You’ll read a lot of fantasy football draft tips this time of year preaching that there is only one way to win, one quarterback worth grabbing in the first round, or one player that could change the outcome of your championship game. While there may, in fact, be one quarterback this season who could win it all for you, that’s not the only way to win.
Your fantasy football draft strategy is only the beginning, and it’s quite possible that the one player who contributes the most to your championship might not even be on your roster the day after you draft.
In this time of absolutes and must-haves pre- and mid-fantasy football draft, consider this a quick reminder that there’s more to it than the players you draft. It’s how you play the game.
Here are five ways to win that you must master to take home a championship this season. It’ll be hard to win it all unless you manage to top your league in more than one.
1. Draft the best team
Listing the draft as just one out of five ways to win your league might seem a bit ridiculous. But the draft is only the beginning, and even if you have a horrible team when you look up at that draft board, your season is not over.
The perfect roster doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, and there’s no way to predict injuries.
I’ve looked at draft boards after every draft I’ve ever completed, and the team that “wins” the draft rarely gets the championship trophy.
2. Win the waiver wire
Early in the season, there’s a ton of talent on the waiver wire. Some of the best players will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, and they’ll be saviors for those who snag them up and start them the rest of the way. How many people won a league last season with Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick?
If you don’t draft a perfect roster, all is not lost. Just make sure you pay attention each week, and keep your eye on improvement.
Whether you’re in a league that uses a waiver wire or not, it’s also not a bad idea to put some thought into your free agent system so that you don’t reward the lazy or punish the strong. Not too severely, at least.
Every good league has a solid system in place to award free agents.
3. Make a great trade
Some fantasy players never trade. They never trust a deal, even if it improves the quality of players they put in their starting roster each week. The truth is that almost every trade involves someone losing at least temporarily. You’re taking a chance that what you’re given ends up being more valuable than what you gave up.
If a trade can make the team you start each week better, it’s often worth the risk, even if you have to overpay. That upgrade at receiver could be the difference between a win or loss in the playoffs.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your most expensive assets. Your top quarterback or stud running back might seem like they’re carrying your team, but if you can cash them in for a more balanced roster, do it. Just make sure you get the return you deserve.
4. Play your matchups perfectly
No owner gets 100 percent efficiency out of their rosters. It’s just impossible to know when your players will have their best performances. But you can try.
There are always more factors at play (injuries, coach doghouses, trades, breakout performances) than we can predict, but if you follow the news on every player on your roster, you can maximize what you get out of them to take advantage of their best games and avoid their worst.
5. Get lucky
Finally, yes, you can just get lucky. Maybe you have the easiest schedule of all your leaguemates and a clear road to the championship game. Maybe the one guy you held onto all season comes back from an injury and destroys other teams during the playoffs.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and fantasy football is one playing field that can always be leveled with a little good luck.
So why did I waste a post on this? I have to agree that it’s pretty basic. But why give you such a simple reminder (or primer) on how to play the game?
For one, a lot of people never understand all that goes into playing fantasy football each season, or they lose sight of options when their team starts to fade down the stretch.
Maybe by reading through this quick list, you’ll find a little more creativity and/or work harder this fantasy football season, even if the team you draft doesn’t immediately blow everyone out of the water. Maybe you’ll focus more on using your waiver wire pickups, even when your team is strong, or seek out trade opportunities when you need to improve your roster rather than phoning it in the rest of the way.
As you sit down at your draft table, remember that you won’t win a championship in one day. But if you manage to keep a handle on all five of these pieces to winning, you’ll have a good chance to take home a trophy.