Most fantasy sports participants pore over their teams, researching draft picks and waiver moves and crafting their team with a level of care and attention to detail normally reserved for Renaissance-era art and military aircraft. That's certainly true in my case. That's why it was tremendously sad when I drove home from my second fantasy football draft of the year Sunday night with four words echoing through my mind: “I hate my team.”
The worst part is that I have no reason to hate my team, one of 10 in an auction-style keeper league. The beauty of auction leagues is that anyone who wants a player has a shot to get him, they just have to spend the cash. Consequently, my team is ugly because while others were shelling out for stars, I was clipping coupons and pinching pennies.
Each team in the league has a budget of $180 fantasy dollars, with the salaries of your “keepers” subtracted from that figure. I spent $80 on my three keepers of Laurence Maroney ($16), Willie Parker ($22) and Peyton Manning ($42). That's a tremendous nucleus in a league where all touchdowns are six points. Add one more high-end running back and a top receiver or two to that mix and I'd have to use a breath mint to get the taste of championship out of my mouth. Instead, I spent like a grandmother at a yard sale and came away with a roster full of second-hand junk. Augmenting … no, that's too strong of a word … joining my roster after the auction were running backs Lamont Jordan ($10), LenDale White ($6), De'shaun Foster ($7) and Michael Turner ($9). Meanwhile, Laveranues Coles ($8), Bernard Berrian ($8), D.J. Hackett ($7) and Darrell Jackson ($10) comprise my completely pedestrian receiving corps.
After the keepers, there weren't a ton of top backs available, but there were a few studs for the stable — Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Rudi Johnson, Brian Westbrook — and some other backs with good potential — Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, Thomas Jones, Marion Barber, Tatum Bell — and yet I came away with none of them. If my stable of running backs really was a stable, a quarter of it would be glue right now. Maybe I can get a sponsorship from Elmer's.
My wide outs? Forget about it. None of those guys should be a top WR in a 10 team league like this one.
Throughout the draft I would back down after a player passed the value I thought he was worth and told myself to save my money for later. When “later” came, all of the top flight birds had flown and I realized I had saved my money for tight ends, kickers and second-tier defenses. Way to go, sports editor.
The moral of the story for you kids out there is this: Don't be afraid to spend money on proven, good players, even if it's over what you think they're worth. It's not terribly hard to find a $1 bargain or four to fill out your roster, but when the stars are gone, say goodnight.
Patience can be a virtue, however, and was in my draft league (14 teams; six points for RB and WR TDs and four for QB TDs; one point per 10 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving and 20 yards passing) where I'm not shamefully embarrassed of my squad. There's a large number of talented wide receivers this year, with 23 scoring more than 100 fantasy points in 2006 when receiving touchdowns were just five fantasy points. This year, the league upped receiving TDs to six points and in my mind, owners started reaching too far for receivers. Under the new scoring system, Marvin Harrison, the top-scoring WR from last year, would have added just 12 more points. Are you willing to make Jerious Norwood your second running back for 12 points?
Owners sometimes get caught up in trends or changes and don't look at the big picture, figure out the impact before you buy into a certain methodology on draft day.
One that has always worked well for me is drafting a deep backfield. In a season with a ton of backfield question marks — by my count there are only 18 teams with stable situations at RB and four of them (Tampa Bay, Arizona, Miami and Houston) had woeful running games in 2006 — RBs are at a premium more than ever. This also might have accounted for the run on wide receivers, as no one wanted to spend an early draft pick on guys in split backfields or backs that may be replaced during the season such as Lamont Jordan or Tatum Bell. I'll gladly buck that trend though.
Drafting at the four spot, I took Larry Johnson, Cedric Benson and Jamal Lewis, three guys that should see the vast majority of their team's carries both at midfield and the goal line. With the aforementioned depth at wideout, I snagged Javon Walker (round three) and Santana Moss (round five) and still added Jon Kitna at QB in the sixth.
At least that's one team I'm looking forward to bringing into the 2008 season.