Gearing Up for the Fantasy Playoffs
As we’ve passed the halfway point of the 2016 fantasy football season, it is time to ask yourself one important question: What type of fantasy owner are you?
Some people are perfectly content with where their teams are and let the chips fall where they may come playoff time.
I, however, do not play for second place, and neither should you.
I want the team every owner in my league is terrified to face in a single elimination matchup at the end of the year.
The forward-thinking owner is constantly coming up with ways in which they can improve their team, especially at this time of year. I tend to think of each player on my roster as a volatile asset. I do not to get too attached to a certain player or team, but instead focus on what kind of value each player will have for me down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Here are some tips to ensure that you dominate the playoffs and bring home your league championship.
Consolidating Talent via Trade
We have a well-informed demographic here at 4for4. If you are reading this, it's likely you have put in the work all season to get to the point where the depth on your roster is impressive, whether you've achieved it through the draft, free agency or trades. To get through the bye week gauntlet, depth is crucial to your success. However, now we are almost through bye weeks, it is time to switch your focus to improving your starting lineup.
Consolidating talent via trade is where you can put your team over the top preparing for the playoffs. Studs win championships -- not depth. This does not mean throwing out outrageous three-for-one offers where you insult the owner who still believes they are a contender. However, there are situations where both teams can benefit from a stud moving to a different roster.
You should target trades with teams who are in the bottom third of your league’s standings first. These are your best targets for a few reasons. They may be frustrated after injuries or some close losses from the first half of the season. It’s also possible they have a stud or two, but the depth on their team pales in comparison to yours. This is the team that can actually benefit from a deal where they get two or three starters in a trade where you upgrade your starting lineup with a stud. Don’t be afraid to take a "loss" on a trade with a team in the bottom third of your league.
More often than not, the owners at the top will not let go of their studs. Why fix what’s not broken? The winner in a trade this time of year is whoever gets the best player. Be more concerned with that than making another team better overall. Your bench isn’t going strike fear into your opposition and put you over the top.
Our rest-of-season rankings along with our trade evaluator tool are great resources to take advantage of when consolidating your depth. It’s possible trade partners are still holding onto name value or experiencing a certain degree of recency bias when they evaluate players. These resources will help you make a more educated decision on players to target that will help you in the long term as you gear up for the playoffs.
Looking at playoff matchups
Another strong variable to consider when looking at your roster this time of year is playoff matchups. You may be excited to have a guy like Marcus Mariota, since after Week 5 he has finished as the QB1, QB4, QB7, QB9, and QB2 respectively. That is until you realize he will face the Broncos in Week 14, and then go on the road to face the Chiefs in Week 15. Denver and Kansas City are the No. 1 and No. 10 best teams at defending the pass according to your Playoff aFPA Matchup Planner.
Targeting situations where your players have strong playoff matchups can make all the difference in a single elimination playoff format. Avoiding top defenses and top cornerbacks is a winning strategy if you can help it, though nothing is a guarantee.
However, matchup isn’t everything and I also find it helpful to evaluate players through a DFS lens. Targeting RBs that have a good chance to be home favorites for example. Health permitting, attacking a player in trades like LeSean McCoy, who gets both Cleveland and Miami at home in Weeks 15 and 16, could be a league winner even if it seems like a lateral move at the moment. There are certain guidelines that most closely correlate to fantasy points at each position, and even a few weeks out, they could give you another edge over an owner chasing matchups alone.
Ensure you have valuable bench players
Now you have successfully consolidated your depth and gained some plus playoff matchups, what should you do on the waiver wire to fill out your bench?
My colleague Kevin Zatloukal put out a great three-part series (Part I, Part II, Part III) on the subject of bench players that I highly recommend. The series largely emphasizes how to draft players for your bench depending on the roster settings of your league, but the overall philosophy is relevant this time of year as well.
When filling your bench spots, you should focus on positions with more starting spots that are far less consistent like RB and WR. Being forced to stream the QB and TE position from the waiver wire in a pinch is still a much more favorable strategy than wasting a valuable bench spot on anything other than a RB or WR.
You want potential difference-makers (players an injury away from being a strong consideration) for your starting lineup. You can pair this strategy with playoff matchups as well. A situation that comes to mind this season is Jalen Richard in Oakland. He can be found on most waiver wires or acquired through trade for almost nothing. He is another Latavius Murray injury away from facing the No. 16, No. 27, and the No. 30 rushing defenses according to our Playoff aFPA Matchup Planner in Weeks 14-16, respectively. Getting that kind of upside over a backup QB is a no-brainer.
Michael Thomas may be a hot commodity right now, but he is a player I am most definitely consolidating depth for. He has emerged as arguably the No.1 wide receiver on the Saints roster, averaging 8.7 targets, 6.2 receptions, 76.5 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns per game over the past six weeks.
In comparison, Brandin Cooks is averaging 7.3 targets, 4.7 receptions, 64.2 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns. Contrary to the obvious name value of Cooks, the larger Thomas has actually been targeted more in the red zone as well. Thomas's matchup in Week 15 with Patrick Peterson in the Cardinals is scary, but you can always sit him for that week. Thomas gets a Tampa Bay funnel defense in both Week 14 and Week 16 that currently ranks 29th in aFPA to WRs. What's more, in Week 16 the game will take place in the Superdome, which is commonly referred to as the Coors Field of NFL DFS. Thomas could be a league winner in 2016.