Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fantasy Preview

No matter how you look at it or should I say listen to it, whether it be:

Like this.
Or this.
Even this.
Perhaps this.

The dawn of the NFL kick off is creeping upon us. We can all agree we are glad it is back in lives. Or can we? Hold that thought for a minute.

I have given this some long and ponder-some thought and have come to the conclusion, that NFL football means more to me this year than it ever has in the past. Initially, I would not give that longing sort of feeling credit to the lockout, but perhaps I ought to. In the minds of most of us… the lockout never happened because it did not really affect us at any great deal. I did not miss any games at all, and the games are the only thing that would given me a sense of “missing something” if they were not present. But they have been present. So why have I felt like I have longed for the NFL more this year, as compared to any other moment in my life?

Today it hit me—along with the sharp, poignant, and glaring fact that I have not written anything in over a month—that I have missed the NFL. During the lockout, I did not pay any attention to it, because frankly there was never a moment where I had a fear that I was going to miss out on my annual partaking of the NFL. It would, in my mind, be the same as it has been over the past 10 years of my life. I always knew it would be back and that a deal would be reached between owners and players. Not scoffing that sentiment, like a know-it-all sports writer, rather it was just my opinion on the whole ordeal. And I was right. (OK, that part was scoffed a ‘lil bit).

I did not follow the lockout, read up on it, refresh my Twitter every two seconds for the latest Adam Schefter update. Nothing. The exact opposite rather. I locked out the lockout. I simply put the lockout and all things associated to it, out of my mind. Today I realized, because I did this, the times when I would be reading about camps opening up, the occasional offseason trade, etc., the little NFL crumbs that kept my belly sustained, were cut off. I was going NFL hungry. It is so obvious now that I write it down. Why did I think that I could starve myself… and not feel starved?

Regardless, the NFL is indeed back and with that comes my nerdy, super geeky, pencil pushing, I-wear-black-rimmed-glasses-with-tape-around-the-middle Fantasy Football. It still amazes me when I mention Fantasy Football in casual conversation with strangers that I interact with, and they ask me, “What is Fantasy Football?” Fantasy Football is such a part of my life, it has become one of those things that you just naturally assume every person likes and does, same as you. I will acknowledge that Fantasy Football has grown and is pretty mainstream, and lot of that has to do with the advances in social media and technology, but Fantasy Football is not to the capacity that everyone does it and knows what it means. What is Fantasy Football at its basic core?

My take and the way I tell people about Fantasy Football:

"You and your buddies get together and take turns picking the rights to real life NFL players, with which you form a “fantasy team”. Each week your team plays another person’s “fantasy team” and you keep score with a point system correlating to said person’s actual, real life, NFL performance. If Drew Brees is the QB for my “fantasy team” and he throws a touchdown pass that week in his real life game, than I get X amount of points. Whosever team has the most points in that weeks matchup, wins."

This is the part where I finish and look at them, and they respond with a blank stare or say something like, “Ohhhh OK…” Which really—I mean, lets be honest—just translates to, “I get what you just said, but in no way does that sound fun.”

I like to break the awkward tension just by saying, “Yeah, its just a super nerdy thing I do with my friends” to which they let out a real, genuine, somewhat gasping, like they were holding it in, laugh. The laugh is the joyous, ha-ha, look at you, non-verbal form of saying, “Oh my gosh, that is exactly what I thought when you were talking, and the look on my face probably gave it away already, but because you just said what you said, I am going to take the opportunity to unconsciously laugh to your face.” It’s OK. When it happens I think I remain really funny, while still being geeky, and that people respect me. I think that way until I write about it in a column and realize people laugh at me…

Moving forward.

Fantasy is back in my life and this is the second year of an auction league I set up to serve an extra scoop of dorkiness. If you are reading this and are a League Commissioner in your first year: I feel for you friend. That is not a good time. Hang in there; it will get much better year two. At least it did for me. Last season—when I posed on everyone like the Heisman on the way to the locking up the League Championship (yeah, I said it)—we only had one person quit and one person who never checked their team. Luckily I was able to find someone mid-season who would take over for the quitter and would stick around for the foreseeable future. It was not too hard to adjust the roster for the non-checker, and I found a solid replacement to take over this year. Do not get discouraged by the slothfulness of people in your league.

The thing that separates our league, from most leagues out there, is that I set it up using the best formats of various Fantasy Football settings, all rolled in to one. On top of that, I added elements that have never existed in Fantasy Football, such as farm system draft of collegiate players and long-term contracts. What is a long-term contract in Fantasy Football you ask? Basically, it is light years ahead of your patty-cake patty-cake bakers pan lottery draft. I wrote about this last year. If you are still using a snake styled format to conduct your draft… you are living in the Stone Age. Time to elevate your thinking and switch to the auction draft. It is where the playas’ play. And we all wanna play where the playas' play.

Pretty much, a long-term contract is the equivalent—which mind you, does not exist anywhere else except in my fantasy league thanks to my time, hard work, and inspiration of Bill Simmons—to the hold over that exists in snake styled drafts.

In leagues that allow for holdovers (usually 2 or 3 players) you can keep that player for ever and ever and ever. Not competitive enough, and did not really reflect how things are done in the actually NFL. Obviously NFL teams can keep players… but they have to pay those players… so why not model my Fantasy Football league as much as I can to the NFL? That is why our league plays like this:

i. You can keep any player for a TOTAL of four years.

ii. Any player you drafted can be kept for an $10 the following season.

iii. After Year 2, you then have the option to sign that player for TWO extra years, for $15 more in Year 3, and another $5 in Year 4.

iv. Decisions to sign a kept player to a 2-year contract extension (years 3 and 4) must be made prior to the Year 3 draft.

THE 2-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION LOCKS IN YOU IN FOR TWO YEARS FOR SAID PLAYER. Even if that player gets hurt and you drop them. That money is still coming out of your draft budget regardless.

Say what?! Any player that was on your team last year, can be re-signed for what they were paid the first year, but for an additional ten spot on top? You betchaya. With this format, I am not limited to 2 or 3 “holdovers” but instead I am only limited my team’s budget AKA a Salary Cap… just like the real NFL. It puts you in the owner mind set. Plus, the agony of whether or not to sign a play to a TWO YEAR deal is felt by the fantasy owner, the same as it is felt by the NFL owner. I really cannot wait to get to Year 3 to see if I have to face that kind of decision. Even more than that, I cannot wait for someone in my league to go through themselves, sign the player, and then have that player suck it up. It’s fantastic! Mental stress over a fake game that ultimately does not mean anything! Yaayyyy!

Well how much money do you have each year? In our league, every team is allotted $200 to spend on players for the draft. The funds for the guys you re-sign are taken out of that $200 dollar amount. For mid-season pick-ups, each team will have $150 dollars to spend for the entire regular and post season. To get a feel for it here is each teams break down for this year’s upcoming draft:

JEFF

RB Darren McFadden $11
RB LeGarrette Blount $13
TE Jermichael Finley $14

Remaining funds for draft night: $163

Last season was Jeff’s first time every doing Fantasy Sports. He did pretty well, but his team was plagued by injuries and semi-off years by guys who he paid top dollar for. He stuck in there and took his licks and landed two good re-signee’s in Run-DMC and LaGarrette Blount mid way through the season.

BRAD

QB Josh Freeman $22
WR Mike Wallace $11
RB LeSean McCoy $11

Remaining funds for draft night: $156

Brad is taking over the guy who never checked his team and really, we should not be surprised that he never checked his team because he was a no-show on draft night. Because he could not nominate players or bid on them, his team was given players at $1 dollar last season after the rest of us had finished the draft. Getting LeSean McCoy this year for $11 is a steal, when ESPN has him projected to go $48 on their big boards.

R-DAWG

RB Jamaal Charles $16
QB Aaron Rodgers $42
WR DeSean Jackson $27
TE Antonio Gates $25
RB Frank Gore $36
WR Miles Austin $28

Remaining funds for draft night: $26

The big spender our first year, and now the big spender again. At the start of last year’s draft, I nominated the first pick to be bid on—the New York Jets defense—and Ryan bought them for $6 dollars. His explanation has been, “I am not keeping any of this money in real life, so why save it?” To each their own, but $26 bucks left over on draft night, to fill 9 positions will be interesting. Granted you cannot completely knock him. He finished 2nd overall in the league last year.

E

QB Matt Ryan $14
QB Ben Roethlisberger $14
TE Todd Heap $11
WR Calvin Johnson $36

Remaining funds for draft night: $125

E was unreal last year. He finished the regular season at 10-3 after starting out 0-and-2. On top of that, the only reason he lost his first two games is because he never switched out the injured Beanie Wells in Weeks 1 or 2. Had he played ANY other running back on his bench, he would have won both games and finished the regular season 12-1. However, come the playoffs he was a no-show and was dismissed in the first round.

SNOOPY

RB Peyton Hillis $13
WR Hakeem Nicks $12
WR Vincent Jackson $15
WR Michael Crabtree $15
QB Tony Romo $14
QB Philip Rivers $27

Remaining funds for draft night: $104

The sneak. When everyone was battling it out in the playoffs, Joey saw that it was not going to happen for his team, and did the smart thing by picking up players that had been dropped due to injury to make a playoff run. He snagged Tony Romo for $4, Michael Crabtree and Vincent Jackson for $5 a piece. Like Ryan, Snoop re-signed six guys, but managed to do it for less than $100 bucks of his draft budget

ROB

QB Peyton Manning $50
RB Arian Foster $13
WR Andre Johnson $51

Remaining funds for draft night: $86

Rob finished last year’s draft by shoulder shrugging at the three $3 dollars he spent on Arian Foster, because he had forgotten to draft a back up running back. It was the last pick of the draft and nobody thought anything of it. After Week 1 we were all whistling a different tune as we watched Foster put up a gangster 46 points… for Rob’s bench. Same thing happened again in Week 2. Rob wised up and started Adrian for the rest of the season.

ME

QB Michael Vick $13
RB Michael Turner $28
WR Roddy White $26
WR Dez Bryant $17

Remaining funds for draft night: $116

I made moves and ended up League Champ. I intend to RE-peat with my RE-signs.

JASON

RB Chris Johnson $56

Remaining funds for draft night: $144

Jason took over for the quitter, and let us just say the team he took over did not have a bunch to work with, hence him only resigning one player. He has promised big things this year and is looking forward to playing a team that he drafted himself.

Last year was extremely fun and challenging but this year should be even better.

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