Justin Boone is theScore’s resident fantasy football expert. He’s just finished another epic season, where he placed 4th overall in Fantasy Pro’s most accurate experts competition. It’s his fifth top-10 finish in six years, beating other fantasy football gurus from the likes of ESPN, Yahoo and CBS. Here, Boone shares what it takes to be one of the most knowledgeable experts in fantasy football.
This year you placed 4th overall in FantasyPros’s Most Accurate Expert Competition – your sixth top-10 finish. What do you put your success down to?
I’m unbelievably competitive, and I think everybody in the office can vouch for that. A great example would be when I first started working at theScore, I wasn’t very good at ping pong. Since everyone in the office played ping pong in their spare time, I kept practicing until I was one of the best here. It’s the same thing with fantasy football – I put in a ton of hours, sacrifice sleep, and constantly go above and beyond. That is what gives me an edge over the competition.
I’ve followed football my whole life and I look at it from all angles. I think many fantasy players only focus on the skill positions, but there’s so much more to consider. You need to know what’s happening on the defensive side and how they’re going to match up. You also need to have an understanding of the offensive line because injuries on the line could have a huge impact on your team. Being very thorough and dedicated to all aspects of the game has worked in my favor over the years.
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How much time do you devote to playing Fantasy Football?
It depends on what time of the year it is. Right now, I’m working fairly normal hours. But from August to January, fantasy sports consumes almost every hour of my day. During those months, I don’t get much sleep, and If I’m not doing something related to fantasy football, I’m probably thinking about it.
What advice would you give to any up-and-coming or aspiring professional fantasy players?
The best advice is to remain dedicated to what you’re doing. It’s not going to be easy at first. I’ve wanted to work in Fantasy Sports for 10 years, and it’s only now that I can do it full-time. So my advice is to be resilient. There’s going to be a lot of speed bumps along the way, but if you remain focused and work as hard as you possibly can, you can get positive results.
What are your favorite resources for staying informed about fantasy football and your draft?
I use theScore, and I’m not just saying that because I work here. I sign-up to receive alerts for every single NFL team, so my phone is constantly blowing up with news, especially during the football season. Having a tool like that is so much easier than having to constantly scour the internet for breaking stories. Besides following the news, it’s a lot of stats. Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, Air Yards, and Next Gen Stats are all great resources for data and analytics. Weeding through the data can be challenging, especially for beginners, which is why this offseason I plan to create content showing exactly how I use those resources.
Do you follow any popular draft strategies (for example, running backs in early rounds?)
Before the season I look at the average draft position for all players and formulate where I think guys are going to be available. I personally like auction drafts better because it gives you a chance to go for every player rather than a snake draft where you might not have the same opportunity.
My strategy changes every year. For a long time, I went wide receiver early, just because wide receivers normally get injured less than running backs. And it’s difficult trying to predict who will be an injury landmine early in the season. The one position that I’m willing to wait on is my second running back, because I’m confident I can fill that spot as the season progresses. So I tend to draft one elite back in the first round and then turn my attention to receivers. As the year goes on and the injuries mount, I’m quick to scoop up backup running backs who are moved into starting roles and some of them end up doing really well.
How important have quarterbacks been in your winning seasons?
If you had someone like Patrick Mahomes this year, they can make a huge impact. but for the most part, there are a lot of great quarterbacks to choose from so it devalues the position from a fantasy standpoint. My strategy is to go after late quarterbacks. This year, I grabbed Mahomes and paired him with another upside guy like Jameis Winston, hoping one of them would hit. Fortunately enough, for a lot of my teams, Mahomes hit. So, I expect I’ll employ this strategy next year, as well.
That being said, I encourage people to play in two-quarterback and Superflex leagues. In two-quarterback leagues you can start two passers, and Superflex leagues give you a flex position that you can use for a quarterback. Which make things way more interesting and forces you to decide how to value quarterbacks versus standard leagues where you can really wait until the end of the draft and still find a decent starter.
How do you feel about handcuffing running backs?
I think it’s a smart move to use later in the season. But, if you know that someone is a clear backup with no other running back threatening them on the roster, then I’m ok with it earlier in the year. I tend to fill the majority of my bench with players who I think can break out early in the season. As the year goes on, it’s a lot harder to find a breakout wide receivers or tight ends, so you can start loading your roster with backup running backs.
What was your biggest surprise of 2018?
I can’t say I was shocked about Mahomes succeeding, but I was surprised at him being the top fantasy quarterback. We did a video for theScore in the offseason where I talked about how he could be a top-five option because of his abilities and the talent surrounding him. Still, seeing him put up 50 touchdowns blew those expectations away.
It was also a surprise to see Rob Gronkowski fall off the map. At the beginning of last year, I talked about how there were three elite tight ends, and if you didn’t get one you might as well wait to fill the position. Well, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz had fantastic years, but I think we might be nearing the end for Gronkowski. I didn’t expect his injuries to slow him down as much as they did, because he’s not that old. But the guy we saw on the field this season isn’t the player we’ve come to know.
Justin Boone was speaking to Alexander Faiz