Fantasy Football is a Year-Round Game
For many of us, fantasy football season starts days or weeks before the draft, when we pore over cheat sheets and read prediction after prediction in hope of molding an awesome and powerful roster.
During the season, we probably monitor statistics from all games, especially those of available players so we are ready to pounce when injuries or surprises warrant a midseason transaction.
When the season is over, we make note of the free-agent signings and watch the NFL draft; maybe even pay attention to the owners’ meetings and rule changes, debating how they might affect scoring.
Then there are the fans who are truly dedicated to their fantasy football team.
Those of us who continue to read every article, blog, and snippet about any team or player in hopes of finding that one little piece that gives us an edge over our less-worthy opponents.
Sports publications and websites pay NFL writers and fantasy specialists all year. This means that even when there are no more draft predictions needed and no meetings or workouts to cover, they still have to write about something.
That makes fantasy football a year-round sport.
What Can They Possibly Say
Admittedly, it is hard to get excited about every little holiday party and team social event in the offseason. Players’ charity work, second jobs, and hobbies are not likely to predict the comeback player of the year.
Still, there are times when a player says something truly football-ish even in the off-season.
Drew Brees casually mentioned how great it will be to get Antonio Gates in the record books with the most career touchdowns by a tight end last season.
Gates needed seven touchdowns to tie the record and he had a premier quarterback telling us he’d like to get him that record. Seven touchdowns is pretty good for a tight end.
He tied the record. That only made Gates the tenth best fantasy tight end, pretty close to most pre-season rankings. Still, it surprised those owners who wrote Antonio off as too old.
Look For the Subtle News
Then there was Cameron Brate, projected by most to be the 25-30th top tight end before 2016. Thus, he was not destined to be on many rosters.
He was on mine, though, because of a couple of short offseason articles and a quick spot in a preseason game.
The articles were meaningless, but each mentioned both Brate and quarterback Jameis Winston. Somewhere, I got the impression that Winston was developing a connection with the young tight end.
During a preseason Bucs game, I spotted Winston patting Brate on the knee with a smile and some words. It was enough to put Brate on my radar.
There were some raised eyebrows and guffaws when I selected Brate over the likes of Jason Witten and Gary Barnidge. All Brate did was finish the season as the sixth highest scoring tight end.
Local News Digs Deeper
For all the hype from big fantasy hosts and sites, the best information comes from local sports writers and personalities. They can project the attitude of a team or player better than a national reporter can.
It was local news that put Brate on my draft sheets. It was local reporters that warned me away from “potential surprise” Rashad Jennings and convinced me to pick up a Chicago backup running back.
Unfortunately, my coin flip went to Ka’Deem Carey, not Jordan Howard.
A New York beat writer’s interview with Jason Pierre-Paul convinced me that the G-men’s defense would be good enough to cover Denver’s bye-week. The Giants wound up ranked fifth on the season.
To be a real fantasy football player, you really should be paying attention to every football detail you can acquire.
Who is working out already? Who seems to be relaxing a bit too much? What quarterback is hanging with which wide receiver? Who has a grudge? Who are the coaches’ favorites?
Of course, you have to be careful. Earlier this year, a respected ESPN reporter wrote up an interview with a Steeler offensive coach who predicted a monster season for Ladarius Green.
Last week, Pittsburgh cut Green after a failed physical, but that’s okay! If you kept paying attention, you would have caught that cut before it became a draft day error.
Keep Sports Writers Employed
So keep reading everything and anything you can find. Watch for the subtle details and connections.
Soon, you will gleefully reminisce of how your draft day room collectively snorted when you picked this season’s surprise fantasy stud.
When they ask you how you knew, inflate your status by telling them you went with your gut. Keep the extra research a secret among us real fantasy players.