When it comes to sports, our country puts a very heavy emphasis on championships. We consider championships the ultimate icing on the cake, the element of one's career that truly catapults them to the upper echelons of greatness. I completely disagree with this notion (and that opinion is only slightly influenced by my seemingly freakish ability to finish second far more often than first). Realistically, finishing second isn't all that bad. You probably had a good season, you potentially won money and/or bragging rights and you earned yourself the second to last pick in the first round of next season's draft (which is always convenient if you do a snake pattern draft). Every team but one will lose their last game of the season, and you happened to be the last loser, congratulations!
So, I thought I would highlight the good, the bad and the ugly of last season to help provide you with some perspective on how you too can fall just short of your optimistic expectations. Enjoy!
Part 1 - The Draft
The road to fantasy victory always begins with the draft...unless you are remotely drafting your team using Google Docs while ironing a shirt for a wedding and chasing around your son who has developed a case of unstoppable diarrhea the morning of your draft. Then you probably don't draft so well. Case in point, here is the team I drafted from the #11 spot in a 12-team league (refrain from laughing and or vomiting in your mouth and remember that this team did lead to a second place finish)
1st Round - Jamaal Charles
2nd Round - Andre Ellington
3rd Round - Michael Crabtree
4th Round - Vincent Jackson
5th Round - Rashad Jennings
6th Round - Matthew Stafford
7th Round - Tavon Austin
8th Round - Dennis Pitta
9th Round - Eric Ebron
10th Round - Andy Dalton
11th Round - Markus Wheaton
12th Round - Kenny Britt
13th Round - Khiry Robinson
14th Round - Odell Beckham Jr.
15th Round - Tampa Bay Defense
16th Round - Luke Kuechly (IDP)
17th Round - Alex Henery
As you made your way through this pile of disappointment, perhaps you were amazed that I was able to snag Odell Beckham in the 14th round, he certainly must have helped my team succeed last year. Nope, I ingeniously dropped him BEFORE the season started to pick up the immortal Robert Turbin as insurance for Marshawn Lynch (who I didn't even have on my team), and then dropped Mr. Turbin within the first week of the season to pick up Travis Kelce out of Kansas City (who remained my tight end for most of the season and had a decent year, but certainly not comparable to the insane breakout rookie year that Mr. Beckham had).
So how the hell did I actually generate wins? Free Agency!?? No, actually.
Part 2 - Free Agency
Ah yes, free agency. All those hours spent reading articles late at night, attempting to gain an edge on my opponents, only to be cruelly reminded that I have absolutely no control over how these players perform and that everyone else was probably reading the same articles. Let's take a look at some of my all-star transactions (besides the Odell Beckham one, typing that previous paragraph has actually caused my hands to go numb as I have been clenching them in "angret" (yes, that would be the combination of anger caused by regret, a term I shall now go trademark).
- Dropped Khiry Robinson for Knile Davis prior to the season starting - this move actually made sense since (like that alliteration??) I had Jamaal Charles on my team, no regrets there
- Dropped Alex Henery...who cares, kickers don't matter, I actually tried not to draft one but was informed by Yahoo that I "had to field a complete team"
- Dropped Eric Ebron for the Houston Defense - I literally don't know why I drafted two tight ends within three round, and why I chose the two I did. Happy I was able to pick up Houston and reap some of the benefits from J.J. Watt's stellar year.
- At one point Bishop Sankey and Eddie Royal were in my starting line up, just thought you would like to know that (feel free to laugh, cry, barf at my shortcomings)
- I also picked up Boobie Dixon at some point, mainly so that I could have a guy named Boobie on my team
- I dropped an injured Brian Quick for Martavis Bryant, which was probably my single best free agency pick up the entire season
- Actually, I picked up Marques Colston for Luke Kuechly at one point (not flashy, but provided some consistent numbers)
- Dropped Jacob Tamme for Latavius Murray, which was probably my second best free agency move
- I added Donte Moncrief later on for John Brown from Arizona, which was also helpful down the stretch
- I added Stedman Bailey because his name is Stedman, and I was hoping to harness the power of Oprah as I approached the fantasy playoffs
In retrospect, that isn't much of a list. As you have probably guessed by now, the only reason my team had a fighting chance last year was from trades.
Part 3 - Trading
For some reason, every league I have ever been a part of has viewed trading as some type of dark art. Everybody thinks they have drafted the greatest team, and they don't want to part ways with the talent they chose because THEY chose it, and it would be an indictment on their sports intelligence if they were to let someone go and then see them have success. Well, believe it or not, I actually thought I had drafted a good team at some point, but 'some point' quickly changed by mid-October. The Patriots had just been decimated by the Chiefs, and people were actually calling for Tom Brady to be benched (in real-life, not in fantasy-life). Yes, the same Tom Brady who led the Patriots to victory in last season's Super Bowl. I saw that Tom Brady had been dropped and recently picked up by another member of the league, and that member happened to have various players that I also wanted. I knew that Brady would bounce back, and I pulled the trigger on my first major, multi-player deal of the season, which was:
I gave: Andy Dalton, Andre Ellington, Michael Crabtree
I received: Tom Brady, Fred Jackson, Rueben Randle
This deal was probably the most win-win trade I have ever been a part of in my 15+ years of playing fantasy football. Dalton provided my league mate with a solid backup (he already had Aaron Rodgers), Ellington went on to have a few more good games before his late season collapse, and well Crabtree was about as effective as Rueben Randle was for me. Fred Jackson helped provide me with a consistent stat-producer who did nothing flashy but generate enough touches to earn me about 10+ points per week, which was all I was looking for out of him. (By the way, the person I traded with went on to win the championship, so I think things worked out pretty well for him).
The second multi-player deal I pulled off occurred two days later. For my 'regular' followers (aka - the people I force to read these posts) you have read me preach about the importance of yards over touchdowns. Touchdowns are inconsistent, but yardage numbers tend to be more reliable season to season. I noticed that Jamaal Charles' numbers were greatly inflated due to touchdowns, not yards, and was worried that at some point his TD numbers would be the victim of a correction. I also had picked up Eddie Royal at the perfect time, watched him have a few good games in a row, and knew that it wouldn't last for long. Meanwhile, I found a suitor who had a talented running back who amassed yards by the bundle, as well as targets and touches, but had yet to consistently find pay dirt (LeVeon Bell) and a wide receiver who had shown flashes, fallen cold, but I expected to heat up again (Sammy Watkins). So, I was able to move Charles, Royal and Knile Davis for Bell, Watkins and Brian Quick. Charles would only go on to rush for 100 yards one more time the rest of the season, and watch his numbers slowly decline while Bell went on to be one of the hottest running backs of the second half of the season. Watkins had enough good games to provide me with some victories as well, but the addition of Bell is what pushed my team over the edge.
I'm reminded of a quote by Frank Sinatra, in which he stated: "If you possess something but you cannot give it away, then you don't possess it; it possesses you." I think of this often when playing fantasy football. If you think a player is so good that you can't drop them or trade them, then you are being fooled into thinking they are better than they really are. It wasn't easy to trade away my first three draft picks because it caused me to admit that I had drafted very poorly. But the numbers don't lie. I could see that Charles would start to trend downward, and that Ellington probably wouldn't hold up the entire season, even though I tried to convince myself of the opposite by pouring over articles that would defend these players. Ultimately, you have to trust your gut and be willing to take a bruise or two on your ego for the chance at glory and success down the road.
I hope this has rekindled your itch for fantasy football and has provided you with some useful tools for how you too can achieve victory this upcoming season...and by victory I mean almost winning the championship in your league. Because despite all this 'wisdom' I have imparted on you, luck still plays a huge part in all of this. You just have to hope you set yourself up to benefit the most from good luck, and to fail the least from bad luck.
Until next time.