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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Fantasy Football: The Draft

I have never been really into football, which is kind of unusual because I live in the South, where even animals are into football.

Photo from Zara Windsor

Photo from Kendall Hill
But yeah, never been that into it.  I mean, I was in band in high school, so I went to every football game for four years in a row.  I even went to a game in college, which is impressive because our college was not known for it's football team.  In fact, I think they'd only had one like, two years by that point.  I'm pretty sure there might have been people at our college who didn't even know we had a football team.

Anyway, all that to say that I decided to join the party this year.  I am going to totally care about football.

So I joined a fantasy football league.

My friends and my sister are always talking about it, and it sounded like kinda fun, maybe, so I thought, "What the heck?" And I signed up.

I'm sure this will be a series of posts, but today's post is just about the draft.  I worked very hard to get ready for my draft, so I will share my tips for everyone else.

1)  Learn the Basic Rules of the Game

I cannot stress this enough.  If you don't know how the game is played, you won't understand why a running back is more valuable than a tackle and you will draft nine kickers because you think they score a lot.

As I said, I have watched football before, so I know the basic basic rules, like, "the ball should go the direction your team is facing," and "when they kick the ball through the Y, it's extra points."  I know you aren't supposed to grab someone's face mask and I know "First and ten, do it again!" from the very helpful cheerleaders.

What I didn't know was...everything else.  I had to spend several nap times (my most valuable unit of time) learning the positions of the different players and what each position did.  I had to learn why sometimes it's ok to tackle a guy and sometimes it's super not ok.  (That part still seems funny to me, but whatevs.)

Turns out, Wikipedia is actually a fantastic source for football 101.  I now know my quarter backs from my running backs and my safeties from my interceptions!

2)  Learn The Players

In order to play fantasy football, you have to draft players to your imaginary team, and you will look stupid if you just draft the ones who's names you recognize.  You'll end up with Tim Tebow, Plaxico Burress, Michael Jordan, and John Madden.

I spent a lot more nap times combing through lists of players.  Most lists only agreed on the top three or four, so I read the ups and downs of the different players and tried to make my own top 20 lists for each position.  I also talked to my sister a lot, because she has been doing this for a while.  It's a good idea to try to find a Jedi/Sensei/ to help you get started.

I can't say that I really know that much about all the players still, but I have a notebook full of stuff I've written about them, so I can sound like I know what I'm talking about when I say, "Yeah, he should be ok now that the Falcons have moved to a more pass-friendly game," or "Yeah, he has a pretty good receiving average, and there are high expectations for him to carry the corps this year."

3)  Make Your Lists

You want to make lists of your top 20 for each major offensive position.

Geez, I sound so awesome saying that.

Anyway, when you draft, you take turns picking people you want on your team, so you need to have a long list ready if/when people take the guy you really wanted.

You only need like, ten kickers though, 'cause they're not that important.

But for all the other positions, you need at least 20, plus some sleepers, which are players who maybe haven't done great yet, but who might have a break out year and get you lots of surprise points.  If someone makes fun of a choice you made, always say he's a sleeper and smile like you know something they don't.

(Note:  This strategy does not work for Mark Sanchez.)


4)  Decide on Your Strategy

This is where your Jedi/Sensei can help you a lot.  You need to decide how you are going to draft your players.  Apparently, drafting quarterbacks first is so like, five years ago.  Now, it's all about the running backs.  But what then?  Do you go for an elite quarterback next?  Or do you go for Megatron, the super awesome wide receiver who, as his nickname suggests, looks like an actual transforming robot stuck midway between humanoid shape and diesel truck form?  Do you get two pretty good running backs or do you sacrifice so you can snatch up a tight end while the good ones are still out there?

You have to decide, and you need to be flexible.  Depending on where you are in the draft order, your strategy can completely change.  This is where the next step can help you.

5)  Do a Mock Draft

I was really intimidated by the idea of doing a mock draft, but I'm so glad I did it.  It helped me first of all figure out the platform that I would be using, so I knew which buttons to click and how to set up my customized lineup ahead of time.  It also helped me get used to thinking through my strategies on the fly.  I was last in the draft order, which is pretty much my worst case scenario, so it was a good chance to see how that would go.

Turns out, I did pretty well, partly because I think some of the other people in the mock draft were either drunk or they know even less than I do about football.  Some of their picks made no sense whatsoever, and coming from me, that's saying something!

6)  Draft Away! (Easier Said than Done)

Our league had kind of a saga trying to draft.  We went to the local Buffalo Wild Wings for their "Official Draft Day."  We made our reservations ahead of time, and told them we were doing a live online draft.  We get there, get all our computers set up, and then realize they have no Internet.

No.  Internet.

Please keep in mind, this is the establishment that has been doing an advertising blitz for the last month about being "Fantasy Football Draft Central," and we went on their advertised "National Draft Day."  We had two IT guys in our group, and they tried every trick they knew to get us online.  It kind of worked, and they finally got us on, but the connection was so slow it wouldn't load the page.

Fail fail fail.

We decided to go back to our house and try it.  By then, it was way past our scheduled draft time, and the computer had auto drafted for us.  We got all set up to redo it...

...and then we discovered that we couldn't reschedule the draft until at least the following day.  So frustrating.

So our "Third Time's a Charm" draft happened a few nights later, but instead of getting together again, we all just drafted from our homes.  It was not nearly as epic, but what are you gonna do?

I got a pretty solid team, although the host site didn't think so, and projected me to finish dead last in our league.

Whatever, Yahoo.  You don't know me.

Here's my team, for those who are interested.

Beginner's Luck

QB:  RG3
RB:  Marshawn Lynch
RB:  Jamaal Charles
WR:  AJ Green
WR:  Vincent Jackson
Flexi: Reggie Wayne
TE:  Gronk/Owen Daniels (Since Gronk is out for the first few games)
K:  Sebastian Janikowski
DEF:  Texans
D:  Ray Ventrone
D: Rashad Johnson

Bench:  Darren McFadden, Montee Ball, Zach Sudfeld, Mike Williams, Andrew Luck, Chris Ivory, and Carson Palmer

See?  Not bad.

If you really want to see how awesome they are, I made a Pinterest board of them all doing awesome stuff. It makes me feel better when I worry that my team sucks.

I didn't get any super elite players, mostly because everyone kinda freaked me out by doing not at all what I was told everyone would do, and also because I was 7/8 in the draft order.  No worries, though.  It'll be cool.  I have high hopes for RG3 now that he is 100% recovered, and my RB's are solid.  We can do this!

Play ball!



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