teams clinch playoff spots.
The rookie class is an excellent source of solid pickups, and owners can monitor them in the preseason and regular season to see if a star is in the making. Last year, Philadelphia rookie DeSean Jackson served as a fantasy starter in many leagues, and Houston first-year starter Steve Slaton became a fantasy star and helped many teams in the season’s second half.
Injuries depleted Seattle’s receiving corps last year, giving rookie tight end John Carlson the opportunity to be a reliable fantasy starter.
This season, look at rookie running backs, wide receivers and tight ends who have gone undrafted in leagues and who might receive a chance to play with a promotion. They may even be thrust into the spotlight if the first-stringer is ineffective or becomes injured. See my top 10 bargains to find out several rising stars at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
If you would like up-to-date recommendations, check out my weekly waiver articles during the season.
2. Score with your defense/special team.
Aside from the dominating Pittsburghs and Giants of the D/ST world, if your fantasy defense/special team squad struggles early, don’t wait for it to rebound. Last year, often-drafted defenses of Carolina and Jacksonville flopped early and often, leaving owners in a lurch. Be quick to swap struggling ones for better-scoring defenses on the waiver wire; plucked from free agency, Arizona and the Jets bailed out many fantasy squads last year.
Another option is to play the matchups, locating a free agent D/ST that’s playing a turnover-prone quarterback. Claim it, then watch the squad help you win your matchup. Better yet, owners should pounce on defenses facing weak backup quarterbacks. They may lack experience or have a track record filled with missteps. Many times, defenses can return their turnovers for a score.
3. Exercise your team.
Eliminate the dead weight, and you’ll be quicker to apply the scoring punch. Just as if you are training for a race or playing flag football weekly on a team, you’ll be faster and better equipped to succeed if you don’t carry excess weight. The work you do to shed the LBs before the big day will pay off. You’ll be transformed into a more effective, efficient and lean playing machine … and this applies to your fantasy team, too.
Unfortunately, a few of those players you drafted in August may be flopping and dragging your team into the loss column. Don’t waste time and potential wins; release this year’s versions of Edgerrin James and Javon Walker. Swap them for players who can carry their weight and justify a roster spot. Removing the excess weight from your fantasy team will feel like a 20-pound cement bag has been removed from your back.
4. Play doctor.
Though injuries may knock out one of your players, it opens the door to claim his backup, who could contribute significantly to your team. Last year, injuries to the Patriots’ Tom Brady, Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, Houston’s Ahman Green and Baltimore’s Willis McGahee opened the door for Matt Cassel, Derrick Ward, Slaton and McClain, respectively, to produce as fantasy starters.
Remember, carpe diem! Injuries are golden chances to seize the day and grab a new starter in free agency.
Monitor the latest injuries with FOXSports.com, and join our weekly Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday chats for the latest advice.
5. Set up your players.
Play the matchup game. In fantasy football, you can set up your own player to be a fantasy star for the day. Just choose the right matchups for him, and he’ll score enough points to give you a big W against your most heated rival. If the Jets’ Thomas Jones is facing the league’s worst-rushing defense, be sure he’s in your lineup. However, if he’s facing the league’s best rushing defense that has yet to allow a rushing score, then it might be best to sit him down in favor of another player who has an appealing matchup.
Check out my weekly rankings to find out whom to start and sit.
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