(Doc’s Note: Thanks again to all those aspiring writers who entered our Next Great Fantasy Football Writer contest. I think we all learned a little about writing about fake football these last couple months. Here is our winner of Round 4, Jeff Brubach. He made a strong showing throughout. Here is his idea of a fantasy football column. Check it!)
As I spend my summer days hanging around, pitting out my shirt, and putting my underwear in the freezer, I always enjoy reading fantasy articles that are more about draft preparation than actual statistics. Most are generally the same: do your research, know your ADP’s, wait/reach for these positions, and general advice on how not to mangle your draft like your Xbox controller when you throw a pick in Madden….damn those things are expensive. These articles are a nice life ring as we begin to drown in the ocean of rankings and sleepers. They provide a little break in the action and sometimes offer unique advice on how to attack a snake draft, auction, or even an inaugural dynasty draft. However, it is this type of article that will contain my number one piece of MOST HATED fantasy advice. It is usually worded a little like this:
“Getting together with your buddies for a live draft is a great way to add some fun to draft season. Just make sure you aren’t going too heavy on the adult beverages. Maybe even offer to get one of your buddies a beer when you get up to take a break. The more they drink, the more ill-advised and impulsive picks they will make and you will be there to clean up the great value picks.”
Not verbatim, but that’s the gist of this viewpoint. I have read this in MULTIPLE articles and immediately find myself so annoyed that I once picked up my mouse and nearly fired it across my office. Obviously I was doing fantasy research on the clock, so I had to keep my cool as to not blow my cover. Anyway, if you have the ability to hold a live draft, it is really awesome. It’s a great way to get your buddies together with no bosses, lawnmowers, Dora the Explorer, or any other crap. Just your draft, making fun of your friends, and a ton of beers. And if you choose not to drink for a good reason, that’s fine. But if you choose not to drink in order to get an edge over your own friends at your own draft, YOU ARE A LOSER. Plain and simple. I could be 17 Heinekens deep and attempting to announce that I want to draft Mohamed Massa ….Massuhmmmm … Massakwamison and while you sit there smirking, I’m still going to call you a loser. Before the world wide web, fantasy leagues were started by people who liked having fun with their friends and watching some damn football.
The previous rant has been brewing in my head for roughly a year. Besides irritating me, it really sparked my thoughts about what fantasy football was about roughly 15 years ago. Now, I am hardly a fantasy trailblazer, as the original fantasy football pioneers wouldn’t even let me near their covered wagon (if we were playing the floppy disk Oregon Trail game, it would be a different story). However, I did play fantasy football before the days of the internet and thoroughly loved the competition and camaraderie amongst friends. That is where this game started and at times it begins to feel clinical with online draft rooms and leagues full of weirdos you don’t know. And then to make things worse, for three straight months every summer random fantasy sites continuously spew list after list and cheat sheet after cheat sheet at us. With VBD, ADP, YPC and roughly 736 other fantasy football acronyms out there, draft prep is beginning to feel like it should require a PHD. In case it sounds that way, don’t worry, this isn’t heading towards “Moneyball vs. the world” territory. Statistical analysis is extremely important me, and is an important clue as to which players will lead you to a championship. The key to having a winning and most importantly, enjoyable fantasy season is to successfully blend both stats and analysis with player’s own personal viewpoints.
The fantasy articles I would create for Razzball and FanDuel would be a fusion of the fun and intensity of a fantasy player making fun of his buddy’s team, with the in-depth knowledge that today’s world of advanced statistical analysis affords. This creation will be titled, “THE FANTASY SMASHBACK (not to be confused with “fantasy flashback,” which sounds like a porno time machine).” It’s an homage to the days of live drafts and players making their own cheat sheets, smashed together with the deeper fantasy analysis possible today. My articles won’t contain anecdotes from “back in my day” (hell, I’m only 28), but will make sure to always bring humor and creative strategies for fantasy players to connect with their league mates. Even in a league randomly created online, there are different ways to engage the members of your league in trades and manipulate the waiver wire in order to make the league more enjoyable for yourself and the rest of the clowns you’re trying to hammer on.
The most important emphasis of THE FANTASY SMASHBACK is making the game of fantasy football more personal, which is very important to me, both as a writer and a horrifically addicted fantasy player. This can be done in a multitude of ways, beginning with changing the current mindless “expert following” that is rampant in the game today. I have a friend, we’ll call him Don (because that’s his real name and I like making fun of him). Each week he is an absolute slave to ESPN’s weekly fantasy rankings. Each and every week he makes his lineup decisions based upon these rankings and never wavers. The guy does the same thing at the draft. If his favorite player from his favorite team is available and SURELY will be gone by his next pick, you can bet your ass he’s picking the highest available player on his ESPN “Top 200” list anyway. It is this line of thinking that is taking the fun out of fantasy football. Hell, a guy that I work with was standing at our community printer last week printing out page after page of Yahoo’s fantasy rankings. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was “getting ready for his draft.”
Fantasy players need to take a step back and check to see if their teams are actually THEIR TEAMS. If you’re at the tail end of the first round this year and you absolutely hate the crappy Lions and how they make us watch them suck ass every Thanksgiving, then go with Vincent Jackson instead of Megatron. Who cares if he’s a couple notches lower on an “expert’s” list? Maybe it isn’t the move I would make, but Jackson is a stud and if you like him this year, then try it out. It isn’t the suited up guy at ESPN or some other “fantasy expert” who is going to be sitting on YOUR couch watching YOUR fantasy team each Sunday. Make your own cheat sheet, make your own picks and construct the fantasy team that you want to watch for the next few months. Now, I don’t mean go into your draft and swipe Mason Crosby in the third round because the Pack is your squad, but do your own thing. Don’t be afraid to go QB/WR/WR/TE in the first four rounds if you think it works. Tell everyone in your draft room to kiss your ass. As long as you do it with some thought and analysis (which is where my articles come in handy), then have at it, champ.
Every week, the SMASHBACK will be pumping readers full of analysis that will generate creative thinking and spawn the ability to make independent choices. Joseph Addai may be a great “buy low,” but how does the reader approach another owner in order to deal for him? How does a team strategically attempt to flip Kyle Orton after he throws for 618 yards and 5 td’s through week two? The average fantasy site declares who is worthy of pursuing or cutting, but the SMASHBACK will inform readers how to do it. Readers tired of watching Hines Ward and Derrick Mason take out their dentures before post-game interviews need to know how to package them for the young bucks that will spark their squad. Fantasy enthusiasts will flock to the SMASHBACK not only to read quality in-season analysis, but to learn how to use it to make their team better and their league as enjoyable as humanly possible (without substance abuse).
My columns will also feature a glimpse into my own personal fantasy landscape. Occasionally, my articles will mention an interesting controversy that is brewing in my main league, or an interesting event that has just occurred. As a commissioner, I have often smacked my forehead and thought, “Does this stupid crap happen in every league?” The answer is yes, and I hope to use these situations to enlighten readers with ways to avoid similar pitfalls. I will not be analyzing the minutia that goes on in my league, but I think players everywhere see odd moves and debates in their leagues and would enjoy seeing that they are not the only ones in a league where things get a bit wild. Also, my articles will use my personal voice to present my viewpoints. This is perfectly illustrated in an excerpt from my “Locks and Crocks” article:
Lock: Jamaal Charles. Inevitably during a season, you have moments where you are in a tight game and glued to your stat-tracker. Then you accidentally knock over your Natty Light and by the time you’ve wiped the spill up with your sleeve, you’re down by 13. That was Charles burning a 72 yard TD run and kicking your beer over as he crossed the goal line. Over 1900 total yards last year and he’s 25. You want that.
These are things that happen to me. I am not a fantasy analyst sitting in a NASA control center with a TV on every game. I am a dude sitting on my couch (next to my dog) watching NFL Redzone. That is the voice that readers will relate to because it is real and it’s what most of them are doing as well. A large number of “fantasy experts” talk down to their readers and I strongly believe readers respond better to a voice that is informative and knowledgeable, yet honest and real.
As the final draft weekend approaches, I will be making the trip back to Seattle to meet up with my idiot friends and hold our annual fantasy draft. It is by far my favorite trip of the year, and I will be enjoying many, even perhaps a few too many, adult beverages. And that is o.k. I’m sure there will be other owners out there who make a couple of “cold filtered” and “beachwood aged” draft picks over Labor Day weekend, and will be looking for the FANTASY SMASHBACK to help them improve their squad. And, frankly, I hope that is the case.