Fantasy football 2011: Detailed step-by-step directions to turn around your struggling team

The most amazing comeback story never told happened on a paintball field in central Pennsylvania.

A good buddy and I were on a team that was getting decimated on a Speed Ball field, and it wasn’t long until it was down to him and me versus numerous opponents. Then, pinned down behind an inflatable bunker, I ran out of paint. Suddenly, the situation seemed like a lost cause.

Except my buddy was diving, rolling and ducking his way from bunker to bunker across the field to my location. He tossed me his extra canister of paintballs and we were miraculously able to turn the tables.

After an 0-5 or 1-4 start to a fantasy football season, your own situation may seem just as dire – especially in redraft leagues where there isn’t an option to build for the future through obtaining young players and draft picks.

But, a true chinstrap ninja never gives up. The following is my step-by-step way to turn around your own fantasy “lost cause” and attempt a miraculous comeback of your own.

First things first, you can’t expect to make a major change in the standings without taking some risk. Some of the moves you make may leave your leaguemates scratching their heads or dishing out the smack talk. The key here is to stay your course. You have a game plan, and you can stick to it. Even if it does blow up in your face, it isn’t like you have much further to fall – but the potential for upswing is oh, so high.

1. Evaluate your team, assess player values

This isn’t the first time I’ve suggested you complete a full evaluation of your team. This is advice echoed from my post-draft strategy to detect strengths and weaknesses moving forward.

This time, you are again evaluating for strengths and weaknesses, but also for potential breakout options and especially for potential bargaining chips.

The best way to get a thorough evaluation of your team is to ask an unbiased outside source to look things over. A close buddy, for example, who has some solid fantasy experience. Don’t overlook using sites such as ours to get a fresh perspective on your team. Feel free to post your lineup below or in our interactive forums. We’d love to help.

Now while your team may be struggling, there are still likely to be at least one or two tradable pieces. Unless you have the worst luck in the world, it is unlikely you drafted Jamaal Charles, Kenny Britt and every other severely injured or underperforming player in the game. The key here is to find those pieces and polish them off a little.

The key here is to figure out which guys are peaking in value and worth moving now before their inevitable downswing, and guys who are best suited to hold onto until they break out of their current slump.

This may not be super easy. Players, for example, such as Josh Freeman and Mike Williams may never break out of their current disappointing stretch – at least not to the degree you expected when drafting them.

2. Evaluate your opponents

Again, common advice, but this time, take your efforts to the extreme. Let’s say you have Michael Vick and figure he is a movable piece in an effort to better your overall team. The key then, of course, is to pinpoint the teams in your league that have issues at quarterback. Or, search high and low for the teams with signal callers who specifically you see as quick soon-to-be risers.

Again, with the Vick example, I would personally look for the teams with guys such as Colt McCoy, Andy Dalton or Matt Cassel. None of these options are super-appealing on the surface, but they do quietly produce consistently good numbers every week. While you will definitely lose points any week Vick is healthy when moving him for McCoy, Dalton or Cassel (who I like especially thanks to the recent emergence of Steve Breaston and unveiling of rookie Jonathan Baldwin), you also won’t lose as many points as you may think, and can easily make up the difference and then some in whatever upgrade you receive at RB, WR or TE – depending on the remainder of your deal.

It also helps to know the personal team biases of your opponents. For example, the Pittsburgh Steeler fanatic may bite a little harder when you dangle a Ben Roethlisberger, and therefore give you a better piece in return than the Ravens lover in your league. Also, watch message board conversations – many times, owners make comments about specific players, and this can shed some light to you on what they think of various player values.

3. Work the waiver wire and free agency

Notice the advice suggests to “work” the wire, not to watch the wire. As a whole, fantasy football owners are good at whining about the players they left fall between the cracks or didn’t jump quick enough on. You can’t afford to be one of those people if your team is sucking wind faster than the piñata-holding dad at the end of his kid’s birthday party.

Be excessively active on the wire. Put in claims on all the big options that come out each week. Use our site here at chinstrap ninjas and then cross reference with some of the other reliable fantasy sites after the dust has settled Tuesday morning each week.

The goal here isn’t to pinpoint quality, but to bring in large quantity. Guys like Ryan Torain two weeks ago will pay off dividends – maybe not season-long as a starter for you, but as a guy to start a week or two and then dump at premium value.

In my main dynasty league, I put in my requests for guys like Torain, Jackie Battle, Torrey Smith, Doug Baldwin and other flavors of the week. Will they all pan out to be viable weekly fantasy starters? No. The track history trends suggest otherwise. However, these pieces could provide the extra bait you need when setting the hook on a deal involving others on your roster.

Sure that move may bite you if Torain, for example, becomes the weekly starter the rest of the way in Washington or if Torrey Smith evolves quickly into a DeSean Jackson clone. But you’ll have value back regardless and your team will be better off because of it.

4. Watch player news carefully

As I mention consistently in my weekly emergency plug-and-play options feature, opportunity dwarfs talent in many cases. How else could a Seyi Ajirotutu win you a fantasy game one week (like he did for many last year) and then be a worthless option the rest of the way? Laurent Robinson was the same type of flavor of the week earlier this season. Now he’s unrosterable in most league formats.

Injuries play a big part of the equation. Earnest Graham, for example, is prime example 1A here. Road blocked in the Tampa Bay offense and not worth a second look in non-PPR leagues prior to this week, Graham now has starting RB gig not just for this week, but allegedly for the next week or two after that thanks to an injury to LeGarrette Blount that is more severe than expected.

It is also important to listen to the trade winds. Brandon Lloyd, for example, is suddenly a hot name in NFL trade rumors as we approach Tuesday’s trade deadline. A falling stock option recently with Tim Tebow named the Denver starter, Lloyd’s rollercoaster of value may be quickly back on the rise depending on where he winds up.

One such place, according to current rumors, is St. Louis. The Rams need a go-to option and Lloyd has a successful history with Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who helped make Lloyd a fantasy star last season. If he wound up in St. Louis, he’d also quickly inflate the value of Sam Bradford, who seems lost with the current hodge-podge of weapons at his disposal on a Rams team that seems perpetually in catch-up mode.

Snatching up guys like Bradford and Lloyd now (if you can do it at a cheap enough price) may very well be worth it and could easily turn around a floundering fantasy season.

Also watch for internal positional jockeying on various teams in the NFL. Depth charts can see adjustments, especially as teams make some alterations to either turn around a struggling squad or to augment a hot one.

Pierre Garcon has seen a drastic increase in value thanks to the change in Indy to Curtis Painter. Minnesota, which seems desperate to find a viable No. 1 receiver, seems to be trending towards Devin Aromashodu as an option. Again, snagging these options before a game day explosion in stats is key to beating the competition and turning around a struggling fantasy team.

The best place online to hear player chatter as it happens, in my opinion, is www.rotoworld.com.

5. Time to go fishing … and communicating

You have your bait in mind. You have your sights set on a nice piece of bass. Now, start casting.

Any successful trader can tell you that communication is the key to making a deal happen. Being too pushy and over-the-top can quickly scare away teams with which you’d like to trade. Not being loud enough in your plans to make some drastic changes will only lead to more of the same for your team.

Remember that other teams need to have value coming back if they are going to dish out talent. Remember that not every owner is open to trading regardless of how juicy the steak is you put in front of him. It’s a back-and-forth discussion. It is used car selling at its finest.

Don’t expect the first offer to be something you’ll want to accept. It seldom is. That is simply the other owner trying to get a feel of how you value certain players. Volley the deal back to him with something more realistic for you. Be prepared to get a rejection … but hopefully a counter that is closer to what you want than the previous offer.

Remember …

Dealing a stud for several lesser players typically isn’t a sexy move to make, but if you are in a spot where your redraft season is going down the drain, making a drastic move can help stop the bleeding.

While you may lose, for example, 10 points on average at QB on a weekly basis if you deal Michael Vick for Matt Cassel, you can easily make that up if you get several players in the deal at other positions that give you small upgrades at enough of your other starting positions.

Getting outside advice on each step of your attempted fantasy metamorphosis is OK. Yes, guys hate to ask for directions if they are lost, but those who do typically get from Point A to Point B much quicker than the guy too stubborn to roll down a window or walk in to the local Qwikee Mart for a few minute consultation.

We are here to help in any way we can. It isn’t that we think we are experts. Far from it. Just a bunch of guys trying to band together to help each other out and dominate the competition. Trust me … I’ll be asking your opinion as much as you ask mine.

Player values …

Check back early next week for a more extensive list of where I see certain players in terms of value. I’ve mentioned some of my person favorites above, but there are a lot of other value shifts for certain players that I’m excited to share. Let’s digest this week’s action before delving into that. For the meantime, I list a few of my buy-low candidates here.

If you need help right now for Week 6 action, check out my emergency start-sit column.

2 Responses to “Fantasy football 2011: Detailed step-by-step directions to turn around your struggling team”


  1. C&P

    agreed even thou my team was somewhat strong i was matched up every week vs some team “blowing up” or i had a player let me down like Run DMC last week. This is a 2 QB PPR TD bonus 12 team Auction league.

    week 1 roster:
    orton
    kolb
    dalton
    henne

    mcfadden
    jackson
    best
    starks

    wallace
    colston
    fitz
    manningham
    julio jones

    davis
    cook

    i took advantage of guys with injuries and bye week issues. some dude had all four of his rbs on a bye last week and only one healthy non bye QB! Three trades later:

    week 6 roster:
    brady
    cutler
    tavaris jackson
    bradford

    mcfadden
    mccoy
    starks
    redman

    wallace
    fitz
    manningham
    nelson
    bess

    davis
    cook

    trade 1 week 4
    kolb s jax and julio jones for cutler mccoy and bess
    jones had big week cutler a bad one and dude hadnt won a game yet i was also “helping” (; his bye week problems

    i picked up tebow for henne on waivers then
    trade 2 week 5
    sunday morning desperate owner calls me wants mccoy for ray rice i say no i want to start mccoy vs buffalo we haggle end up trading him best and orton (he was starting brad smith as his QB2) for his bye players bradford and rice. He won his game I lost gayness but leads to trade 3 this week:

    dalton tebow ray rice and colston for brady tavaris redman and nelson. some say i gave up too much but imo it was basically brady for rice considering rest of my team. its risky with brady mccoy on bye week 7 and my horrible record but my team is improved.

    What you think?

  2. Dan Man

    I actually did draft both Britt and Charles, as well as Miles Austin in one league. But i lucked out and got Beanie Wells and Fred Jackson, so fortunately i am sitting at 3 and 3.