Helicopter blades whirl above my head, the whomp whomp of each rotation replacing my own pulse, putting me into a transcendent state where I commune with the all-knowing extra-dimensional beings of fantasy football. I pull a knife from my pocket and cut plastic strips from forty-pound bags of pellets of synthetic mosquito hormone. I lift the bags chest high to hand them to my partner, who dumps them in the hopper attached to the side of the helicopter. Whomp, whomp.  “You’re drafting with experts,” I hear from my inner monologue as I cut and lift and cut and lift. “It’s the RazzBowl. You can do this.” In 37 seconds we dump 320 pounds of pesticide into the hopper. When the bags are empty my partner and I step quickly away toward a row of pickup trucks baking in the sun. We secure our waste bags, pull out the sun umbrella, lower the tailgates, and watch the helicopter take off to distribute the pesticide in wetlands across the St. Paul area. I pull out my phone. It’s time. I’m on the clock in RazzBowl. With Christian McCaffery taken at 1.01, I pick Alvin Kamara at 1.02. I shout out my victory to my co-workers, who nod and go back to their League of Legend highlight videos. By the end of the day, I’ve drafted Keenan Allen, and I think–I know!–that I’m going to win in RazzBowl. 

[record scratch]

Well, this is the story of how I came in 11th place in my 2019 RazzBowl League. I’ll tell you what I did wrong, what others did right, and how you can use this information to improve your drafting strategy in your own leagues, whether it be RazzBowl, the Scott Fish Bowl, or your personal fantasy league.  

Drafting to Prove Yourself Right vs Drafting to Win:

I entered the 2019 as one of the lucky fan entries, and I came in second to last in my RazzBowl league because I drafted to prove my own projections right rather than trying to win. RazzBowl has a rather complicated “better ball” format and a non-typical scoring system (Donkey Teeth and B_Don explain it in their recent podcast here) meaning that managers need to research and plan their drafts. With no previous RazzBowl leagues available to skim for data, I set up a dummy league on Fantrax and input the scoring settings to give myself a final scoring results list from 2018 data. At some point in the process, I became obsessed with one category: quarterback touchdowns. Unlike traditional fantasy leagues which give quarterbacks 4 points per passing touchdown, RazzBowl gives 6 points per TD. Conceptually, this is huge: quarterbacks make more touchdowns than any other position in football, and by increasing their TD scoring 50% over the usual rate, it seemed so natural to chase down elite QBs. Now, here’s another fun fact: since 2017, there are only 14 quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 30 TDs in a season. Russell Wilson has done it three times. I became so obsessed with getting an explosive quarterback at a value price that I, well…I drafted Andrew Luck. That’s right. I did my due diligence. I acquired my data. I knew Russell Wilson should have been my target. But instead, I convinced myself so thoroughly that Andrew Luck was going to be more explosive than Wilson that I abandoned my draft strategy. I started desperately seeking touchdowns, reaching for Will Fuller and Zay Jones for my #3WR and FLEX. I filled out my team with players who had potential but were surrounded by uncertain conditions that limited playing time: Peyton Barber, Adam Humphries, Antonio Callaway, Taylor Gabriel, and Ty Johnson. As the season began and injuries and retirements were announced, my team fell from the middle of the pack into obscurity by the end of week 6. 

What the Best Teams Did: 

One advantage of using the NFC website for RazzBowl is that users can look through previous league data and see how the winning managers composed their teams. I browsed through the first ten weeks of data on NFC and plugged the final scoring data of a sample of five top teams into a spreadsheet and run the numbers. Turns out, a good quarterback helps, but the key to winning was stocking up on players who caught the ball. The below table illustrates the total points of the team, and how yards and touchdowns of passing, rushing, and receiving accounted for the total percentage of points. 

  Total Pts PassYrd% PassTD% RuYrd% RuTD% Rec% RecYrd % RecTD%
Beerswater 1678.25 8.3 8.2 16.9 10.3 20 25.3 11.7
Ronis 1647 8.1 8.0 11.1 6.1 23.4 29.7 14.5
Fitzmaurice 1620 8.2 7.4 14.1 7.7 23.4 27.2 12.9
RotoSurgeon 1586 9.4 9.8 11.6 8.7 20.7 27.4 12.4
Robinson 1570.4 8.6 6.1 11.9 6.8 23.8 29.9 13.3

In short, on successful teams in the RazzBowl, the 1 QB position accounted for about 16-18% of a teams’ total points; the 2-4 running backs (2 RB, 2 FLEX) accounted for about 20%, and the 8 receiving eligible positions (2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 FLEX) accounted for about 60% of the team’s points. Three running backs appeared on multiple top teams in the sample: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Austin Ekeler

The takeaway from this brief study, however, is that there are 8 positions that benefit from receiving points, and receiving points formed the bulk of the sample teams’ scoring. The small sample trend demonstrates that yardage was more important than touchdowns in terms of final standings. Thus, my initial assumption–that the touchdown was to be obsessed over–was wrong. Players who caught the ball provided far more value to the top RazzBowl teams than their quarterbacks did. 

So, I spent my first RazzBowl draft trying to prove the validity of my own projections rather than trying to get players who would help me win. [cue montage music] And that, my friends, is how I came in 11th place in my RazzBowl league. 

How My Story Helps You:

I say this to all the fantasy players who are taking the “fan” role in RazzBowl or the Scott Fish Bowl or whatever competition: Always look on the bright side. Trust your strategy. Play to win, not to be validated. Research how successful teams are composed, and emulate those trends. There’s always an element of luck in fantasy sports, but players can be logical about how they approach their team creation to make their own luck as well. 

I may have finished 11th in my RazzBall league, but I scored more overall points than many noted fantasy industry experts. My league was a tough crowd, and produced Pat Fitzmaurice, the second highest scorer in the “regular season” of RazzBowl. I wasn’t a poor fantasy football player, but I definitely sabotaged my own draft by being over-confident in one assumption. 

Most importantly, RazzBowl and its baseball counterpart RazzSlam brought me into a community that was welcoming and interested in playing highly competitive fantasy sports while having a sense of humor about it. There are so many fans out there looking to take that “next step” to more competitive fantasy sports, and the RazzBowl is a great place to do it. 

If you haven’t already done so, fill out the form to participate in this year’s RazzBowl, and maybe you’ll get a chance to put me in 11th place again. 

Feel free to share your RazzBowl experience below, or tell me yourself on Twitter @EverywhereBlair