Top Five Mistakes Fantasy Football Owners Make

 In Articles, Fantasy Football

Winning in fantasy football is fun. There’s a thrill in building your team and beating your league-mates. However, there are a few critical mistakes that many fantasy owners make that derail their journey. Here are the top five mistakes that fantasy football owners often make, ranked from one to five.

 

1) Using the ‘Who Else Is There?’ Argument to Draft a Running Back

Often times, players get drafted high in fantasy drafts merely because that player seems to be in line for a huge usage, mostly because there’s no one else on the roster that seems to be a viable option. This is the ‘Who Else Is There?’ argument. This is most often deployed to prop up a mediocre running back.

When you evaluate a team’s roster and you see that there seems to be only one viable running back option, and that player also happens to be a player who has proven himself to be a decent fantasy producer in the past, then it may be fair to assume that player will get a significant number of the carries. However, if you’re looking at a team’s roster and you only see one running back that seems to be a decent option, but that guy isn’t necessarily a great talent, then you ought not assume that he’ll emerge as a quality fantasy option.

Nearly every year there’s at least two or three running backs being grossly over-drafted merely because they seemingly have the clearest pathway to the bulk of their team’s carries. Fantasy owners say, “There’s no one else there. He’s gotta be the guy.” But every year we see guys like that get easily supplanted by some other lesser-known running back.

Players like Alex Collins, Myles Gaskin, Trey Sermon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Isaiah Crowell, Andre Ellington, T.J. Yeldon, Royce Freeman, Chase Edmunds, Jeremy Langford, Knile Davis, Thomas Rawls, and Damien Williams are all recent examples of players who were being highly touted by fantasy owners because of the “Who else is there?” argument but then grossly underperformed and were eventually replaced by guys who were virtually unknown to most fantasy owners in the months leading up to the season.

These types of guys are often seen as having the clear pathway to the bulk of their team’s carries, but remember this statement: Just because you cannot see who the other potential RB options are, doesn’t mean the NFL teams will be incapable of finding someone.

 

2) Assuming a Team Will Use a Player Because They Spent A Lot of Money or Draft Capital

One of the biggest pitfalls in fantasy football is assuming that a team will automatically utilize a player because they were acquired through a costly transaction—whether that’s a big free agent contract or high draft pick.

I’ve heard so many fantasy owners say, “We know this player is going to be used because they gave him a big contract.” Or something like, “Well, they wouldn’t have drafted him that high if they didn’t intend to use him.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I’d be a millionaire. But history shows us that this isn’t sound logic.

Look no further than the 2023 off-season when the Atlanta Falcons drafted RB Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall pick of the 2023 NFL draft or consider the Carolina Panthers giving RB Miles Sanders a huge free agent deal. Both of these players saw inconsistent playing time and way fewer carries than expected, and in Sanders case he was eventually totally phased out of the offense because of ineffectiveness.

Teams may have multiple factors to consider when deciding player usage, ranging from performance in practice, locker room vibes, and strategic in-game matchups. And, in some cases, coaches just seem to be incompetent–we cannot expect incompetent people to make good decisions. Simply relying on the price tag or draft position of a player overlooks the complexities involved in team management.

 

3) Listening to Training Camp Reports

As the fantasy football season approaches, lots of peeps tune into coaching interviews and training camp reports, looking for an edge. This is a fool’s errand.

During 2020 training camp, there were a myriad of training camp reports that said Bengals WR Jamar Chase was struggling and was likely to have a bad rookie campaign. That same summer there were all sorts of positive reports about Falcons TE Kyle Pitts. Chase and Pitts were both top five picks in the 2020 NFL draft. Well, those training camp reports turned out to be wrong–very wrong!

During summer 2023 we also heard plenty of training camp reports that would lead us to stay away from drafting guys like C.J. Stroud, Baker Mayfield, Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs, Keenan Allen, and Christian Kirk—these guys outperformed their average draft positions. On the flip side, we heard plenty of positive reports that would lead us to go after players like Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Bryce Young, Bijan Robinson, A.J. Dillion, Rashaad Penny, Rashod Bateman, and Tony Pollard—these players significantly underperformed where they were drafted in fantasy drafts.

I’m not saying that every training camp report from a beat reporter is wrong—there are definitely some good reporters with good intel. But the quality of those reports are a mixed bag—even from good reporters—and it seems nearly impossible to discern what’s actually helpful. Therefore, it’s probably better to be very cautious before elevating or dropping a player in your ranks merely based on training camp reports.

 

4) Assuming Negative Game Scripts Will Lead to Fantasy Success

One common misconception that many owners fall into is the belief that negative game scripts always lead to success. I’ve heard lots of people say, “Well, that team is going to be behind in games a lot, and they’re going to be throwing a lot, so that QB-WR tandem is worth drafting.” However, this assumption can often be misleading.

First, what if we’re wrong? What if that team ends up being much better than we thought? Then there will not be as many negative game scripts. This would potentially torpedo the theory.

Second, bad teams are bad for many reasons that aren’t good for fantasy. Bad teams may be bad because they have limited talent on the roster, which means they’re liking to have limited scoring opportunities or overall inefficiencies that hinder their ability to provide quality fantasy production.

Third, struggling teams may be struggling because they’ve faced tougher defensive matchups. But again, that means their opponents are limiting their production. This probably especially shows up in the red zone. Good defenses tend to keep mediocre teams out of the end zone. Fewer touchdowns means fewer fantasy points.

 

5) Drafting a Quarterback Too Early

In typical league formats, where you’re only required to start one quarterback, there’s very little reason to address the position early in the draft. Many are willing to draft a quarterback in the early rounds of a draft, which is almost always a mistake.

The production drop-off is steeper among running backs and wide receivers than it is among quarterbacks. The gap between the top tier quarterbacks and the lesser ranked quarterbacks is simply smaller than the gap that exists between the top tier running backs and the lesser ranked running backs; and the same is true for the wide receiver position too.

Over the last few years, the quarterbacks drafted in the early double digit rounds of fantasy drafts tend to provide apx. 70–75% of the production of the top quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds.  However, the running backs drafted in the early double digit rounds tend to provide less than 45% of the production of the top running backs drafted in the first three rounds. Also, wide receivers drafted in the early double digit rounds typically provide apx. 55–60% of the production provided by the top wide receivers.

This means it’s easier to get more “bank for your buck” at the quarterback position later in the draft. While it may be tempting to secure a top-tier quarterback, this approach will leave your team lacking depth at the crucial positions that are simply much harder to replace.

 

Conclusion

We all make mistakes. It’s going to happen. But we want to avoid the obvious mistakes. By avoiding these common drafting mistakes and leveraging the insights available to us, we’ve got a shot at building a winning team.