Greetings and salutations faithful fantasy fanatics and fans! I wanted to drop a quick introduction on you before I begin my elocution on the world of fantasy sports. My name is Ryan Ingram, and I’m a 33-year-old well-to-do (which I have no idea what that means, but I’ve yearned to use it in a sentence) father of one who has an obsessive nature with Fantasy Football. In all actuality, I’m rather obsessive about most things. I would not call it OCD, but more of an “all in” complex. It’s served me rather well in my professional life, as it allows me to work very hard to achieve whatever I want, but on a personal nature it’s come as a detriment to my personal time. With all things I enjoy, I tend to go overboard whether it be buying Ring of Honor DVD’s, Magic The Gathering Cards, video games, or my ever-growing movie collection. To the crux of the complex, however, is my relationship with Fantasy Football. I obsess over Fantasy Football like the thousands of readers who are regular followers of this wondrous website, and more so than the newer readers who I intend to bring to the fold. Fantasy Football is a wonderful thing, and each week my intention is to provide you with an entertaining, and well written opinion piece discussing life, fantasy football, and whatever else seems relevant at the time. I am glad to be a part of this family, and encourage each of you to read all of the articles and feel free to comment at the bottom of the page. So, as they said in 49 BC Rome, allow us to cross the Rubicon and begin our journey together.
In this day and age, we live in a world that is as competitive as we have ever seen. Every day, we’re faced with new obstacles and scenarios in which we are forced to choose whether to remain complacent or work hard towards a solution. The information age has brought out the best and worst of us and the option of rebelling against the dogmatic nature of the world no longer sounds quite as enticing as it did in the glamorous punk rock 80’s and anti-establishment late 90’s. We may try to fight for our right to party, much to the delight of our id; but for the most part we conform to unyielding pressure of our modern-day demands. Because of the dog-eat-dog nature of our society, we have become a people who must learn to live, survive and thrive on the edge.
At this point in the dialogue, you may be wondering where I’m going with diatribe on the hardships of 2014 living, but have no fears my faithful followers, what I’m about to tell you may just save your life one day! No, that’s not true at all. What I will do is give you four sound pieces of advice which will assist you, the reader, in preparing yourselves for the upcoming fantasy football season.
Fantasy Football’s popularity is ever-growing, and is no longer the sole plaything of statisticians, nerds, and the fledgling football expert. No friends, the mass appeal of the National Football League has opened up the flood gates for a new wave of fantasy football player. While some old school players may have scoffed at having their private world of numbers interrupted and intruded on by the house wife, angst ridden teenager, or curious well-doer; it has only had positive repercussions on the Fantasy community.
Much like the video gaming community, fantasy football has become an accepted hobby and the myriad of fantasy related phrasing has worked its way into the lexicon of the public. Sadly, we may no longer have our secret hand-shakes, uninterrupted discussions about Brees vs. Rodgers and moments at the water cooler to discuss the regret of not starting Joique Bell in Week 16 of your league’s championship game; but the trade-off has been a dramatic increase in the availability of leagues, pseudo experts who enjoy sharing their opinions, and websites in which we can experience this most wonderful of “sports”.
As Ben Parker once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As the power of media has become the ultimate enabler in knowledge, so to with it comes the responsibility of staying one step ahead of the curve and being able to justify choosing Lesean McCoy over Adrian Peterson. Long gone are the days of playing in leagues in which other members choose their players based on favorite team. These types of league still exist, though they’re becoming increasingly fewer and further between. A good “fun league” is always something I suggest fantasy players attempt to enter into at least once per year. The lack of stress is refreshing and allows you to take some of those risks you’d otherwise not want to take in a league with potential monetary gains, or even more importantly, a trophy that has been passed down year to year. In these days, maintaining that competitive edge requires a great deal of effort. If Professor Moody were in the room, he would say, “Constant Vigilance!” I do understand that it wasn’t actually Professor Moody who said those words, and was really Barty Crouch Jr. hopped up on polyjuice potion, but you get the point I’m sure. It may seem daunting to remain competitive, but in all actuality it’s quite simple. Below are a few requirements that must be followed if you wish to remain competitive in modern-day Fantasy Football.
- Read, Read, Read: If you’ve come this far in the column, you’ve made it apparent that you actually care about the outcome of your team. There are some who enjoy playing without the actual desire to win. However, you are no longer one of those people. You may walk through your supermarket, see a fantasy football magazine and be tempted to pick one up. I’m of the mindset that you’re simply wasting your money. Fantasy football magazines are written and published well before the draft. There will always be trades, injuries or some other form of drama that alters the landscape of fantasy football. Instead, you should spend your time reading a variety of websites to score the most up-to-date information. A multitude of sites have positional rankings which are updating on a weekly basis. These are your bread and butter. Save the money you would have spent on a magazine for something you’ll get a real value from, like Ring Dings or a bag of Chex Mix.
- Understand the scoring of your league: I’ve been involved in countless leagues in which one owner assumed PPR, and spent the majority of his picks building around that ideal. I suppose he missed the pre-draft announcement of “this is not a PPR league” or the same statement listed on the leagues homepage. There is a dramatic difference in draft strategy in a PPR league vs. Non-PPR. PPR leagues will always score higher and you’ll generally see similar players at the top of the food chain. However the differential in the players you would draft in the 7th, 8th or 9th round is noticeable. As a quick example, take Brian Hartline. In a non-PPR league, he scored 117 points, but in PPR it was 155. Yes, I recognize it’s only 2.75 points per game, but in a competitive league those points could make or break you. Additionally, I don’t’ put a lot in stock in that type of math. Yes, it’s 2.75 points if you look at it on an average. I tend to look at a single game increase, for Hartline, of 18 points to 22.5 points. I believe a bit more in that big play ability. When Hartline put up 22.5 points in week 13 of a PPR league that most likely would have been enough to put someone into the playoffs. Know your leagues point structure.
- Always mock draft: I fancy myself to have a very sound fantasy football mind, so one of the most common questions I’ve had asked of me is who to draft first. The problem is, answering that question requires a few prefaced questions. There are a few basic ideologies that exist when the question of “who to draft first” is spoken. If we work off the assumption of a 10 team, standard league; we’re able to break down positional strength a bit more. I am a firm believer in drafting RB’s early in almost any scenario. A few years back, QB depth was unbelievably shallow. If you didn’t get a big name QB early, chances are you’d face a bit of an uphill battle for the remainder of the season. As a new generation of QB’s emerged, the pool started to deepen and a fantasy player was no longer forced to go QB early. It’s hard to craft a scenario in which I wouldn’t suggest taking a RB early. There isn’t a ton of depth, so getting a top RB is an absolute requirement. The better question is what to take 2nd and 3rd based on your draft position. Because of these questions and variables, mock drafts provide you with a strong template to work with. They are free, they take minutes and you can do it from your portable devices. There is absolutely no downside to doing mock drafts, and many people feel more confident on their draft day having done mock drafts. In most cases, drafts will play out incredibly similar to the mocks you’ve practiced on. Trust me, you must mock draft!
- Trust your instinct: Most people go into a draft with a printed out ranking of all the players. It has become common place for a drafter to pick the next best available player, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the wise choice. Sometimes you have a feeling about a player or maybe you just really want a certain player on your team. Just don’t take Blair Walsh in the 9th round even if he will add some excitement to your team!
The professionals aren’t always right and they are still ranking with a tinge of opinion. Look at the player, look at the team they play for and that team’s offensive line. Look at their division, the schedule and decide whether you think it will pay off. Many a fan took MJD early last season as he was hyped as being a big sleeper. Well, as big a sleeper as a career 8000 yard, 68 touchdown player can be; and it didn’t pay off so well. Look at where David Wilson was unanimously ranked last season (17th RB overall) compared to where he finished (he had 13 points, I’m pretty sure they don’t really rank that). Sometimes you have to trust your gut and not the pundits.
If you enjoy fantasy football and you want to be successful, these above four steps should absolutely be followed. Look, it’s not like I made these things up and you’re trusting me. Talk to any person who is serious about fantasy and they will say something similar. The information is out there for the taking. If you’re the type who doesn’t care about winning and simply drafts to have fun, then the above will not apply to you. However, if you’ve read this far, it means you’re one of the serious ones. You are either a seasoned veteran, who is slapping their forehead and saying “obviously!” or you’re maybe new to the more structured and disciplined side of the game. Regardless, make this year the year that you put in those extra few hours. Above all else that I’ve said, remember what the great Vince Lombardi once said, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”