How Fantasy Football Mavericks Win

by Richard Savill
2022 USFL Week 2 Primer

They flout fantasy orthodoxy. They draft weird on purpose. They are slick traders. They chance on deep sleepers. They are unpredictable. They get away it and make you angry. They win.

Yes, these are the fantasy mavericks. Everyone has some maverick stripe, but some guys take it to another level. They'll take a quarterback in an early round of the draft; just to disrupt the orthodox opponents from their plans. To make matters worse, mavericks add insult to injury by somehow overcoming their apparent disadvantageous postion by putting together a solid fantasy team that beat you.

Why do they have to be such jerks? Why can't they just follow sensible by-the-book plans like everyone else, instead of throwing a wrench into the draft board? Why do they have to make life difficult for everyone?

It's because that's what they do. Mavericks choose risky moves and draft awkwardly because they see it as a challenge. It sends a message to the whole league to be on your toes. If you know you have one or two in your league, they really can be a handful to deal with. The only positive for you is that some push the boat out just that little bit too far and collapse.

The lust to gamble on long shot strategies and unsung NFL players is not merely an obsessive notion of mavericks, but a means of finding that elusive short cut to success. It doesn't stop at the draft board, mavericks continue in their style all season long.

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How Fantasy Football Mavericks Win

Some mavericks in the industry, such as Adam Rank of, proudly wear the label. You'll find plenty of this maverick attitude in his fantasy football blogs. In this article, I'm going to look at how to deal with mavericks. How to thwart them. I'll also look at the other side - how to exercise some of that maverick inside you.

The draft

Most mavericks won't go as far to take a quarterback in the first round. They might in the second round only if they are approaching the turn in the snake. This isn't too risky a strategy, but it certainly can have an effect on those waiting for quarterback.

This can set in motion a slight anxiousness in the draft. Suddenly there's one less decent quarterback. Others might start following the lead of the maverick. If that happens, the maverick has gained an upper hand. You have to try your best to ignore it and hope the others do as well.

If you are the maverick doing this and just two others have taken quarterbacks in the third or fourth round on your impetus, then you have succeeded in your goal of disrupting some of the equilibrium of the draft. You have suddenly put a higher premium on good quarterbacks. Mavericks work on that psychology and create a mini-market panic in the draft.

It doesn't always work. If the strategy fails, the maverick tries something else to stir it up. Whatever player comes off the board, it creates a market. Also, if there are so-called "risk/reward" players in the draft, mavericks have no hesitation when it comes to taking those guys.

I should make it clear that mavericks are not careless or carefree when drafting. They have a talent for watching everything going on in the draft room. Often if you see a maverick make a questionable selection, the reasoning for that pick might only become understandable later in the draft. They blur the lines between tactics and strategy.

The "stream everything" strategy

Another and perhaps more common strategy for mavericks is not bothering with quarterbacks at all in the draft and just prepare to stream it all the way in that position. Kickers, defenses and even tight ends on occasion are also streamable. They will put all their focus totally on wide receivers and running backs in the draft.

Mavericks never worry too much about the draft anyway. They know that it is mostly inconsequential to the regular season pickups and drops. Getting first place is not ultimately the goal. Making the playoffs is. So they'll sacrifice in the short term for the long term good.

In season

Here is where mavericks really try to gain an edge. If you trade with a maverick, you know you are getting a short-term player and giving him the long-term prospect. They are very clever at it. They tend to grab sleepers and stash cuffs off waivers. You might think this is hit and hope, but there is some logic to it. The more bench stashes you have, the more chance you are going to have that unsung breakout guy - beating the waiver rush.

Mavericks can be the so-called "shark traders." This type of trading doesn't usually work against experienced fantasy players, but does against novices. It's where, for instance, a WR3 or WR4 have two or perhaps three consecutive games of WR1-type production. Mavericks use the hype to trade these players while the stock is high for a stronger long term player.

Risk for reward

Risk is always at the center of a maverick's raison d'etre - so to speak. They play on hunches and matchups with sleepers in bye weeks. I would advise never playing too tight against a risk taker.

If you feel your team is solid enough and have a generous lead in your H2H projection for the week, you can fully expect the maverick to put risky players in. If you play too close to the percentages instead of letting your gut make a choice now and then, the percentages will often let you down.

Credit: SM Wright

Fantasy Football is a game of skill with a lot of variables that involve luck. Mavericks never forget that. It's very much like backgammon. A good backgammon player would have exactly the right foundational instinct for Fantasy Football.

If you win your H2H matchup because of luck, the bottom line never changes - you still won. Saying that you should have won because you had the better-projected team still adds one to the loss column. By the end of the season, your record matters - not how you got there.

Start and Sit

Almost every week, you'll get a toss-up decision of which players to start over others in your lineup. Often, the decision looks dead-even. You look for advice sometimes right up until game time. The first instinct is usually the best choice in these matters, but mavericks are always ready to go all-in for the sleeper.

The reason we examine starts and sits so closely boils down to the unhappy prospect of leaving points on the bench. H2H matchups are often won or lost by the slimmest of margins. The maverick mentality is not to keep up with a projected unfavorable lop-sided H2H, but to take the risk of throwing out the dark horses for touchdown hopes. If it looks on paper your H2H is a lost cause, then pulling out all the stops is better than going through the motions.

They get away with it and they do flop

Eventually, the numbers will catch up to the mavericks if they continually push the envelope. However, the ones that balance risky play with tempered judgment are very hard to beat. I would rather have a H2H against the restrained week-to-week, non-risk taker than a maverick.

The unimaginative player who just looks for the best of the rest to put in that flex spot lives on stats just to carry him through. If I'm up against a daring player, who puts that rather deepish sleeper in there, I have to prepare for anything. Thus the reason I'd much rather face a by-the-numbers player than a calculated risk-taker. The stat-hugger is playing for averages, but the maverick plays for the jackpot.

The mavericks who stream everything are especially a nuisance because their flexibility gives them some play in deciding who to start and sit. Fortunately, they force themselves into harder decisions than your easy lineup choices. Nonetheless, having a more pliable lineup has its advantages for getting the right player for the right matchup.

Is it worth the risk to be risky?

It's really a matter of personality. You may have heard "Fantasy Football is life" somewhere on the internet.  If you have the inclination to be a maverick, you'll be one. It's like NFL coaches. You have "Riverboat" Ron Rivera and on the other side, you have the  less daring types like Andy Reid. Whatever you are, your style will bear it out in fantasy. I would say this, you are better off loosening some of your maverick impulses than keeping everything tight all the time.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
... you will be a man, my son.

Rudyard Kipling

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