Fantasy football dominance

Skip this post if you don't care.

I don’t really want to be one of those guys who talks about his fantasy team to people who don’t care.  Nobody cares who you drafted, who you traded for, etc, unless you yourself are a fantasy football owner and usually only if you’re in the same league.  So I’ll cut the post here so people who don’t care about fantasy football, or football in general can skip this post with ease.

Okay, so the reason I wanted to write this is because my season has been so awesome. This might actually be the year that I end up winning a league. I started playing fantasy football in 2002, not knowing what I was doing. I thought I’d go against the grain and draft 4 tight ends to mimic Joe Gibbs unconventional 4TE offense of the ’80s, not realizing that what might work in real football won’t in fantasy. What you are concerned about in fantasy are points. And you need to identify players who get lots of them. Now, this doesn’t mean you go after players on good teams necessarily, because that running back on a team that has no defense and can’t pass might accumulate a lot of yardage and scores every week even though his team is bad. Anyway, in 2002, I finished dead last, 9th of 9 teams.

Through the years I’ve fielded relatively competitive teams, but the highest I have finished is 3rd. Someone always got me in the playoffs.

Well this year has been very very different, as I had a strong draft. I got great players at the beginning of the draft, a decent QB late, and some of my sleepers hit. Here is my drafted team:

1. (11) LeSean McCoy
(Phi – RB)
2. (18) Frank Gore
(SF – RB)
3. (39) Mike Williams
(TB – WR)
4. (46) Brandon Lloyd
(StL – WR)
5. (67) Marshawn Lynch
(Sea – RB)
6. (74) Eli Manning
(NYG – QB)
7. (95) Steve Smith
(Car – WR)
8. (102) Rob Gronkowski
(NE – TE)
9. (123) Chicago
(Chi – DEF)
10. (130) Kendall Hunter
(SF – RB)
11. (151) Sebastian Janikowski
(Oak – K)
12. (158) Mark Sanchez
(NYJ – QB)
13. (179) Justin Forsett
(Sea – RB)
14. (186) Stevan Ridley
(NE – RB)
15. (207) Jabar Gaffney
(Was – WR)

Draft Review:
My draft strategy was different this year, because the league has 14 teams. Usually I look at the number of points that players got in the past few seasons and choose the highest point scorers that I can in the early rounds regardless of position, then fill out my squad with my needs in later rounds. This year I knew that with 14 teams, and 32 real life teams, some people were only going to get 1 starting running back, most would get 2, and few would get 3, and by golly, I was going to be one of those that had 3. At the same time, I did not want to neglect WRs, so I thought after getting 2 RBs early, I’d get the best WRs that I could with the next 2 picks. I’d then pick the best remaining RB in round 5, and then focus on filling the rest of my needs.

Getting McCoy at #11 overall has proven to be an absolute steal. Truth is, he should have been drafted at #2 or #3, but I guess I just got lucky. Truth be told, I would have rather had Adrian Peterson given the choice on draft day.

My 2nd round pick, Frank Gore wasn’t one that I was terribly excited about, because he hasn’t had an injury free season in a while. However, I thought it was a good pick compared with what was left. He’s actually been pretty good this season though.

The WRs I got with the 3rd and 4th round picks have been abysmal, but they shouldn’t have been. Mike Williams and all of the Buccaneers seem to suck this year. Meanwhile Lloyd started out the season with Kyle Orton (not) throwing at him, so he was bad too. After he got traded to St. Louis mid season, his numbers have recovered.

At the 5th round the best remaining RB was Marshawn Lynch. I wasn’t really planning on using him other than interchangeably with whatever other receiver I’d get for the flex spot and he’d be good insurance if Gore or McCoy were suddenly hurt, should I not be able to handcuff them.

At round 6, I was going after a QB, and Eli Manning was the best left there… I thought. Eli Manning has been decent, but I should have gone after Matthew Stafford, as the guy right after me got him.

I hit paydirt with the next two picks.
Steve Smith at #7 was supposed to be insurance for for my other two receivers, and I’d sometimes use him instead of Marshawn Lynch in the flex spot. Instead he has been a top 5 receiver this year. This is probably my best pick of the draft, but…

Rob Gronkowski at #8 gives Smith a run for his money. Gronk has been amazing! He and Tom Brady have this connection whenever the Pats are in the red zone. I had a choice between Gronk and someone else. The other person had higher yardage totals and was ranked higher, but I chose Gronk because he had more TDs the previous year. A TD is just as good as 60 yards. Most TEs don’t even get 30 in a game.

Most people say not to draft a kicker or defense before the last two rounds, but I don’t agree with that strategy. At this point, I had depth, and I would take the handcuffs for as many of my RBs as I could whenever they came up. So I went for a defense, and Chicago was the best one left. Someone had swiped Baltimore a few picks before me.

When Kendall Hunter came up, I drafted him as Gore insurance, then calculated that I’d have a round to play with before Ronnie Brown (McCoy’s backup) was up, so I took the best kicker I could. Janikowski has not disappointed, but his hammy is acting up.

Someone drafted Ronnie Brown so I thought it might be better to go after my 2nd QB with the next pick, just in case Eli got hurt. I got Mark Sanchez. It now pains me to know that Cam Newton was drafted in this round. But, nobody knew he was going to be as awesome as he has been.

With my 13th round pick, I got Marshawn Lynch’s backup (Forsett).

In the 14th round, I found the guy who drafted Ronnie Brown also had BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I picked up Stevan Ridley hoping that we would be able to swap handcuffs. It was shrewd.

With my 15th pick I decided I’d choose a Redskin. I had always somehow ended up with some prominent Redskins in previous seasons, but in this one, I had none. The best remaining one was Gaffney. I never actually started him, but this pick is pretty good considering Santana Moss missed a lot of time.

So there you have it. My team was one of the league’s dominant ones early on, and I was bolstered by Steve Smith and Rob Gronkowski, a 20 pt game from my kicker, a 25 point game from my defense, decent showings by Eli Manning, and consistency from my RBs. My receiver corps was terrible, but this was hidden by my team’s dominance everywhere else. I lost one game by less than 4 points with basically this team.

Along the way, I picked up a few free agents here and there, most noticeably Ryan Torain, who I got off of waivers the week after he ran all over St. Louis. Torain has not done well for me but I was still able to use him in trades…

Speaking of trades…
This has been a real strength for me this year. I don’t know how, but I was able to make great trades to set my team up for a run. Usually in fantasy football trades are hard to get done, and there will be whole seasons where I trade nobody. I’ll talk about each trade I’ve done.

1. Gave Stevan Ridley, got Ronnie Brown (week 4). A simple handcuff trade. I have not used either player.

2. Gave Jabar Gaffney, got Benjamin Watson (week 7). Going into a bye week, I really needed a TE and someone offered me one who was better than anything on the FA wire. Even though I was going to drop Watson the next week, I would have had to drop Gaffney to get anyone else, so I thought I might as well let someone else have him.

3. A trade got vetoed that would have landed me Aaron Rodgers and 2 other droppable players for Eli, Torain, and Lynch. I thought it was risky because I’d have no depth to rely upon, but the trade got vetoed anyway.

4. Gave Frank Gore, got Arian Foster (week 10). I was in discussions to get Gregg Jennings from someone and Frank Gore kept coming up. I couldn’t let a great RB go for a great WR without getting a decent RB in return, which he didn’t have. But he was trying to find a bye replacement for Arian Foster. His team was one of the fringe teams in 5th – 9th place range (top 6 make the playoffs) and he couldn’t afford to lose week 11 with Arian Foster’s bye week. So he offered me Arian Foster for Frank Gore, as Gore had already had a bye week, over the course of the remainder of the season, he might even get more points with the extra week and better match ups going into the playoffs. Of course Foster is the better player, but since I was already pretty much a lock for the playoffs, I could take another RB bye week and and bad matchups until week 13. Foster has awesome matchups in weeks 15 and 16, but this guy has to get there to utilize them, so Gore is the better option for him, because of his schedule before the playoffs. Well, that didn’t exactly work out for him because Gore got injured right after the trade. The other owner is not yet eliminated though, and should get a lot out of Gore this week and next.

#5 Gave Kendall Hunter and Ryan Torain, got Dez Bryant (Week 11). It was clear at this point that the places I could most improve my team were at WR and QB. I had the best two RBs and a great flex in Marshawn Lynch. Steve Smith was a good WR, but I wanted something better than Lloyd and Williams. As the Gore injury boosted Kendall Hunter stock, and Mike Shannahan seemed to like Ryan Torian for some reason, combined with the shortage of available running backs (remember, it’s a 14 team league, and if these men start, then I have 5 of the 32 starting RBs, meaning that it is highly likely that there are a few teams that only have 1.) I tried shopping these guys around and was able to land Dez Bryant for them. Since the trade, Hunter is still a backup to Gore, but Gore is not fully recovered. Torian is still the starter in DC, but he’s been mostly ineffective.

So as it stands now, my team is:
QB – Eli Manning
WR – Steve Smith
WR – Brandon Lloyd
RB – Arian Foster
RB – LeSean McCoy
TE – Rob Gronkowski
Flex – Marshawn Lynch or Mike Williams
K – Sebastian Janikowski
DEF – Chicago

Some might say that this team is already poised for a championship, but there are some problems. Eli Manning has a difficult schedule in the fantasy playoffs, and Marshawn Lynch could be injured as he’s had back spasms and they overuse him in Seattle. So I tried my best to look for a way to alleviate these problems. This trade is pending the review, and hopefully won’t get vetoed.

#6 I give Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Marshawn Lynch, I get Drew Brees and Benjarvus Green-Ellis and James Jones.

Wait, wait, you’re giving ups Steve Smith? Are you INSANE?

Drew Brees is almost always in the top 3 in QB rankings every week and faces terrible defenses in Minnesota and Atlanta in weeks 15 and 16. So if I get a chance to play in our league’s championship game, I’m probably going to get a great game out of Brees. Also, the Saints will probably be playing for the higher seeding in the playoffs, so that they can put off facing the Packers as long as possible.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not the best RB, and plays in a situation that is pass heavy, and is often spelled by other RBs. Lynch has an easy schedule and has been running well lately. This is a concession I had to make, a downgrade at the Flex spot for a huge upgrade at QB.

Yeah, but.. Steve Smith?
It looks like I am just giving him away for free. James Jones is a HUGE downgrade on Smith. However, you have to give something to get something. I am confident in Dez Bryant and Brandon Lloyd going forward. If one of them were to get hurt, I’ll have Mike Williams. Also I picked up Santana Moss off the FA wire. Steve will be missed, but he has to face the Texans in week 15, and they have the 2nd best pass defense in the league. I will miss him greatly in week 16 though when he’s up vs. Tampa Bay.

So if this trade goes through, my fantasy team looks like this (chosen draft round in parenthesis)

QB – Drew Brees (Round 2)
WR – Dez Bryant (Round 4)
WR – Brandon Lloyd (Round 4)
RB – Arian Foster (Round 1)
RB – LeSean McCoy (Round 1)
TE – Rob Gronkowski (Round 8)
Flex -Benjarvus Green-Ellis (Round 4)
K – Sebastian Janikowski (Round 11)
DEF – Chicago (Round 9)

Bench
QB – Mark Sanchez (Round 12)
WR – Mike Williams (Round 3)
WR – Santana Moss (Round 6)
WR – James Jones (Round 14)
RB – Ronnie Brown (Round 8)
DEF – New England (Round 9)

Now I know that this doesn’t really matter too much because some people don’t live up to their draft ranking, and others do far better, but with 15 players, everyone starts with an average draft number of 8. (1+2+3+…15)/15=8. My team’s average draft number is 6.4

Anyway, I hope that this is the year I can finally hoist up the fantasy football trophy.

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