Gearing Up for the Playoffs
As we reach the halfway point of the 2015 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. 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 they can improve their team, especially 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.
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 this point. The point where the depth on your roster is impressive; whether you achieved this 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 offering outrageous 3-for-1 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 LeSean McCoy, especially since he has averaged over 4.5 yards per carry since returning from injury. That is until you realize he will face the Eagles and Redskins in Week 14 and 15, the No. 1 and No. 5 best teams at defending the run according to our 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. Marshawn Lynch comes to mind last year, where many people were scared off of his matchup with a stout Arizona Cardinals run defense in Week 16. Lynch went off for 113 yards and two touchdowns in that game, so it is also important to realize some studs are matchup proof.
Value of a bench player
Now you have successfully consolidated your depth and gained some plus playoff matchups in the process, what should you do on the wavier 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.
Typically QBs and TE are more consistent, making it less likely the backups can contribute to your team down the stretch. For example, let's say conservatively that the owners in your league holding top-6 QB options do not roster a backup. Let's also say everyone else rosters two QBs. Last year, the difference between the No. 7 and the No. 18 QB was roughly 60 pts, or 3.75 points per game over a 16-game season. That’s nothing. When filling your bench spots, you should focus on positions with more starting spots that are far less consistent. 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 Tevin Coleman in Atlanta. He can be found on most waiver wires or acquired through trade for almost nothing. He is a Devonta Freeman injury away from facing the No. 20, No. 29, and again the No. 20 rushing defenses according to our Playoff aFPA Matchup Planner in Weeks 14-16. Getting that kind of upside over a maximum of 3.75 points per game if your starting QB happens to go down is a no-brainer.
Frank Gore is another player I am targeting via trade for my stretch run. What has been lost in the Colts dumpster fire this season is how consistent Gore has been for fantasy owners. He is averaging just over 14 pts per game in PPR leagues, with just three touchdowns on the season. With a new offensive coordinator and a cupcake schedule of the Jaguars (No. 26), Texans (No. 27), and Dolphins (No. 29) in Weeks 14-16, Gore is an asset worth taking a chance on.
Stefon Diggs may be a hot commodity right now, but he is a player I am most definitely consolidating depth for. Diggs has been a favorite as of late on my weekly “Stacking the Deck” DFS article for his crisp route running and special ability to beat single coverage. He has continued to prove he is the No.1 wide receiver on the Vikings roster, as he followed up two straight 100-yard games with 95 yards and a touchdown in Week 8. The matchup in Week 14 with Patrick Peterson in the Cardinals is scary, but if you can make it through, he gets the Bears (No. 28) and Giants (No. 30) in Weeks 15 and 16.