By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s 2009 Fantasy Football Guide
What started out as a wacky rotisserie league concept for football by former Oakland Raiders part owner Bill Winkenbach and his friends Scott Stirling and Bill Tunnell in the 1962 has grown into its own subculture and is the passion of football fans and casual fans everywhere.
Fantasy football is now part of the fabric that ties everyone together and gets people watching the NFL, (well at least the stat ticker at the bottom of the screen) which is by far the number one sports league in the world.
Fantasy football leagues are all about one upping your buddies, having fun watching games (every game counts now or at least the stats), trash talking, and allows fans to experience the highs and lows of “legalized gambling”.
The number of people involved in leagues are staggering with an estimated 35 million people participating in fantasy football leagues. Of that group the majority are males in the marketing bonanza demographic of between the ages of 25 and 54, but we are also seeing more women competing with the men for stats superiority.
And when you talk about the dollars involved in fantasy football (over $250 million dollars spent on gaming services around fantasy sports), leaving sponsors and advertisers start drooling.
In a recent interview Chris Nicholas, who heads the fantasy sports group at ESPN said “They’re a great target for sponsors,” and “These are folks who are comfortable online. From autos to credit card companies to shoe companies, they want to get in front of these people.”
The growth of fantasy football is so immense that now every major sports news outlet and website including NFL.com has their own section and analysts dedicated solely to covering and analyzing America’s new past time.
I believe the best website that keeps fantasy football economical and easy to run for your league and commissioner is CBS Sportsline.com (site has everything from breaking news, injuries, scoring, etc all tailored to your league).
In this tough economy, football related television and sports marketing professionals more than ever know that to generate dollars from average to non-watching people that bringing in fantasy football participants is paramount.
“How big is fantasy football”, you ask. Well it is big enough that every Sunday entire shows like “Fantasy Fix” on Comcast Sportsnet or large segments on national NFL shows like CBS’ “NFL Today” emphasize every aspect of fantasy football from who to play or not play to injuries to inside tips.
“It started as a niche activity, and now it’s moved on to a mainstream passion,” said Chris Russo, senior vice president of new media and publishing for the National Football League in a recent article. He added, “It’s a community activity, where friends from college, from work or any walk of life get together and compete and keep in touch.”
Now that we know some history and tidbits around fantasy football, let’s get to the Do’s and Don’ts of being a successful fantasy football player. I am not saying I am the ultimate fantasy football guru, but I know enough to help you get through your draft and be competitive in your league. BTW: That certain Seattle Seahawks receiver’s name that you are trying to select is pronounced hoosh-mand-zaa-deh as in TJ Houshmandzadeh.
Fantasy Football Do’s and Don’ts
Pick your league’s commissioner wisely – This is of extreme importance as this is the individual that can make or break your league and fantasy football experience. Nothing is worse than a little “dictator” that has strange rules and has an agenda. Go with a person that you believe is fair, can take care of the money for the season, and knows the rules.
Know your league’s rules – This is the most cumbersome part of being in a fantasy football league. We all know rules are a pain in the a__, but they can also save you too. Knowing your league’s rules like how many players can be active, how much yardage on a particular play kicks-in a specific points bonus, how much a missed field goal is worth, lineup restrictions, floaters (extra WR or RB in your lineup), if your league is a point per reception league, or any of myriad of topics is paramount for any great fantasy football player.
Agree upon the ground rules of your draft early – Where are you holding the draft (Some people like bars and others like a quiet basement), Draft Order, League fees and dues for the year, What are we eating and drinking (This is the most important, because you need to be relaxed – I vote for beer and pizza), The League Trophies/Prizes, How many rounds the draft will be, How much time between picks, Number of required players at each position, etc. Once the ground rules are set, stick to them or be prepared to be “trash talked” the entire draft.
Have a Good Attitude (This could be your year) – I always hear naysayers talk about their draft is coming up, but they have no chance. Just because you are a rookie or an 11-year veteran of fantasy football who has never won or won it 10 times before, it doesn’t matter. Every year starts fresh for your entire league (unless you are in a keeper league, which I hate) and everyone has a chance to be the “big winner” for the year.
Arrive early for your draft – By doing this, you can pick your seat, have all of your notes, cheat sheets, pizza, beer, and everything else you need in place for a good selection process. Nothing is worse for a group of people to wait for a “Johnny Come Lately” who is unprepared or even worse someone calling in their picks on a cell phone.
Make a “wish list” with rankings – Once you know your draft spot, a “wish list” will be your best friend. By knowing where you think a player will be targeted and scratching players off as your draft progresses, will help you quickly find and select the player you want. Some magazines and websites now have cheat sheets that you can have right at your fingertips (no overextended reading when you are on the clock though — See Don’ts).
Get your stud early in the draft – I recommend looking for a running back to build your team around early (maybe two), then quarterback, and wide receivers should be your last first round option in the draft. Running backs are fantasy football scoring machines with their ability to run, catch, gain yards after the catch, score touchdowns, and their big play potential. For example in 2006, LaDainan Tomlinson was like two or three players in one by scoring 31 total touchdowns (receiving, running, and even throwing). I always like to say, “Trust your list”, you know where a guy “should” go and you should stick to your plan. A basic plan is in Rounds 1-3 think RB first then QB, then WR; Rounds 3-6 Continue with the aforementioned strategy and add in TE’s; After Round 6 fill in your roster needs.
Know who is injured for the season or has already been cut – This is extremely important, because every year there is a FF player that has no idea who was put on IR for the year or out of the league and selects them to the delight of all of their buddies. Here’s a free tip…former Giants receiver Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress will be in jail this football season serving time shoot himself in the leg. Make sure that you check the injury and roster cut down lists right before the draft. This same rule definitely applies during the season when setting your roster for the week. Nothing is worse than finding out at game time that you have a player in your lineup that won’t be playing on game day.
Make sure to get handcuffs when drafting – Let’s face it certain players have a higher chance of missing games whether it is injuries, suspension, or poor play. There is also the new phenomenon of teams splitting plays for a position based on situations, this is especially common for running backs (goalline, 3rd downs, etc) where the two-headed backfield is becoming the norm – there were only five 300-carry backs in the NFL in 2008. So it is important to find a “handcuff” or partner for certain players. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield is currently unsettled as starter Willie Parker is getting older and emerging back Rashard Mendenhall is returning from a shoulder injury, so many people drafting both backs for their teams so that each back can serve as a handcuff.
Know your “Bye” weeks – Just like injuries having conflicting players on your roster can kill your team. When you make your draft wish list make sure that you know when your players are off, so you don’t pick players that will both be out at the same time. This same rule definitely applies during the season when setting your roster for the week. Nothing is worse than finding out at game time that you don’t have a position covered in your lineup, because of a bye week.
Remember rookies when drafting – More than ever rookies are having a higher impact in the NFL. Fantasy Football owners that selected 2008 impactful rookie Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. The former Tulane star leapt from the 2ndround of the NFL Draft into being a bonafide fantasy football cornerstone player, while piling up 1,715 yards from scrimmage — third most in the NFL. Forte’s numbers for 2008 were 316 rushes for 1238 yards and 8 TDs; 63 receptions for 477 yards and 4 TDs.
Be willing to talk trade during the season – There is nothing worse than a league participant that holds on to all of their players like little pieces of platinum and doesn’t entertain emails or phone call. If a fellow player offers you a “reasonable” trade, either take it, counter offer, or respectfully decline. Make sure that you are smart in your trade offers by being realistic of your player’s value, status, and your trading partner’s history — some guys are known to try and fleece new players, so beware…Hey how does a deal of JT O’Sullivan, TJ Duckett, and Javon Walker for Adrian Peterson sound to you?
Use the waiver wire – Usually after the first 6 weeks or so pending on your league’s rules, you will have the opportunity to grab players that were not selected in your draft — beware some leagues charge for waiver wire picks. The waiver wire can help you fix mistakes and replace non-producers/injured players. Every year some grabs a stud player off the waiver wire and it will always be a feather in their cap. I still remember in 1998, quarterback Brad Johnson was slated to be the Vikings starter and he got hurt early in the season opening the door for Randall Cunningham, who I happily grabbed off the waiver wire and he went on to have a huge year including 34 passing touchdowns.
Play for the playoffs – Just like regular football, the only thing that matters is making the playoffs in Fantasy Football. Once you are in the playoff rounds – usually weeks 15 -17 of the NFL regular season – anything can happen. I have seen last place Fantasy Football teams win championships in the playoffs by making solid waiver pick-ups and riding “hot” NFL players/teams making their playoff push.
Have Fun!!! – This is the most important part of fantasy football!! Fantasy Football Leagues offer you a chance to talk, have bragging rights for the year, bond, trash talk, and hangout with your friends. It also gives you, the fan, the chance to be the Head Coach and General Manager. You will win or lose based on your decisions of who you played, who you did not play, injuries, game time decisions, trades, etc. But also remember that most champions are built on the luck of the draw – drafting position and player health are truly keys to winning.
NEXT: The fantasy dont’s.