Up Close With a High Stakes Expert Pt 4

This article is Part 4 in a six-part series leading up to the start of the Fantasy season that will take us inside the minds of successful high stakes players, giving us insight into what they are thinking about and 'how to win' strategy.

This week, we bring you Kimra Schleicher, ranked No. 8 in the Fantasy Football High Stakes Global Rankings. Schleicher has been a model of consistency in the high stakes space with four top-10 finishes in the Fantasy Football World Championships. Most recently, Schleicher dominated the 2013 FFWC $5K Commander league to bring home a nice pay day of $30,000. She attributes her success in this league specifically to stacking four Broncos in her draft, including sleeper Knowshon Moreno in the 10th round. Even more valuable to Schleicher were the bragging rights that go along with beating the best of the best.

Known as "Indy Hitters," Schleicher grew up in southern Indiana and in a very competitive family. Sports were always the theme in the Schleicher household as the family regularly participated in or attended various sporting events. With sports as such an integral part of Schleicher youth, it's no wonder she found her comfort zone in the world of competitive fantasy football.

I recently spent some time getting to know Kimra. We chatted about her success in a game primarily dominated by men, draft strategy, and, of course, her opinions specific to the new season upon us. The ever-humble Schleicher is quick to acknowledge all of the top fantasy players around, but don't let the modesty fool you. Her dedication to competing at the highest level drives her to succeed. After hearing from Kimra, you will no doubt be looking to draft with all of your newfound knowledge.

Gold: Kimra, thank you so much for taking some time to chat with us and share your thoughts with the Scout Community. You have done so well in recent years. Can you tell us about how you got involved in fantasy?

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Kimra: Thanks, Larry. Sure! I started playing fantasy football in 2001, in a local league in Indianapolis called the “Brews Brothers.” I just participated in the same draft last night. One of my friends asked me to fill in one year because they knew I liked football. Needless to say, I didn’t fare so well the first year. I turned that around pretty quickly as I studied the rules and player statistics from the previous year. Knowing the rules is priority No. 1 for any league. I caught the fever and joined the World Championships in Las Vegas in 2003. I finished 10th overall in my first attempt so I was hooked after that trip and have been to Las Vegas every year since, competing in all of the annual national tournaments.

Gold: Drafting in Las Vegas on opening weekend is so much fun. What a way to kick off the season. And it's not just for guys either. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) data, 20 percent of fantasy players are women. Does that figure surprise you?

Kimra: Fantasy football is very popular, and I believe there are more women playing than people realize. I personally know several women who participate in local leagues. My goal is to encourage women to participate on a national level in Las Vegas. I am the commissioner of a local female-only league. It is a great time, and some of them are now traveling to Las Vegas and have competed at the FFWC. As they become more comfortable with the format and the environment, I think they in turn will encourage their friends, and more female owners will travel or draft online in these national tournaments.

Gold: I would assume fantasy is a year-round endeavor for you, and it starts with free agency during the offseason. Were there any signings this past offseason that got your attention more than the others?

Kimra: I think the most underrated free-agent signing is Emmanuel Sanders in Denver. He has the size, explosiveness and talent to make Broncos fans forget about Eric Dec ker. Emmanuel Sanders is just what they need opposite of Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Sanders will be able to stretch the field, and he will outperform his ADP on draft day. I have already drafted Sanders in several leagues.

Gold: How about all of the coaches and coordinators on the move? Is that something you pay attention to?

Kimra: Yes! Understanding coaching philosophies is critical to your success. You must know and understand the head coach and offensive coordinator. Do they like the West Coast offense? Are they a run-first-to-set-up-the-pass team? Do they rely on their defense and manage the clock? The first thing I do every season is read as many articles as possible on coaching changes and the potential offensive changes. There are so many changes each season but if you want to be successful in high stakes, you had better understand where these coaches are from and what their philosophies are.

Gold: Along with your dedication to the offseason, your preseason prep surely factors into your successes. What do you look for in preseason games?

Kimra: During preseason games, I am not looking for the home run play or how many yards a receiver had in a game. What I am watching on replay are the following: How is the offensive line? Are they blocking and opening up holes or is the defense getting to the QB early or in the backfield? It all starts up front, so your focus should be on the offensive line. Your stud RB or QB is only going to be as strong as his offensive line.

Secondly, how is the QB playing in limited game action? Is he holding the ball, locking onto one receiver, and how is his accuracy? For RBs, I am looking for speed and the ability to get in the open field. If they don't have that burst in preseason, they sure aren't going to have it during the regular season. Lastly, when watching receivers, you want to determine if they are good route runners, and do they go after the ball or do they wait for the ball to get to them? Great receivers always run crisp routes, go to the ball, snatch it out of the air with authority and can get separation

Gold: That's some extra homework! How about the draft itself? Do you go in with a plan?

Kimra: My draft strategy is pretty simple. In PPR leagues with a dual flex, I want as many high-performing wide receivers as possible. Unless you are loaded with a lot of pass-catching RBs, your best bet is to get an anchor running back for your team and then draft three or four strong WRs in passing offenses. I will generally cheat the second RB position and look for value later or find a RB that is in a passing offense that likes to run the screen play like New Orleans, Detroit or San Diego. My preferred strategy is to draft WRs early and often in a PPR league.

Gold: That seems to be the thought process for many of the experts. So, I'd assume your first-round bust has to be a running back, right?

Kimra: You are correct. My first-round bust is Eddie Lacy because Green Bay is a passing offense, and I just don't think you are going to get the production out of Lacy in the middle of Round 1. In my opinion, there are better and far safer options for your team, like Thomas or Dez Bryant. Green Bay is Aaron Rodgers' team, and he will be on a mission this year after his injury-filled season last year. Lastly, when was the last time Green Bay had a top-five running back? Go for the safer pick, and let someone else take a chance on Lacy.

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant

Gold: On the flip side, hype drives ADPs upward at the expense of players who get less love.  What value plays have your attention two weeks before the season starts?

Kimra: I hope Le'Veon Bell falls with the recent news LeGarrette Blount might be taking away goal-line carries. The player that could represent the most value to me is Arian Foster. If you can get Foster late in the second round, I think he can easily produce top-10 RB numbers. 

Gold: How about deeper in the draft? Do you have any sleepers for the Scout readers possibly playing in a deeper league for the first time?

Kimra: Players that you can select late are Kenny Stills (much cheaper than Brandin Cooks), Danny Amendola, Terrance West and Devonta Freeman. All four are being selected after the eighth round in most PPR drafts right now. Also, don’t sleep on Dexter McCluster in Tennessee. I doubt Bishop Sankey will touch the ball 300 times as a rookie. Ken Whisenhunt will utilize McCluster on third-down plays much like he used Danny Woodhead. Also, if Josh Gordon is suspended in Cleveland, the only receiving options other than Jordan Cameron are Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin. I expect Jordan Cameron to see double coverage in a lot of games. This will leave opportunities for Hawkins to surprise teams with his speed.  

Gold: These are great, Kimra. Thank you! Before you go, how about some blind-bidding advice as it relates to waiver-wire upgrades?

Kimra: My advice on blind bidding is to always stay active on the waiver wire and read as many articles as you can find that reveal a head coach's plan. The head coach is the one who makes the decisions on who is going to play, not the players. Do not overbid on players and leave yourself with little to no money at the end of the season. Always be looking ahead to see if you can grab a potential upside RB for your team. In order to win your league, you are going to have to be proactive every week on the waiver wire. Lastly, don't bid even-number dollars. Most high stakes players will bid 53 or 57. They generally do not bid a nice round number like 50 or 60.

For more from Kimra, please check out her recent Preseason PRO picks as well as a recent live chat in the Scout Fantasy Forums.

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