Re-writing the laws of fantasy football for 2012

So with a sigh and a shrug of our shoulders, we’re getting ready to turn the page on the 2011 fantasy season and look ahead to 2012. If you’re playing for a championship this week, don’t worry, all week long we’ll have what you need to help you in that battle. But regardless of where your season is going or has ended up, it’s time to both look back, and look ahead, with some thoughts I’d like you to take into the off-season with you.

1) Don’t play your league’s championship the final week of the regular season. Less than 20 percent of leagues do it this way, and it’s unfair to potentially have to play Christian Ponder at QB because the Packers are resting Aaron Rodgers. You know I feel strongly about this because this case actually helped me to a championship. In 2008 one of my teams was playing for a title against a team who had Peyton Manning, but since he wasn’t going to play an awful lot the owner had no choice but to start Seneca Wallace at QB. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing backflips on this one but it still felt a little dirty and wrong. Thankfully, I won by too many points for it to matter, but it still takes away from the shine of a championship matchup.

2) Make sure you get an elite QB for next season. Yes, there are a lot of good fantasy quarterbacks out there. But there are only a select few who have 25-plus PPG potential. Those guys are must-gets for next season, even if you’re spending a first-round pick on them. Why? Because RBs are unreliable, so don’t take them in the first round of your draft. Teams are winning right now because they’re playing the quarterbacks who are rolling up points (and throw Tony Romo in that conversation, too). You want to roll the dice on RBs later on. Sure, they can be special, but they can also give you six-point days and get hurt more frequently. Truly great QBs are always good for close to 20 points per week. That’s how you win now. Be a smart owner, and you’ll find RBs as the season progresses. It’s impossible to find a lights-out QB in Week 8, but RBs? They keep showing up – whether it’s DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Marion Barber, Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch, etc.

3) Lobby for a point-change for QBs in 2012 in your league. In most leagues, TD passes are worth four points. It’s time to change. I’m a forward-thinker, a trend-setter, and ahead of my time. OK, maybe I’m none of these things but I believe all touchdowns are created equal. A passing TD is worth just as much as a rushing TD and it should be reflected as such in fantasy. For the longest time, the points were skewed towards running backs. Teams didn’t throw the football all that much, and every team only had two WRs that were worth owning. Each team had a RB who carried the ball 25 to 30 times a game. So they were exclusively drafted early on, and were the most valuable positions in fantasy. Now it’s changed. The NFL is a passing league. Quarterback is the most important position on the field. A 30-yard TD pass shouldn’t be worth less than a 1-yard TD plunge. There’s a reason why you only play one QB yet two or three RBs. I realize this would make the quarterback THE most important player in fantasy, but if you did it for the RBs, you can do it for the QBs.

4) Make defenses and kickers the last picks of your draft. Don’t get all draft-day crazy and reach up for the Texans or Ravens defense next season, or think you’re outsmarting everyone by taking Jason Hanson or Mike Nugent in the eighth round. Both of these positions are unpredictable, and you’ll probably wind up waiving every defense and kicker you take at some point during the season anyway to get a better replacement. Speaking of waiving players…

5) Don’t fall in love with your draft picks. That means don’t be afraid to waive someone who hasn’t performed for five or six weeks just because you drafted him. When you need to turn the page, do it sooner rather than later, or you’ll miss out on players like Cam Newton or Laurent Robinson. When a QB makes his debut with 400 yards passing? Get rid of your backup and go grab him. Do me a favor. Take a look at the roster you drafted. Then compare it to the roster you finished the end of the season with. Say you have a total roster of 15 players. By the end of the season, if you’re an owner who’s been into it and trying to tweak your team, you will have less than half of your draftees still on your roster. At the LEAST, you will replace: one QB, one kicker, one defense, two RBs, three WRs and possibly a TE over the course of 13 weeks. Don’t be afraid of cutting bait early.

See Jason Smith on “NFL Fantasy Live,” airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the “NFL RedZone” channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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