As exciting, unpredictable, and thrilling as the NFL playoff run and Super Bowl is, this can be a bittersweet time of year for dedicated Fantasy Managers. Before the postseason even begins, their Fantasy season has already ended. The Championships are behind them, the winners crowned, and it will be nine long months before the Fantasy season will begin again.
It’s no wonder players might be feeling at loose ends without a Fantasy team to manage; especially if they’ve become accustomed to planning their week around the NFL games and Fantasy. The research, strategizing, second-guessing, and keeping an eye on the latest injury reports can be time-consuming but that’s what makes it so fun and engaging.
Improving Your Knowledge During The Offseason
During the regular NFL season, Fantasy Week begins on Tuesday as Managers strategically plan their lineup, and focus on covering open roster spots for injured or Bye Week players by studying the waiver wire or targeting players on opposing teams to make trade offers.
On Wednesday, Fantasy Managers can put together their team lineup based on overnight processing of the waiver wire requests. Mid-week practice reports and published Start / Sit predictions from NFL experts are helpful tools for determining who to play that week and who to bench.
If a Fantasy Manager is off to a great start after the Thursday night game, then the only thing left to do on Friday, is check practice reports for remaining players and watch for any doubtful, (D) questionable (Q), or DNP (Did Not Practice) designations before the Sunday and Monday night games.
Looking Ahead To Next Season
But with Fantasy season over, there is a huge void in their lives. How do die-hard fans fill the time in between the remaining post-season games and the endless off-season months?
One way is to start building a Fantasy draft “target list” now. If they’ve been paying attention during the current NFL season, they probably have a pretty good idea of the superior players to go after in the first and second rounds. But this is also a good time to think about who else to draft for their team.
Watch For Emerging Talent In Postseason Games
Postseason games are a great opportunity to spot emerging young players. In the critical moments of a game, when the team’s superstar receivers and running backs will be drawing suffocating coverage, an offensive coordinator might opt for a big move with a lesser-known player. If the player makes that reception and demonstrates surprising speed or gains impressive yards after the catch, he’ll likely be part of the team’s future and someone to watch in the offseason.
Another element to watch for in postseason play is identifying a team’s strengths and weaknesses. What are their greatest needs in the upcoming draft or free agency?
What to Look For In the Draft
The upcoming NFL draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit. The draft is one of the best clues to determine the direction of a team’s upcoming season. A good draft can make or break a season. Speaking of the draft in Detroit, last year’s Detroit Lion’s draft was roundly criticized by numerous sports writers, one of whom just apologized for his “F” grade.
Despite what critics may have thought at the time, the Lion’s General Manager, Brad Holmes, and Head Coach, Dan Campbell, knew exactly who they were targeting in the draft and their strategy paid off brilliantly.
Fantasy Managers might want to pay attention to which players are drafted to fill immediate needs by assuming a starting role. For example, three of the Lion’s picks from last season, Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta, and Brian Branch made significant contributions to their starting lineup and the team’s astonishing success this year. A team’s draft selection not only reveals their chosen player but could reveal their possible plans for a veteran team member.
For example, if a team has a talented but highly compensated veteran running back and they draft a top-rated rookie running back, how will that impact their offensive plan for the upcoming season? Are they merely looking down the road to future seasons or will the entire offense shift to a ‘running back by committee’ scheme? Does the veteran player suddenly become trade capital to free up the salary cap?
What to Learn From Free Agency Signings
Keeping an eye on free-agency signings is another great way to gain insight into a team’s strategic plan. Is the free agent signed to the team a good fit? Does he add a new dimension to their roster? Is there good chemistry with other teammates? Finally, how will he adapt to the new environment and coaching staff?
Another element that can impact a team’s performance is a change in the coaching staff. No one expected the hiring of rookie head coach, DeMeco Ryans, and newly signed rookie Quarterback, C.J. Stroud, to have the kind of impact the pair enjoyed in Houston this season. Not only did they make the playoffs, but they won their wild-card game against the Cleveland Browns, demonstrating there’s a great deal for the Texans to build on in the coming year.
By paying close attention to the signings and activities following the end of their Fantasy playoffs, successful Managers can use the off-season as the beginning of their next season.
Main Image: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports