PICTURE THIS: YOU ARE RECLINING IN YOUR FAVORITE CHAIR, basking in the brilliance of a perfect 2009 fantasy football draft. You've committed endless hours to research and recon, all in the name of getting amazing value over 16 rounds—and it was totally worth it. By all means, give yourself a nice pat on the back. Life is good.
Now snap out of it. Not to be a buzz kill, but the draft is just one building block toward a fantasy title. In my experience owners go through a 40% roster turnover during the season. So unless you've managed to secure Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Peyton Manning from one draft (and they all remain healthy), then your journey to fantasy glory has only just begun.
But fear not. Here are nine in-season strategies that will help you turn Week 1 talent into a Week 16 title.
1 AVOID STARTING NON-superstar running backs against the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings. In '08 Baltimore allowed four rushing touchdowns (and 3.6 yards per carry); Minnesota and Pittsburgh yielded an NFL-best 3.3 yards per carry. Do you really want to mess with that?
2 ALWAYS PLAY STARTING quarterbacks, running backs and receivers against the Broncos, Chiefs, Lions and Seahawks. Last year Denver intercepted an AFC-low six passes, Kansas City had a league-low 10 sacks, Detroit surrendered a stunning 404.4 yards per game, and Seattle allowed an NFL-worst 4,149 total passing yards. Take advantage.
3 WHEN CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO QUARTERBACKS of the same skill level, always start the one playing in less treacherous weather. Keep in mind that wind, such as at the blustery Meadowlands, is worse than rain, snow or mere cold.
4 DON'T FALL INTO THE TRAP OF OVERVALUING NON-superstars who are playing in prime-time games. History shows that every Ladell, LaMont and Laveranues is just as likely to play well on Sunday at 1 p.m. as he is on Monday night at 8:30.
5 WHEN CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO PLAYERS OF THE same skill level, always go with the hot hand. Overthinking these things can bite you in the butt.
6 DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF THE SEASON, DON'T hesitate to add a productive back or receiver to the mix—even if it means cutting a backup tight end, kicker or defense. And don't be scared off by the fact that said addition won't necessarily crack your starting lineup. Your mission early on should be to build a team full of interchangeable parts and tradable assets. Le'Ron McClain went from waiver-wire pickup to fantasy star after Week 1 last season, and only those owners who were forward-thinking—or desperate—enough to make the move benefited. Which isn't to say you should grab every single Tatum Bell or Drew Carter that comes out of nowhere early on. Just be open to the idea of dropping a second tight end for a lesser-known back who runs exceptionally well to daylight.
7 ON THE SUBJECT OF SPECIAL TEAMS, there is no excuse for owning more than one kicker for even three consecutive weeks. Kickers are a dime-a-dozen asset and should be handled as such. For example, pretend you own the Chargers' Nate Kaeding, who has a Week 5 bye. Before the Week 4 rosters are set, grab an additional kicker who should fare well in Week 5. Stash the replacement for a week before starting him in Week 5, and then drop him immediately afterward. This way you don't part with Kaeding and you've beaten to the punch your Week 5 opponent, who, if he were on top of his game, would have taken the same waiver-wire kicker to trip you up.