So it is last Saturday afternoon and I am nearing the end of my Little East Conference fantasy football draft. For those that enjoy pointless minutia about totally irrelevant things not at all pertinent to them, this league is the first fantasy league of any kind that I have ever played in, starting in 1993. The following spring, the commisioner asked me if I wanted to help him with his fantasy baseball team, because he thinks “I may get into that sort of thing.” Three years later, I was booted from the league for “trying too hard.” To fill the void, I joined a local Boston league where I met Jason Grey. The rest, as they say, is history.
Anyway, it is the 14th round of a 16 round affair and after all the trash talking and fun I poked at everyone for taking defenses and kickers earlier, I was going to wait for my final two picks before taking mine. Back in the 5th, I took Jermichael Finley, who in our scoring system scored a very modest four points. We are PPR, but have modified bonus, starting at 50 yards and awarding 1 point for every 20 yards rushing plus receiving. My dilemma was to bank Finley’s four points or take a second tight end in hopes of besting that total. I figured why not take the tight end and sleep on the decision? So Zach Miller was mine. When I set my lineup Saturday night, I opted to just take the four points from Finley. Sunday morning, my opponent’s lineup was in my inbox and I forgot that I was playing the defending champ and panicked a little. Considering I waited so long for my defense and kicker, maybe I need to take a chance Miller catches five or six balls? My final lineup included Miller.
By now, you know where this is going. Miller caught two balls but totaled less than 50 yards, so I “lost” two points. The final score of my match was 95-93, guess who with 93. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the dramatic effect of this story, we designate a reserve as our tiebreaking player and I lost that 4-3 so even if I put Finley in, I still would have lost. However, suffice it to say “lesson learned.” Next year, if in a similar situation, I will bank the points.
Since you are all curious, I had to “settle” for San Francisco and Sebastian Janikowski with my final two picks. At least I got something right.
I learned something else from this matchup – Darren McFadden is good. For whatever reason, I had not seen Run DMC play very much and my perception of his body type and running style was completely incorrect. I envisioned a smaller guy, more or a scat back type. I was a little surprised he was much bigger than I thought and somewhat awed by his power/speed combo. If he stays healthy, my late second round pick could be a real difference maker.
But, dammit, why didn’t they let him score after his 47 yard jaunt to the Denver 1? Curse you Champ Bailey for hustling, bringing McFadden down. Curse you Michael Bush, for replacing McFadden on the field and especially curse you Jason Campbell for selfishly calling your own number. Didn’t you see the previous game when the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez had a 31-yard TD catch overturned by the replay official, being ruled down at the 1, but have Tom Brady reward his TE with a TD catch on the next play?
This segues into my next thought and that is, while I am still a fantasy baseball guy at heart, there are elements of fantasy football that are unique to the hobby, though proponents of head to head fantasy football might disagree. While I still prefer the thrill of following the rotisserie points the final days of the baseball season, I must admit, the weekly excitement of “what do I need” on Monday night and watching it unfold is pretty cool. For example, about 45 yards into Wes Welker’s record tying 99 yard reception, I officially beat Rob Leibowitz in a private league. Previous to that play, I was beginning to wonder if Welker would pick up the remaining 5.5 points I needed to best my buddy. Going back to the McFadden team, I was down 30 points with McFadden, Brandon Lloyd and Janikowski still left. I knew it was going to be close, but I had no idea it was going to be because Sea-Bass would tie a record as well, booting a 63 yard field goal.
And as great as the thrill of victory is in fantasy football, the agony of defeat sucks. I am in five head to head leagues and finished 4-1. In two leagues, I was the top point-getter, in a third I finished second to that Grey dude mentioned earlier and all I can think about all week is that I would have won this other league if Lloyd did not get hurt, Bailey did not trip McFadden up at the 1 or if the Raiders drove for an insurance field goal instead of being wussies and running out the clock at the end of the game. Well, at least I did not have to blame myself for benching Finley.
Switching themes, someone once wrote in a fantasy forum I frequent, “arguing with Zola is a pain in the ass, all he does is try to teach you stuff.” It’s time to be a pain in the ass. This is actually something I see in baseball as well. Sometimes I forget what is intuitive to someone doing this for almost 20 years is not so clear to others, especially those making an effort to take in as much information as possible and may be a victim of information overload so they overthink things a bit too much. Of course, my solution is to give more information, what a pal I am, eh? Here is the thing. During baseball drafts we use position scarcity and in football we use value based drafting to amass as much talent as we can on our rosters. But after you draft your kicker with your last pick (cough , cough), all bets are off and it is all about the points. It no longer matters how many more points this guy will score compared to the worst starter at the position -- points is points. The manner this most manifests is the penchant to want to deal from a strong position in order to improve a weak position. This is fine if the end result is a net gain in points. But dealing a 20 point RB and 10 point WR for a 20 point WR and 10 point RB to upgrade a weak WR corps is robbing Peter to pay Paul, what I refer to as a parallel move, not yielding a net gain of points. This is not to say this sort of deal is a waste of time, just the notion of dealing a stud RB to get a stud WR should not be the motivation if the points are a wash. To me, the objective should be to construct a roster where you can upgrade as many spots as possible. You know your league and player evaluation skills best so only you can make the final determination with respect to how to execute this, but if you feel there are always wide receivers that emerge or are available in trade, perhaps because your league only starts two, then do not worry about dealing for a stud receiver and instead, look to upgrade from the free agents. Maybe you notice that you can usually get a running back or two that emerge due to injury or the proliferation of RB committees. In this instance, you may not want a stud RB as your RB2 so you are better able to take advantage of what emerges as the season progresses.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not call back the theme of last week’s column, good players play good. To demonstrate this, I chose to suggest that Dallas Clark was a better start than Jimmy Graham. I think the kids call this “epic fail”. Yes, I was wrong, at least with this example. But what if I had chosen Reggie Wayne as my example of a good player that will play good? I stand by my contention that good players play good.