Does your fantasy team share an unwanted similarity with the Buffalo Bills? Was the last time you made the postseason in the height of the dot-com era?
If so, fantasy sports expert Dave Richard of CBSSports.com offered a few tips on how to break that drought this season.
"The thing that I always tell people is you have to pay attention. Fantasy football isn't won just on Sundays," Richard said. "You have to review, at the very least, the box scores of every single game. You have to stay on top of the news.
"I've never seen anyone win a fantasy league by drafting, setting their lineup and then just kicking back and waiting. The people who tend to lose consistently at fantasy are the ones who do that."
Knowing what's up with your players is only part of it, though. Successful fantasy squads also need to closely pay attention to the players who are free agents in your league. Those waiver wire claims, Richard says, are crucial to building a winning team.
"It's basically a draft every week," Richard said. "You have to pay attention to players who are going to be impactful free agents in your league. You have to pick them up. I always like to have one roster spot as a revolving door. You know how maybe the last two or three spots on an NFL roster, there's constant turnover, as teams try to find whatever they need for that week. … I think a fantasy lineup needs to be the same way.
"One spot in your lineup should consistently be a rotating group of players who you hope to just catch at the right time, so when they break out, you've got them."
To do that, you've got to be willing to part with players at any time. Even if you used a high draft pick on him. Even if you have his jersey hanging in your closet.
"If there's a guy you drafted and you had high expectations for and for whatever reason it's just not happening, don't wait," Richard said. "Find somebody who you do look at and say, ‘well I think he does have a chance to keep playing this way and keep doing this well.' Then you can make a move."
That requires a constant review of your roster for players who are underperforming.
"If there's a guy on my team, I don't care how much I like him now – I'm a big fan of [Washington Redskins rookie running back] Alfred Morris right now – but two weeks from now if Alfred Morris isn't doing anything and I look on the waiver wire and T.J. Graham has caught touchdowns in the Bills' first two games, I'm making a switch," Richard said.
So which position on your roster should particularly keep your attention? Richard believes it starts at running back.
"I know that there's a lot being made about how Aaron Rodgers and Rob Gronkowski and Calvin Johnson were the players that helped people win their fantasy leagues last year. Sure, they produced every week, but having a running back that you can start every week and feel good about and not have to worry about … that's a real luxury in this game," he said. "I feel like they're the biggest part of an engine of a team."
That engine can backfire, though, given the number of two-back systems used in the NFL today. Take Pittsburgh, for example. The Steelers will start the season with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer splitting carries in place of Rashard Mendenhall, who's coming back from ACL surgery.
"We could strap Mike Tomlin to a lie detector machine and say, ‘who's going to be your best running back this season' — or in Week One against Denver — and he's not even going to know until the game starts going because coaches like to use both backs and then in the second half they'll ride the hot hand," Richard said. "A team is going to use two running backs for reasons that are very valid for them, but they stink for fantasy owners, because you just don't know what you're going to get.
"It takes a lot of foresight and a lot of good fortune to get a good game out of a running back who splits carries, and to start him all in the same week."
To better your odds of that, Richard suggests stocking your roster with backs. Even if you didn't go heavy on them in your draft, add them on the waiver wire after Week One.
"You want to get as many running backs as you can. I like having six," he said. "If I've got one really good running back and then the other five running backs are just guys I can choose from each week to start, and feel good about it, I like that strategy a lot.
"Having a plan for running backs is important, and the first part of that is having a lot of them."
Do that, and your playoff drought could come to an end this season.
Handicapping the Bills
Richard also handicapped Buffalo's fantasy prospects for the coming season, starting with running back Fred Jackson.
"I don't think they re-signed him to split carries 50-50 with C.J. Spiller," Richard said. "He's definitely worth a top-25 pick. … I think [coach] Chan [Gailey] loves him."
Richard has no concerns about Jackson's age.
"He's got about 1,500 to 1,600 career carries. That's if you include what he did in the indoor football leagues that he played in. In my opinion, he still has plenty of gas. He can probably give Buffalo another two good years. It doesn't bother me that he's 31 at all; I think he's going to be solid."
Richard also likes Stevie Johnson as a reliable No. 2 fantasy receiver, saying he wouldn't be surprised to see him put up another 1,000-yard season.
"Everybody else in Buffalo is a sleeper," he said. "I'm looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick as a possible late-round pick or a guy you can just snag off waivers. I'm looking at Scott Chandler as a guy you might be able to claim off waivers after a couple weeks."
Richard is also a believer in the Bills' revamped defense.
"It's obvious that their pass rush is going to be much better," he said. "I've been a big fan of their secondary for a long time. I would recommend using the Bills' defense, not [as] one of the first defenses, but certainly a top-12 defense."