Fantasy Football Hacks: Playing the Long Game

Under normal circumstances, I would write this piece later in the season, say around week 10. One thing that I like to do is play the long game. Not everyone has the luxury of playing the long game, but if you’re off to a good start, and are in a position where making the playoffs is a likelihood, it’s something worth thinking about. Obviously, if you’re off to a rough start and need everything you can get to scratch out a win every week, this doesn’t apply to your situation (though if you’re feeling dangerous, do whatever the hell you want).
Even if you’re feeling dangerous, starting this dude would be reckless.

I was prompted to write this as I combed through the waiver wire in my one fantasy league. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Drew Brees was available. As good as Teddy Bridgewater has been in relief of Brees, the future Hall of Famer will be back in action for the Saints as soon as he is medically cleared, which may not be too far away. Even though I have a top QB in this league (Russell Wilson), why not grab an insurance policy? At the very least, I have 2 great QBs on my roster and I’ll have a little extra trade bait once Brees comes back and does his thing. I’m currently 4-1 in this league, meaning that I have the luxury to use roster spots on guys who aren’t currently contributing, but might later on. During one of my best years, I traded for then-rookie Odell Beckham Jr. while he was nursing an injury. I traded a running back that I didn’t need, and got the best WR for the remainder of the season.

Grabbing the injured star player, as long as the injury isn’t too serious, can be a very useful play. Now would be the time to look into acquiring someone like AJ Green, who was injured in training camp. If you have the roster spot, someone like this could really pay dividends, even if it means having dead weight on your roster. The best chess players are always a few moves ahead of their opponent, and fantasy football isn’t much different.

As the year progresses and gets closer to the playoffs, keep an eye on the waiver wire for favorable matchups several weeks in advance. Most of your opponents are playing for the current week and the current week only. Getting that matchup you want is always easier when you’re planning ahead and you’re not at the mercy of the waiver order. I usually don’t have the luxury of high waiver order priority (humble brag). 

Another fun and useful fantasy hack is to pick players up during their bye week. Everyone is looking at the players who have the best matchups for the current week. Always be thinking about the big picture. I’ve had huge success doing this in the past. Let’s hop in the way back machine for an example. During one of my championship years, I grabbed Jamaal Charles and Miles Austin during their bye weeks before they became breakout stars. I had no problem acquiring either of them even though I was toward the bottom of the waiver order.

My favorite “long game” strategy late in the year is to look at the schedule for the playoff weeks, and load up on defenses with the best matchups. If you wait until the week of the matchup, chances are good that you’ll miss out. As I said, don’t put yourself at the mercy of the waiver order. So, if you’re going to the playoffs, look for those matchups beforehand and add as many defenses as your roster allows. In the case of this year, look for who’s playing the Bengals, Dolphins, Jets, or Redskins and scoop those defenses up before anyone else notices. Not only is it smart, it pisses people off, which by itself makes it worthwhile.

So, next time you’re scrolling through the waiver wire look deeper than just the top adds (on the ESPN fantasy app, it shows the top adds at each position or the top projected scorers for the upcoming week). Look a little deeper. Look for guys who can help in the long run, not just the short term bye week band-aids. You’ll be surprised what you miss if you don’t look below the surface. You can make the playoffs playing week to week. You can win championships playing the long game. 

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