Home Columns 50 Tips for a Better 2020 Fantasy Football Season

50 Tips for a Better 2020 Fantasy Football Season

by IBT Media Staff

In-Between Media was built on the idea that fantasy football is a lot like life, an unpredictable journey that takes a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and a great deal of sound advice to prosper.

To ring in a fantasy football season that the world needs now, more than ever, and to celebrate our first season in business, the entire In-Between Media staff collaborated on this list of 50 tips to help our readers have a better 2020 fantasy football season. 

Myself, the founder of this site (Seth Woolcock), joined by my colleagues, Thomas Cuda, Nate Polvogt, Chris Hayes and Alexandria Mansfield would like to officially welcome you to, what is hopefully a happy and healthy 2020 fantasy football season.

Fantasy Philosophy 

Every fantasy football manager has their own philosophy. Whether it’s solely about how to win the game, or how better to enjoy it, we got you covered.

1. Stay In-Between

Also known as, “staying water” by some in the fantasy industry, staying in-between means being open to new information and able to change your opinion because of it.

Yes, it’s important to plant flags in this industry, but as we’ve already learned this offseason, things change quickly in fantasy football. 

Especially this season with COVID-19 likely to stir things up more than usual, stay in-between, constantly consuming news and formulating contemporary conclusions from it. Woolcock

2. Trust your gut

Instinct is a powerful thing, and it should be listened to. 

Have a bad feeling about a player? Stay away. 

Got this magical feeling about Fitzmagic? Go for it! 

I didn’t trust my gut last year, benched Raheem Mostert during the playoffs, and lost because of it. Always trust your gut. Polvogt

3. Use a loss as a learning opportunity

Losing sucks. But unless you’re the 2007 Patriots, losses result in gaining knowledge of what you did wrong (Go Eli!). Learn from it. What did you miss? What could you have done better? Polvogt

4. Learn new lessons every season

I think one of the biggest mistakes any redraft player makes is thinking that every season is either a championship or bust.

Yes, we absolutely play to win and want to win our leagues. However, there are new lessons to be learned along the way, that will make you a wiser and more experienced fantasy football player.

Truthfully for myself in the last two seasons, I’ve been in multiple championships in a variety of leagues. However, I have fallen short in taking home the trophy in each one of my final appearances.

And while it was a painful pill to swallow then, I have learned countless lessons from my shortcomings – some of which I shared in this guide – which I hope will make myself and my readers threats to reckon with in all leagues for years to come. Woolcock

5. Be an ambassador for the game

While fantasy football is becoming more and more popular every year, there are still many people who are unfamiliar with many aspects of the game and the amazing online community that surrounds it.

And while it may not always be the most relevant dinner conversation, letting others know you’re involved in fantasy football and/or the community around it is a great way to encourage others to play and may even help you make some new friends.

Overall, whether you’re a casual fan of the game or a seasoned veteran, treat others playing with kindness and remember you’re representing an entire community of people, in and outside of the game. Woolcock

6. Be aware of your own superstitions

Everyone has them. Mine is that I never draft any Cowboys. I think they’re bad luck to have on my team. It’s really a ridiculous notion when I think about it, but most other fantasy football players I’ve talked to are also superstitious in some way. 

Sometimes it’s quirky, like wearing the same jersey each and every week because you always lose without it. But other times, like with mine, it can make decisions for you that may not be the best in the quest to win. Cuda

7. Sometimes, you just have to throw it to the wind

Seasons don’t always go how you planned. 

All that research done, podcasts listened to, Twitter feeds scrolled and hours spent watching “The Herd” and Will Cain won’t help you win. Rest assured you didn’t sit on your laurels. Be proud of a job well done, or a job well lost. There’s always next season!  Polvogt

8. Don’t base your decisions solely on the fantasy football ‘experts’

Look, the great people here at In-Between Media love fantasy football. We study it more than most. Analysts like Matthew Berry and Field Yates study it even more than we do, and everyone makes predictions rooted in extensive research. 

But, in the end, we’re not perfect. We get things wrong. So, don’t be afraid to go with your gut sometimes, and when you want some fantasy advice, take multiple perspectives into account, especially your own. Hayes

9. Keep your priorities straight

Fantasy football is a great hobby and a wonderful way to relax and unwind. But, if you’re anything like me, it’s not a far walk before you’re excusing yourself from work to head off to the restroom and cook up a trade for a player you’ve had your eye on. 

It’s easy to let the fun of winning and playing get the best of you and to let it put itself ahead of other responsibilities. So, I always try my best to make sure I check myself frequently to ensure I’m keeping my priorities aligned. That way I can ensure the long-term health of myself and ensure my long term enjoyment of fantasy football. Cuda

10. Keep things fresh

It’s easy to get into a rut playing this game. When you’re coming back to the same family league with the same people and the same rules, it can get tedious. The player pool always changes, but it feels like the same people take the same team’s sometimes. Suggest a change to the league you play in. Maybe offer up a side bet, or another pot that pays out to most points or something along those lines. 

The possibilities for spicing up your leagues are only as limited as your imagination. And, if no one wants to spice it up, that’s where other leagues come in. Cuda

11. Enjoy the ride (and the games)

Fantasy football is a ton of fun and, let’s face it, kind of addicting. Similarly to gambiling on games, if you’re too focused on fantasy, you may lose sight of what’s actually happening on the field. 

So, please, enjoy the ride! Make sure you maintain a healthy balance of keeping up with your team and enjoying the games in front of you. After all, the NFL season moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it. Hayes

12. Don’t rage quit

Seriously, no one likes a quitter, least of all someone who is eliminated from the playoffs and just sulks or tries to drop their entire team. It can change the outcome of a league when people quit, and it really screws your leaguemates over. Don’t be that person. Cuda

13. Don’t let your friends bully you

This could go for many situations in life, but especially in Fantasy Football. Whether it’s a bunch of bros trying to bully you into making a trade you’ll later regret (Seth can attest to my own personal bullying powers in this type of situation) or friends bullying you into making a list of tips, “or else,” (I’m stuck in this computer, please send help) sticking to your guns is the best way to show them all who’s boss.

Fantasy Football can bring out the best or the worst in some people. Some people will even show their worst sides just because there is an audience and chaos is fun (me). At the end of the day, you don’t want to be at the butt of every joke for the entire season. Mansfield

14. Become the bully

Flipping the tables. What a power move. If it’s too late to not be bullied (Seth), the best defense is a good offense. Not to make things too serious since it is only a game after all, but did you come to be stepped on or did you come to win? Be aggressive. Be ruthless. Be the one people don’t want to play with next year but who they’re too afraid to exclude. And have fun, or whatever. Mansfield

Tricky Trends

As analysts, over the years of playing and examining fantasy football, we’ve discovered some recent trends that could prove helpful coming into what some are calling as the most unpredictable fantasy football season ever.

15. Don’t over-value veteran receivers in year one on a new team

Tip #15: Don’t over-value veteran receivers in year one on a new team

Another thing many fantasy managers, myself included, have struggled with in previous seasons is overdrafting veteran wide receivers who switched teams in the offseason.

Last season Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown, both of whom found themselves in new organizations for the first time in their careers, were major landmines in the early round of drafts.

Other recent receivers who have fallen short of their ADP in their first season with a new club are Allen Robinson in 2018, his first year in Chicago, Terrelle Pryor and Alshon Jeffery in 2017, their first seasons in Washington and Philadelphia, respectively.

In fact, no receivers in this category have finished as a WR1 since Brandon Marshall was WR3 in 2015, his first season as a New York Jet.

Because of this trend and no preseason games this season, I’m slightly devaluing players like Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, Breshad Perriman and yes, even the great DeAndre Hopkins.

With that being said, because of his proven ability to work well with new quarterbacks,  I still have Hopkins as a top-5 receiver this season. Woolcock

16. When drafting a receiver, keep in mind who his quarterback is

What’s one of the most common traits among top fantasy receivers every year? They usually catch passes from really good quarterbacks. Michael Thomas has Drew Brees, Julio Jones has Matt Ryan, Allen Robinson has…OK, nevermind. 

You get the picture. I usually don’t draft a receiver unless he has, at the very least, a capable signal-caller who can get him the ball consistently and accurately. Hayes

17. Avoid recency bias

Tip #17: Avoid recency bias

Recency bias is one of the hardest aspects of the game to wade through in the offseason. But, if deciphered and interpreted correctly, it can change the entire outcome of your fantasy team. Take both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams, for example.

Kupp, who has been effective and fantasy relevant for the entirety of his three-year career, posted 94 receptions for 1161 yards and 10 touchdowns last season – good enough for a WR4 finish.

However, due to the Rams running a hefty amount of 12-man personnel (two tight end sets) over the back-half of the season, lowering his snap percentages and production, Kupp is being drafted outside of the top 10 at the position.

Higbee, who had previously never finished a season with more than 300 receiving yards, was a dominant force the last five games of the season, going for 43 receptions, 522 yards and two touchdowns almost 89 percent of his past two seasons’ production combined.

Higbee is now going to cost most redraft owners an eighth or ninth round pick, while Kupp is going in the fourth round. And while I think both Kupp and Higbee can live up to their ADPs, I’m more comfortable with Kupp where he’s being drafted because of his proven track record. Woolcock

18. Don’t put too much stock into previous injuries

It’s a fine line. If a player has consistently shown that they can’t make it back on the field, they probably can’t be trusted. But you’ll have an advantage if you’re looking for diamonds in the rough. 

Maybe a guy was only out for one year, or maybe he needed a change of scenery (think of running backs like David Johnson or Todd Gurley). As fans, sometimes we give up on players way too early or get distracted by a shiny new toy, even when the older toys are still effective. Hayes

19. Don’t overvalue QB’s in single QB leagues

This is a mistake I made frequently in my first few seasons. Quarterback is my favorite position, as it is for many others, and getting your favorite may seem like something wonderful…

Until it dawns on you that there’s not near as big a tier drop for quarterbacks and that in your 12 team league you can draft Carson Wentz in the eighth round. Your higher draft picks are better spent elsewhere. – Cuda

Draft Day 

Making the most out of draft day, the pinnacle of fantasy football, both physically on your teams and spiritually in your mind, is key to maximizing your season’s success and satisfaction.

20. Find ways to relax on draft day

Tip #20: Find ways to relax on draft day

For veteran fantasy football managers, draft day feels a lot like the first day of school. Between the butterflies in your stomach and the random thoughts swirling in your head, it can be a little overwhelming if you allow it to.

Instead, I suggest making yourself as comfortable as you can during your draft and finding ways to keep yourself composed.

Whether it’s having an alcoholic beverage (or two), or taking a drag off whatever is your fancy, it really will help your drafting performance if your mind is at ease.

Personally, I enjoy breaking out one of my favorite game day recipes for draft day to help bring myself composure leading into things. Woolcock

21. Have multiple strategies going into draft day

With a plethora of different strategies becoming more mainstream in fantasy football, having multiple in mind going into a draft is crucial for success.

Truthfully, it’s something I struggled to understand for a long time when I drafted. Instead of going strictly with one game plan, adjust throughout your draft. 

For example, if you’re like most players and want to double tap running back in the first two rounds, but there’s an obvious tier break at that position, don’t drop a tier. Take the WR1 and wait to see what comes back to you.

Sure, sometimes you’re going to miss on a better option at a certain position, but the overall value of your team will be greater heading into the season, making it easier to trade if things go astray. Woolcock

22. Keep calm and don’t panic draft

A player you had your eye on gets snatched up right before your pick?

Yeah, that can be anxiety-inducing, but don’t let it get you! Keep calm. Look at your draft board. Dig deep. Don’t panic. ALWAYS have a draft board/notebook/sticky note. Polvogt

23. Don’t forget about a tight end

It’s not the flashiest position, but a good tight end can have a major impact on your team. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

 A bad tight end can really hold your team back. If you’re in a position in your draft where you can grab an elite tight end – think Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Zach Ertz – go for it. 

Settling for a mediocre tight end might seem wise on draft day, but you’ll be kicking yourself if he’s not getting you solid points by November. Hayes

24. Sleepers

The elusive sleeeeeeeepppppeeeeerrrrrr… We all want it. Few of us get it. That one guy no one saw coming. They slap you in the face when you’re in your R.E.M. cycle. They are that 6 a.m. wake-up call. The ones who stick your hand in a cup of warm water on your first overnight, and you pee yourself, but this time it’s from excitement. 

When they do well, they blow your socks off and win you championships. These guys aren’t always under the radar either. 

Everyone is fading Marlon Mack because of Jonathan Taylor. I would call Mack a definite sleeper this year.  

Watch film. Study stats. Know their teammates’ tendencies. See the hole in the roster they’ll fill. Polvogt

25. Pay attention to other rosters during the draft

Nobody likes getting sniped in a fantasy draft. It’s almost as painful as rewatching the “Twilight” series in your 20s. 

Paying attention to the other teams’ rosters in your draft and predicting what position they’re likely to go with their next picks can avoid heartbreak and drafting on tilt. Woolcock

26. Use your time between picks effectively

Do your research between picks. Watch who is coming off the board. Watch some quick YouTube film if you have questions about a player. Compare stats. Focus. Polvogt

27. Draft boards are your friend

Make. A. Draft. Board. It’ll keep you calm in those panic moments. Color code it. Make it a spreadsheet. 

You can find draft boards and kits for sale from places like Rotoworld, or you can go the free route and make one on your own (my personal preference). Do whatever you are comfortable with. Do your research. Rank your players. Be ready. Polvogt

28. Mix consistency with upside

Tip #28: Mix consistency with upside

In fantasy football, we’re always chasing upside. However, having too many players with high upside and a low floor can leave your team hanging if the worst-case scenario plays out. That’s why it’s so crucial to mix high-upside players with consistent point scorers.

For example, if I’m going to draft a high upside player like A.J. Brown, who has some risk, as my WR1, I would be more inclined to take a more consistent player like Robert Woods as my WR2, than someone like DJ Chark, who alway carries high-upside and risk with him.

Balancing upside and consistency should at worst-case scenario leave you in playoff contention and will help you avoid your league’s last place punishment. Woolcock

29. Try to draft players you like

This is always a dilemma. If you’re an Eagles fan, do you draft Ezekiel Elliott? If you’re a Bears fan, do you draft Aaron Rodgers? My short answer is…no. It’s not worth the stress you’re going to put on yourself every Sunday. 

Again, fantasy football should be fun, not a reason to pull your hair out. It does depend on whether you care more about your fantasy team or your real-life rooting interests, but still, try to draft players you like! Hayes

30. Don’t overthink handcuffs

Tip #30: Don’t overthink handcuffs

Take it from a guy who drafted Jaylen Samuels, resulting in having Lamar Jackson sniped one pick beforehand last season. Don’t reach for handcuffs. Sooner or later, when players start to emerge on the weekly waiver wire, handcuffs are generally the first to be cut.

If you believe a running back will have a role in a running back-by-committee, that’s a completely different conversation. But players like Tony Pollard and Alexander Mattison, who backup elite-workhorse running backs are best left for later rounds or undrafted.

And if you are going to draft one of these handcuff backs, think about drafting one of your opponents’ handcuffs, other than your own, as it’s an easy way to add possible value to your team without taking any value away if a starter was to get injured. Woolcock

31. Don’t draft a kicker or defense too early

The longer I play fantasy football, the more I stand by this take. In fact, you might not have to draft these two positions at all. Sure, some kickers and defenses are better than others, but they normally don’t make much of a difference week to week. 

Outliers exist – the Patriots defense was almost single-handedly winning matchups in early 2019 – but remember that you’re probably in a 10- or 12-team league, so you’re not going to be stuck with a horrible defense or kicker. There are plenty to choose from. Hayes

32. Draft the best player for your team

I’m a lifelong Broncos fan. I drafted Darren Waller last year, even though it seems unnatural for me to draft a Raiders player. And, for better or worse, rode Darren Waller all season because he was the tight end who gave me the best chance to win. Don’t let your rivalry for a team derail your championship dreams! Polvogt

In-Season Success

As crucial as it is, your draft is only the beginning of a season-long journey. Meaning that the work doesn’t stop there either. Here are some of the most important lessons we’ve learned to help you sustain success all season long.

33. Don’t panic after the first few weeks of the season

It’s the easiest thing in the world to do, and if it’s your first year playing fantasy football, you’re probably going to do it. But I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be OK. Your first round pick hasn’t reached the end zone yet? Your quarterback threw a few picks? 

Don’t fear:  Your starters are starters for a reason. Barring injuries, things usually even out in the end. Hayes

34. Don’t be afraid to trade

Trades are gateways to success in fantasy. Don’t be afraid to make an offer. You absolutely never know what could happen. And don’t be afraid to go big. 

A few years ago, I swapped Andrew Luck for Odell Beckham Jr. in my home keeper league, and while it seemed crazy at the time, it has paid off in spades. A great trade could be the difference between a championship and consolation prize. Polvogt

35. Don’t hold onto false hope

We all have that one guy in a league who holds players on their team far too long, hoping for their breakout to come. And while sometimes you can drop a player too early, most of the time, if the role isn’t there early in the season, unless injury happens, it might not happen.

Having roster spots open on your team to make transactions is sometimes as valuable as having mediocre, low-ceiling players at the end of your bench. Woolcock

36. Know your match-ups

And use them to decide who to start/sit. Got a running back going against the number one run defense in the league? Bench him. 

It doesn’t matter who it is. Odds are, you have someone more productive that week on your bench. Fantasy Football Metrics and Pro Football Focus offer subscription services for in-depth metric comparisons. 

Or, you can dig down and create your own using places like Pro Football Reference. Remember, match-ups matter. Polvogt

37. Don’t over-tinker

Tip #37: Don’t over-tinker

We’ve all been there, researched every angle of every player and every game on your roster. It’s Sunday morning, and you settled your flex spot at 10 p.m. last night, but you wake up wondering whether it was the right choice.

So you hop on and look. You doubt yourself, you doubt your research and you wonder if you made the right choice, so you change it. You feel alright for a few minutes, but as kick-off approaches, you can’t help but wonder if you’ve made the wrong choice again, so you swap back. You tell yourself that’s it, I’m done, what happens, happens. 

But, that’s not it, and it’s not done. As you’re grabbing your game snacks, you begin pondering your start/ sit decision all over again. So, you grab your phone and swap your roster one last time. 

The player you had in there at 10 p.m. last night pops off and the one you over-tinkered for puts up a dud of a game. You lose the week and now live with the knowledge that you should have trusted your gut the first time and let it rest, but you couldn’t help yourself and it cost you a win. 

Just don’t do it. Don’t over-tinker. Trust yourself. Cuda

38. Don’t make a trade just because you’re bored of your team

If you’re in a free, fun league with your buddies and just want to shake things up, you can ignore this one. After all, fantasy football should be fun above all else. But if you’re all-in on winning your league, trust your instincts. Trades are undoubtedly enticing, but if you like your team and it’s winning you games, you may not want to pull the trigger. Hayes

39. Work smarter, not harder

Rely on fellow gurus’ advice to help you make a decision. If you’re in a toss-up situation with who to start, let someone else do the work for you, and read their analysis on the match-up. You trust these people for a reason. Polvogt

40. Always look at the big picture

Yes, this advice is vague and could be taken in a lot of different directions. It just depends what type of league you’re in. For redraft leagues, the picture probably isn’t so big. You’re all-in every year. 

However, you’ll put yourself ahead of the pack if you have some foresight and don’t focus solely on the week-to-week stats and production. And in dynasty, it’s even more important to play the long game. Ask yourself, “What can I do to benefit my team now, the rest of this season and beyond?” Hayes

41. Poker face

Don’t tip your hand. Watch how your opponent handles the week with the waiver wire and with trades. Know their match-ups. Play your roster accordingly. Make moves as necessary. Creep that waiver wire. Know what makes them weak in the knees.  Polvogt

42. Pay attention to last-minute scratches before kickoff

We’ve all seen that person who either sets his or her lineup on Friday and then forgets about it, or just forgets to set a lineup altogether. More often than not, that spells disaster. 

You never truly know which players will be available until moments before kickoff, and given the monkey wrench this season that is COVID-19, that may be the case now more than ever. It’s wise to watch fantasy football or pregame shows to see which guys are out for the week. Hayes

43. Put your early game players in a position, not your flex

This is a piece of advice that saved me multiple wins since I started playing fantasy football. Anyone who plays games early in the week should go in their actual roster spot, not in your flex. Things can change at the last minute and you want to be able to have the most choices open to you at a moment’s notice. 

If you want to start a wide receiver as your flex and they play Thursday, put them in an actual WR slot because if Sunday rolls around and you find yourself needing to fill that flex spot with a RB because of a last minute injury and you can’t you’ll be kicking yourself. Cuda

League Ideologies

At the end of the day, sometimes you can do everything right individually, and still not get everything you wanted out of a fantasy football season. To avoid this, take a step back to look at your league and see what it’s doing well and what it could be doing better. Here are few things to consider when doing so: 

44. Be inclusive

Fantasy football has a reputation for being a boys club, and it has for a long time. Things are always improving, but we all need to do our part to make anyone who shows interest in the game see it as something that’s fun and accessible. 

Make new people feel welcome, help them see the camaraderie, competition and enjoyment that the game has to offer, especially if they’re women who might not be welcomed in other leagues or are already nervous about trying to “infiltrate” this society. Cuda

45. Be a commish via democracy

This is a big one for me. If you’re going to be a league commissioner, then let your league make its own choices. Give them options and let them vote. Having a say in what happens makes everyone feel more connected to the league and more invested in what happens. 

If a couple league mates suggest a change and you’re not a fan, state your reasons for not liking the change, have them give their support and then put it to a vote. It’ll make everyone feel like it’s a group effort and that ideas will be taken seriously. Cuda

46. Make sure your league has clear veto rules

I once wrote an entire column on trading in fantasy football and how, without clear veto rules, it can cause conflict and possibly even ruin a league.

Normally, most trades should be allowed to stand. And while it feels awful to see someone almost taken advantage of in fantasy football, it’s their team and they should be allowed to manage it how they want.

However, collusion has no place in fantasy football, making the veto the protagonist against such action. Woolcock

47. If you don’t hesitate to accept a trade, take a second look, you might be taking advantage of someone

Tip #47: If you don’t hesitate to accept a trade, take a second look, you might be taking advantage of someone

If you’re looking at a trade and there’s not a moment’s doubt that you should accept it, or offer it, stop and ask yourself why.

In my experience most truly equal and mutually beneficial trades are ones that both parties somewhat reluctantly accept because they know value is leaving their team. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but for the majority of the time, if it seems too good to be true, it is. 

Just take a second to look and see who sent the trade. How experienced are they? Is there a piece of news they may not know yet? Of course I’m not saying it’s your responsibility to correct your competitors mistakes. But, this game is meant to be fun and if you take advantage of a new player it may spoil the game for them.

I also want to have regular trade partners so it’s always been beneficial to me to ensure that everyone feels like trades are done in a way that isn’t a zero sum game and are instead done with both teams best interests in mind. Cuda

48. Play dynasty

I mean, it’s the best format. It’s competitive, it’s fun and it makes the game feel more meaningful to know that each and every decision can impact your team’s performance for years to come.

It makes college football more fun to watch, it makes the draft more fun to watch, it helps keep football alive beyond the short season we get since you can trade all year. It’s truly the best fantasy football has to offer. Cuda

49. In dynasty leagues, don’t trade your first round pick every year

OK, maybe I threw this tip on here because I need to remind myself of this. I am the Bill O’Brien of dynasty leagues. Anyway, trading your top pick can be a smart move if you’re a consistent playoff team in your dynasty league. Maybe you need one final piece to put your team over the top. 

However, if you’re a middling or lower-tier team, those draft picks are extremely valuable. They’re going to help you rebuild, so the last thing you want to do is trade them away. Hayes

50. Play in Weird Leagues

I can’t state enough how fun this is. Try out something weird. A league with weird scoring, a super huge league, a vampire league or maybe a buzz-around league. 

It really doesn’t matter, the options are limitless and it can make the game feel new and exciting. Having to guess at what players will be good under scoring rules that don’t fit the usual mold for fantasy football really challenges your skills. Cuda

Thanks for reading. And for more feel-good life and fantasy football advice, follow the site on Twitter @IBT_Media.

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