There's a lot to be said for knowing your surroundings. No matter where we go, what we're doing, it's instinctual to adapt to the shapes and sounds that encircle us. From Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory to camping in the woods to knowing your opponent in business and sports - life revolves around familiarizing yourself with your competition.
Then why is it that, oftentimes in fantasy football, folks spend more time in introverted thought rather than in observational analysis of their opponents? Knowing your opponent inside and out will only further your chances of succeeding.
It's a lot easier to pick up on your opponent's strategy if you are in a league with friends, as you are somewhat privy to their way of thinking. However, if you are in a league with strangers, or perhaps are entering a league with associates, building rapport is important; get to know them, specifically to the tune of football knowledge.
Pretend for a moment you are the host of "The Late Show" and they are your guests. You should be asking open-ended questions in an effort to covertly unveil their overall fantasy football mentality. This preemptive measure will give you an idea of how they will draft and the kinds of players that would be appealing to them in trade situations.
Examining your opponent
Whether you are returning to a league from the year prior or entering one already in place, get your hands on last season's roster sheets. Find out the position that the owners put a heavy emphasis on. Obviously if someone's roster has filled out with three running backs in the first three or four rounds, it's clear they emphasize loading up in the backfield and will be looking at other positions in the next few rounds.
Another thing to look for is trends during recent years. Some fantasy owners have players they simply must have on their roster. If you notice that one team has managed to get their hands on some of the same few players in each of the last three seasons, it's safe to say he or she is probably hoping to land one or the other, if not both, once again.
The key here is being aggressive. Don't be afraid to snub the owner that drafts behind you. It's not to say that you should reach for a play; however, if he fits your team and strategy, it might be time, because you know you probably won't get him on the way back. If that owner happens to choose ahead of you, it's also safe to assume who will not be available when your turn comes up.
The key to getting off on the right foot is preparing for draft day. Aside from targeting a list of players you'd like to snag in specific rounds, look at last year's selection pool to see how and when your opponents filled out their rosters.
One traditional draft strategy is placing a premium on the running back position, since so few are featured backs these days. What to watch for here, though, is if an opponent picked up a running back first overall in last year's draft, when did he/she take their No. 2 and No. 3? Along those same lines, did he or she win the championship?
If not, one glaring question lingers: Why not? Chances are they didn't round out the quarterback and wide receiver positions, or they didn't address running back depth. This is where your investigation skills must come into play. Develop an understanding what went right or wrong in your opponents' drafts, and you should yield positive results for yourself.
Every fantasy owner would love to say he or she won the championship strictly based on his or her drafting and free-agent acquisitions. As a matter of fact, so would any professional sports team. Let's be serious for a moment here - it's not always that easy. Often, especially in 12-team leagues, players run thin, and owners are left thinking, "I'm one player away."
Trading, however, can be somewhat of an ambiguous process. You must be wary of your opponent while being mindful of the situation. Aside from having Drew Rosenhaus-like negotiating skills, you must consider various factors. Does the prospective player have a bye week that coincides with my other starters at the respective position? Why does the opponent want to trade the player? How is the supporting cast of the prospective player, and has it changed from the season prior? Does the player in question have a lingering injury or is he injury-prone? Lastly, a question to always keep in mind: Am I being ripped off?
Part of the philosophy on trading goes into what we touched upon earlier in this report. If you know the person drafting behind you has a specific need, don't shy away from drafting a player with thoughts of trade, especially if it involves a running back. Make sure you aren't reaching. If the player doesn't warrant the draft pick, don't draft him solely with the purpose of trading in mind because you'll handicap yourself elsewhere.
Scouring the waiver wire
Some owners are excessive with their free-agent moves and seem to chase success all season. The key here is making the right move at the right time. Watch the diamonds in the rough and how they fit their respective teams' game plans. The more educated on football you become - who's doing what, when and where - the better your chances are of snagging the player that will actually help, not cripple, your roster. Study the statistics and look for developing trends.
Then, become familiar with how your opponents use the waiver wire and use it against them. If there is a certain owner attacking a position of need each week on the free-agent list, it's likely that you will have to be very proactive to get a player of value at that position. Look to the future, and that will allow you to add those gems ahead of their time.
Whether it's soul-searching or searching for a fantasy football championship, the key to the game is knowing your surroundings. Know your opponents like the back of your hand, and before you know it, someone might just be handing you the crown.