August 15, 2007
Fantasy football is a blast right now. New positional rankings are hitting the Web every day (some better than others) for you to weigh against your own projections. Everyone has their favorite sleeper picks, their players to avoid, their players to target in the draft’s later rounds. And, of course, draft day itself looms, an event no less sacred than watching your team compete in the Super Bowl.
If you’ve already drafted, your team is undoubtedly looking stacked. At every position. Your roster has a nice balance of proven veterans who’re still productive, younger guys ready for a breakout season, and rookies bound to make an immediate fantasy impact. Yep, things are going to be different this season–you’re not going to miss the playoffs. You’ll never be forced to start any players that would be considered a reach. You’ve planned and schemed and strategized for nothing less than victory.
Well, we at ETB are here to call bullshit.
Fantasy football is messy. Any serious participant
spends wastes a lot of time and effort on it, and more often than not, it’s all for naught. Only one team out of 10 or 12 emerges victorious at the end of the day, right? Let’s just be honest with ourselves: fantasy football sucks. It sucks. It’s awful, it’s cruel, it spits in your face more than it pats you on the back. The sooner we all accept the following truths, the more enjoyable these next few months are going to be.
1. Ligaments Can Tear, Bones Can Break, Seasons Can End
Wow–you actually lucked into the second-overall pick this year. Good job. And it’s about time, really, because for the last four years, in all three of your leagues, you’ve always been stuck near the end of the draft order, getting handcuffed to just a so-so #1 RB. You deserved better. Knowing exactly who you’re going to take makes it so much easier, doesn’t it?
Anchored by a stud running back and some picks you deemed “savvy” in the middle rounds, you’re primed for your very first league championship. With your draft done and two preseason games left, the waiting game is almost too much to bear. You tune into the third game of the exhibition season–traditionally the last time most starters see the field until the regular season begins–to watch your back in action. His first carry goes for 15 yards as he bowls over two weak defenders. Then his QB checks down to him on a swing pass that breaks for 35; yep, you’re going to ride this stallion all the way to first place.
That is, until, Bonehead Coach inserts your stud for one more series “to make sure he breaks a sweat.” Your first-overall pick suffers a season-ending tear to the anterior cruciate ligament–both of ‘em. Panicked, sweating, heart racing, you rush to the computer: Internet is down again. D’oh! By the time it’s back up 2 hours later, his replacement, a rookie taken in the third round who has been described as “electrifying,” has been snapped up. And wouldn’t you know it, your #2 WR just suffered a broken ankle in another game, too, which means Muhsin Muhammad has become your every-week starter.
Now, despite your best-laid plans, you’ve been rendered helpless, like Cissy Yost trying to keep Tina away from Shaunie. No matter what you do, no matter how well you think you drafted, a small twist of fate–or should we say a small twist of the knee, ankle, or arm–could derail your fantasy season on any given Sunday.
2. There’s No Prize for Second Place
Feeling invigorated after a dominating win over your co-worker–the one who clips their fingernails at their desk and wears pleated khaki pants every day–you start the week off like any respectable, serious fantasy player does: by scouring the waiver wire first thing Tuesday morning. Better yet, you’re bypassing that whole process because you’ve already queued everyone in your Watch List.
You drop that fill-in defense from last week and grab another D with a favorable matchup on Sunday. Then, you scoop up the highly touted backup for that first-round RB who succumbed to injury late Monday night. Fan-tastic work.
All week, you’re so on top of all the latest injury reports and matchups to exploit. You stay up late Thursday night crunching projections, looks, catches, past performances, etc for all your players. Come Sunday morning, you tune into ESPN’s four-hour long pregames show and suffer through “Mort” and “Boomer” and another puff piece about “Bill Belichick.”
The games start, your lineup is set–and all that hard, hard work pays off. Your starting running backs combine for 3 TDs and 275 yards rushing. All of your receivers exceed 100 yards receiving. You even get a whole lot of production from your tight end–you have the most dynamic tight end in the league, actually–and your flex players put up starter numbers. That defense you picked up only allows 8 points and gets a few picks.
You did it. You scored more points than anyone in the league this week… except for, wait, your head-to-head opponent, the guy who’s never played fantasy football, hasn’t made any roster moves, and who everyone laughed at for drafting Donovan McNabb in the first round. Well, he and McNabb just beat you after the QB threw for 428 yards and 5 TDs, and after every other guy who hasn’t done shit all season recorded their only good effort of the year.
Congratulations: you just wasted your entire week and have absolutely nothing to show for it. There’s always next week.
3. Touchdown Vultures
Outside of season-ending injuries to star players, there might be nothing more maddening about fantasy football than the scumbags who trot onto the field for one-yard plunges into the endzone. The audacity of these “Brandon Jacobs,” these “Frisman Jacksons,” for stealing all the glory from the workhorses who marched their offense down the field and got them into scoring position in the first place.
Sometimes it feels like these idiot coaches are purposely messing with everyone following along for fantasy purposes–don’t they realize this activity is a big reason why their sport’s popularity is at an all-time high? Laurence Maroney just rushed for 60 yards and caught 2 passes on a single drive–how dare Kevin Faulk be inserted for all three plays inside the 10-yard line! Are we really supposed to believe that Maroney is so out of breath that he just happens to conveniently need a blow with his team sniffing a touchdown?
Another example: Roy Williams is something like 6’2, 212 pounds… clearly bigger than most cornerbacks and safeties. The man hauls in the most impossible catches at times, especially in traffic or along the sideline. With his team hiking the ball on first down inside the five-yard line, the logical play is to reward your hoss with at least one fade or jump ball in the endzone. More likely than not, if the play is designed correctly, he’ll be one-on-one with a much smaller defender. Instead, Kitna fakes to the running back, rolls right, and dumps it to Dan Campbell for the score. The one guy on the planet who started Campbell rejoices; the rest of us spit beer at the television.
4. Head Coaches and Their Bizarre Loyalties
Call this the “John Fox Syndrome,” an increasingly common disease spreading amongst the NFL’s head-coaching ranks. This nagging affliction most often manifests itself when two players at differing points in their career–one on the way up, the other on the way down–share the same position. For reasons that are all too frequently unexplainable, the coach will exhibit a tendency to keep the veteran on the field for longer stretches than they deserve to be, simply because they’re the veteran. Meanwhile, a potential fantasy stud wastes away on the sideline, relegated to spot duty for long periods of time, while the veteran produces unspectacular stats and carries little to no fantasy value.
There’s nothing worse than starting a guy who figures to see a lot of carries or a lot of looks, only to see his less-talented peer get all the action. One recent example: in 2006, the Panthers head coach for which this disease is named stuck to his guns and played DeShaun Foster over DeAngelo Williams. Andrew summed it up in our recent Fantasy Football Pariahs article: “Last season as the starter, Foster recorded 897 yards rushing and just 3 rushing TDs on a meager 4.0 YPC. Still, John Fox remained fiercely, frustratingly loyal to Foster as his starting running back. To this day he sits atop the depth chart for the Panthers, but you’d be a fool to take him over stud-in-waiting DeAngelo Williams. It’s only a matter of time (weeks, really) before Williams’ electrifying speed and moves position him as Carolina’s starting tailback.”
That is, of course, assuming that Fox comes to his senses and seeks treatment for this terrible malady. We also saw some of this last year in New England–go figure–when rookie Laurence Maroney didn’t get as much burn as he should have with crusty Corey Dillon in the mix. It’ll be interesting to see if new Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino frustrates Jerious Norwood owners this season by steadfastly giving last-leg Warrick Dunn more carries than he deserves. I sincerely hope not.
5. Footballs are Oblong-Shaped
This goddamn ball… this… this… “pigskin” must have been created by the world’s dumbest monkey. The simple fact is this: that stupid, stupid, oblong-shaped football never bounces, carries, or falls your way when you need it to.
There’s 2 minutes left in the Monday night game. Your ears have sufficiently bled from listening to Kornheiser drool over whichever celebrity visited the booth, and all you need is 1 completion and 15 yards from your quarterback. Instead, he throws a $*@! duck that turns into an interception. Totally because of the oblong shape. When you’re 5 points down to your opponent, and your last active receiver streaks down the sideline for a wide-open touchdown pass, he drops the $*@! thing. Oblong shape. And when all you need is your running back not to fumble, he takes a big hit and fumbles that $*@! ball–and tears his anterior cruciate ligament. That’s right, because of the oblong shape.
Fantasy football is a total crap shoot, from drafting, to waiver-wire moves, to picking your starting lineup each week. You can study numbers, make the best possible choice for every one of your draft picks, and pull off the most lopsided trades in fantasy history–there’s still a very good chance it’ll all end up in a mediocre record and exclusion from the fantasy playoffs.
Last season, after recording his worst overall record ever of all the years he’s participated in fantasy football, my ETB associate Andrew openly talked about not playing this year. Like so many of us, he was frustrated, pissed off, and fed up with all the unpredictability of this dorky activity we call fantasy football. But as the world turns, he’s pushed those unhappy results from 2006 far from memory and is back in three or four leagues… again. Like the rest of us.
Many of you have drafted. You’re looking at your starting lineups for Week 1 already. You’re positive your opponent’s team absolutely sucks. Maybe you’ve looked ahead to your players’ matchups during the fantasy playoffs. These are the good days–enjoy them. A month from now, there’s a damn good chance you’ll be whistling another tune and muttering under your breath that fantasy football really, really sucks.