Fantasy football: Tips to keep from going crazy during the season

There's often no way to tell if a player such at Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is a distinctly better player to start in fantasy football than another middle-of-the pack WR.
There’s often no way to tell if a player such at Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is a distinctly better player to start in fantasy football than another middle-of-the pack WR. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Have you ever tried explaining fantasy football to a young child? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Over the weekend, I was telling my 4-year-old about the fantasy football draft I was going to. Naturally, he asked me a billion questions about it — as all preschoolers do about everything they encounter — but for a kid who doesn’t yet grasp how real football works I was at a loss. Now, I have an answer that’s 100% accurate.

"Son, fantasy football is a silly little game that grown-ups play while other grown-ups play football."

That’s not going to satisfy his curiosity, but it’s an important reminder for all of us who devote any time and energy to it. Ultimately, we play fantasy football as another way to enjoy actual football.

When money — sometimes beaucoup bucks — enters the equation, it can turn the game into an obsession. Don’t let that happen, both for your own sanity and for competitive reasons.

If you’re the type that feels the grip of fantasy football stealing too much of your time each fall, I’ve got some tips to hopefully help enjoy everything more throughout the next 17 weeks.

Limit roster management

It doesn’t take long to set a weekly lineup. Every Tuesday, when the new week begins from a lineup management standpoint, I quickly replace injured players and those on bye weeks. No deep thinking yet, just do the bare minimum to have things set up in case the entire internet goes down for several days or a monster emerges from the depths and rampages across the tristate area. Or, you know, I just get busy.

Next move is to quickly scan the waiver wire for players projected to score a lot of points the next week. I’ll read about them later, but I like to get them on my radar. If I already know there’s someone I want to add, then I’ll put in the claim right away before moving on.

That’s the bulk of my week. I’ll check in briefly before games begin on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays to make sure nobody is slated to sit out the game or see a diminished role, but otherwise I don’t spend much more than 20 minutes a week on this process. Usually, it’s all done from my phone, so it’s hardly an inconvenience. If you find yourself spending more than 30 minutes on this each week, consider scaling back.

Don’t overanalyze

As someone who writes a fantasy column and is genuinely interested in deep-diving into sports statistics and trends, I have to do a certain amount of analysis of fantasy football at large. 

What I don’t do, however, is obsess over lineup decisions. 

Early in the week, I decide which players will start and which will sit — barring status changes. Waffling all week ensures that you’ll be overly invested in football minutiae, such as whether Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans) or Michael Gallup (Dallas Cowboys) was a better choice as your flex position wide receiver. All the analysis in the world can’t promise that one will be better than the other. And, if you choose wrong, then you may just stress over the decision.

It’s much better to be decisive and willing to accept the level of luck involved with choosing the right player on the fringe of your starting lineup each week.

Limit media intake

There’s nothing wrong with a little advice from a trusted podcast or a weekly columnist. But if you find yourself spending more than an hour or two each week on such fantasy football media consumption, it might be wise to cut back.

It’s good to get a quick rundown of potential roster additions. Most weekly add/drop columns offer similar recommendations for players to pursue on the waiver wire or suggestions of who no longer is viable to have on the roster. Just pick one you like, and stick with it. 

After that, try to limit yourself to just one or two podcasts or TV/streamed shows. Podcasts, of course, can be consumed passively. Online columns, obviously, are an active engagement — but reading is fun, kids. If you want to squeeze in a weekly column or two, that’s about equivalent to one audio/visual program.

If you find you have an obsessive personality, you might better off dialing this one back even further. Those who already know to take fantasy football lightly can probably get away with more light reading between matchups.

Enjoy the real games

Ostensibly, you decided to play fantasy football because you like actual football. If all you’re doing is staring at a fantasy tracker in an app, you’re going to miss what makes football fun to watch to begin with.

If you manage just one team — I cannot express enough how much more I enjoy the game when I’m not running multiple teams — then it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on the action of a few games at a time to monitor the performance of your starters. 

That should have the side effect of humanizing the players, at whom overly aggressive fantasy football fans are way too quick to lob threats and insults when they don’t win your weekly matchup for you. Watch what they put their bodies through for our entertainment, and remind yourself that they do not care one bit about your fantasy team. Nor should they.