This column will explore ways for us to get an edge on our opponents. Any schmohawk can keep an eye on the daily updates and make moves accordingly. You’ll win weaker leagues that way. Maybe you’re OK with that. This is about people who are not OK with leaving winning to chance.

I think we can learn a lot from other competitive endeavors (business, games, the market, sports, etc.) and apply these lessons to our Fantasy Football strategy.  I don’t have all the answers but if you read this column at the very least I’ll supply you with great questions, ideas, and strategies to explore.  — Drew

Do you play No-Limit Hold’em poker? It is a game that, like Fantasy Sports, is won on the margins. People love to glorify the “All-In” or the huge bluff. Lower caliber players whine about getting unlucky and cry that if they “just would have gotten a hand they would have won.” Their insistence on luck makes them feel safe; it’s their Snuggie. Warm and fuzzy, holes for your arms, doesn’t judge you. It feels so nice to condone my lack of success! It’s all luck, right?

Any good player will tell you that they love to sit at a table full of losers who think that way. Over the course of time these novices do not stand a chance, they have written the outcome off to chance. Once in a while they will catch the right cards (or happen to draft the right players and avoid injuries) and win. This will confirm their belief in their flawed system. It is like they are “playing Checkers” while the successful players are “playing Chess” and thinking moves (in the case of Fantasy, weeks) ahead.

A good poker player, like a good fantasy football owner, falls in love with the small decisions that go unnoticed. Winning/being successful in any endeavor is about finding an edge; a margin on your competition. Margins give you ways to win with or without luck more often than you would otherwise.

So what is this margin you speak of?

The margins in Fantasy Football are your Bench positions. My benches contain exclusively (other than 2 QB Leagues) Running Backs and Receivers who have the most potential to break out and put up big numbers.

On my bench last year I stashed away Steve Slaton and Tim Hightower. Both were backups on the depth chart and ranked very low preseason. For weeks they sat there doing nothing for me except making me feel secretly clever. Later in the year they made me look publicly clever.

Most of those “types” of dudes will not work out. You know who else I rostered last year? Chris Perry- he crapped in my cheerios big time. Ryan Torain- I gave him my class ring and he pawned it off. The list goes on and on. All these dudes did not pan out. What was I thinking? I could have been solidifying my back up Tight End spot and rostering a second Quarterback!  . . . Oh wait never mind; if I had done that I might have dropped Steve Slaton or Tim Hightower and I would not have won my league.

Keep in mind I am talking about 1 QB and 1 TE leagues here (if you are in a two Tight End league come on, seriously?) In standard leagues with 1 QB and 1 TE rostering backups at these positions costs you the diamonds in the rough. I won’t even mention Kicker and Defense because…. I shouldn’t have to.

Look, I get it. They make you feel safe. They make you feel warm. It’s just you, your Snuggie, and that creepy bear from the fabric softener commercials together cuddling on the couch and watching Golden Girls. Awwwww……

After you get done talking about your feelings and tickle fighting in your Rainbow Brite pajamas can we discuss how to win your league this year? That is the goal, right?

The allure of Fantasy Sports is that you get to make the decisions. But sometimes people get trapped into a narrow-minded view and fail to adapt and learn. You might disagree with this whole idea but aren’t you at least curious? If you’re dead set against it then you should try to disprove it by using it.

In one of your leagues this year make a “No Snuggie” vow to yourself. Of course on the Bye weeks for your Starting QB, TE, Kicker, Defense you will have to drop one of your Sleepers to plug in someone. Do not leave points on the table obviously.

When I was bad at Poker I felt like the people at the table winning were playing a different game than I was. After I got a lot better, learned a few things, and got some experience I started to feel the opposite. Most people are not observant enough to even realize it. It goes back to “Checkers or Chess?”

Are your decisions robotic? Did they come out of the typical fantasy strategy playbook? If so, then winning your league is more or less going to come down to luck. You may as well set it on Autodraft.

There’s always an edge, a small thing you can do differently. Try ditching the marginal backups at non break-out positions; you may just find this year’s Steve Slaton if you do.

Wondering who to target? I’ll take it to another level. I’ll tell you who to target now and give you a system to use so you can ideally match Sleepers to your roster all season in the next Game (Day) Theory.

  1. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    nice post,i have james davis,mendenhall,bush and coffee backing up jacobs and deangelo,in my keeper league i have davis bush and moreno backing up chris johnson and westbrook,surely 1 or 2 of these guys will either outplay or injury will get them to the big time

  2. Drew says:
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    @ AL KOHOLIC: Thank you. There’s more to be said on this topic but I was getting long-winded as it is. It’s like if there’s 7 bench spots and you use all 7 to roster Sleepers and I only roster 5 Sleepers (to backup other positions) you have like 40% greater chance of hitting the lottery. With all those quality backups I can’t imagine you not hitting the lottery this year.

  3. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Drew: my qb and t.e dont have bye`s till week 8 and 10 so i should be able to hold on to them,hope your right,feel free to share the rest of your thoughts on this subject when youve had a drink and a rest,thanks again

  4. ThePoonTycoon says:
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    agreed. this year i wen with no backup QB. why waste a pick on kyle orton when any given sunday i would rather have shaun hill off the wire?

    i figure by the time i’ll need a bye week QB in week 5, one of my bench guys (rice, chester taylor, coffee, norwood, lance moore, donnie avery, nate washington) will have not panned out.

  5. Josh says:
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    Given the rumors out of Cleveland that Lewis may be getting released, should I drop my last round pick (Cadillac Williams) for James Davis in a 12-team league?

  6. stumanji says:
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    Nice post and I hear where you’re coming from. I’m definitely a fan of drafting some guys in the mid-late rounds who could break-out if given enough PT (e.g., Donald Brown, Mendenhall…). HOWEVER, I think there is something to be said about having a balance between these “potentials” versus some solid backups. If one of your starters goes down with an injury–as Boldin did for me last year–it was nice to have a guy like Kevin Walter to plug in from the bench instead of having to depend on the WW and picking up some team’s 3rd receiver.

    Sure it’s great if you were stashing Slaton for the first 10 weeks of the season, but he’s not gonna help you in week 13-14 if you’ve already missed the playoffs. A starter goes down and suddenly your WR2 becomes your WR1 and you’re left choosing between the dynamic duo of Justin Gage or Bobby Wade as your WR2 for the next 4 weeks.

  7. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Josh: His contract makes it seem likely that he won’t be released, but it does look like Davis will get some work and I could see him taking over at some point. I would make the switch.

  8. Doc

    Doc says:
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    Hey all, if you check the side bar to the left you will see the ppr and non-ppr drafting tiers have been updated.

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    @Doc: damn,i read josh`s coment about lewis getting released and got exited

  10. Freak says:
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    You just got plugged by Around the Horn’s (Tony Reali) twitter page.

    Yay semi-mainstream mention.

  11. David says:
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    @Doc: Drop Graham for Cadillac? Thanks!

  12. cincinnasty says:
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    I have reggie wayne, houshmandzadeh,and holt for my primary recievers.

    do i drop clowney or crabtree for Shonne Greene?

    great blog by the way!

  13. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Freak: Yeah, cool

    @David: Stick with Graham

    @cincinnasty: Clowney was just passed by Stuckey so I would drop him. Greene is a good pickup.

  14. Drew says:
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    @cincinnasty: Word on the street is Crabtree and the 49’ers are “far away” from reaching a deal. I have a hard time believing he’ll go unsigned but at this point he’s far behind in the playbook, etc. If anyone’s going to shirk him and take the first rounder next year it’s Mike Singletary. I still think ultimately the 49’ers are just putting him in his place but for 1 year leagues he may not have tons of relevancy. Wait and see.

  15. danimal35 says:
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    @Drew: what do you mean by take the first rounder next year?

  16. Drew says:
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    @danimal35: I was mistaken. Thought they would get a compensatory pick if unable to sign him. Crabtree can re-enter the draft next year (and get drafted in the 4th round, make 1/10th what he could make now). He needs to sign up and shut up.

  17. Tankass says:
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    Tim Hightower was a great stash, but Slaton was a huge pre-season sleeper last year that panned out. A lot of people had him high on their draft boards, and I think you probably wound up taking him a couple of picks before everyone else that planned on taking him.

    While your no backups idea is a great way to go what happens if you go Brady in the first round or even Schaub, or Rogers who both are somewhat injury prone and didn’t take a backup in the draft. I can totally understand not taking a TE backup and off course never back up your kicker or D, but QB’s put up way to many points to not have a solid back.

    Also, I’ve heard that a lot of leagues are actually decreasing bench spots and adding another active roster spot to limit the “stashing” that happens when people take your approach.

    As an aside what are your thoughts on handcuffs? Personally I would much prefer to take the backup to a back that I feel is more likely to get injured or the backup that has the most potential that to simply take the backup to my star rb.

  18. iammark301 says:
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    Perfect! I’ve won leagues using this theory, either stocking RB and WR up top and catching lightening with UPside QBs later, of finding the gems that outperform your #2. Imagine Grant and Garrard last year traded for Brees because I had Slaton stashed deep and well Julius Jones was killing the guy. Victory to the talent miner. When hard point values are gone – what are you drafting? Only question to even ask.

    Mark

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