We fantasy football owners see things in a different light. We hate rotations, uncertainty, conservative offensive play calling and are extremely stubborn, even resentful to those who have wronged us in the past. We want bell-cow running backs that never lose carries along the goal-line and want every deep pass to hit our targets. Fantasy owners, in a way, are watching a different game than the average fan and because of that we are developing some bad habits when researching players each and every year.
Recently LeGarrette Blount proclaimed that he and new rookie running back Doug Martin were the best rushing combo in the league. Fantasy owners heard those remarks and laughed, just as they did to reports earlier in the week about Blount being the starter on the Buccaneers depth chart. Fantasy owners are expecting Martin to yank the job out from underneath Blount’s feet and force the 3rd year RB to curl up into a ball and cry. We all know that Martin has been outperforming Blount in training camp and for good measures the job should probably be handed to the rookie, but in this case the depth chart is irrelevant. NFL coaches don’t care about fantasy points, they don’t care about you needing 2 more yards to win your week or where a fantasy player’s ADP is ranked. NFL coaches have a completely different form of motivation: they want to win.
New Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano understands how to build a team from the ground up. He did it over an 11 year stretch with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Obviously the time table will have to be streamlined in Tampa Bay, yet the method in which he coaches his players will always be the same. To rock the boat by awarding a rookie the starting running back job could disrupt a locker room. So in turn, the coach will simply allow the veterans to keep their starting name tags on the depth chart, yet will rotate talent in as he sees fit. In other words, production will always be rewarded with more opportunities. If a player makes plays for his team he will be very active throughout games and games to come, this is and should be obvious to everyone.
Rewarding opportunities based on effort isn’t a new form of coaching, it’s in fact as old as it gets. Smart minds get the most out of their players and if that means awarding someone a starter, even though they are splitting carries.. so be it. Take Bill Belichick for example. His depth chart is completely meaningless. If a New England Patriot has an excellent week of practice and the coaching staff feel he will make a difference in the game, they will play him even if he is deep on the depth chart.
Fantasy Football annoys the absolute hell out of people. Terrible production one week followed by a huge fantasy performance the next makes many of us shake our heads. We question how a player can do nothing one week and explode for massive yardage the next. The answer is the coaching. Coaches are more annoyed than anyone if their players are not preforming, yet they aren’t putting them on the trading block or leave them out by the curb with the first sign of a problem. Coaches make problems the center of their focus and will do whatever they can to get someone out of a slump. Granted not every problem can be fixed, yet a conscious effort is made to better improve production before turning to next guy in line.
Coaches also like being creative with their rosters. A coach that won’t adjust to a players skills or size rarely lasts in the NFL. Probably a head coache’s biggest challenge in the NFL is finding a way to exploit his opponents weaknesses. The perfect example of what I’m talking about would have to be Rob Gronkowski. This fantasy monster dominated the 2011 season with his size and great hands. Teams tried and failed to cover this 6-foot-6, 285lb Tight End on a weekly basis. What is funny, is that Gronkowski wasn’t even high on our radars last year. Another example of using a players talents effectively would have to be Darren Sproles. This speedy sure-handed Saint changed the way teams are now using smaller running backs. Sproles, and the way the Saints used him, even forced coaches to go back to the drawing board to better utilize draw plays, passes out in the flats and check-downs.
When researching fantasy talent try to think about the team chemistry itself. Think about how you would take advantage of moving the chains with the personel a team has. Read between the lines from the rumors you hear from camp and never overthink production just because of a bad week or even a bad year. If a player is playing well, he is playing well, don’t think about the pecking order on the depth chart. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to go against the grain. If every ADP was accurate or every preseason analysis was bang on… there would be no point in playing the game. Make your fantasy sleeper players people you believe in, not names on a list because someone in a magazine told you so.
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