When you’re in eight leagues and your day job involves breaking down the fantasy prospects of every player for every game, it’s inevitable that football is never far from your mind. And since many of the same dilemmas I encounter are ones you the readers bump up against as well, I thought it might make sense to share some of my thought processes with you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the topics to be discussed here, other than at some point they popped into my head, kicking to the side lyrics from some obscure ‘80s song (“There's a world outside your window/And it's a world of dreaded fear/Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears”) and commanding my attention.
It’s title game time; maybe you’re in (like me—in one league), maybe you’re wondering what went wrong (like me in four other leagues; that’s right, an extremely disappointing (and Andy Reid-like) 1-4 in the penultimate round this year).
If you’re basking in the glow of a possible trophy, then go enjoy yourself; otherwise, while that sting still burns, look at it as an opportunity to figure out why you’re not playing for a championship and learn from those who did.
Here’s a quick look at the fantasy bowl participants in four of my leagues and some of the qualities they share that helped them get to the big game.
The title game participants in this league are a testament to waiver wire work. One led the league in pickups, a bounty that included Michael Vick and LeGarrette Blount; the other was in the top half of the league in transactions and culled Peyton Hillis early and Vincent Jackson late.
Not that either team botched their draft, though it’s notable that between the two they selected a total of two backs through the first four rounds. One went RB/WR/WR/WR out of the four spot, the other RB/WR/QB/TE with the top pick. And both made mistakes: the next backs off the board for each team were Chris Wells and Jahvid Best in the fifth round. There were no huge late-round home runs, though getting Santana Moss and Percy Harvin in the ninth round wasn’t bad.
In short, these teams were just like yours: decent drafts, some late-round hits, and plenty of sweat equity on the waiver wire. Conversely, they didn’t miss dramatically through the first four rounds and largely avoided the injury bug. With a little luck and a lot of effort, this could be you in 2011.
The title game participants in this league drafted out of the three and five spots, with slightly differing philosophies: one went RB/WR/WR/QB/RB, then didn’t draft another back until Round 11; the other went WR/QB/TE, then threw darts at running backs five of the next eight rounds with modest success (Forte, Jacobs, Donald Brown).
One team made the third-most moves and unearthed Hillis to fill the backfield void left by a thin draft at the position (Rice, Greene, Slaton, Choice, Ringer). The other made only six moves all season, none particularly notable; then again, a draft that opened with Andre Johnson, Drew Brees, and Antonio Gates and yielded Malcom Floyd in R10 and Austin Collie in R14 didn’t need much help.
Again, the most remarkable thing about these teams is their consistency. They dodged major injury (though Gates has missed time of late, his team was well insured at the position with Jason Witten), made few draft missteps (using MFL’s “Steals & Busts” feature, which compares draft position with ranking in fantasy points scored, between the two the only bust was Shonn Greene in the fifth round), and spackled any lineup holes with timely moves. Well played, gentlemen.
WEAPONS OF DMD
This was to be the part where I tell you how I’m going for a repeat in Weapons of DMD, how going WR/WR in a 16-team league can work, how you can cobble together a quarterback from the seventh and eleventh rounds. But back-to-back dreams were derailed by a season-long lack of a second back and a one-point loss—though that’s a bit misleading, since my esteemed opponent didn’t get a thing from his first-round pick (Adrian Peterson) and still bested me.
As you might imagine in a 16-team league, the pickings get thin. That didn’t stop one of the finalists from churning the waiver wire like Michael Phelps, making nearly twice as many moves as any other team. The aggressive waiver wire work led to pickups like Green-Ellis, Torain, and Blount—all of whom were traded away at some point. Hey, when you hit on Arian Foster in the fourth and Darren McFadden in the sixth, you can move backs—and in a 16-team league, they’re gold. McFadden became Vick, Vick and Torain became Brees, and then you’re sporting elite players at QB and both RB spots... and you’re in the title game.
Given that the other finalist opened his draft with Ryan Mathews you might think he would have been the one burning up the waiver wire; instead, he made a third of the moves his counterpart made—none of them particularly notable. The key for this combatant was patience: eventually, Cedric Benson and Donald Brown turned out to be helpers, Hakeem Nicks got healthy, and Jason Witten was rediscovered by Jon Kitna.
Two philosophies, two fantasy bowl finalists; tune in Monday to see which approach is king of the hill—for this year, at least.
Finally... let’s talk about me! I’m back in the title game for a second straight year in my league of 21 years. What better way to celebrate its reaching legal drinking age than to win one for the... well, other hand I guess since I’ve already won five championships. Drafting out of the 11 hole in a 12-team league I went—shocker—WR/WR/TE before throwing darts at running backs the next four rounds, hitting on McCoy and Bradshaw. Not enough: myself and my esteemed opponent in the title game (we’ll call him “Ice”, because every league needs a guy nicknamed “Ice”; we just happen to have one) were two of the three most active teams in the free agent pool; the second-most active team was my opponent in the semi-finals, and combined the three of us accounted for half the league’s transactions. Ice picked up Torain and Ivory along the way while I added Tolbert, Green-Ellis, and Blount; look at where running back depth can get you.
While we both worked the waiver wire, there were definitely differences. The biggest: Ice took Aaron Rodgers fourth overall (and made a shrewd move on Kerry Collins to escape last week’s semi), while I didn’t take a QB until going back-to-back with Eli (hit) and McNabb (miss) in Rounds 8 and 9.
And so it is down to him, and it is down to me. He’ll throw a QB/WR heavy lineup at me, while I—the original proponent of receivers over backs—will counter with two of five legitimate backs. Proof that there’s more than one way to skin a cat... or get to a fantasy bowl.