Training camps are underway and the Hall of Fame game tonight will kick-off the Preseason schedule. NFL football is finally close enough that you can taste the beer and smell those tailgates. Okay, to be fair that might just be your hangover from yesterday’s barbecue…but nonetheless it’s almost time for some football.
With that, I’ve started my divisional previews – in case you missed them I’ve gone through the NFC East and NFC West so far. Now, I want to shift gears to the topic occupying the second largest portion of every man’s daily thoughts (second to sex of course)…Fantasy Football. Right about now you’re trying to cleverly hide that ESPN Mock Draft you’re doing with an excel spreadsheet cued up on your second monitor at work. You’re checking the rankings, reading the training camp reports, doing whatever you can because…
So I’m here to drop some knowledge bombs on you. This won’t be a post about my predictions for this upcoming season, draft strategies or tips for success. Not because I don’t have strong opinions on all of those topics, but because at this point probably half of my readership consists of people who might be in a fantasy league with me this season. So screw you guys, I’m not telling you squat! What this post will be is my 10 Commandments for fantasy football. 10 rules that every self-respecting man or woman should follow when participating in the pursuit of fantasy football glory.
1. Thou shall give thought to the actual league format:
You should take the time to think about the league and format you want to play in. Seems like a minor detail, but the format you’re playing in will make a huge difference in your draft strategy. Most people start out with the traditional “standard” scoring format, but I’d highly recommend a Points Per Reception (PPR) league once you get your feet wet. Makes the player pool a little deeper and adds a wrinkle to the draft. Unless you’re an infant, you shouldn’t be playing in a league with less than 10 teams. 10 or 12 are both legit – and once you’re feeling on top of the world…think about a Keeper league. Having that extra layer of building your team for the future in addition to that season makes it feel more important. No matter what the format is, just be sure to understand what you’re getting yourself into so you don’t look like an idiot at the draft. Which brings me to…
2. Thou shall not be a jamoke when Draft Day arrives:
Do the research and prepare for your draft. Don’t be the guy who shows up to the draft with nothing and then is asking if ‘anyone has an extra printout of the rankings’. Show up with rankings of your own and be prepared for the big day. Do your own research – know the rookies that could be late-round sleepers, know the offseason moves that impacted player values; do some mock drafts so that you’re ready for any situation that unfolds in your real draft. The point is, you do not want to be the jamoke who takes Randy Moss when he’s retired, or drafts Jhavid Best in the 4th round when he just got another concussion, or drafts a RB who just tore his ACL last week in a preseason game. Be the guy who calls him out and laughs in his face instead…it’s way more fun.
3. Thou shall do the Draft the right way:
I know most people do their drafts online because it’s easy and convenient. I get it. Not saying that you’re wrong per se, but unless you’ve got a league where everyone is spread out across the country AND it’s impossible to plan a destination draft that everyone can make, well then you’re a bunch of pussies. Get together in person and make the draft what it really is…something you’ve all been waiting on for months. Get some food, some drinks, an actual draft board and have a live draft in person. If you’ve never done a live draft, I cannot begin to explain how much more enjoyable it is than sitting at your laptop making picks through ESPN or Yahoo.
Plan it for a weekend afternoon; block it off on the calendar and tell the wife way in advance. None of this garbage of drafting online on a weeknight after work. You’ve got the dog barking at you because it needs to go out and pee. Your wife is barking at you because one of the kids needs a bath. And meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out if you should wait one more round or whether you’ll miss the “run on tight-ends” as a friend of mine likes to say. That’s just not good enough; you deserve better and so does your fantasy team. So sack up, and draft in person where nobody can hide behind their laptops and ESPN rankings. Where everyone’s exposed to immediate public ridicule if they make a stupid pick (just as God intended it) and they can’t rely on autodraft to make their picks. Or as the best sports commentator once put it, “where we separate the men from the boys, and the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian.”
4. Thou shall be prepared to feel like an addict and hate thyself:
Fantasy football has an inexplicable impact on all of us. It gives us a reason to be interested in the worst games on the NFL schedule each week, because we now have a rooting interest in teams other than our own. It’ll get to the point that you’ll be watching a Jaguars – Titans game, screaming at the television as if you’ve got twenty grand riding on the outcome. All because you need Bishop Sankey to do something, ANYTHING to get you the points you need for a win. It’s unavoidable, so frankly just accept it and learn to love it. At least you’re not an actual degenerate gambler who bet $20,000 on a Jaguars – Titans game, right? You didn’t, right?
5. Thou shall say no to “Tinker Stinker” time:
We’ve all been burned by it before, and yet we will all inevitably do it again at some point…but try to avoid tinkering with your lineup. The longer you stare at that matchup your WR1 has vs Darrelle Revis and the Jets, the more you’re going to want to replace him with that ‘boom-or-bust’ receiver on your bench going against a friendlier defense. In the end, nothing good comes from tinkering because you will always choose wrong and kick yourself for it later. A friend of mine has this affliction, so we’ll call this the “Buddy Curse”. He could hold a filibuster recounting all the times his tinkering backfired on him. So don’t be “Buddy”. Stick with your gut and resist the temptation to grab that iPad before you go drop a deuce at 12:30pm on Sunday afternoon.
6. Thou shall be creative with your team name:
Don’t be lame…take the opportunity and come up with a creative team name that you can be proud of and that will hopefully give your league at least a chuckle. I’ll pick on “Buddy” again. Don’t name your team something lame like “Buddy’s All-Stars”. This isn’t middle school. You can do better than that. So take some time and put actual thought into your team name. Something that has meaning to you and your leaguemates is always good, or you can’t go wrong with a name that’s absurd and hilarious. The point is, have fun with it. Some of my personal favorites from past seasons (and from The League):
- Miley’s Side Boobs
- Fear Boner
- Pete Top Kevin Bottom (customized to people in your league of course)
- Discount Belichick
- You Sankeyed my Battleship
- My Ball Zach Ertz
- 2 Mannings 1 Cup
7. Thou shall not be a slime ball:
We’re all in it to win it, but have some morals while you do it. Don’t get this confused with my commandment below – getting the best of someone in a trade doesn’t make you a slime ball. You know the difference. Want to add a player that you don’t really need because your opponent this week has a glaring need at that position and is just below you in waiver priority…nothing wrong with that. That’s just good strategy and I commend you for it. I’m trying to draw a clean and clear distinction between that and the classless acts that I’m referring to with this commandment.
What I’m talking about it is obvious ‘roster-churning’. Don’t add/drop every team defense on Sunday morning so that the rest of the league can’t pick any up before kick-off. If you come to a verbal trade agreement with another owner, don’t back out because you got a better offer from someone else or because the guy you’re acquiring just pulled his hammy in practice. You made a deal – be a man of your word and stick to it. You get the idea…don’t do anything that you’d be embarrassed to tell your mom about later.
8. Thou shall not veto a trade just because it makes your opponent better:
This is probably my biggest pet peeve. When your fellow owners reach a trade agreement, don’t use that little ‘Veto’ button – or ‘Vote against the trade’ – or ‘Contact the Commissioner’ just because you’re pissy that one of your competitors just acquired the missing link to their team. That’s a coward’s way out. To be fair, I hate the trade veto in almost every situation. Short of obvious and blatant collusion between two owners, a trade is a trade. Your opinion on the perceived value that each owner is getting from their end of the deal DOESN’T MATTER. IT’S NOT YOUR TEAM, IT’S THEIRS!!! Think they could get a lot more for that running back? Not your place to decide. Unless your buddy was literally trade raped because your other friend slipped him a roofie, stay out of it and worry about your own team. They’re both consenting adults and they made an agreement; they’ll have to live with the consequences – good or bad.
Which also brings me to another point…even if the trade isn’t fair and one team is obviously getting the better side, THAT’S PART OF THE GAME. Being able to wheel and deal and take advantage of other owners is part of the strategy of this glorious game. So don’t be mad that ‘Joe’ beat you to the punch and got the best of “doesn’t know any better Timmy”. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. If you can’t resist the urge to vote against those trades, then maybe you should try Fantasy Golf…I hear the etiquette may be more to your liking, you pansy.
9. Thou shall have fun, but talk lots of shit while you do it:
I get that at the end of the day this is a game and it’s meant to be fun, yadda, yadda. I understand, but respectfully think that fantasy football isn’t nearly as much fun if your league isn’t active in the trash-talking department. Listen, most fantasy football leagues are playing for money so the cash on the line is a great incentive. Even better motivation to win is laying a pounding on your co-worker so that you can show up on Tuesday morning with a huge grin like…
Yes it’s a game, and yes you should have fun no matter what happens. But trust me, it’s WAY more fun to win if you’ve been trading garbs with your friends all season and then that WR that he gave you shit for being a “huge reach” on draft day, goes off for 2 TDs against him. That’s just sweet poetic justice, and being able to rub it in his face will make that W so much sweeter. So have fun, but don’t be afraid to talk some smack all season. Think your buddy made a terrible trade, let him have it! Think you’re going to steam-roll your opponent this week…light up that discussion board! Always keep in mind certain untouchables (like wives and mothers) but otherwise everything is fair game. Believe me when I say that everyone in the league will enjoy it more with some healthy trash talk.
10. Thou shall follow through on your commitment:
If you’ve played fantasy football for long enough, we’ve all had a season (plural for some poor souls) where everything goes wrong. Your stud RB goes down week 1…or decides to use a switch to discipline his kid…and suddenly your hopes of glory are dashed. It happens to the best of us. You’re 0-5 with no sign of hope and know that your season is lost. But here’s where my commandment comes into play. Follow through and finish what you started. Because you know what’s worse than having no chance at the playoffs, and knowing as much with several weeks left to go in your season? Being a COWARD and throwing in the towel. We’ve all been in leagues where THAT guy gives up and stops checking his team. He’s starting guys on their bye weeks, guys that are injured, and meanwhile your competition is picking up easy wins against him week after week because he didn’t have enough self-respect to man up and follow through. Don’t be THAT guy.
Personally, I just don’t get it – I’m not wired that way. Because even if I’m out of it, I have enough pride that I still want to destroy my opponent each week and play the role of spoiler as my buddies try to make the playoffs themselves. That’s why I love keeper leagues AND why I’m a huge fan of punishing the last-place finisher with some form of public humiliation. Keeper leagues give actual meaning to the phrase “there’s always next year”, because you can actually start planning for next year before your 2016 draft day. And if the owners in your league don’t have my level of personal pride, well then punishments like these for finishing in the basement should do the trick…