Depth is always important to a fantasy team. With a limited number of reserve spots, you want to keep as much talent as possible, while still make room for good players when they become available. In leagues with short benches, you'll have to make some tough decisions (last Saturday I decided to ditch Eric Ebron, because obviously I'm a genius).
Now that there are just a handful of games left in the fantasy regular season, you should consider shedding some of that depth and adding some pickups you won't use for a month. They won't help you make the playoffs, but they might help you win them.
If you're sitting at 9-1 or 8-2 (maybe even 7-3), the playoffs look like they're in your future. You could wait until you clinch your spot to start thinking about lineups, or you could start stocking up on players now. because the guys who got you to the post-season might not be the ones who help you advance once you're there.
For example, in a league with a week 16 championship, you might be looking for a defense. The Bengals might give Jeff Driskel a start, making the Browns an intriguing option. How about the Colts hosting the Giants, who might have Kyle Lauletta behind center? And the Buccaneers might be starting, well, does it matter? The Cowboys at home might be a good selection in week 16.
And if you have a week 17 Super Bowl, your needs are even bigger. If Kansas City has nothing to play for, Andy Reid will rest players if they're sneezing or have a bad haircut. And if Sean McVay wouldn't play his starters in the preseason, how much work do you think they'll get in a meaningless week 17 game? Teams might limp into their title game without Mahomes, Kelce, Hunt, Goff or Gurley.
You don't deal with that possibility after week 16, or even when the playoffs start. You do it now, before you've technically clinched. There's plenty of upside, and not much downside. At worst, you'll fall short of your goal and have some players you don't need. You might even frustrate the teams that do make it because you have guys they want, but can't have. If it's a friend, that scenario would be kind of funny.
The upside is huge. You're thinking ahead, and preparing for success. You have to get there to benefit, but imagine being in that position and helpless to assist your team. Jump on some players now and you won't be part of a mad scramble in a couple of weeks.
Teams with good records have an advantage because they can plan like this, while teams on the bubble need to focus on making the playoffs, right? Well, maybe. But there's no rule that says a 6-4 team can't plan for the post-season. I have a 5-5 longshot team, and I'm looking at players. If owners feel like they can't afford to plan for week 15-17, great. It just means less competition for difference-makers. The bottom line is that (at least) four teams will definitely be in your league's playoffs. Until you're eliminated, why not plan as if you'll be one of them?
Another risk, of course, is that you might actually need some of the depth you're sacrificing to carry this extra baggage. A twisted ankle here or tight hamstring there, and you might cost yourself the wins you need by getting rid of players who could fill in for your stars. And that's true. But teams don't win titles (in fantasy or the NFL by playing it safe. Kansas City could have kept chugging along with Alex Smith, but they turned the keys over to Mahomes. The Rams could have kept the experienced Jeff Fisher, hoping some off his old magic came back. Instead, they took a risk with a 30-year-old as their head coach. And the Buccaneers didn't have to draft a kicker in the second round in 2016. Okay, so not every risk pans out.
The point is, reward usually requires risk. And if you know that your team might need new talent to win a championship, the time to start searching is now. The good news is that some of them are probably just sitting on the waiver wire. They're a cheap pickup and teams won't fight you for them. It might be a different story in two weeks, so consider this your "Black Friday" shopping, and pick up some waiver wire bargains.
And just like the shopping sales, you can always return them later if you change your mind. You don't even need a receipt for that defense. Good luck this week.
When do you start looking toward the playoffs? Who are you targeting for a week 16 championship? How about week 17? Share your thoughts below.