Fantasy Football Love Lost

No longer does fantasy football rule my life. Saturday marks the 31st year I have organized and participated in the TFL or Toumi Football League. What started back in the early 80’s with 6 close friends who played soccer together has grown into lifelong friendships that span the coast of California. Through the years we have lost a few diehards, but gained new blood and made new friendships, yet the core group have been together for 31 years. It’s quite an amazing achievement, considering what the league and fantasy football in general has grown into.

A few years back I stumbled upon Fantasy Football Starters, a fantasy football site based out of Phoenix, Arizona. I started participating on their forums during the season and was asked to be a moderator, which was a wonderful gesture. I felt as if I might regain a love I had lost for fantasy football and possibly see that flame ignite while being an active participant and being involved.

Unfortunately 3 years later I emailed the guys behind FFS and told them to remove my alias as a moderator as fantasy football was no longer a priority in my life. In fact I have no interest in watching the NFL, sports in America have degraded that much. In these days of big money, poor sportsmanship, increased injuries and nonstop advertising I no longer care about the NFL, MLB, NFL and never did watch the NBA. Sports have no relevance in my life, outside of international football (soccer those American struggling to call it football).

So where does that leave me for fantasy football? I am acting commissioner in two leagues, the TFL and my work league, but won’t actively participate in the drafts. Actually considering an auto draft in my work league. Why not? The winning team did that last year. As for the TFL, I am sure many of the owners I call friends, aren’t happy with my lack of interest and participation. No longer do I make the roadie to Las Vegas or Palm Springs, as family and career come first. Not sure they all understand that, but I don’t expect them to. I would probably do better to call it quits and let more new blood join the league.

Not sure that even winning the league would increase my excitement about the game or the NFL. That is how bad it has gotten. So with that said I will participate, but it won’t be to the degree that I lived and breathed football, waiting for the Thursday night games and MNF. It’s just another sport that has become irrelevant in my life. Hopefully the interest remains, or I will lose contact with a number of childhood friends.

3 Teams. 1 Strategy. No Results.

I should be writing a piece on my mid-season performance in fantasy football this week. Maybe I am being a bit too pessimistic to my approach, but having experienced 29 years of fantasy football I know chances to take home a championship have dwindled this season for a myriad of reasons. This year was the first (and last) year of participating in a 14 team league and having a terrible experience currently 1-7. In my opinion 14 teams is too many. At work I started off well going 5-3, but have drop 3 games in the last 5 weeks. As for the league I manage, the TFL I am 4-4 but in 9th place overall based on total points.

Being 1-7 is tough, now 8 weeks down with 5 remaining, all I would need to win to have an outside shot at a playoff spot. Based on how poorly my team has performed, I can’t even put a positive spin on my team. The loss of Fred Jackson early on hurt me. This injury was followed by Cedric Benson, which left me DeMarco Murray who was injured in week 7 and didn’t play in week 8. Need I mention he was my #1 pick in (13th overall) the draft. To be honest, my team is unrecognizable in week 8 compared to who I drafted.

At QB, Philip Rivers has killed me all season long. I decided to pick up Christian Ponder and start him the rest of the way, as I have long lost faith in the coaching and management of the Chargers. Another Charger who hasn’t impressed, Antonio Gates, who has showed up for exactly 1 game this season. I also had Nate Kaeding before I lost him to injury earlier this year, but made the decision not to pick up his replacement opting for Greg Zuerlein.

Oh players I drafted Steven Ridley has probably been my best performer, but even his play has been inconsistent. Speaking of inconsistency, Dez Bryant was quiet though 3 weeks, but has come to life in 3 of the last 4 games, hopefully this is a positive sign for during a dismal season.

The last few weeks I have picked up Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Givens, Mikel Leshoure and Titus Young. Players who had been jettisoned by other teams to make way for other hot talent on the wire. Currently there are no players on the wire who could turn my season around. I suspect I will finish the season with a 2-11 record. My team has been unable to score, even the victory I had 2 weeks ago was only by a slim 3 point margin. So put a fork in this team, I will play out the season and not play in another 14 team league again.

At work we use ESPN and I am the commissioner for the 3rd year in a row. I won the league 2 years ago and thought I was on the winning track to start the 2012 season. I have been derailed the past few weeks suffering 3 loses and dropping me to 5-3. Still with that record I am in a position to make the playoffs and looking at my remaining schedule I play only 1 team with a winning record. So while the match ups favor me, I just need to see production out of a team that posted a 153 point score in week 5. I know the team can score, but inconsistency seems to have gotten the better of this team the past 5 weeks.

The team is anchored by Drew Brees, who came off his worst performance of the season last night. Injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw and Reggie Bush during the year have slowed their play recently, in which I suffered two of those loses. I don’t see Daryl Richardson as a legit starter for either of these RBs. Given we have only 5 bench spots (12 team league) I am only carrying 3 RBs. Not a wise move on my part.

I am very strong at WR with Eric Decker, Marques Colston and Julio Jones are my regular starters. All have played well this season and more importantly have remained healthy. They are the reason why I have gotten off to a 5-3 start this season. I expect these WRs to carry me the rest of the way. During the bye weeks I have been fortunate picking up Josh Gordon and Chris Givens. At TE I lost Fred Davis to injury, but this year there have been some very good play at the position. I picked up Martellus Bennett and Dennis Pitta during the season and have filled in admirably. Currently Bennett is the start and unless another better TE becomes available, I will run the season with “The Black Unicorn.”

This was another league that I had Nate Kaeding in, with his move to the IR due to injury I went with Shayne Graham initially, but after 2 weeks moved on to Greg Zuerlein who seemed to have more field goal chances. That move has paid off as well…until this week when STL score only 7 points.

My backup QB is Philip Rivers and had thoughts about going to him early on while I put Drew Brees on the trade block, where he has been for 8 weeks with no interest from other owners. I was expecting a #1 RB and still believe he is worth that in return. Maybe as teams jockey for playoff position I will deal Bress and hope to see Rivers turn things around. If not there is always Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden on the waiver wire. Of the three leagues, this is my best chance at taking a championship.

Finally, the TFL the league that is near and dear to my heart where I have been the commissioner since we christened the league back in 1983-1984. Unfortunately it’s been rough in this 10-team league this season. It’s a league where the main payout is for total points, while the H2H is a separate payout. This allows the possibility of more owners having an interest in the season. Currently I am in 9th place in total points, already 188 points out of the top spot. While that lead isn’t insurmountable, I have a hard time finding those points and making up that lead. After MNF I will be 4-4. Each odd week I seem to win, but every even week I seem to lose. That has been the pattern this year.

I felt this was one of the stronger teams I had built the last 10 years. After drawing the #1 pick I opted to drop to 4th and built my team around Drew Brees with Christian Ponder as my surprise starter as the QB2 every week but one. Injuries to Matt Forte and Reggie Bush put me in a bind early at RB, but the loss of Cedric Benson has put me in a bind. I continue to start Darren Sproles, who like many other players isn’t having the sort of year like he did last year. He has put together 2 good back to back week and the Saints continue to score. The only talent on the bench is Jonathan Stewart and Lamar Miller, who was a last minute pickup last week to cover a bye. Stewart hasn’t been in the starting line up to date.

The best part of this team, the WRs build around Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Dez Bryant. Unfortunately all three have been inconsistent, but at least they have been healthy for the most part. On the bench I have Brandon Lloyd and Mike Williams, both who have seen action in recent weeks to help me win a few games. I need to see more production from Fitzgerald and more importantly Andre Johnson (drafted round 3 and round 4). Of all the WRs I have Mike Williams is having the best season. On a positive note points have been on the increase for Johnson and Fitzgerald, hopefully that trend continues as it will be my only hope. It comes as no surprise that I could be starting 4 WRs the rest of the season.

I drafted Fred Davis and lost him to injury. I picked up Martellus Bennett and Dennis Pitta, much like I did in my work league. At the time of their pick up they were the hottest couple of TE in the league. The past few weeks they have returned to pack in terms of statistics. Bennett has been the starter the past few weeks is well off his early season pace. An omen before week 1 started was the loss of both my kickers, one to IR the other to being cut. I picked up Shayne Graham and Greg Zuerlein. Both have played welled and Zuerlein has been very impressive for much of the season.

I can see my strategy through all three leagues. This strategy didn’t work well in the 14-team league, a draft I did prepare for very well. I figured with the showing I had in this league last year (when it was 12-teams) losing the championship game by 2 points I figured I could build another good team. Unfortunately not getting a good draft position I have struggled all season long.

At work I still feel confident this team will produce and bring me a championship, especially with the weak schedule I have remaining. As long as I can avoid further injury at RB, I should put myself in a position to have a strong run in the playoffs. I will continue on trying to work a deal to trade Brees for a legitimate RB1, no idea if I will have takers. I might start looking at playoff match ups a bit closer after week 8 ends.

The TFL is the tough one to call (10-team league). I know I don’t have enough in my starting line up to compete. If I make the playoffs it will be luck pulling me through. While I have big names, I don’t believe they will impact my team as I anticipate. With the exception of week 8 I had surpassed 100 points each week, but no longer is 100 points the standard, it’s more of the low end average. So I ride the remainder of the season out performing my commissioner duties and look towards our 30 year draft in Las Vegas next year.

10 vs 12

I will never claim “I know it all” when it comes to fantasy football. I do consider myself “accomplished” and “experienced” when it comes to drafting and managing a team. On the flip side I think I am strong commissioner, knowing the ins and outs of how to successfully run a league. I think our league, which celebrated 28 years this season is a testament to that. Unfortunately I think I failed myself and the other 11 owners this season when I took the reigns of our work league.

For many of those 28 years we were an 8-team league. Early in the 1990s we decided to expand the league and bumped league by 2 teams for a total of 10. This year in our work league as defending champion I was in charge of setting the league up and running it. In most respects I feel I failed.

First off we used ESPN to run our league. Nothing against their league software, it was fairly easy to navigate and set the league up. Unfortunately never running a 12-team league I structured the league as if I were running a 10-team league. While the problems were not initially glaring, as the season wore on it became evident where the break down was.

First off we used the standard 1/10 and 1/25 scoring with 6 points for all TDs and 4 points for TD passes. We drafted 16 rounds, for a total of 192 players. Needless to say by the end of the draft some teams were reaching for players. I suspect a few teams had not done their homework and prepared well enough. Even after the draft the problems weren’t evident.

Once the season kicked off the waiver wire became heavily used. Never being a big fan of the wire, I like teams to be built on trades and the draft. I feel the wire can easily be abused to build your team if you have drafted players that don’t pan out or get injured. With that said, it wasn’t but 8 or 9 years ago we adopted the waiver wire to the league I manage, while not happy with it, many of the owners do like it. The same holds true for the work league I managed this season.

The failure came when I set the league up. If I knew (which I should have) just how thin talent would get on the waiver wire, I probably would have implemented maximum players at each position. No reason for some teams to stockpile 4 QBs and other teams to pack on 6 RBs (even though I was one of those owners). None of these owners were playing “outside of the rules” and were just using them to their advantage. In order to keep some talent on the wire I think the league would have been better off with a maximum of 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 RB, 2 TE, 1 K and 1 D/ST. This would drop the total draft to 14 rounds or 168 players leaving a well equipped player pool from which to draw from.

These two actions alone would have changed the dynamics of the league as owners would need to make important decisions during the bye weeks to abandon a kicker or D/ST in favor or a starter. I am sure there would have been teams to hold on to their top defense and take a zero, which could result in the loss of considerable points. Kickers, outside of David Akers, who is the top scorer in one of my leagues are only separated by 20 points, positions #2 through #9. Unless scoring were weighted more heavily for kickers, finding a bye week replacement or rotating kickers on a weekly basis won’t make or break your fantasy team.

The last issue was the fact that leagues like Yahoo and ESPN allow a commissioner to “freeze” players draft in the first rounds and not allow them to be dropped. As luck would have it nobody in our league did that, but there were some “questionable” trades made. My policy as a commissioner has always been to approve all trades, figuring owners will want to get the best deal for their team. Unfortunately I don’t know the owners at work as well as the friends I have had in my league for 25+ years. Next year it will come down to each other putting a vote in to veto a trade. That move alone this year would have had repercussions on outcome of the H2H season.

Come next year if I am asked to run my league at work again I will change some of the variable, if not all of them. Hell, I might even make it a decimal scoring system, just to see how well that works. But looking back on this 12-team league it was a learning experience. While no one really cares how I did the dynamics are considerably different when you expand your league from 10 teams to 12 teams.

To Start or Not To Start

I can often be heard saying, “Start your studs” early in the fantasy season (Can I blame Russ for this?). While this moniker might ring true in a majority of the cases there are exceptions. This off season had been very interesting with the CBA negotiations and hold outs, followed by the frenzied free agency period, training camps had started and before we knew it the first week of pre season games were upon us.

Even with the confusion during the off season, our TFL draft date was not change, nor were many others of individuals I spoke to. We are on the even of Week 2 in the NFL and we are finding out a few things after just a single week in the season. First, top defenses. Defenses like that of Green Bay, New Orleans, New York Jets and Pittsburgh didn’t play like the defenses we EXPECTED them to be. The Thursday night opener with the Packers and Saints saw 700+ total yards and 70+ points scored. So much for defense.

Another problem we have faced early has been the playing the studs. Case in point, Chris Johnson, 9-24 in his first game. Now in his defense he did hold out for a new contract, so a decrease in performance was to be expected, but I believe we all expected more than 24 yards. This week he faces a Baltimore defense that shut down Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers last week. Do you start Chris Johnson?

Injuries. Oh the injuries. Another issue with a shortened training camp period because of the CBA negotiations. We are seeing the “Hammy Hoax” along with an array of the muscular injuries causing players to sit out of practicing putting their status in Week 2 in jeopardy. Injuries are part of the game and are to be expected. In fantasy football, you as an owner need to plan for this during the draft, not afterwards with the waiver wire (but that is a discussion in itself).

It was mentioned in the Fantasy Football Starters Forums that fantasy football is not a marathon, but a sprint. The logic is right, but but I think you can argue the application. As an owner I am not ready to pull the plug on a player after just a few weeks. While many H2H leagues will end after Week 13, this leaves 10-11 weeks to make changes and put some victories together. How long you decide to hold off making changes is YOUR decision. Many ask for opinion and input but don’t anticipate the consequences, you need to man up and take responsibility for your team and the actions YOU are about to take. All I do is provide one opinion, based on what I know, what I read and what I hope will happen.

A good example for Week 2 is KC vs DET. The entire Chiefs team looked awful in a 41-7 thrashing at the hands of Buffalo last weekend. This week it’s Detroit, who has a stout run defense and a secondary that slowed Josh Freeman last weekend. Two common questions we have seen this week, “Do I start Jamaal Charles?” and “Do I start Dwayne Bowe?” I will give you that Charles is a stud RB, as witnessed by his performance in 2010 and back to back 1100+ yard rushing season. Bowe on the other hand had a career season last year, I expect a drop off in his performance this year and with a slow start and the fact that Matt Cassel is playing injured might have me look elsewhere for a starter. In other words I might play the match up for Week 2. This could be the case for Charles as well, depending on who you have for depth at RB. I agree that Charles is a game changer, much like Chris Johnson.

Another comment that sometimes goes unsaid is that you need to have luck in fantasy football. I would much rather be lucky than good over the course of 28 years and win than be good all those year. Maybe I would have won more than I have. You can get as many opinions as you want, discuss and compare players on multiple levels, their match ups and statistics. In the end the decision for the start is yours. If you follow the voices on the forums, then it’s on you. If you go with your gut it’s on your. Basically it’s your call. Hopefully the tools you use, opinions you gain and discussions you are involved in help you start the players who will score you the most points and bring you a victory.

Fantasy League #3 Tonight

Tonight is my third and possibly final fantasy football draft, unless of course the group on the Fantasy Football Starters Forums need a 12th owner. In 28 years of fantasy football I have never played more than 2 leagues. It has only been the past 3 years I have participated in a league outside of the one I have managed since 1983.

I am playing with a group of guys I don’t know well, so I have no idea to what degree they know football. The league commissioner is the friend who invited me and I helped him set the league up. It will be a 12-team Yahoo league, non-standard Yahoo scoring though. We will draft 16 players and start 10: QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE/2 FLEX/K/DST.

I have already ranked my players using FFS and am deciding on what strategy I am going to employ. I will probably bring a few with me, including my standard draft strategy, which builds a balanced team with RB/WR/QB in the first three rounds or the more unconventional WR/WR/WR, alternative draft strategy, which I believe I implemented very well in my work league. I discussed this strategy at length a few days ago.

This will also be the first time I participate in a league with more than 10 owners. A 12 team league. That might sound a bit odd considering I have played fantasy football for 28 years now. But it has really been the last year and a half now I have a renewed enthusiasm for fantasy football. 28 seasons can get a bit long in the tooth, so to speak. We have updated rules, added teams, introduced the waiver wire, but it wasn’t until I joined FFS last June, 2010 that I was excited about the upcoming season.

That excitement has carried over to this season, as I am staring at possibly 4 leagues to participate in. Maybe it’s the fact that I am able to share the knowledge and insight I have gained over those years playing fantasy football that makes it fulfilling. I am only 2 years removed as champion in my league, the TFL and based on the draft of last month I have a strong team that should be able to compete and challenge for the trophy.

Regardless of what happens, playing in multiple leagues will allow me to use different strategies and combine players in ways that are outside my comfort zone. I would like to think the draft tonight will be one in which I excel. As mentioned I only know one of the guys real well and his teams last year were not all that competitive. Then again I did not make the playoffs in my league, but ended up blowing out all the owners in my work league.

As with any year I consider it a successful year if I am able to take something new away from a league. This year looks to be interesting since I was able to employ a new draft strategy. I also believe I will be able to compete in both the leagues I have already drafted in. We will soon see.