Mediocre to Playoff Contender
Time has passed and you are no longer the armpit of your league, but you’re also not really a playoff contender. You’re in No Man’s Land. This is probably the toughest place to be in fantasy, because you are still losing a considerable amount, but you don’t have as much draft capital to make things better. Worry not, because No Man’s Land is a step that most have to go through on their way to greatness. Let’s look at some aspects of this rebuild together.
Drafting From the Middle
In a 12 man league, being in no man’s land means you’re picking somewhere between 1.05 and 1.07. The bonafide stars are usually gone at this point and you’re usually looking at guys who are at least a little suspect for one reason or another. There are a few ways to play this.
When you’re at the bottom of the league, it’s easy to take a best-player-available approach because you need everything, but now you don’t. One way to play this is simply draft on need first and worrying about value second. If you draft on need, you’re having to decide whether to stick and pick or trade up or down. There is merit to all of these. This year, I saw running back as a need and knew that my mid-round pick wasn’t going to get me what I needed, so I traded into the top 2 with an eye for either Jacobs or Montgomery. I ended up with Montgomery and was very happy with that, so it ended up being a win for me. However, accumulating more draft capital is always good, so if you can fill your needs by trading back into the late first round then that’s good too.
However, value drafting is probably what got you here, so there’s no shame in sticking to that strategy. If you want to stick and pick the best player available, you do still have some decisions to make. Say you’re really stacked at tight end, but TJ Hockenson is the best available at your pick. That’s a fine pick, but you have to decide how that pick is going to help you in the future. One option you have is to take Hockenson and trade away another one of your tight ends for more picks. Another option is to trade Hockenson to an owner who you know was bullish on him. The final option is to hang on to all of them and wait for their value to rise. This is all very situationally based, so I can’t tell you what to do, you have to weigh all your options.
The Role of Waivers/Free Agency
By placing this section here, I am not saying that waivers and free agency don’t have a role in helping very good teams and very bad teams, but what I am saying is that for a team looking to get just a little bit more edge, free agency can do just that. To be a competitive dynasty player, you have to be a hawk. Every once in a while, especially during roster cutdown season, players will seemingly inexplicably drop valuable assets. You need to be watching and waiting to pluck them, otherwise, I guarantee you the owners at the top of your league will.
However, owners dropping good players is not the only situation you need to be watchful for. Sometimes, very unpredictable things happen in the NFL and open up opportunities for players who normally wouldn’t have any value. Two years ago, Eric Berry was lost for the season during the first game. Teams that got Daniel Sorenson got a very valuable safety from the waiver pool. A year ago, the Bengals cut George Iloka to the surprise of everyone, and Jessie Bates stepped into his role and turned into a very nice asset. This year, Andrew Luck surprisingly retired. I imagine some teams were quite thrilled to find Jacoby Brissett in their free agency pool. These things happen all the time, and the ever watchful teams will be rewarded for their diligence.
Chances are your mediocre team has more expendable assets than you used to have as a cellar-dweller. If you want your team to take the next step, you need to be actively working your trade market looking for deals. A few good trades can turn your fortunes quickly.
Trades are all about value, and player value is ever shifting. Like the stock market, the idea is to buy low and sell high. You will have players whose values are at all time lows and all time highs, as will your league mates. Your job is simple: find players whose value are lower than what they will be, sell players whose value are higher than what they will be. Easier said than done, right? Yes, but it can be done.
Trading in fantasy leagues is a bit like fishing. Your job is to cast the line out with the right bait and wait for bites. Theoretically, the more lines you cast out, the better chances of having a bite. The difficulty is in offering trades that are beneficial to you, but not insulting to other players. Practice makes perfect. You should get better at it the more you do it, so get out there and start making some offers.
Maybe all the edge you need is already on your roster, but it’s sitting on your bench at the wrong time. Look, this drives us all crazy. Fantasy football is unpredictable. Who saw Derrick Henry going for 230 yards and 4 TD’s out of nowhere last year? However, sometimes we get in our own team’s way with our decision making.
There are plenty of good tools for an owner to make the right matchup decisions every week, and you need to be making use of them. The best advice I can give you for line-up management is don’t overthink it. I’ve been guilty far too many times of making the right roster decision only to flip it at the last minute due to doubt and, in turn, lose my game because of it. Do your research, use tools, set your line-up, then leave it alone (obviously injury situations are excluded from that rule.)
It can be difficult to find that extra push to finally make the playoffs. Nonetheless, put these things into practice and you’ll be well on your way.