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Fantasy Football Tips to Play Fantasy Football Like a Pro

The best way to learn any subject is to experience it firsthand. No amount of cheat sheets, checklists, advice from friends, or new ideas can replace the wisdom that comes with years of experience.

The good news is that it is possible to gain some insight from those who have been there before. Our science is built on the shoulders of giants, and our games are the same way.

The following are tips that every fantasy football professional learns through experience.

1. Understand what kind of league you’re in.

League type is a factor in a player’s value. Brandin Cooks is a good example; Cooks was a great pick in the dynasty leagues last year, but he was nothing more than a sleeper option in the redesign leagues until this year. After gaining some experience, he projects himself as a potential stud.

2. Know your league’s roster rules.

Sure, it would have been great to have Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy as their top three picks, but if the starting lineup can only include two running backs, a lot of points will be wasted while another position suffers. A professional always has a complete roster plan in mind.

3. Varied selections based on the scoring system.

Having a great quarterback is nice, but most leagues reduce your scoring ability by reducing the number of points earned from passing stats. Aaron Rodgers is worth a top draft pick with six points per TD and one point per 20 passing yards. Four for TD and one point for 30? Not so much.

The most common example is PPR (Points Per Reception). Wide receivers gain value and running back ratings shuffle. Matt Forte is a mid to low end RB1 in traditional scoring, but in a league that uses PPR, he is a stud. One point per catch adds 100 points to his total in 2014 alone.

4. Draft safer picks early.

Not all “safe” players can play the season, but it is possible to reduce the risk. Every player available early is a great player. Aside from last year, choosing Adrian Peterson over Darren “Glass Man” McFadden was a no-brainer for any pro. Early picks are the cornerstone of a team, and picking an injury or legal risk in the first round is unnecessary.

5. Draft up after starters and alternates are established.

Grabbing a halfway decent starter as a second or third backup wide receiver might sound great, but it’s a terrible idea. Players can and will drop during the season. More importantly, players can and will appear in any given year. Arian Foster the year he broke out, Kelvin Benjamin last year, and Alfred Blue and Davante Adams this year are prime examples of “sleepers” — players who surprised most owners and posted high-level fantasy scores. The league champion will likely have a starter or two that no one expected, and unless a league uses 20-man rosters, replacement-level players to cover bye weeks and injuries will be readily available.

6. Never pick a kicker or defenseman early.

Every rule has exceptions, but think about the advice above. Acquiring a top-tier kicker or defense requires a pick somewhere in rounds eight through ten, a good range to pick top-tier sleepers. Kickers vary greatly from year to year, with many professional fantasy players using a different defense each week to chase down easy matchups. A “broadcast defense” can outplay even the best defenses. That doesn’t mean drafting the Seahawks isn’t worth it, it’s just more worth waiting for a superior defense.

These are just the beginning. Entire novels can be written about fantasy football, and any and all rules can be broken from time to time. The key is to remember this word: value. The best fantasy football owners find ways to generate additional value and acquire better players at a lower cost.

Follow these tips, play like a pro and win your league if you can. Good luck!

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