Fantasy football fundamentals: Three time-tested strategies to dominate your league

Surrounded by darkness, Shirley Grenoble slowly worked her way up a central Pennsylvania mountain in the predawn hours of the turkey season opener.

Little did she know that she’d be stumbling back down the mountain hours later in similar darkness, eyes pasted shut with blood after another hunter shot accidently her from about 20 yards away with a shotgun, peppering her face, arms, torso and legs with lead BBs.

Two decades later during a newspaper interview, Grenoble shared her grisly tale of survival and the hard-learned lessons of hunting safety honed by years of public speaking about the incident.

Hunting safety is all about the fundamentals. Treat every gun as though it is loaded. Always identify your target before pulling the trigger. Visualize what is beyond the target before shooting. All time-tested fundamentals.

A similar mantra can help you competitive in fantasy football. When all else seems to fail, don’t overlook the following tried-and-true fantasy fundamentals:

1. Always start your studs.

What would seem common sense can quickly go out the window when you are sweating out a tight matchup against your division rival. Start a stud, even against a tough defensive matchup, or take a sneaky upside guy with a great matchup?

I learned this lesson the hard way. Last season, my team in a very competitive 12-team dynasty league had amazingly dominated the regular season. I won the league’s high points award by more than 100. I was projected to win the league semifinal by a comfortable margin.

Except I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted the competitive edge and dwelled on it until I made a fatal flaw. One of my studs, Rashard Mendenhall, was playing against the tough New York Jets defense that week. Mike Goodson, who had emerged at that point as the Carolina starter and was a PPR upside option, was going to play against the lowly Arizona Cardinals.

I talked myself into benching Mendenhall for Goodson. The latter finished with 21 yards on 10 carries and 27 yards receiving on two receptions. That gave him, in this PPR league, a grand total of six fantasy points.

That Mendenhall guy rumbled to 99 yards rushing and a touchdown versus the Jets, a total of 15 fantasy points.

I wound up losing the game 111-103. Eight points.

I would have won by a single point if I had stuck with Mendenhall. And my team exploded the following week (what would have been the championship), outpacing everyone in the playoffs by at least 30 points each.

One stupid roster move killed a full season’s worth of fantasy decisions. It was a $540 mistake I won’t soon forget.

I hope you won’t, either.

2. Buy low, sell high.

When trading, there is nothing more fundamental than this motto.

And the long-standing advice has withstood the test of time. Much like making good stock moves, it is critical to be able to evaluate the value of the players involved.

You want to move the guys who’ve peaked or who will peak soon – doing so before they start to decline into obscurity.

You also want to target those who are on the upswing of their careers. Guy who are in the right place to see a significant uptick in points and overall value in the future.

There are always exceptions to the rule, but ultimately, buying low and selling high is the simplest way to get immediate returns on a fantasy trade.

Check out my current pre-Week 2 buy low, sell high candidates.

3. Opportunity, matchup are keys for waiver wire success.

Heading into Week 9 of the 2010 season, I screamed from the rooftops about then-Chargers receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. Owned in just 1 percent of leagues at that time, I still suggested in my weekly emergency start post that Ajirotutu would be a great waiver wire plug-and-play.

The response I got heading into game time was surreal. People suggested I had finally and completely lost my marbles. “Ajiro-who?” was one of many comments pointing fun at the suggestion I got via email.

However, Seyi, at that moment, was the perfect blend of opportunity and matchup for that week. Due to numerous injuries among the Chargers receivers and the non-availability of Vincent Jackson, Ajirotutu was a prime starter on a team with an elite pass-slinger going up against the worst pass defense in the league at that time (Houston).

Ajirotutu responded with 111 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The Ajiro-who guy? He apologized and became a regular reader.

This year, when deciding who to pluck off waivers to fill in for a bye-week issue or poorly timed injury concern, remember that above all else, look for those who have an improved opportunity and a savory matchup. Worked in my 2011 Week 1 emergency start suggestions with Cam Newton. Didn’t on a few other suggestions. Missed on a few others. Still, it is a fundamental you need to remember.

Check back Saturday for my Week 2 suggestions for plug-and-play emergency start options.

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