Matchups – As is the case in any fantasy sport, matchups are going to be very important if not the most important factor. Football is such a team oriented game, that you need to look at how teams matchup with each other, as well as individuals. For example, last year, you would not want to pick a QB or a WR against the Seahawks at all as they only allowed 186 yards per game and only allowed 17 TD's all year. Even if it is Aaron Rodgers or Odell Beckham, odds are they are not going to hit their value. Then, for individual matchups say you have a WR going against the Arizona Cardinals. They were 29th in football with 4,152 yards allowed so they are a prime matchup to pick guys against. However they have Patrick Peterson who will be on the # 1 guy most likely, so if you have the Packers against them, Randall Cobb may be a better play than Jordy Nelson even as a # 2. The same goes for any position, you want to make sure that you are getting the most value for your players, and there are a ton of statistics that you can look at to make sure that you are picking the right guys.
Blowout Factor – It does not happen as often as as in basketball, but it is still very important to look at when building a team. The first thing you need to do is look at the Vegas line and see how they are viewing the game because they often have a good idea of how a game will play out. Anything over 10+ points in my opinion is a game that you need to be very weary of. Sure if the Broncos are beating the Jaguars 35-0 after the 3rd quarter somebody had to score all of those points. The thing is though, you are only going maximizing 75% of the game with them and are in the long run, losing out on valuable points. In football, the plays are limited to begin with, with teams only running 64 or so plays per game. In that scenario you are losing out on 16 plays and even if it is midway through the 4th you are losing out on 8-10 plays per game. The top offs other the Packers are towards the top of the list, and that is where you find the most valuable players. Common sense says the more plays you run, the more chance to get points, and will get more points with all of those chances.
Weather – Just like baseball, and unlike basketball, weather is a huge factor for football. Since they play from the end of summer, through the winter, you have to deal with the hot and cold weather, snow and rain, and all types of wind that may pop up. Now the usual beneficies of weather happened to be team defenses and running backs as teams will not pass the ball much at all. This is something that some people do not take 5 seconds to look at, and ends up costing them. I mean again it might seem like common sense, but if there are 25 MPH winds in a game, why would you risk taking a QB when you know the throws are going to be much more difficult. Always take the time to check the weather before forming a team because you could easily have players losing value because they are not getting touches with the bad weather.
Injuries – Football is again like baseball where the injury report comes out well before game time. The active / inactive list is usually due 1.5 hours before game time so you know if a guy will be playing or not. Now how much he plays could doubt which is why it's important to keep tabs on guys through the week to see if they have been practicing and how they are holding up. Even if a guy is active, but did not practice on Thursday (last day of practice for the week), he is at risk for not playing much to begin with or having his injury pop up during the game and sideline him to. It's also a good idea if guys are hurt as usual to target their replacements, or guys who are below them on the pecking order. I like examples so a great example was when Roddy White was hurt last year, Harry Douglas got a big bump in production because he became the # 2 receiver, and saw a lot more targets than he normally would. On the other side, say Joe Haden is out for the Cleveland Browns. They may have had the 8th best passing defense at 225 yards per game, but if Haden goes down that is likely to change. The # 2 corner will be guarding the # 1 receiver and # 3 will be keeping the # 2 receiver which is obviously ideal for the offense. Also the weather plays a big factor for kickers as picking guys in any rainy or snowy conditions or places with a lot of wind is not advised. This is often what Sunday mornings is about, and with so many people on Twitter now, it's not too hard to figure out injury news.
Tournament (GPP) vs. Cash Game (50/50's & H2H) Players – This might seem a little vague, but it is something that needs to be looked at when forming a team. For cash games you are going to want to pick players who have high floors and are consistent week to week for the most part. It does not matter if it's a popular player because you are just aiming to beat half the field and it's not a big deal if he's highly owned. In a tournament, you are trying to target guys who are not going to be highly owned without it's a must play guy. The reasoning is because tournaments are more risky to begin with and you have to beat 80% of the people. Also in tournaments you are looking to win and not min cash. The way to win is to pick guys that are not highly owned and do really well. This usually means going against the most popular matchups on the day. Sometimes there is that must play guy, and that's fine, but fill around him with less popular guys. The goal is to have a guy owned at under 5% do really well because then fewer cuts down the number of people you are competing against. That is only for tournament plays because the low owned guys are not picked for a reason as they are super streaky. This generally leads to spending more even for Cash Games and spending big and lower for tournaments.
Stacking vs. Not stacking – Stacking in football I think is a little risky and should be used only in GPP fashion. Stacking in football is where you pick the WR's and or TE with the QB you are taking. Baseball and basketball are much more individual sports not to say there is not teamwork but A WR totally depends on the QB to get him the ball and the QB needs the WR open to get him the ball. Now this can pay huge dividends if say Peyton Manning has 4 TD's and you have Demaryious and Emmanuel Sanders and they caught 3 of the touchdowns then you're golden. For cash games though, you're putting too many eggs into one basket and if the QB stinks then you're basically done for the week. This is a risky strategy, but under the right circumstances could pay off for someone in a big tournament.
How many teams to play? – Now this is going to be dependent on your bankroll (check out the bankroll management article if you ever want to learn more about that), and how much time you are willing to put in. Normally you want to have 1 cash game team as your favorite, and then have multiple entries / teams into tournaments. Now for starters than could be say 5 1 dollar teams instead of 1 team in a tournament.
Sure, you might get lucky with the one team and get a huge cash, but you're odds are obviously better if you have more teams with more players covered. A lot of people target a certain number of players at each position like 3 QB's like like and 5-6 RB's and they will intertwine them in their teams so that they have a lot of the combinations covered that they like. As you get more money you can start to enter more teams into tournaments or move up in stakes, but this seems to be a strategy of many of the pros. Cash games though, a lot of people have 1 or maybe 2 teams because you're hiring that your team will either make it in all of them, or it probably will not make it in all of them where in a tournament you could have 4 teams do not make it but have one team make up for the other 4.
Positions and where to spend on
Quarterback – For cash games spending big on QB's is fine, but for GPP's without the matchup is too much to pass up, it is not usually the best move. The top guys are usually pretty consistent which is they are better for cash games, but they do not provide as much upside as a WR or RB. With their only being 4 points for a TD and 1 point per 25 yards (.04 yards per yard) as the general rule it's hard for a QB to catch up to WR or RB that scored 2 TD's and gets 100 + yards. Also with DFS often incorporating PPR into their scoring that simply gives them an edge. The big guys like Brady, Rodgers, Payton, Luck are never bad plays because they will always get you consistent points, but it's their supporting cast that usually reaps more of the rewards. For QB's make sure to look at the defense's secondary that you're going against as well as the weather because no QB likes throwing with a lot of wind.
Running Backs – RB's and WR's are generally the area to spend a lot of money on because they have the most potential to score a ton of points. It may seem obvious but are going to want to avoid teams who either have a # 2 guy who gets a lot of touches, or B loses goal line Touches to a FB type guy. Also while picking an Adrian Peterson type guy is never a bad thing, I like my RB's to be able to catch out of the backfield. Normally it is.5 PPR and you get all of those passing yards as well which makes a guy like Le'veon Bell so valuable as he gets so many touches. Usually you do not want to pick a RB on a team you think may be down by quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Teams that are down are going to be throwing to conserve time and you will be losing out on valuable points in those scenarios. The shelf life for RB's is so small that there are usually injuries, so most weeks there are backups that can be had for cheap that can provide good value.
Wide Receivers – This is the position where I love to spend my money on because it is so dependent on them getting open and the QB getting them the ball. At least with a lower price QB, or lower price RB, they are guaranteed to get Touches / opportunities, while WR's really are not guaranteed much. Targeting low end guys with good QB's is never a bad idea because they can get them the ball at will like Cole Beasley for example. I also love getting guys who get a lot of goals for cash games, (fantasydata.com has this available), because you get the 1.5 or 1 PPR for every time they catch it, plus all the yards and touchdowns to go with it. So a guy like Andrew Hawkins is a good play as he was targeted 17.1% of the time last year. Part of that is lack of weapons, but he is getting ample opportunity to do well. Then you can really target home run hitters like Odell Beckham or Julio Jones as they can score points in big bunches and by saving at the other positions, it allows you to get the guys who can really make or break a team. This is also a position that has a lot of GPP and Cash game type players. For example Desean Jackson is a great tournament play because he can score a ton of points because he is a fly route receiver who can reach value on one catch. The problem is if he does not get that catch then he likely will not hit his value. All in all the skill positions is where I like to spend the money and try to look for guys who are cheaper with good matchups at the other positions.
Tight Ends – This is a position where I feel it's usually you spend big on an elite type like Graham, Gronk or Julius Thomas, or you go with a matchup based play. Sure there will be middle of the pack guys that do well, but say you can pick Jared Cook for a cheap price against the Chicago Bears who allowed 10.52 fantasy points per game to TE's. Now this is something to look at for every position but TE's simply are not as consistent as other positions in my opinion. Also look to target guys on teams that get into the redzone a lot. Most TE's are not going break off super long plays as they do not have the speed, so you are looking for those 5-20 yard TD's from them. Now most of these guys are on the better offsets, so they are more expensive, but look for defenses that give up a lot of yards and ones who have LB's that struggle to cover.
Kickers – There is not much to say about kickers other than it is a lot of luck most of the times. Sure there are guys who are more accurate and can boot it from longer, but they are totally dependent on the offense. I usually try to pick guys that are playing in domes because there is no weather, or pick ones on good charges because they are constantly getting in FG range. The good thing is that most of the kickers are very similar in price so even the better ones are not too much more than the “crappy” ones.
Defenses – Team defenses I believe is more of a matchup based area and not a position that I recommend spending a lot of money on especially for GPP's. The Seahawks or any other top defense / special teams is never a bad play, but I always target defenses that are playing poor offsets. This is usually headed by a QB who turns the ball over a lot, gets sacked a lot, or have WR's that can not get open. Turnover prone players are going to turn it over no matter who they are playing, even if they have a little more success overall. So targeting a team against say the Jets who have Geno Smith who throws a lot of interceptions, or picking a team against the Vikings because they give up a ton of sacks. You have to look and see where you can exploit matchups because they are good value plays here every week, even if the price difference between the top end and low end teams is not as big as other positions.