Saturday, December 31 – 8:15 PM
I’ve never been more jittery watching a football game than I was this past Monday night. You see, it was the championship game in my money league, the league consisting of college friends that I have competed in for eight years now, making two previous finals appearances yet coming up short both times, most recently last year. I had a slim lead entering the Saints-Falcons contest with Roddy White, Jimmy Graham and John Kasay going up against the duo of Michael Turner and Marques Colston. And when Colston caught that early touchdown pass, my stomach sank. Here we go again. But then Graham scored a touchdown. Then White caught a pass, then another, then another. And it was all over, at last.
I’ve never been more upset with a fantasy draft than I was back on September 4th. How would this team even make the playoffs, let alone compete for a title? I had completely mismanaged my auction dollars, overpaying for Ben Roethlisberger and having to settle on Joseph Addai as my RB2. What a disaster! And the more I stared at my roster and compared it to the rosters of the other teams, the more disgusted I got. This would be a brutal season. Or so I thought.
The ironic thing is that my messed up running back situation was what prompted me to go to $4 on Michael Bush. Little did I know that Bush would prove to be one of my best value picks in over a decade of playing fantasy sports. While Addai did almost nothing for me (which I kind of expected all along), Bush became a mainstay in my lineup, stepping up in Darren McFadden’s absence to give me RB1 level production out of my RB2 slot. Funny how some things turn out.
I can safely say that this entire experience has changed me as a fantasy owner. I’m as guilty as anyone of post-draft self-criticism, whether it be football or baseball. “Let’s see, I’m really strong at shortstop but whoa, my third baseman is awful. And my pitching? I have the worst No. 3 starter in the league. And only one other team has a worse fourth outfielder,” I’d mutter to myself. Maybe it’s because I can’t wait for the actual season to start, but I spend way too much time doing this sort of stuff. There’s a reason why some wise person once said that championships aren’t won on paper. Look at the 2011 Phillies. Or this year’s version of the Eagles, the self-proclaimed Dream Team. How did that turn out? So from now on, I’ll draft my team, knowing that I prepared well and that I did the best I could, and then let the season play out. There will be plenty of times when my resolve will be tested, when I’ll feel the urge to second-guess myself, but I’ll resist it.
Call it a New Year’s Resolution.
Wednesday, December 14 – 7:58 PM
Here’s the good news. It looks like Darren McFadden will not only be sidelined yet again this week but is very likely to be out for Week 16 as well, assuring that I can ride Michael Bush for the remainder of my playoff run. I have to admit I was very lucky with this whole thing. Spending $4 on Bush back in September seemed like a wise investment at the time considering McFadden’s injury history, but no way did I expect to cash in like this. To think that I was all bent out of shape fearing that Joseph Addai would need to be an every-week starter for me is pretty funny. What do you know, Addai gets hurt and then McFadden gets hurt. Who ever said that history doesn’t repeat itself?
On a broader note, I’m seriously rethinking my longstanding strategy of drafting two upper-tier running backs. Look what happened this year. My failure to execute this plan might just be the best mistake I’ve ever made in my fantasy career. Running backs do tend to get injured often, so next year I will most definitely alter my approach. One stud running back, one decent but not great one, and then a few speculative picks, mostly high-upside backups to injury-prone starters. It seems like every year there’s a Michael Bush, and the fact that the mid-level running back is always more expensive than the mid-level quarterback or mid-level receiver means that there will be plenty of extra dollars at my disposal!
Thursday, December 15 – 8:34 PM
Here’s the bad news. I have absolutely no clue who I should play at QB this week. You see, this is the downside of drafting guys like Ben Roethlisberger, guys who have a ridiculously high tolerance for pain. Most quarterbacks wouldn’t even try to play through a high ankle sprain, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Big Ben under center on Monday night. The problem is that I have no idea what to expect. If he does start, will he make it through the entire game? Who knows. Will he put up a monster stat line? Probably not. Chances are the Steelers run the ball more and Ben doesn’t take many chances airing it out.
Despite Mark Sanchez’s strong showing last week, I’m not too confident in him on the road in Philly. Yeah, the Eagles team as a whole has been a colossal bust this year, but they still have a ton of talented players on that roster, including on the defensive side. Add in Sanchez’s well-documented struggles on the road and I’m almost certain that he will be riding my bench come Sunday.
And that brings us to this. Meet the newest member of my team…Rex Grossman. Let’s be honest, I’m terrified to start this guy. He’s so inconsistent, and the thought of entrusting my entire season in him is, well, terrifying. But the matchup is so enticing. Plenty of quarterbacks have had their way against the Giants’ secondary this year, Grossman included. In Week 1 vs. Big Blue, Rex threw for over 300 yards with two touchdowns. I do expect a couple of interceptions. I do expect a fumble or two. But if he can give me say 250 yards and two scores, I’d be thrilled.
So it comes down to Rex or Big Ben. Call me crazy but I’m leaning towards Rex. Reports on Roethlisberger have so far been rather pessimistic, and the last thing I need is for him to start the game and leave in the second quarter. This is nuts. I drafted Ben, overpaid for him in fact. Now I won’t be starting him in the semifinals of the playoffs? I’m the owner who always sticks with his players through thick and thin as long as they’re on the field. Please, Pittsburgh Steelers, do me a favor and rule Roethlisberger out for Monday night. And please do it before 1 PM ET on Sunday. It’ll make my job a whole lot easier, that’s for certain.
Friday, December 16 – 11:18 AM
Amazing start to the week. 35.5 fantasy points for Roddy White last night, and it could have been more had the game been close. For White, it was 35.5 points in two and a half quarters, but I can’t complain. After a so-so start to the year, #84 has lived up to his $44 price tag over the past few weeks.
35.5-0. Does the tortoise vs. hare rule apply to fantasy football? At least for this week, I sure hope not.
Saturday, December 17 – 8:23 PM
What? Now I’m hearing that Big Ben will likely play on Monday and that there’s a sense of optimism about his chances of making it through the whole game. I should have known this was going to happen. I should have known that when push came to shove, I would abandon the Radical Rex Plan and retreat back to my comfort zone. Barring a last minute change of heart, Roethlisberger will be my starter.
At least that’s the plan for now.
Tuesday, November 22 – 11:10 AM
This might be the most flawed 10-1 team in the history of fantasy football. Honestly, I still can’t figure out how I keep winning, especially this past week, as I was without the services of Jimmy Graham and Ben Roethlisberger due to byes and my starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, was absolutely dreadful. Yeah, my RB2 issue has been temporarily solved by Darren McFadden’s injury, as Michael Bush has stepped up big time to give me elite production. But what happens when McFadden comes back? What will I do then? Pierre Thomas and Joseph Addai will be my best options. Ugh. And it’ll be terrible timing too with the playoffs right around the corner. The good news? I’ve all but clinched a first round bye. The bad news? It’ll mean nothing if I can’t win a playoff game. In head-to-head formats, it’s all about how you finish, and I’m starting to get a sickening feeling that my finish could be trophy-less.
Thursday, November 24 – 4:22 PM
So much for my brilliant waiver wire pickup of Kevin Smith. Just a few hours ago, disaster struck as Smith was carted off the field due to an ankle injury. Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith. That’s all I kept on hearing from the various fantasy football talking heads over the past few days. This was the guy you had to pick up. This was the guy who would catapult your squad from playoff contender to title contender. And the attention was deserved as Smith was coming off a monster game and the Lions’ starting tailback job now seemed to be his to lose. But I also thought that there was way too much hype surrounding him based on one great game. After all, this was the same Kevin Smith who got cut by the team a few months ago. Not to mention his injury history. Still, he was clearly worth a waiver claim, and I decided to start him this week over Mike Tolbert, who has been incredibly frustrating to own. It’s all about opportunity, and the bottom line is that Smith would be getting way more carries than Tolbert. This was a no-brainer. Turns out I got one healthy quarter out of Smith. It was an impressive quarter, but it was one quarter. Oh well, hopefully Tolbert doesn’t run wild on Sunday. In this particular league I’m still fighting for a first round bye and need every win I can get. It would be a real shame if this debacle comes back to haunt me.
Thursday, November 24 – 7:58 PM
Same league, different managerial blunder. How can I be so wise to pick up Laurent Robinson a few weeks back yet so dumb to not start him today? That’s 21.8 fantasy points down the drain. I like Plaxico Burress this week vs. an erratic Bills defense, but Plaxico has a tall task ahead of him if he wants to make me look like some sort of genius. Good luck, Plax.
Thursday, November 24 – 9:34 PM
What a Thanksgiving! I’m still rather annoyed about today’s series of poor decisions, but a hearty meal of brisket (secret alert: I don’t always eat turkey on Thanksgiving), sweet potatoes and warm apple pie has made me feel better about everything. The truth is that I’m a combined 23-10 in my three leagues, and that’s surely something to be thankful for.
Tuesday, December 6 – 12:06 PM
The suspense is unbearable. This week, for the first time since March, I won’t be actively managing any fantasy team. Yes, I have a bye in all three of my football leagues, even the league where I didn’t qualify for the playoffs as I’m one of the two best teams in the consolation bracket, not exactly something to get overly excited about. But I’m the top seed in my other two leagues and will have to wait 13 more days to learn my playoff fate.
I’m not overly confident in either squad. My money league team, after starting out 10-1, finished the regular season with two straight losses. I know that each week’s game is an independent event, but I can’t help but think that this group has lost its mojo, and the looming return of Darren McFadden just in time for my semifinal matchup (thanks a lot!) doesn’t exactly help my confidence. Over the past month-plus, Michael Bush has solved my RB2 dilemma, but the thought of him being relegated to a timeshare role makes me sick to my stomach. Luckily, I picked up Marion Barber a few weeks back so he’s another starting option in light of Matt Forte’s injury, but the jury is still out on Barber as to whether he can perform at a high level in an expanded role. He didn’t exactly wow everyone during his days in Dallas handling the majority of the carries, so why should we expect anything different this time around? Chances are I’ll stick with Bush even after McFadden returns. He should still get a decent amount of playing time and remains Oakland’s preferred goal-line back. Bush deserves my loyalty, no? How can I turn my back on a back (no pun intended) who has played such a key role in my team’s success? I’m a real stickler for this stuff, treating my fantasy teams as if they are real-life teams as opposed to a collection of names on a computer screen. Sometimes this backfires, but I just can’t help it. What can I say, I’m a very loyal person.
Tuesday, December 6 – 11:05 PM
Time to enter in my waiver claims for the week, and even though I won’t be playing, I have to make some sort of move, no matter how insignificant it might turn out to be. Add Isaac Redman, drop Joe McKnight. There you have it. I just needed to do something. What’s a week without at least one waiver claim? Let’s show my competition that despite the bye, I’m not asleep at the wheel!
Wednesday, December 7 – 3:32 PM
While my feelings about my money league team can best be described by the word “concerned,” my feelings about my other 10-3 group can be accurately summed up by the word “panicked.” Once a powerhouse, this roster has been absolutely decimated by injuries. First it was Miles Austin, then Matt Schaub, then Matt Forte. I’m the #1 seed that everyone will want to face, a team that is forced to start Ryan Fitzpatrick and Donald Brown. And if the Eagles for some reason decide to limit LeSean McCoy’s carries down the stretch in what has been a lost season for the self-proclaimed “Dream Team,” then, well, I’d be in big trouble. Fortunately for me, I’ll only have to win two playoff games to take home the title, not three. At least the simple math is on my side!
Friday, December 9 – 10:02 PM
This was the last thing I needed. Now Big Ben Roethlisberger suffers a high ankle sprain while playing in a game that was a meaningless one for my team. He’s tough, we all know that, and he did return in the second half to cap off what was a very productive game. But I need him for next week and, if I’m fortunate enough, the following week. I don’t have the NFL Network, so I didn’t get the privilege of watching this lovely development, but from what I’m hearing Ben was basically playing on one leg in the second half. Not good. In nine days’ time, I’ll be faced with an impossible choice. I’d be shocked if Roethlisberger doesn’t play, but who knows how effective he’ll be. But I gotta start him anyway, right? After all, he’s my starter. Mark Sanchez is my backup. With my season on the line, this decision is going to drive me nuts, and I have so much time to think about it. Too much time.
The suspense is unbearable.
Here I was kind of looking forward to a short hiatus from the world of fantasy baseball. Those six months, or really eight months when adding in the draft prep period, are so intense that by the time it’s all over I’m more than ready for the season to be over, that is until about mid-January when I can’t wait for it to start again. In fact, I’ve never even done a mock draft before mid-January.
Maybe I take mock drafts a bit too seriously, but I just wasn’t ready. Well, this year I decided to break my rule after being invited by Derek VanRiper of Roto Sports Inc. to take part in an NFBC style expert mock. 15 teams, 30-man rosters, hey why not? Then when I learned that fellow Mastersballer Lawr Michaels would be a participant, well, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse! This would be the deepest mock draft I’ve ever been a part of, and by far the earliest. So what did I do to prepare?
I printed out a set of rankings just to have the names in front of me on one page. In a 450-player draft, this was a must. My strategy? Nothing too complicated. I’d follow a best available player approach while paying attention to position scarcity. I know a lot of people like to try out radical strategies in mock drafts, but for the most part I’m not one of them, particularly this early in the offseason. An added twist in a November draft is the free agent factor. With a number of high-impact players destined to change teams, it’s tougher to predict their 2012 performance level, so I was forced to ignore this altogether. I chose the #6 draft position as I generally prefer to be in the middle rather than having to constantly reach for players, but in retrospect I’m now thinking that the more teams in the league, the more it pays off to be at the wheel as you’re more likely to get the players you really want. Scroll further down for my thoughts on the first 15 rounds, and see Mock Draft Central for the full draft.
Best Value: Hanley Ramirez – Round 2 (Overall Pick #16)
My season-long frustration with Hanley has been well-documented, but 16th overall is outstanding value for a 27-year-old five-category shortstop. I can’t help but think that injuries played a major role in Ramirez’s nightmare 2011 season and am willing to give him another chance.
Biggest Reach: Carlos Santana – Round 2 (Overall Pick #29)
I get it, Carlos carries loads of upside, but 29th pick is an awfully high price to pay for a guy with barely over a year of big league experience under his belt. The 27 homers were great but he hit .239. .239! Perhaps even more telling, Brian McCann went 17 picks later.
Best Value: Jose Valverde – Round 10 (Overall Pick #149)
I know that many owners subscribe to the “Wait to draft your closers” theory, but I was shocked that Valverde was available here. Sure, he makes the ninth inning quite interesting at times but almost always gets the job done. Oh yeah, he’s coming off a season in which he converted all 49 of his save chances.
Biggest Reach: Logan Morrison – Round 7 (Overall Pick #94)
Plenty of candidates here but I’ll go with Morrison, who hit for a lousy average last year while displaying a lot more pop than he did in the Minors. Even if he bats .275 with 25 homers over a full 2012 season, this would be a so-so pick.
Best Value: Adam Wainwright – Round 13 (Overall Pick #184)
A risk well worth taking. All reports say that Wainwright will be 100 percent by the start of spring training, and while he might not return to ace form immediately, at this price the reward is huge.
Biggest Reach: Chase Headley – Round 12 (Overall Pick #166)
It’s really hard to criticize any pick at this stage of the draft but this seemed a bit too early for Headley, who offers minimal power at a position where you’d like to get 20 or so homers.
All in all, I think I did a decent job in this ultra-challenging mock draft. I’m not overly thrilled, but then again I’m rarely satisfied with my early mock draft teams, so this shouldn’t come as a shock.
My Favorite Pick: Jeremy Hellickson (Round 10)
The kid’s for real. Just check out the stats, which look even better when we consider that he pitches in the AL East. The strikeout rate was surprisingly low but the 24-year-old has plenty of time to improve in that area.
My Least Favorite Pick: Aramis Ramirez (Round 4)
I was focused on addressing the somewhat weak 3B position with this pick but probably should’ve waited a round and taken Brett Lawrie. A-Ram is old and injury-prone and a move away from the Friendly Confines will only hurt his overall value.
OK, there you have it. I’m officially done with mock drafts until 2012…I think.