Christmas, Easter, 4th of July… Fantasy Football Draft Day — all national holidays. Well, all of them should be of course. If you were my father you would add the first day of deer hunting season to the list…
Fantasy football has become one of the biggest fads this country has ever seen. However, unlike disco, fanny packs or Napster, this is a fad not going away any time soon.
Whether you play for money, for fun or for money and fun, fantasy football is meant to be just that — fun. If you’ve played at all you realize there can be a muddled petri-dish of ways to play the game and the managers that try to play you while doing so; much of the fun can quickly evaporate.
I would like to present you my personal fantasy football manifesto; a guide to fantasy players new and old that will hopefully make your experience much more relaxed and fulfilling. Because let’s be honest, a bad fantasy football league can’t only ruin your Sundays, but your entire year.
First and foremost, where should you host your league? Obviously, the internet is the greatest tool fantasy football could have ever fathomed and it’s the reason for its exponential growth, but these four sites are the consensus when it comes to hosting fantasy:
I prefer Yahoo over all of them because I’ve been with them since 2001 and love their user-friendly layout. However, that’s just my preference.
First, let’s talk size.
You want at least 8 teams, no more than 12, unless you really want to go wacky. If you have a bench spot for every position (with a flex), you’re talking about drafting 200 players in a 10-team league. After 12 teams it’s easy to see a league can quickly become too thin.
What is PPR?
It stands for Points Per Reception, which is becoming more popular. However, I’m not a fan because I like to keep my fantasy game as close to real life as possible. If Darren Sproles catches 8 balls for 8 yards, he would get 8 points in a PPR league. That would be zero points in standard. However, in a standard scoring league (typically a point for every 10 yards) if he caught 2 balls for 80 yards, he would have 8 points in a standard league and only 2 in PPR. Which is more fair and closer to the impact the player had in the real-life game?
What is Dynasty/Keeper?
A Keeper league is one where each team gets to keep a set number of players they had the previous year. Dynasty leagues do the same only they can usually keep their players forever — as long as they wish from season to season. These leagues are becoming more popular but should only be done if you have a dedicated group of managers who are experienced and are reliable to return each season.
… Is the most important and fun part of the fantasy season. But you must set your league rules, scoring and settings before your draft, and the date, time and place for the draft should not change unless absolutely necessary. Any league changes following the draft also changes the strategy of the league and will therefore upset a lot of people; it’s the fastest way to make a league defunct.
Also, feel free to use Google Hangouts when having a draft or draft lottery. Our league has members all over the country and Google Hangouts allows all of us to video chat while we draft, making it one hell of a good time.
What is an auction draft?
Auction drafts are just that — an auction. Someone tosses out a player to be drafted and — with your allotted amount of dollars — you literally bid on that player. It’s a very fun but very time consuming way to draft. It’s more fair than a standard snake draft because it takes more strategy and gives everyone a fair shot at drafting any player, but it’s only for the most hardcore of fantasy players.
A snake draft simply means that the last pick of the first round gets the first pick of the second round, and so on… This is my preferred method for fantasy players on limited time because of, well, life (family, school, work).
When to have your draft.
Sunday nights are popular because that’s when most people have 2-3 hours to spare. No matter when you do it, hold your draft as close to the start of the season as possible. There will be injuries during the pre-season, as there are every year.
Even if it’s just setting up a Facebook group or sending a short email, your league should set forth rules to abide by. I’ve run my ‘League of Champions’ for nearly a decade and we actually have a league constitution in PDF form. Below is an excerpt.
League of Champions est. 2006
1. Draft order will be determined by selecting all names from a hat. Each manager’s name is written on an equally sized square. The draft selector must make it clear he is not looking in the hat and that names are shuffled properly. The order selected will go in reverse from 16-1. Once the names are selected, each manager in order from 1-16 gets to choose their draft position.
This method will be used unless the league votes on an alternative.
2. Dues are $15. This amount can be revised upon league approval, pre-season only.
- Thou have team location and team name.
- Thou have team logo.
- Thou talk smack, ye be friendly. Troublemakers nay allowed.
- Thou pay dues.
- Thou be interactive and respond to inquiries timely.
- Thou be competitive all season by setting rosters weekly.
- Thou have fun.
Managers who fail to bring fun and fulfill the aforementioned requests might not be invited back the following season. Best advice – thou not finish dead last.
A. All season settings, rules and scoring must be finalized before the draft and cannot be changed at any time during season play.
The league will review all trades over a one-day period. If more than one-third of the league vetoes the trade then the trade will then be revoked. This process can be revised upon league approval, pre-season only.
The annual winner of the LOC is to receive the Froman Bobblehead Trophy, with team name and manager name engraved for all eternity. If any damage were to occur to the trophy while in possession, the current owner is responsible for repairs
So you can see we keep it short and simple, but there are still rules.
I like each team in my league to have a solid name and logo — it brands each team and the league as a whole. I also don’t want any troublemakers. Don’t be that guy. That guy never pays his dues to the commissioner, won’t respond to trades, never sets his roster past week 2 and is generally a thorn in everyone’s ass. Ya, it’s okay not to invite that guy back.
You must crunch some numbers if you want to win your league. No doubt about it, especially in football, where there are countless injuries every week. But where do you start? The ‘Bitter Berry’…
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or an experienced veteran, Matthew Berry is the best in the business and a must-follow for every manager. Start with this Draft Day Manifesto and work towards his “100 Facts” and Love/Hate articles just before your draft. You should also listen their ‘06010’ Fantasy Focus podcast on ESPN.com every day. Their entertaining jokes surrounding pop culture and the ‘man’s league’ intertwined with useful fantasy factoids make this the best podcast in the biz. Berry is down to Earth and extremely knowledgeable without being a complete nerd. (Believe it or not, fantasy football isn’t as nerdy as it use to be).
Brad Evans and Co. over at Yahoo! Sports also do a fantastic job.
A fantasy football magazine or two is good, but don’t over do it since they are published before training camps even begin.
Now it’s draft day. What do I do?!
There are many draft strategies one could take each year and it would be easy to get overwhelmed. After all, you do have more than 200 players on the board.. In short, your fantasy strategy should be that of real-life. Which means, make sure to grab an amazing quarterback.
Of course the ‘League of Champions’ likes to make it as close to real-life as possible, so a quarterback TD pass is still worth 6 points; if it’s only worth 4 points in your league (as it is in some), this does diminish the position somewhat. However, it’s still the most important position in all of sports and you need a reliable one in order to win any fantasy league.
In 2014, if you don’t get one of the following quarterbacks very early, wait to grab one from the next tier.
The best QBs of 2014 will likely be:
1. Peyton Manning – Denver
2. Drew Brees – New Orleans
3. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay
And that being said, I like Brees and Rodgers over Manning this season. I could describe why, but this article is already getting too long and we all know you have things to see and people to do…
Next comes your running backs and wide receivers. You could grab Jimmy Graham at the tight end spot very early if you wish, but you’ll be over-paying for a guy who will be trying to repeat the second best tight end season in the history of the NFL. It’s best to wait on tight end and grab one of these guys:
Best running backs on the board:
1. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City
2. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia
3. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota
Under-rated running backs this season worth grabbing:
Andre Ellington – Arizona
Toby Gerhart – Jacksonville
Bishop Sankey – Tennessee
Joique Bell – Detroit
Andre Ellington is a very popular sleeper pick this season amongst many fantasy experts.
Best wide receivers on the board:
Calvin Johhnson – Detroit
Dez Bryant – Dallas
Julio Jones – Atlanta
Brandon Marshall – Chicago
Under-rated wide receivers worth grabbing:
Michael Floyd – Arizona
Torrey Smith – Baltimore
Kendall Wright – Tennessee
Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia
Brandin Cooks – New Orleans
Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City
DeAndre Hopkins – Houston
Tight ends who are sleepers:
Dennis Pitta – Baltimore
Jordan Reed – Washington
Zach Ertz – Philadelphia
How to draft defense and kickers
First, you should only draft one kicker. Just one. And he should always be drafted last. Always. Sure, they’re people too, but the point differential between the best kicker in your league and the 12th best is very miniscule and nearly impossible to predict.
With defense you should wait until most of the high-upside juice is already squeezed in the draft. Because the differential of points between defense is just as hard predict, it’s best to wait and/or stream throughout the season based on matchups. I would rather choose a late round running back sleeper who could blow up mid-season than a mid-tiered defense.
Order of importance for 2014:
2. Running back
3. Wide Receiver
4. Tight End
6 Kicker (always pick last)
And let me make this clear. The aforementioned lists feature the players getting a lot of hoopla from the “experts” this pre-season. I haven’t been to training camp. I haven’t coached these men. I’m not the beat writer analyzing them in the locker room. Just like yourself, I only make an educated guess on what I read; that’s the best you can do as well.
Finally, have a trophy!
… or a great tradition of some sort. Fantasy football is supposed to be an absolute blast, so make it a good time. The winner should receive something great: a trophy, t-shirt, plaque, memorabilia…. the loser in some leagues has to get a tattoo! No lie. Read about it in Matthew Berry’s book.
In The League of Champions we have the Froman (Bueller? Bueller?) bobblehead Trophy that travels to the winning manager each season. Wherever he lands we are sure to take snapshots of his journeys for our Facebook group. Here is just one of those photos of Froman at Coney Island last year before he moved back to LA.
Kick butt this season, have fun, but most importantly always remember that “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t look around every once in awhile, you could miss it.”
Photo Credit: Getty