Hansen on Strategy

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 9/13/13 

It’s been a busy week, as I continue to try to catch up. It’s a rough transition from the preseason to the regular season, one that takes up to 2-3 weeks to recover from and get into a groove.
As you may have noticed, we’ve made a lot of changes this year, and we’ve added and tweaked some things, so it’s been an even tougher this year. I’m very happy where we are right now with the advice and content we’ve been putting out there, but it’s been a rough week, which is the main reason I’m two days late with this column.
First up, I mentioned this a little while back, but maybe you missed it. For the last two years, I’ve worked remotely from our staff, since I moved across the state. But this year, we’re all in the same office again finally, and once we get rolling, I think you’re going to notice things will be cranked out even better than in year’s past (and this week).
I think a good first column for the year is always a primer or refresher on how to best utilize the site, and that’s especially true this year, one in which we’ve made a lot of changes. I have a lot to get to, so this could be a little long.
For one, the new site design. We’ve had very good feedback on it, so I hope it’s easier to find stuff this year. It should be, since everything is arranged neatly and logically. If you’re looking for an article or rankings, there’s one main section of articles with different types of content tabs, and you can’t miss. Next, all our interactive stuff, like podcasts, our Twitter Feed, and the poll. All the news is at the top, which I’ll get to below. The main point in terms of finding articles is that you can see them all listed by date and order of publishing if you simply view the main “Articles” section, as it defaults to the tab that shows everything we put out listed by date, with the most recent items at the top. If you want to see specific types of content, it’s broken down by general articles, rankings & projections, strategy, IDP, etc.
Another thing I wanted to cover at the top is our new NFL News Feed. As I mentioned previously, this addition was not planned in the spring, so we were unable to fully integrate it into the site. But otherwise, we now have a steady stream of NFL News updates coming 24/7, and it makes it a lot easier for us to display more current (up-to-the minute oftentimes) fantasy headlines. It’s helped us in that it’s freed us up more to really delve deeper into the game, which has enhanced our overall content. I’ve always said we weren’t a news site, and what better partner for this project than KFFL? I’ve known the founders of KFFL for 17 years, and, in fact, the very first contributor to that site in terms of analysis was yours truly, back in 1996. Again, we got a late start, so we’re not utilizing all the benefits of the feed, but we will shortly.
Also, we’ve submitted our new MyGuru app to Apple a week ago, and it’s finally been updated, so check your phones for the new version. The Droid app is not far behind at all, and, in fact, we expect that next week. Once again, we bit off a little more than we could chew on some developmental things, which is why it’s late. But these apps are a major upgrade to the current app.
Note: As of 9/13/13 we still have a few issues to iron out in terms of articles posting to the app and news items, but those will be worked out soon.
Just keep in mind that, for most of the personalized information, you need to have a team (s) set up in MyGuru. Here’s what you need to know about MyGuru:
  1. First head on over to MyGuru.
  2. Scroll down a little and create a team by naming one.
  3. Once you name a team, you can add your players, set up your lineup requirements, and specify your scoring system.
That’s all you need to know. When you do this, you can then view customized info for your players, see your team’s scoring system as a pull-down option within projections and all of our tools.
For more information on all the tools we have, you should check out our Site Help page. We have a lot and most of it is tied into MyGuru, but we certainly have a lot of tools that even a casual user can take advantage of.  Some of them of note are: Points Allowed, SOS, History Tool, Red Zone Report, and our Player Comparison Tool, which is really awesome. 
One other note on MyGuru and our tools: We listened to the people this year and we changed our default scoring system to PPR. This was requested by hundreds, so we put up a poll and PPR beat non-PPR with 64% of the vote. Granted, I know people don’t like change, but the reality is we were doing the majority of our subscribers (PPR people) a disservice by using Non-PPR as our default system. Even if the percentage is more like 55-45 in favor of PPR, I do believe the scoring system has crossed over the 50% mark in fantasy football leagues; it certainly has in competitive ones.
Of course, it’s really a non-issue for non-PPR people because they can create a Non-PPR scoring system in about 3 seconds, if they go here.
Again, I’m glossing over some other benefits to the site that you can learn about on our Site Help page, but I wanted to focus this week on mainly our written content, and how to consume that in a way that will be most beneficial, so let’s cover our publishing week and cover everything we’ll do over a seven-day period during the season.
Let’s start with Monday:
On a Monday, we’re typically breaking down all the digits from the Sunday action, focusing mostly on pass targets, snap counts, catch rates, and red-zone utilization. We’re also getting started on watching the games. I’ll usually get 2-3 games watched in on a Monday, and that’s something I haven’t done in the past. For the most part, I’ve watched games while writing, so I haven’t focused on them. Sometimes, I’d have games on twice in the background but with always an ear and an eye open. This year, we’re actually watching every snap with no distractions. It’s time-consuming, but I think it is helping.
What’s ironic is that my time has been used up more than usual, so some things like this column haven’t been quite as substantial the last 1-2 years. For right or wrong, I’ve been spending more time studying the matchups and trying to get more things right within the league than discussing strategy. I feel like I had almost everything covered from a strategy perspective going back the previous 5-6 years. What I need to do is go back in the off-season and archive some of the highlights onto one big article, which I will do.
But back to Monday, which is a very busy and long day for us. The first thing that comes out is my Waiver Wire report, which is usually posted very late Sunday night or very early Monday morning if I’m dying. I’ll update that report all day Monday, and there’s a lot of updating to do. Meanwhile, we’re also compiling our massive Stock Watch report from week that was. I believe this week’s was one of our longest ever. If you’re looking for a quick but totally comprehensive look at the events of the week, this is where you go. You’ve all seen the stock market analogy used for fantasy football; the difference with this column is I’m pretty sure I invented it back in 1995. I could be wrong, but I don’t know if you’ll find a longer-running column in the fantasy sports industry that this report, which appeared on from 1996 (when it was called ESPNET SPORTSZONE) to 2003.
Those two reports are huge, and we also put up early in the morning our weekly look Inside the Boxscore. Not really trying to brag, but I do believe we were also the first fantasy site to track pass targets, starting in the late-90s. This report also includes catch rate information, red zone and deep targets, and more. It’s a nice first look at the week’s numbers each Monday morning.
These three reports are massive, and I believe this week they totaled about 30,000. But for the most part, we’re talking only small paragraphs on certain players, so you can pick and choose what you want.
On Monday nights we’ll obviously have the NFL inactives on our NFL News Feed, and we’ll highlight them as needed on the homepage.
This is also a very, very busy day. We start on Monday night looking over our Season Projections, which are released on this day. It takes a while to review all the comments (I know we don’t perfectly hit all 300+ of them every week) and, of course, to look at the rankings and projections. These are, by the way, projected weekly averages for the rest of the season. In other words, the numbers you see are what we project the players to average each week for the rest of the year.
As you’ll see below, we do so much on Tuesdays that there’s no way we can also do projections for the coming week that day. We get requests for it, but ironically we’re too busy updating our Waiver Wire report and Season Projections, which are the two items that are more important for the long-term, which is what you’re usually looking at when making player pickups. For defensive teams, we do the report on Tuesday if you’re looking for an option for that week, and we do cover defenses in the WW report and we have a new Defensive Report I’ll get to below.
What we do have on Tuesday is our Statistical Projections, which are player rankings and projections for the coming week that go 100% off what the numbers say. This includes your specific scoring systems, and there are a lot of other functions to this tool that you can check out. But this is an early look the matchups and you can clearly see the best options ranked in your scoring system by the numbers.
We also do the Monday Night Wrap-up, which was double in size this week due to the two MNF games, which didn’t help our schedule this week as we continue to adjust to the regular season from the preseason. That will cover any Stock Watch entries, plus the Inside the Boxscore info from the Monday Night game.
We also, on Tuesday, put out quite possibly our most-popular article, our Players to Trade and Trade For. I noticed two years ago that this column was a lot more popular than I expected, so I started spending more time thinking about our weekly options, and I feel it was much more accurate last year because of that. Hopefully, that will continue. I think we’re off to a good start.
New for 2013, we rolled out our new Keeper/Dynasty Watch, which debuted this week. I feel like we always cover young and emerging keepers throughout the site, but I do understand that committing to a weekly column forces us to pay closer attention to these potential keeper pickups, and I’m sure readers will appreciate that. Another new addition on Tuesday is the Defensive Report. With the fantasy defenses being a complete joke recently, it makes more sense than ever to play the matchups each week, if possible, for your fantasy D, so we now cover the best weekly “streaming” options for the week, and we do it early in the week to catch your Waiver Wires.
We also update Depth Charts, publish our IDP Waiver Wire report, and our Joe Dolan and Matt Camp are now hosting a quick WW podcast every Tuesday. We put links up for these podcasts on Twitter or Facebook, and on the site. If you use iTunes, just subscribe to our podcasts and you’ll get them all. We’re now doing four a week, the most ever.
Finally, we’ll do a News and Notes update (but check our News Feed page for continuous updates) and a Tuesday Practice Report for the two Thursday night football games.
So Tuesday’s a big day, and it’s even bigger when you consider that I start looking, that evening, at this monster: Weekly Projections. When I said we couldn’t get Weekly Projections out on Tuesday, I never said we weren’t starting them that day. I take about 7-8 hours a week just on the offensive projections, and they’re obviously tweaked several times a day right up until kickoff on Sunday.  
We’ve got the “In the Loop” Podcast every Wednesday afternoon, with Matt Camp and Joe Dolan, where you can call in and ask questions. Again, if you use iTunes, just subscribe to our podcasts.
We have several other articles that are rolled out on a Wednesday, like NFL Insider and our guy Adam Caplan’s RB Handcuff article, which is always changing. We may start getting these on Tuesday again if Caplan, now an ESPN TV star, can throw us peons a bone and do it earlier in the week. Wednesday is a big day if for no other reason than the fact that we put out our Snap Report, which is must-reading for the truly hardcore and addicted. You’ll find all the snap numbers, plus all the trends for all 32 teams. Obviously, our Production Tracker report is a big one on Wednesday midweek as well. This report gives you all the numbers that each defense is giving up to each position and goes inside the numbers for insight on specific trends that we can take advantage of with lineup decisions. We also cover all the matchup history in our History Report, which goes back only through 2012, since we know things change quickly in the league (although I think it’s still worth looking at going back only one year). Of course, everyone’s favorite algorithm is featured in Mike Horn’s Kicker Recommendations, where subscribers consistently pluck productive kickers out of thin air and off the WW. Starting Week Three, I’m even getting Mike involved with the actual projections, so they more closely follow his mysterious formula.
And for the early evening and evening hours, we’re updating Weekly Projections while posting our Wednesday Practice Report. Our exclusive reports set the standard for injury reporting in this business.
Also, Wednesday is the day I will typically roll out my Hansen on Strategy, this column, which is obviously late this week (I’m still trying to catch up from the preseason-regular season transition). This column has been shorter the last 1-2 years than it’s been in the past. That’s due to a few factors. As I mentioned above, I’m spending more time than usual watching and analyzing the games and the matchups, since ultimately the most important thing is to have a firm grasp on them for lineup decisions and weekly analysis. We also have a lot of things I used to address in this column produced elsewhere, like the offensive lines. Also, I’m a little behind this week but will be posting all the close calls and near TDs each week in my blog. But as mentioned above, the column simply isn’t as expansive because I feel like I’ve covered so many strategy angles in the past that it’s repetitive. What I will do in the off-season is go back and read the last 4-5 years and find all the strategy stuff that is generally evergreen and will put that in one large article.
We’re up against it now, since we’ve handled all the early and mid-week stuff, which is great and all, but the real heavy lifting for us is still to come with our extensive game and player previews for Friday. I start out the day on the Matchup Podcast, which really helps me gain focus on all the matchups. I think it’s fair to say this podcast and all our podcasts are pretty darn good.
We also put out our Staff Picks, and I know we do these late in the week. I’m sorry, but I would prefer to have time to actually watch all the games before picking them for the next week, and that can’t be done earlier in the week. Ultimately, we’re happy to do it but we started it due to reader request, so it’s not exactly high up on the priority list compared to other more important things. I do see that 3000+ people accessed that article on Thursday, so we will try to get it up sooner going forward, by like 10-11am.
I always try on Thursday to update the Waiver Wire report, so you can look for that on Thursday. A big addition this year is Lance Zierlein’s OL Report. Lance is a friend I’ve known for a little while and he’s grown up around offensive lines, as his dad has been an OL coach for decades and is actually working now for the Arizona Cardinals. This column is absolutely fantasy gold and is required reading every Thursday if you really want to know what’s going on for all teams up front and take a look at the matchups. We use a lot of his stuff in our Friday game/player previews.
We also have rolled out another new column this year, the Weekly Bargains. For those who play salary cap games like our Guru Challenge and at our partner site, we cover all the cheap options we like for the week. This is something we’ve always done, obviously, covering the best “reaches” or matchup plays of the week, but it’s more focused and specific for these two cap games, and I’m sure all the recommendations are strong for any salary cap game out there.
Obviously, we also cover the Thursday game in our Thursday Game Center, and we continue to update our Weekly Projections as injury info comes in. In fact, we’ll update them right up until the Thursday kickoff, as we did last night for Week Two. Also on Thursday afternoon/early evening, we’re updating our next round of practice reports in our Thursday Practice Reports, which offers up another status report on all the week’s injured players.
On Thursday, Tom Simons always does his Kick Returner Previews, for those who are interested in return guys.
This all leads us to the big game-preview day. Obviously, our focus late in the week is all the matchups, player previews, etc.
Hopefully you’ve noticed, but we’ve made some changes to the format of our Weekly Game Center and player capsules for the week. In the past, this project has simply been too overwhelming and has included way too much repetition. Because of this, it was simply too long. Looking at our traffic numbers, our readers weren’t exactly reading these that much – yet we’ve been spending the majority of our time writing them.
So this year, we’ve condensed them, and we’ve added more about the teams and the matchups, in general, which makes it easier for us to see and present the big picture without being overwhelmed with all the minutia. Rather than adding every little tidbit of note to every player writeup, we now present “Fantasy Notes” for each week. These notes include things like snap counts, pass targets, red-zone stuff, matchup history info, etc. If you want to view all these items in-depth, they are on the site in separate articles. In the Game Centers now, we publish only the key stats and points so it’s not overwhelming.
So we’re spending more time covering the matchups generally, which again helps us maintain our focus on the most important things (the big picture with the teams and the matchups) rather than being bogged down by the minutia. We think they are easier to write now and also easier to read. The player writeups themselves are smaller, covering only the key points and not every single tidbit that we have in the notes or in the matchup overviews. We publish separately the Game Center (all games, and we added this year a nice pull-down menu to easily go from game-to-game), Player Matchups, Reaches of the Week, and even the Players to Watch for the week. These “Players to Watch” are also a new addition. I like highlighting certain players each week that we’re probably not going to start but are interesting in some way and need to be watched. Note: These links are to Week One’s content; check the site out for the current week.
It’s a logistical nightmare to present all this game/player preview information perfectly and in a way that everyone likes, but I definitely like how this year’s Game Center and player profiles are working out. We know that different people like to read the game/player analysis in different ways, which is why we publish the content in different ways.
Obviously, this is a massive endeavor, but on a Friday we will typically still do several other things. New this year we’re putting together a little column called Trending Topics, which covers all the key things fantasy players are talking/wondering about for the week, and we’ll of course try to make heads or tails of all the issues. We’ll also go through and update our Defensive Report to cover late-week injury items of note.
On Friday, we’ll also usually offer a final update to the IDP Waiver Wire, which is already looking better than ever, thanks to our guy the “IDP Monk.” This dude is obsessed with IDP. But that’s not all with IDP. We have changed up our Friday IDP Previews this year, and they are better than ever. As opposed to breaking players down by game, we’re simply looking at each position and covering all the non-obvious plays, pickups, etc. The column is way better and more useful now, and new contributor Corby A. Yarbrough is doing a great job with them.
In addition, we’ll offer up a late-week news & notes update with our Friday News & Notes, and, of course, we do our Friday Practice Reports, which is the final big update, since it’s the final big practice day of the week.
We’ll also typically do a chat on Friday, so check the site or our Twitter Feed for updates on when we will do the chat. You’ll find on the site that all of our interactive items (polls, chats, blogs, podcasts, and Twitter Feed) are together right below the main article section.
And finally on Friday, we’ll be updating the Weekly Projections again. Another new item we have this year in relation to the projections is we now have the ability to flag players for certain criteria. For example, if you’re looking for a good WW option you can filter the projections and show only options who we think a) might be available on the WW and b) are viable pickups based on the matchup this week. You will be able to sort by the following criteria:
Good Matchup
Bad Matchup
Reach Play
Waiver Wire
Weekly Bargain
This is actually a lot more work for us (me) to flag the players in these categories, so I do not expect to be able to get to the actual flagging until late in the week, likely on Fridays. Hopefully, this new feature will make our projections more valuable. The goal, really, is to allow users to bypass having to read up on the players in the Waiver Wire, Game Center, Reaches of the Week, etc. If you trust us, you don’t even have to really read up on which players have good/bad matchups, are viable WW pickups, etc. That information is going to be built into the projections going forward.
And finally, our stat maven Mike Horn usually offers up a stat-based article on a Friday. It’s not every week, as his in-season articles usually attempt to address a prevalent issue worth exploring, and sometimes there are none.
This is my day off! By day “off” I mean I work only about 5-6 hours (not complaining). The two main things we do on this day are offer up yet another (and mostly final) update to the Waiver Wire report and our Weekly Projections.
In addition, we will also post a Saturday Practice Report for the two MNF games.
We’re also going to update the Trending Topics article on a Saturday if anything of note pops up.
As always, if you’re looking for news, just check our NFL News Feed. We’re monitoring it constantly, and we’ll flag/highlight any item of note. When we do, they automatically go to our homepage under “Top Headlines.”
The main reason I work on Saturday is because my Sunday Hansen’s Hints column doesn’t write itself. I hate to say it, but if you wanted to ignore all of our weekly preview content and just read this every Sunday, you’re probably good-to-go. It’s a final look at all the matchups, and when I write it, I have as good a grasp on them as I will have all week, other than when the Sunday inactives come down, which does change things.
The first thing we do Sunday is put our Quick Sunday Update, usually between 10-11am ET. We could get it out a little earlier, but it’s hard to hit send at 10 am when we know there is usually some late-breaking news that comes out around 11am. This report offers up a quick roundup of the injuries we’re watching for the week, my Hansen’s Hints column, which has a quick overview and preview of each matchup, and a Weather Report for the week.
This report is e-mailed, again, around 11am ET and it’s posted on the site. It’s linked to as the top featured article with a photo, and it’s linked to in the recent articles section. Again, if you’re looking for an article, projections, rankings, etc. you only need to look at the main articles section on the homepage. We list articles both by date published and type of article.
Every Sunday at 11:30 AM ET, the inactives start coming down, and we’re covering it all in our Sunday Inactive page. Simply load this page each Sunday if you so choose, and you don’t need to do anything else, as the page automatically updates with the latest news. It’s very hectic gathering up all the inactives and lineup notes, so we’re not exactly lightning fast on these, but we’re usually done by about Noon ET, and we’re updating anything that comes down the line otherwise right up until kickoff. All the inactives and the late-breaking information are also covered on our NFL News Feed, so it’s actually covered twice on the site.
We WILL e-mail out the early inactives, but we will NOT e-mail out the late inactives. The question is, why not? Well, quite frankly, if a guy is inactive at 4:00 ET and we e-mail that out, we’re going to get bombarded with “I wish I would have known that at 1 pm” e-mails from readers who, well, just don’t get it. Obviously, if you’re in front of a computer or smart phone, you can access this stuff.
Sunday’s are always stressful because the site gets hammered with traffic. Fantasy football is unique in that it’s an activity that can cause a large number of people to access a site at the exact same time (kickoff), so there are always concerns early in the season as to whether or not we’re set up well to handle the traffic. As you likely know, many fantasy football sites have issues on Sunday for this very reason. Luckily, we nailed it in Week One and didn’t have a single issue. I can’t guarantee that we won’t have an issue going forward, since there are many factors that can cause one, but we’re certainly able to handle all traffic we get, as proven last week.
And then the games start! It’s time to see if all the work we put in analyzing the league for the week was worth it or an exercise in futility. Oftentimes, it’s both. I’m obviously watching the games, and I Tweet a lot with immediate reaction to what going on in the games.
And also, a quick note about Twitter, while I’m talking about it here. I know it’s not for everyone, but I’m a big Twitter guy, and we use the social media a lot for breaking news, commentary, and updates on what we’re doing on the site. It’s an incredibly effective way to stay in touch and update readers and followers on a variety of things. It’s great for breaking news, which is one of the reason we don’t send out “breaking news” updates as much and we’re more selective about what we e-mail. As I correctly predicted in the spring 2009, before the NFL world was taken over by Twitter, Twitter is where you need to go for all breaking news, and even all news, period.
Again, I know Twitter isn’t for everyone, but I will give you this warning: If you refuse to join the fray (keep in mind you can be on Twitter and not tweet, so it can be used just for getting information), get ready to lose. You may still win this year and here and there, but over the long haul, you’re going to be at a disadvantage if you’re not dialed in to the latest craze on the Internet. We as a service really can’t sit back and wait until you’re ready to join the new frontier in NFL and Fantasy news, reporting, and analysis; we’re already there, and we’ve been there for four years.
Let me wrap up this extensive overview, which is essentially a user’s guide to best utilize
When the games are over, I’m busy working on the next installment of Waiver Wire and I also do the Sunday Night Review Podcast, which wraps up the week that was on Sunday.
And that’s about it! I think, other than detailing all our tools, I’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know about our service this year and how to take full advantage of it. A lot of that is to simply gain an understanding of what we do and why and when we do it, which I attempted to cover in this article.
As I’ve said many times in this column, we’re still adjusting to the regular season being here, so in another 1-2 weeks we should start rolling with a consistent schedule and routine, which will help things overall. As you can see, we’ve added a lot of new features, and we’ve made a lot of positive upgrades and additions. I’m actually a little disappointed in that we ran out of time for some things this year, and again know we’ve made some changes that some people may not love.  

But overall, I think it’s going to be crystal clear – if it isn’t already – that we have once again stepped up our game and have significantly enhanced the service.


10,824 people wish they still made Flutie Flakes.

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