“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” - Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War'
It is commonplace in fantasy football to become engrossed in the shiny bastion of self-determination in the face of all challenges. I alone will be the master of my fate in this season. The moves I make will be the undoing of anyone who stands against me and it is by this solo strategy that I will be champion.
What many owners forget as their attention is pulled in 10 different ways during a regular season week of relentless cheatsheets, expert opinions, and injury updates, is that oh-so-underrated aspect of fantasy football: knowing your opponent.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it, but honestly how many of us can admit that we have taken the time to truly dig down on the tendencies of not just ourselves, but our league rivals?
‘Well, I know Johnny likes to take running backs in the first round…’
It’s a start, but it is merely a peek through the keyhole into the mindset of the owner, not a hard and fast rule we can follow to glean actionable information that can ultimately help us succeed.
It is the unexploited edge that fantasy owners have had on the tip of their tongues for years, but have been unable to articulate. Know your enemy. After all, human beings – and by extension, fantasy owners – are predictable by their very nature. Taking the time out to know your rivals is like finding that 50 dollars in your back pocket that you didn’t even know you’d been missing.
With rookie drafts in full flow, finding a chink in the armor can be critical to building the team you want.
To dig into the many complexities of knowing your league rivals, the Footballguys brain trust has shared its thoughts under a series of subheadings, listed below.
- How to deal with tricky owners
- How to exploit overzealous owners
- Traps you should not fall into when trading
- General advice on discerning behavioral patterns
- Your personal weaknesses and how you can use that perceived weakness against others
Let’s take one at a time, beginning with those tricky owners.
How to deal with tricky owners
Daniel Simpkins – “Knowing what was motivating him helped me to respond”
It’s always helpful for me to keep this question in mind when dealing with this type of owner: ‘What is motivating them?’ When you can answer that question, it can help you to deal accordingly with that owner.
I remember when I was the commissioner of a league and this guy was being a jerk to the whole league but was particularly belligerent when dealing with me. I set boundaries and let him know that verbal abuse wouldn’t be tolerated, but I also talked to him on the side and tried to find out more about why he always came off as so angry.
It turns out that he was in medical school, was getting married soon, and was just under a lot of stress. Understanding where he was at that moment helped me to have the empathy I needed to have. It still didn’t end well; he ended up leaving the league in a huff later. Yet knowing what was motivating him helped me to respond to him in a way that was helpful to both him and to me at that time.
Sigmund Bloom – “Some trade out of boredom”
It is very important to understand the personality of your competition so you can establish a professional relationship that facilitates trades. Some like to do the mating dance of counter, counter, counter and never lead with their best offer. Some never make a deal unless they are the ones initiating the trade talks. Some trade out of boredom. Some overreact to bad games. Some overreact to good games.
Hopefully, your league will stand the test of time and you'll be building a file and relationship that will help your team in the future. Engaging in trade talks that you feel will lead nowhere can still be fruitful as a way to gain information on the mindset of your competition.
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