Let’s face it. Week One in the NFL feels like a vacation that never was going to arrive. It’s here and we’re all a little overwhelmed. How do you keep from panicking when you have to take that fantastic draft-day roster and make starting lineup decisions? I’ll try to help with ten ways to determine your lineup and turn your nerves upside-down.
Step One: Admit the problem
We all struggle with big decisions in life, or with setting a fantasy lineup. They’re pretty much the same thing in my book. Understand that you’re almost guaranteed to bench a top ten guy at least once this year and get on with it.
Step Two: Understand that everyone knows nothing
Sure, there are experts with names who have stats and pretend to be able to predict what’s going to happen. They’re just as clueless as you are, but with more apparent data points. You can take from what happened last season, or with free agency and the draft and with how teams performed in the preseason, but when that fist kickoff happens it’s all erased. You don’t know how this cake with 48 different ingredients is going to taste.
Step Three: Listen to the Board
Don’t be a crazy person and over-evaluate your fantasy draft and/or auctions right now. If you drafted a guy higher or paid a higher auction sticker price, that’s who you start. Don’t complicate things looking for sleepers who are still in comas. If you went with a QBBC or a TEBC or an entire team by committee, find those degenerates’ degenerates like CD Carter and Rich Hribar and see what they have to say. Your league mates may have laughed when you took Geno Smith, but he did pretty well when the Jets won last year and if the Jets have a chance of winning any game this year, it’s against the Raiders’ raisin to every other NFL team’s grape in terms of relative talent.
Step Four: Listen to Vegas
Vegas doesn’t mess around. There are smart people setting the lines and over/unders and that can give you insight into fantasy performances. If a home team’s favored by more than three, they are the favorite. You’re looking for high scorers. Denver/Indy is the top “over/under” of Week 1. Remember how the Colts’ offense came to life when they were trailing by three touchdowns every week? Gimme some of that action.
Step Five: If You Didn’t Want to Worry, Don’t Worry
If you were one of those owners who took a QB or TE in the first few rounds, there you go. You have your starter and those streamers can kiss your grits. Ignore Bill “grumble” Belichick and his talk about Gronk not playing every down. When the Pats are in the red zone, Gronk’s playing and Gronk smash (your opponent). Top quarterbacks maintain their high-scoring status, outside of an Aaron Rodgers injury, more than any other position. If you drafted Seattle’s Team D early, know that you are set at the position and you might be history’s greatest monster.
Step Six: Remember the Stakes
For most of us, we’re not playing fantasy football to make our mortgage payment. A “high stakes” league has two figures, maybe three, on the line. Divide that number by the 13 regular-season weeks. If it’s cheaper than a movie ticket or a nice six-pack of beer, consider how much you enjoy that kind of expenditure.
Step Seven: Pass on the Nerves
Sure, you may be waking up at night with sweats due to having Cam Newton as your QB1, but imagine that your weekly opponent has the same fears, if not worse. If they have Lamar Miller, talk about Knowshon Moreno’s pass-protection prowess and how the Pats routinely snowplow any division opponent. Get in their mental belly and do it quick before they follow suit.
Step Eight: Depth Charts, They Are A-Changin’
Think about the kicker position, and how there are players who weren’t even on the stickers on your draft-day board who have starting gigs now. Seriously, what’s a Cody Parker? This is another sign to remove kicker from your leagues, but that’s another story.
Step Nine: Let Daily Be Your Guide
When you’re digging through the massive player-value databases on daily sites, think about those players you consider to be major bargains. These are players you might want to consider for your redraft leagues, and a lot of them are on waivers. Go waive.
Another way to dig into daily is to consider those week-one matchups that are a neon sign of obvious. Starting anyone who might run the ball for the 49ers against the Cowboys? Check. Remember how crappy the Cardinals were against the tight end in 2013? They’re starting a post-ACL Honey Badger and a rookie at safety. Hello, Gates/Green stack. My Titans aren’t exactly looking stellar on defense so consider Alex Smith as a bargain and you’re not here to find out if you should start Jamaal Charles.
Step Ten: Uncertainty Is Your Companion
Uncertainty is coming with you whether you like it or not. If you’re struggling to decide who to start, that probably means that you drafted well. If you’re looking at your roster and it’s like you sniffed the expired milk in the fridge, that could be a problem. Note that unless you drafted seven minutes ago, the value of your drafted players has changed since that time. Take advantage. Make trade offers for players whose value has dropped or take advantage of preseason risers by either trading them “high” or making a trade offer before the value skyrockets (hello, Cody Latimer). One thing you can take advantage of is the Kevin Ogletree effect. What is this, you ask? Kevin Ogletree had an 8/114/2 stat line in Week 1 of the 2012 season. For the rest of the season, he had a 24/324/2 stat line. If you traded him after week one, you made a healthy profit.
As the Brits say, remain calm and something that rhymes with calm. This is a moment in time that will soon pass, and we’ll miss the sheer lunacy and terror of it all. Embrace the fantasy.