Every week in the NFL, coaches wonder who to start. They have tons of factors they need to consider when they make their selections. However, as a fantasy football player, you have to decide who to start as well, and you have just as many variables that will go into that decision.
We will talk about some of those right now. Deciding who sits and plays will determine whether you walk away with a victory or a loss each week.
Who should I start, you might ask yourself when you look at your depth chart before each NFL week begins. The answer is obvious, at least in one sense. You can only start available players.
When an injury occurs in the NFL, a coach does not have that player available to start that week. It’s the same with fantasy players. A player can’t take the field if they sustain an injury that forces them to stay on the bench, but they also can’t play if the league suspends them for disciplinary action.
They can’t play if they’re unavailable for personal reasons. They might be on the paternity list that week, or they may have to attend a relative’s funeral. If the league is investigating their conduct for any reason, sometimes they can play, but other times they can’t.
During the week, you’ll need to look at reports indicating whether a player can start or not. If they’re listed as full go in practice, that probably means they can play, even if they’re dealing with an injury. If they have a limited status, that means they can practice a bit, but when game day comes, maybe they can suit up, or perhaps they can’t if the coach doesn’t feel they’re 100%.
If you see a player listed as doubtful during the week, that means they likely can’t start on game day, but it’s always possible they can make a miraculous recovery and suit up at the last minute. You’ll never going to know with anything approaching certainty until game day arrives.
At that point, you can select your players based on who’s available in the NFL that day. If one of your key starters can’t go for any reason, you must start a backup at that position, just like a real NFL coach would.
Once you know who you can start and who you can’t, you next need to look at the matchups. An NFL game is like a chess match. You should start only the pieces you think have the strategic advantage.
For example, maybe you have a stud wide receiver, but they’re going up against a shutdown safety. You know that this receiver struggles against this particular safety, going by past performances where they’ve faced each other. Maybe the previous three other times they’ve been on the field together, the receiver has limited yards, and they’ve been unable to score any touchdowns.
Any time you know a receiver should see limited targets and won’t score any touchdowns, it’s best not to start them. It’s also true that you should not start one of your better running backs if they’re going up against a very stout defensive line that’s not allowing many running yards per game.
You should evaluate every position and phase of the game versus their counterparts. You must take care of all the research and study before game time because once you’ve started and sat the appropriate players, it’s too late to take those decisions back.
Gut Feelings and Hunches
You can use all the analytics available to you when trying to choose who to start and who to sit. You can watch shows on ESPN that tell you who the experts think will do well on any given game day.
ESPN and other channels now feature shows that talk exclusively about fantasy football and what players give you value each week. It’s just another example of fantasy football’s borderline miraculous popularity.
However, just because someone calls themselves a fantasy football expert, that does not necessarily mean that they know better than you. Some talking heads get on TV and say things that turn out consistently wrong.
Remember that you don’t need to get every fantasy football prediction right to get on TV. Instead, you just need to have an enthralling, entertaining, or bombastic personality. You’re not there to get picks right, only to make the show more interesting.
If you feel like a receiver, running back, quarterback, or some other position or unit will have a big game that day, you don’t necessarily need to follow previous trends or look at stats. You can simply roll the dice and start someone at a particular position to see what they’ll do.
There’s no guarantee your hunch will pay off, but there’s no certainty that it won’t, either. Some players like to make one “hunch pick” per week. It’s probably best not to start every one of your players that way, but sometimes, you might take a gamble and see how you do with it.
You might also factor in incremental player improvement. These trends are not always so easy to spot. You may have a player or a unit taking small steps in the right direction, and you feel like this week, they will finally put everything together and have an impressive showing.
Only skilled fantasy football players can see these kinds of slow-building success stories. Using this strategy might not come naturally or easily for you. The longer you play fantasy football, the more likely you can use this technique to your best advantage.
Very few fantasy football players master the game in their first couple of seasons. You might finish dead last until you learn some strategies that seem to consistently pay off for you.
In the meantime, exercise patience and keep putting in the work. Each week gives you another chance to start the players who will pay dividends for you.