As the fantasy football season progresses, managers are now deeply entrenched in the battle for playoff positioning. Whether you’re vying for a top spot or looking to play spoiler, the right moves can make all the difference. 

Savvy managers are already casting an eye toward next season, laying the groundwork for future success. With that dual focus in mind, this guide provides strategic insights to help you strengthen your team for the immediate playoff push and establish a solid foundation for next year’s draft. 

Here’s how to navigate the latter stages of the current season while also setting the stage for building an unbeatable fantasy football team for future years.

The Playoff Push

Here are some tips to try and get an edge on the rest of the field and make the playoffs so you can make some noise and ultimately win your league’s championship.

Work the Waiver Wire Relentlessly

The waiver wire is where leagues are won and lost. Stay on top of injuries, depth chart movements, and emerging players – especially at the RB position where injuries pile up. For example, Kenneth Walker III’s injury in Seattle allows you to go hard after his replacement, Zach Charbonnet. Be ready to grab the next Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Dobbs, or Kyren Williams, all players who were buried on radars and now are fantasy difference-makers. Don’t be afraid to cut bait on underperforming early draft picks. Working the waiver wire at this point in the season is imperative to winning your league.

Make Trades to Upgrade

Know your trade deadline and be ready to make a move if you can. The wheeling and dealing shouldn’t be done just at draft time. Keep an eye out for lopsided teams in your league with a surplus at one position. If you’re strong at wide receiver but need a running back, look to deal with someone with the opposite predicament. The beauty of trades in fantasy football is that you can improve your own team while helping out another squad in the process. Don’t be shy about initiating trade talks, especially with the fantasy playoffs looming. An impact trade at the right time could tip the scales in your favor. Be sure to check FanDuel DFS odds when evaluating potential trade targets to ensure you’re maximizing value.

Study Your Matchups

During this crucial time of year, ensure you study up on which players make the most sense to start. For example, if you usually start Geno Smith over Gardner Minshew, but Smith is playing a stout defense like the 49ers and Minshew is playing a poor pass defense like the Buccaneers, it may make more sense to start Minshew. Also, look at your opponents’ quarterbacks. If they are starting Trevor Lawrence and you’re unsure whether to start Calvin Ridley or D.K. Metcalf at wide receiver, starting Ridley may make more sense since it can offset some of Lawrence’s points should he have a big game.

Pre-Draft Strategies

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year, especially if you’re struggling this season and the playoffs are a distant thought. Here are some tips to improve your chances of doing better next season.

Know Your League Settings

The first step is understanding your league’s scoring system and roster requirements. Is it full PPR (point per reception), half PPR, or standard scoring? How many flex positions are there? What are the starting requirements for QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, defenses, and kickers? The key positions and scoring settings will dictate what types of players you target in your draft. For example, full PPR leagues increase the value of high-volume pass catchers like Christian McCaffrey, Justin Jefferson, and Cooper Kupp. Make sure you have a crystal clear grasp of your league’s settings.

Know Your Opponents

If you’re in a competitive league, your opponents will have done their research too. That means you need to anticipate their moves and how it could affect your draft strategy. Is the person drafting before you a huge Giants fan and likely to take Saquan Barkley too early? Does the player after you love drafting quarterbacks in the 3rd round? Understanding your opponents’ tendencies helps you predict when players will come off the board. You can then adjust your queue and draft strategy accordingly. Knowledge is power!

Rank Your Top Players

Once you understand the league dynamics, create your own player rankings and tiers. Rank players not only based on their individual projections, but also factor in team situations like supporting cast and offensive schemes. For example, Jonathan Taylor may be the consensus #1 running back, but if the Colts’ offensive line takes a step back, he could disappoint at his lofty ADP (average draft position). Be ready to pivot if one of your targets lands in a murky situation. Having your own thoughtful rankings prepares you to make shrewd in-the-moment decisions on draft day.

Be Flexible In the Draft

No draft goes according to plan. Your top targets will get picked earlier than expected, and intriguing players will fall into your lap. Successful drafters remain nimble and don’t rigidly stick to their pre-draft rankings. If Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews go before you pick in the second round, which is where you wanted them, don’t reach for another tight end because you didn’t get them. Instead, grab another RB or WR and wait for a high-upside TE like Dalton Schultz or Dalton Kincaid in the later rounds, both of whom can provide a lot of value. The draft will unfold in unexpected ways, so be ready to think on your feet.

Balance Your Roster Construction

The key is crafting a well-rounded roster with upside players at every position. Don’t overload on RBs in the early rounds and wait too long to draft WRs. Be cognizant of positional scarcity and draft high-floor RBs and WRs early. Then target high-ceiling QBs and TEs in the mid-to-late rounds. Grab a couple lottery ticket rookie RBs late as well. Balancing your roster gives you the depth to sustain injuries and provides trade chips to upgrade weak spots during the season.

Take Some Calculated Risks

All championship teams need a few breakout performers to push them over the top. Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences on a couple upside players with league-winning potential. Target young RBs like Breece Hall and Bijan Robinson, along with up-and-coming wide receivers like Tank Dell and Chris Olave. If they pop, they could carry your squad. Also take a chance on some post-hype sleepers and injury bounce-back candidates. You only need a couple to hit to gain a significant advantage over the competition.

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