I love this time of year! NFL Preseason, cheatsheets, and fantasy drafts. Lots of fun to be had – and lots of work to be done. Yes, work. Sure, fantasy football is just a game. But if you want to significantly improve your chances of winning the game of fantasy football, you need to do some work. You need to prepare.
The league draft is the most important event in a fantasy football season. It sets the stage for everything else that follows. And if you are not ready for it, your season can end before it ever gets off the ground. Now, that’s not to say someone can’t just walk into a fantasy draft with a beer and a cheatsheet they found online that morning and win the whole thing. It happens from time-to-time, much to the chagrin of those who spent countless hours preparing for their draft. But why hang your hat on luck? If you are serious about winning your league, your best bet is to do the work to prepare for the draft.
Now, I am not going to go into all of the basics of fantasy football preparations in this piece. You can find my blueprint on how to prepare for a draft in the Strategies section of my website. What I want to do here instead is share some of the gems I have discovered over the years that have helped me prepare for the fantasy football season. There are lots of fantasy football resources out there, so hopefully this will help you spend more time researching and less time searching.
One of the more handy and trusted sites I have used is FantasyGuru.com. The team at Fantasy Guru is led by John Hansen, who has been providing fantasy football analysis for 20 years. Their articles are thorough and insightful, offering thoughts on who to target in your draft, and who is overvalued and undervalued going into the season. They also provide statistical projections and rankings going into the season that tend to do a good job of shaping the field of players. Most important, I have found Hansen to be very level-headed and reasonable in his analysis. There is much to be gained by reading what he has to say.
Another resource worth considering is Football Outsiders (FootballOutsiders.com). Aaron Schatz is the genius behind Football Outsiders. His group uses a unique set of metrics to evaluate the actual effectiveness of NFL teams and players beyond what the simple stats in the box score tend to tell us. Although this website is not fantasy focused (there is a fantasy element of their site you can use called KUBIAK), their most significant contribution to my fantasy football preparations is found in the in-depth team notes and projections found in their annual Almanac, which you can purchase on their website or at your local Barnes and Noble. The Football Outsiders Almanac digs deep into what makes each NFL team tick. If you read their 400+ pages of analysis, you will come away with a greater understanding of why some players should be targeted on your cheatsheet this season and others should not. (My advice: if you don’t have time to read 400 pages, just read the 2-4 page synopsis at the beginning of each team’s section.)
Finally, I would recommend Matthew Berry from ESPN. Like most TV analysts, he receives a lot of criticism for not being 100% accurate in his analysis and projections. But too often these critics miss the point. The value of someone like Mr. Berry is not found in their precise ranking of players; rather, it is found in their explanations of their assessments of these players and the dynamics of fantasy football. And when it comes to that, you want to hear from an expert who possesses deep, level-headed thinking about the game (not just a talking head), and who challenges you to think about the reasons behind your decisions in fantasy football. For me, that would be Matthew Berry.
Oh, by the way, during the season, instead of waiting to get a last-minute thought from Matthew Berry on TV an hour or two before kickoff, try listening to his weekly podcast and reading his articles. That will give you more time to digest what he is saying and how it might factor into your decision-making.
So there you have it. Those are some of my top resources for fantasy information as I prepare for the upcoming season. Using them will not guarantee fantasy success – nothing can. Ultimately, each fantasy owner has to decide what works best for them. But if you really want to be competitive in your league, make sure you do more than just grab a cheatsheet and a beer on the way to your draft. Do the work. Prepare for the success you want on the fantasy playing field.