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The Fantasy Bandwagon -- Knowing When to Get On and Off
Joe Levit
July 28, 2005

Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, jumping on the bandwagon was a terrific activity to pursue. It meant following the crowd – in parades, at political rallies or around the circus – to wherever the excitement or entertainment was. The bandwagon itself usually consisted of a horse-drawn wagon that housed a musical band meant to attract attention.

In fantasy football, the bandwagon is a growing or diminishing consensus of opinion about particular players, and their perceived values. It is a game of hype and production. When everyone is off a player’s bandwagon, or jumping off, it is because that player is not seen to be valuable, or is quickly losing value. When everyone is jumping on somebody’s bandwagon, it means his value is rising.

In fantasy football, jumping on the bandwagon can often be a necessary activity, but as with a lot of things in life – asking for a raise, proposing marriage – timing is everything. In real life if you leap at a bad time, you may end up disappointed or with a muddy backside, but in fantasy football, the value you lose could cost you a shot at the playoffs.

Ironically, in fantasy football, the fuller the bandwagon gets, the less profitable it becomes to hitch to that specific player. This seems counterintuitive, but is really the underlying principle to good business – the tried and true “buy low, sell high” idea. If you can acquire or trade a player for a bargain, then you are ahead of the game.

Below are the key moments to step onto and leap off of the fantasy bandwagon. With each moment is an example of how it could be carried out this season. Follow these principles and find out how quickly the multitude will be following your every move.

Add a player before they break out

Anytime after your draft when you are able, take the time to look over the free players you could add to improve your team. Do this each week of the season, and you will be able to grab at least someone who can help your fantasy squad, before any other owner and no matter where you rank in the waiver order. If you notice that an overlooked second receiver or a backup running back is beginning to see the ball more, add them on speculation, and drop that mediocre veteran wideout who you drafted for depth but never start anyway.

The Principle in Action: Out in Arizona, Marcel Shipp begins the season as the starter, and all of the guys who drafted J.J. Arrington predicting he would be the top guy drop him when he gets only two carries the first two games. You notice that his yards per carry average is very good, and add him the week before he gets seven carries for 45 yards and a score. You may not be able to start him yet, but you added him before anyone else bothered to. You jumped on his bandwagon at the right time.

Trade for a player before he posts a huge game

Most drafted players can be obtained in a trade even though the owner thought enough of him to select him in the first place. Maybe you have a hunch about Larry Fitzgerald this year, or think Charles Rogers can actually stay healthy and live up to his potential. If you believe in a player, go get him before he proves you right.

The Principle in Action: You notice that Atlanta has a few tough matchups to start the season and you know about Warrick Dunn’s proclivity to either break down physically or tail off statistically. You trade for T.J. Duckett in week four and he begins to get all the goal-line carries, and an increasing number of looks between the twenties, providing you a valuable pickup and a seat at the head of the bandwagon.

Resist the temptation to trade for a player right after they have a huge week

It can be difficult to lay off a player who has just had an enormous fantasy day, something in the range of four touchdowns rushing and 176 yards, or 208 receiving yards and three scores, but it is almost always the correct play to make. Consider two points.

First, the player has likely just had his best output of the season, maybe his career, meaning that his value to your team was just at its peak – when he wasn’t on your team. Second, the proud owner is going to be reluctant to part with the player after his ostentatious outing, so the trade it takes to obtain him may be phenomenal, making it a poor deal.

The Principle in Action: It’s week six of the NFL season, and at home against Cleveland Jamal Lewis rattles off a 200-yard rushing day. Your running backs have been playing well, but nothing like that. Still, you leave that trade on the table, seeing that Lewis faces good defenses on the road three of the next four weeks.

Trade away a star player right after a big week

The quick sale of studs is the exact opposite of the previous principle. If a player on your team goes absolutely berserk in the scoring column, it’s time to tender and test trade offers. Never be so attached to someone that you are willing to pass up a chance to make your squad better. Remember that the value of your player is at its zenith, and that he is only an injury away from being nearly worthless to you.

The Principle in Action: This time Jamal Lewis is on your team, and when he hits the 200-yard mark you listen to some trade offers. The deal you select gives you a slightly lesser back, but a serious upgrade at wide receiver and tight end, making your whole team stronger.

Trade for a good player right after they are injured

When a player’s wheel is dinged up but not broken, that often signals a good time to hop on the bandwagon. Some players are very good at playing through pain, and others heal very quickly. The reason this trade is so effective is that you can often get superstars for well below book price. Deuce McAllister hurt his ankle early last year, but played fine once he got back. If you grabbed him when some owners thought his season was shot, you likely had a huge bargain on hand down the stretch.

The Principle in Action: Randy Moss pulls a hamstring in his first game as a Raider, and it seems severe. His owner has nobody else of note at wide receiver. You offer him two other top-thirty wide receivers to start on his team right now for the chance to start Moss later in your own lineup. The owner accepts because he wants to get out of the gates hot. You win some and lose some until halfway through the season when Moss gets back. From there, your team is nearly unstoppable and you roar into the league playoffs.

Hold on to your injured star

Now is the absolute worst time to unload your stud. He has a physical ailment, he is being replaced in the lineup and he is sitting on your bench. What you get for him is not going to equal the draft pick you paid for him. If you trade him at all, wait until he is on the mend and can command a higher price.

The Principle in Action: Terrell Owens is forced out of the third preseason game with an ankle injury. Instead of taking the offer that would net you a passable starter at wide receiver and a decent backup running back, you hold onto your star. As he did leading up the Super Bowl this year, Owens gets back ahead of schedule in week 2 and feasts on some easy, early-season defenses, giving you a great start with a 4-0 record.

The fantasy bandwagon plays its song through every fantasy league each year. If you know when to get on and off, you’ll be able to listen to the sweet sound of success throughout the fantasy schedule, rather than trying to catch up to the crowd.