Fantasy Football, for many, has become as big a part of the game as any. Some die-hard fans will only follow the NFL in general, or their specific team, because that is where the true game is played. That is where the wins and losses are accumulated, and where the fortunes (or misfortunes) of all 32 NFL teams lie. Some more casual fans, or those who do not have a team they call their own, enjoy fantasy football over the real game because it dictates their own success or failure where there is a general lack of interest in who wins or loses so long as the game maintains its entertainment value. Then, there are combination team-freaks and statistic-freaks who have their favorite team and still enjoy playing a fantasy game based entirely off of numbers. They follow their team to a 'T', yet still prepare for fantasy football months in advance because of how much it pumps them up for football season through the long and monotonous summer days without our favorite sport.
I consider myself the latter: I found myself looking up player names and statistics the day Yahoo!'s Fantasy Football game came out in late May/early June. I cannot wait for my leagues' drafts, and the implications they will have on my chances for a fantasy championship in the '09-'10 fantasy season. Yet, you all know how much I love these Dolphins. They are my only team, always have been, and always will be (regardless of my lack of proximity to the team). It's just my way of building my general knowledge of the game and its players, and my mathematical mind and competitive nature just finds genuine enjoyment with the idea of analyzing numbers better than anyone else in the leagues in which I participate.
So with the permission of The I in the Sky, I would like to produce a weekly fantasy column for the enjoyment of our readers (whether fantasy-minded, reality-minded, or both) or for those who would like to read up on it to better their fantasy game.
finsxfactor, sorry buddy, that title has nothing to do with The Fray. Don't get too excited. It is a mere play on words using "Into the Fray" as the underlying phrase and mixing the abbreviated 'intro' to signify this column's introduction.
The most important aspect of any fantasy football season is the draft, regardless of what anyone says. The second most important aspect is the Waiver or UDFA period following the draft. You can fabricate value where there is none, snag the player who may go on to win you the championship in the last round, or use facades to sway your opponents in alternate directions as you pick the players you believe will bring you to the promised land. Let me jump right into an example from the '08-'09 fantasy baseball season, experienced by yours truly:
My second round pick back in late March was New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran. He put up huge numbers for me before succumbing to the disabled list just a week ago. It's important to note that in this league, we draft LF, CF, and RF separately. So, there goes my starting CF. Does my hold on first place go with it?
No. Using the premise of creating or finding value, I drafted Curtis Granderson in the fifth round, though he is only CF eligible. The idea is that, even though I don't have a RF or LF (among other things), Curtis Granderson is not a fifth round talent or in a fifth round situation. He is a player who will put up third or better round results at the end of the season. For some reason he was there when I picked in the fifth round. Though I already had my CF in place, I drafted Granderson knowing that he brought me huge value. It was almost as though I had two fourth round picks, and any fantasy player knows how valuable that is.
It's far more important to learn and practice this premise than one might realize. By drafting Granderson a round or two later than he should have gone, it allowed me to take a chance on Raul Ibanez in the 9th round. His ADP was around 120, so you can see I drafted him at least a round or two earlier than he was expected to go. The round or two I gained by drafting Granderson late made up for the round or two I may have lost if Ibanez didn't perform to my self-defined expectations. In case any of you do not follow baseball, Raul Ibanez was the second ranked player in the Yahoo! game (behind Zack Greinke, who is a completely different story, as I drafted him in the 12th round only for him to go on and become the best player in the Yahoo! game) before also hitting the disabled list.
And with that comes yet another story of value. I drafted Toronto's Adam Lind, LF-eligible, in the 23rd round as insurance and because I believed he presented a major value to my team that late in the draft. Lind is now the 33rd ranked player in the game, and I barely skip a beat when Ibanez goes down.
I cannot tell you how many times I've found values such as these, and how many times they have saved my team from major injury problems. It is truly unbelievable. But this is baseball; why do I bring it up in a fantasy football article? Easy. There are 25 rounds in my fantasy baseball draft, but there are only around 15 in fantasy football. Value becomes far more important when drafting ten less rounds, as injuries can come from nowhere to kill you far quicker in football. You only play through 16 or 17 weeks in fantasy football: if your top selection in the draft gets injured in the first game of the season (read: Tom Brady, drafted by my brother and I last season in a $200 entry league), you are absolutely screwed before the season even gets going. That is, unless you've found value later in the draft to help negate the impact.
Here is recap of the value I was able to find in my 2008 fantasy football drafts:
Main League (0.5 PPR), 14 Teams:
Round 1. LaDainian Tomlinson, 2. Marques Colston, 3. Drew Brees, 4. LenDale White, 5. Matt Forte, 7. Jeremy Shockey, 8.D.J. Hackett, 9. Chester Taylor, 10. Ted Ginn, Jr., 11. Jake Delhomme, 12-15. misc. special teams/speculation picks that did not pan out
Big-Buy-In League (1 PPR), 12 Teams:
Round 1. Tom Brady, 2. Frank Gore, 3. Maurice Jones-Drew, 4. Laveranues Coles, 5. Hines Ward, 6. Joey Galloway, 7. Antonio Gates, 8. Minnesota defense, 9. Shayne Graham, 10. Matt Hasselbeck, 11-14. misc. speculation picks that did not pan out, 15. Steve Slaton
You will notice right away that my draft in the Main League was crap. Why did I take third place in the league at season's end? Value. LaDainian Tomlinson was the first overall pick, but I lost value on that selection. Well, good start. Marques Colston was injured for the majority of the season and didn't contribute much when he was healthy. Drew Brees was the very first major-value pick that saved my season. I got him at pick 29, and I do not need to tell a single one of you what he did for my team last season. He basically carried my team, and though I selected him a bit early compared to Yahoo!'s projections, I believe he ended up as the No. 1 player in that game. That's value no matter how you look at it. LenDale White didn't even start for me unless he absolutely had to due to bye week complications, and I don't think I ended the season with him on my team. There goes my second and fourth round picks. But then comes Matt Forte with the first pick in the fifth round, and with 0.5 points per reception, that turned out to be a huge value: he produced like a late first/early second-rounder. Shockey, Hackett, Taylor, Ginn, Jr., Delhomme. None of them stayed on my team long, and none of them produced much. How could I possibly take third place with a bunch of busted picks? Well, it's easy to understand how crucial it was that I ascertained the value I did from selecting Brees in the third and Forte in the fifth.
Still, let me put it into perspective. LaDainian Tomlinson produced 238.00 fantasy points under our settings. This was a first round pick producing like a second-rounder or so. Steve Slaton, undrafted, scored 235.00 fantasy points. Picking up a UDFA producing like a second rounder is how fantasy champions are made. Eddie Royal, with 204.50 points, was my No. 1 receiver in terms of production. That was the highest total of any receiver on my team. And remember, this is a PPR league so receivers are just meant to produce. In a league this deep with only 15 rounds, value is of utmost importance. Drew Brees, my third round pick, produced the most at 321.50 points, while Forte followed up with 256.50 as a fifth-rounder. After that was LT, then Slaton, Royal, and Breaston, in that order. So, while it may just appear that I have subpar drafting skills in the later rounds, it is simply a testament to how deep the league is and how crucial it is to find value whenever and wherever you can. I mean, besides, if I took third place with this "poor" of a draft (for the most part), that just tells you how difficult it is to find that value and put together a team balanced enough to win each week.
Value, of course, is not tied exclusively to the draft. Two of my first two post-draft moves were to drop the players I took for reasons I still don't understand. In their places, I picked up DeSean Jackson and Steve Slaton. I was high on both of them once I got more of a look at them and read more about them following our somewhat early draft. I ultimately picked up Eddie Royal and dropped DeSean Jackson, because I did not believe both would produce such deadly numbers as rookies and believed Royal to have the better talent and situation. Royal and Slaton, along with Tomlinson, Forte, and Brees, carried me to the playoffs. Another pick-up which occurred following the start of the season was Steve Breaston, but Royal, Breaston, and Slaton alone could not have carried me on their backs without the immense values of LT, Brees, and Forte, all of which performed like first or second rounders week in and week out. However, picking up Slaton and Royal after the fact? That's value.
Oh, and I kept Dwayne Bowe by giving up something like a 6th round pick. Also a load of value, considering the sizeable league in which we played. 14 teams gives you a hell of a lot of problems you wouldn't expect to see in a normal league. Please keep that in mind.
Now, I call this an intro because there are a handful of things to touch on. Value, of course, is just one of them. It is the most important in my mind, which is why I elaborate on it so heavily. Let me highlight a few more factors that contribute to value and finding it in your fantasy drafts.
Know your league settings. The default for the Yahoo! game is well-known, but my main league differs in a few ways: first, we have 0.5 PPR. That makes wide receivers and backs who catch a lot of balls more valuable. It is important to note this, as Brian Westbrook outproduces somebody like Adrian Peterson with relative ease. Yet, AP is still taken second overall. That manager finished last that season, needless to say. The manager who selected Westbrook fifth overall (my dad) ended up fourth, and he's not the greatest fantasy football manager as he lacks knowledge of a wide range of players. It's all. About. Value. We also have 6 points for QB TDs, -2 for picks, a point per 30 yards passing, and -0.5 for sacks. This changes the quarterback dynamic, making them sneaky valuable. This is why drafting an Adrian Peterson, who doesn't catch many balls, second overall is just not smart and shows a complete lack of strategy in this league. You must know your league settings or this will be you, and you just will not score as many points as your opponents week in and week out. AP can only carry you so far if you don't plan around the settings every round thereafter.
Research everything, and be prepared. Look at every rookie in every situation. How is their quarterback? Do they develop chemistry in the preseason? Do they have the situation in which to start right away and put up big numbers (a la Royal and DeSean Jackson)? Do they have a crowded yet injury-prone backfield where a talented rookie could step in and win the job for good (a la Slaton, and this season, potentially Donald Brown)? Are they going into their third season and impressing everybody in OTAs or mini-camps (a la Ted Ginn, Jr.)? These are the things you must look at and evaluate before your drafts.
Constantly scout the waiver wire from the moment your draft ends to the very end of the season. As I mentioned, Eddie Royal and Steve Slaton were preseason pick-ups that I managed to snag in similar fashion to Miami's signing Davone Bess as an UDFA last season. That's pure value on their part, and picking up these fantasy players for little-to-no cost (a roster spot or two as opposed to speculative picks you don't think will pan out). If not for these players, as well as a Steve Breaston here or there, you have no shot at a championship unless you can find value in every single pick you make. As optimistic as the most optimistic fantasy player can be, that never happens and never will happen. Busted picks occur for various reasons, and you must adjust retroactively or proactively.
I hope this helps all of you, and I hope that (pending permission from Matty) I am able to bring you fantasy fans more informative information in the near future. Perhaps this will do well to help us pass the time of these dog days of football-free summer. Also, please feel free to ask any and all questions you may have related to each post. I'll be happy to answer them.
Author's Note: I do not consider myself a fantasy expert, but I do believe I possess enough knowledge and intelligence to produce a column that will assist the reader in some way. I have found quite a bit of success in fantasy sports, specifically baseball, but my football game has improved on a yearly basis and it is never simple to find success in any fantasy game. Please consider this and take the information provided as you please.