By: Steve Picciano (Twitter: @RandomGrenades)
Updated: 4/19/2017

Fighting Human Nature: This might be the most important point to take away from this article; your mind is working against you. I’ll say it again, your mind is working against you. No matter how long you plan, no matter how hard you try, your mind will try to convince you to do something that goes against your wishes. Here’s what’s going on; the primal psychological instincts of the human brain are trying to protect you, but in the process they’re actually going against what your higher functioning brain wants to do.

The first way your primal brain tries to protect you is to make sure you are the winner. It’s the same instinct that kicks-in during any competition. You’re conditioned to come out on top, and your brain doesn’t like to take no for an answer. This holds true when you get engaged in an auction for players that you want. You may have figured out how long you want to sign the player and how much your maximum contract should be down to the penny, but once other owners get involved and start to push the contract price to your limit it becomes very difficult for you to call it quits. Somewhere in your brain there’s a screaming that says, “It’s ok to go a little higher because we really need this player!” The effect could be more severe if the competition is with an owner within your division, “I refuse to be beaten by a player that I’ve been looking at for months!”, or even someone you don’t get along with, “that a-hole isn’t getting my guy!” This type of behavior has caused many an owner to bid insanely high contracts on players that could not produce at the level their salary warrant. Your only hope of avoiding this road it to keep referring to your calculated value chart and know that it marks your limit. It might even help to calculate three different contract tiers and color code them to make you aware that you’re entering a dangerous zone:

Green = Best Value (“I would love to get the player for this price”)
Yellow = High but Acceptable (“more than I wanted to spend, but still within limits”)
Red = Absolute Maximum Bid (“for the love of god, STOP BIDDING!”)

The second way your brain tricks you is to make you believe that your possessions are more valuable than what they really are. Even as children we have our favorite objects, and if someone wants to trade for it or buy it we usually ask for a lot in return. The idea of sentimental value certainly has validity when it comes to family heirlooms, but there really shouldn’t be a place for it in fantasy football. Yet, we see it often. You could have player “X” sitting on your roster for two years, waiting for him to do something, and when someone asks what you’d want in trade value for him you find yourself asking for a 1st round pick, even though everything you’ve read about the player tells you that his situation hasn’t improved. It can be even more damaging when deciding to use Tags or Options (discussed in part 2) to retain players. The thought of letting one of “your” players go into the Free Agent bin while you get nothing in return is so maddening that you convince yourself that the player is actually worth the more expensive Tag or Option salary. Now you’re paying a player $15 when you paid him $5 last year, and his expected production hasn’t increased. It doesn’t make sense from a value perspective.
It’s ok to walk away: Now that you know your brain is out to get you, it’s important to operate with the knowledge that it’s ok to walk away. It’s ok to walk away from bidding on players. It’s ok to walk away from using Tags. It’s ok to walk away from expensive players on your roster. No matter the level of personal attachment you may have to players, you have to be able and willing to get up and walk away from the negotiating table, just as they do in the NFL. It’s important to remember that you’re an owner, not a fan. Otherwise, you’re guaranteed to end up with a roster full of bloated contracts, which can prevent you from making important moves during the season.

When is it ok to stray from your value system?
Ideally, never. However, there are exceptions to everything and that includes having to abide by your value system for every player on your roster. Here are a few (and I stress “few”) situations:

Injuries: The word that every FF owner hates to hear, but will ultimately need to face head-on at some point. Some platforms, such as myfantasyleague.com, have flexible line-ups that mirror NFL-style offensive formations which can be used to help mitigate injury risk to a player at a particular position, but some of us are forced to play in a “fixed” formation league (i.e. 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, etc.) That leaves us very little choice when faced with an injury other than to pony-up and spend whatever is needed in order to fill the player slot and remain competitive for the rest of the year.

Being 1 player away: That can be a dangerous term, because many of us often believe that “this is the year”, or that “I’m just a player away from winning it all”, when in reality we need more help than we care to admit. However, sometimes you really can get to a point where you just need one or two top players to get you through the playoff gauntlet and into the title game. If you truly are that close, you shouldn’t hesitate to spend a little more to acquire the necessary players, hopefully on shorter contracts, but knowing that that just about anything goes to get them.

When retaining player “X” is better than the field: There may be times in which the available pool of free agent players is thin on expected production. This could be due to a couple of reasons, such as having the majority of quality players still tied up on other owners’ rosters, a true lack of talent or players being on bad NFL teams. In these situations, it can be justified to retain a player outside of your value system because to walk away and return them to the free agent bin would almost certainly cause multiple owners to engage in a bidding war, thereby likely driving the player’s salary even higher. It’s important to note that this doesn’t have to be reserved for “stud” players only. Paying a little extra for a player you know to be a team’s true WR1 is justified even if they are only a WR3 when it comes to fantasy football. You know they’ll be on the field and will be targeted, and sometimes just opportunity outweighs the unknown.

Even in these situations, I must stress the importance to still check the player’s contract against your value system so that you can tell how far outside you’ve strayed and to target a time to cut them loose in order to avoid long-term damage.