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Part 10 - Using the Free Agent Wire to Your Advantage

  Posted 6/29 by Will Grant, Exclusive to Footballguys.com


The draft may be over, and the season may have already started, but if you really want to succeed in Fantasy Football, you're going to keep looking to improve your team each and every week. For every team that derails their season with a poor draft, there is one that turns their season around with a free agency pickup Every year there are players that emerge from obscurity to dominate the fantasy scene. Last year players such as Samkon Gado and Ernest Wilford were terrific in-season discoveries. For every team that drafts a 'playoff quality' squad from the start, there is one that makes the playoffs because of someone they added during the regular season. Here are a couple of areas that you can focus on to find players who may have been overlooked by the other owners in your league.

Emerging Stars

It seems like every year, there is a rookie player who was drafted in the middle rounds that seems to explode onto the scene. These guys are often overlooked in a fantasy draft because they are just too risky to spend a roster slot on. Catch one of these rising stars early enough, and you can ride them right into the playoffs. Finding one of these guys creates one of the greatest feelings you can ever have in fantasy football: You feel great because you have outguessed every other owner in your league, and as your star continues to rise, every other owner in the league will be reminded of it! There is no better way to trash talk than to be massively successful!

Finding these guys is tricky, but certainly not impossible. You just have to look beyond the game stats. Look for a young player stuck behind a struggling veteran. In the 'win now' attitude of the NFL, loyalty to a veteran player only goes so far. A team may want to 'shake up' the lineup, and give the younger player a shot. If that younger player gets their opening, they may never look back. Pickup the backup BEFORE the veteran is replaced, and you'll be smiling all the way to the championship.

Rookies on Weak Teams

By the tenth week of the season, it is pretty clear which teams are not going to make the playoffs. With 16 teams in each conference, even teams with 9-7 records can find themselves watching the playoffs from home in January. Teams with less than four wins by week ten will probably not make the playoffs, and may begin to focus on next year. Younger players on these teams can start to see more playing time as the season winds down. Grabbing a rookie or two from one of these teams can give you a player whose stats will increase as the NFL season draws to a close. This kind of performance is perfect for fantasy owners looking for a player who can give them a boost during the playoffs.

To find these guys, you have to do a bit of mid-season projecting. Fantasy free agency typically closes around this time of the season. To see a team that may throw in the towel, you'll have to look at their remaining games. Try to project how they will do in weeks 10-13. A chain of losses during this stretch can kill a season for a team, and may lead a coach to call up the younger guys.

Season-Ending Injuries

It goes without saying that players get hurt in the NFL. Year after year, a guy who is untouchable as an NFL starter goes down to an injury and is finished for the season. When this happens, a backup player who would never see the field is suddenly cemented into the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Backup players don't hope that their teammates get hurt, but they make damn sure they are ready to take over if they are needed. As a fantasy football player, you need to be ready for this as well. Grabbing one of these guys can give you a solid starter that you would not have had without the injury. It can turn your season around if you have been struggling, or can take you deep into the playoffs if you are doing well. Taking advantage of an NFL player's injury may not be a 'feel good' way to improve your team, but it is a big part of the mid-season free agency activity, and should not be ignored.

A fantasy owner can take a good draft and ride it all the way to a very successful season. If the cards fall right, they might even take home the super bowl crown. But a true fantasy competitor is always looking to improve their team whenever they can. One key free agent pickup can turn a weak team into a strong one, or a strong one into a champion. Don't be afraid to hit the free agency wire early and often. It can pay huge dividends for your team in the end.