Once again, I am champion. After 2 long years, I’m back on top. This is my 3rd championship in 5 years in that league. So, the last 5 years goes like this: champion, champion, #1 seed – first round playoff exit, missed playoffs, champion. Pretty good reign, plus I’ve never missed the playoffs except that one year.
It was a magical run, starting 0-4, going on a crazy winning streak, and ending up as the #2 seed. I actually tied the #1 seed in wins, and wasn’t that far off in points. I only lost 1 game after my 0-4 start, and that week I had the second-highest score in the league.
The run also included my most exciting fantasy football moment. Sunday wasn’t great for me in the semifinals. LeSean McCoy got 10 carries. I got nothing at tight end from Charles Clay, and I started Shane Vereen, who netted me 2.10 points. Needing 23 points from Justin Tucker, the kicker, on Monday night, I thought my season was over. I wasn’t even watching the game. But I was keeping tabs online, and my interest ticked up after a few field goals. Then, it was the 4th quarter, Justin Tucker kicked one more field goal, and I only needed 5 more points. I turned on the TV at work, and started cheering for the Lions to score a touchdown, which would force Baltimore to kick again. My co-workers started getting into it too, as I explained the situation. If the Lions made a 2-pt conversion, it would force OT if the Ravens kicked another field goal and I’d have a better chance at winning. The Lions then missed the 2-pt conversion, which meant there was only one shot at victory. A 50+ yarder would win it. Anything less and I was doomed. A gimpy Joe Flacco did enough to get them near field goal range. On 4th and 7, the offense stayed on the field, and I was screaming at the TV. Then, they called a timeout (I’m assuming Harbaugh just wanted to run the clock). After the commercial break, Justin Tucker came out to kick a 61-yard field goal. Very difficult. But he nailed it, getting the ball just inside the uprights. I took the lead 115.24 to 114.82. I was cheering, still kind of in disbelief at my crazy luck, and so were my co-workers. I explained how rare 60-yard field goals were, and how rare it was to get 23 points from a kicker. I still sweated the rest of the week, waiting for a stat correction, but there were none, and my magical season continued.
I have some other good stories. There was another Monday night game where I got 11 points from a kicker, but I didn’t even watch that game. Plus, it was merely unlikely that I’d win, not miracle unlikely. Plus, it was a regular season win. With my semifinal game, Yahoo! gave me a 0% chance on winning going into Monday night. I figured it was less than 1%. Not impossible, though. There was the prescient Seattle defense facebook post, where I stated my game was over unless Seattle scored like 3 defensive touchdowns, and then my fantasy team racked up like 30 points from the Seattle D. There was the night I survived Michael Vick’s crazy record-setting game (how many people can say that?). Then there’s the McNabb game, where he got sacked like 13 times, and our scoring settings were -1 per sack, but I wasn’t involved in the game. There’s also cashing in the slap bet. But I think this pushes the slap bet into second place in terms of excitement. I was a favorite going into the slap bet championship game. The slap bet probably is the best story, but this gave me the biggest adrenaline rush.
My best move of the year (besides picking up Justin Tucker, Jordan Reed, Keenan Allen, Zac Stacy, and the Arizona defense) was turning down all trade offers. I actually was soliciting offers and thinking about blowing up my team. At 0-4, you get desperate. I eventually decided none of the offers were worth it. I turned down an RB trade for Aaron Rodgers, and another for Cutler. They both got hurt, so it worked out, haha. I also turned down Doug Martin and Cam Newton for Alfred Morris and Terrell Pryor. I decided that the edge I got at RB outweighed the upgrade in QB. I guess I was right? I won. I mean, I had Zac Stacy later on, so I guess I really would’ve been better off, but I couldn’t predict that. I also won the game that got me to 1-4, and I would’ve lost had I started Cam Newton instead of Russell Wilson. I believed in the talent of my team, the value of a great stable of RBs, and that faith carried me to the championship.
In the other league, I made the playoffs once again (never missed). This time I was the #5 instead of the #6. So, still kind of mediocre in the regular season. I won my first playoff game, but got crushed in my final two games to get 4th place and miss out on money. (I did get a little bit for highest points in one week.) It was sad, but my team wasn’t great, especially after losing Jordan Reed. My running backs, Knowshon Moreno and Frank Gore, were decent, but put up puny point totals down the stretch. Josh Gordon was merely very good instead of godly. It was a 14-team league, which I didn’t like as much as 12. It’s harder to work the waiver wire. This made it harder to stream defenses and harder to upgrade my team. It makes the draft more important, which I don’t like as much since
Now for some notes for next year.
In the semifinal game, Alfred Morris would’ve only got me 6.6, while Zac Stacy would’ve netted me 20 points. I would’ve been a comfortable favorite going into Monday night had I started Stacy. I didn’t start him because I thought there was a chance the Rams would get blown out by the Saints, so I was trying to go with the safest choice. There was also a lot of Redskins drama, with RGIII being benched, and coaching issues, so I thought Morris was a risk too. What I didn’t consider was that Vereen got his value as a pass-catching back, which made him a bigger risk than I thought. I was like the night I started Darren Sproles and the Falcons decided to game-plan for him, and he got me like zero points. A WR will typically get less touches than a RB, so a RB tends to be a safer start, everything else being equal (which it never is). Anyway, while Vereen isn’t a WR, he was the same risks as starting a WR, with the added factor that he was less likely to catch any deep passes. In my other league, I reached a bit for Vereen and was disappointed when he was hurt because I thought he’d be a stud. I don’t think I’d reach next year for any back that doesn’t get his value between the tackles.
My team was actually the youngest it’s ever been. Russell Wilson was in his second year. (Decent value, and I’m glad I didn’t reach for Kaepernick. I actually had Kaepernick rated above Wilson because of the potential rushing upside, but Kap was going in the second round, and I wasn’t going to touch a QB until round 3 at the earliest.) I drafted Dwayne Allen, a second-year player, and used Jordan Reed, a rookie, for a good chunk of the season. I think Charles Clay is in his 3rd year, but he was kind of filler. I drafted a bunch of second-year wideouts, including Randall Cobb, TY Hilton, and Chris Givens. I reached for Kenbrell Thompkins and took Patton as a very late-round flier for fun. Both of those guys were rookies. I also reached for Josh Gordon (a good move), another second-year guy. I drafted Alfred Morris and Daryl Richardson, both second-year guys at running back. I also grabbed Eddie Lacy, even though I almost never draft rookies. (The value was there.) LeSean McCoy and DeAngelo Williams had probably been in the league longest out of my draft picks. When Cobb got hurt, I replaced him with Keenan Allen, a rookie, and I also picked up Terrance Williams for a while, another rookie. Next year, I’ll probably take a chance on Williams again, and maybe I’ll look at Robert Woods.
I guess the youth movement worked. I’d always been reluctant to get young guys, but it worked out this year. Still, I’m never going to reach for a rookie RB. They don’t always work out in pass protection, so they don’t always get as many snaps as they could. Still, Lacy was a starting back, so he was a worthwhile pick in an era of platoons. I don’t think it was a reach to draft him in Round 4. As for WR, Thompkins, Givens, and Patton were busts, but I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of Patton anyway, and knew I could get someone off the waiver wire. They were all later picks, but I still think Thompkins was a mistake. I’m not going reaching for the pre-season rookie wonder again. I actually ended up dropping TY Hilton before the Reggie Wayne injury. I picked him up as a WR2 (well, actually Josh Gordon was going to be my WR2). Don’t reach for the slot guy in a power running offense. Hilton was inconsistent, but I think he could take another step forward in year three. I ended up with a better team without him, after getting Keenan Allen. I don’t know if dropping him was a mistake. It was a 10-person league. The guy I dropped him for (Robert Woods), was probably too cute a move. But Woods got hurt, so I can’t properly evaluate the move. Then again, rookie WRs don’t always hold up their first year in the NFL. Josh Gordon was my best draft pick. WR1 value at a fraction of the price. Plus, he didn’t come out of nowhere. His value was deflated because of his 2-game suspension. It’s not like he wasn’t healthy. I was expecting him to be a WR2, but he really helped both of my teams. Anyway, second-year wideouts are great. I also think you have to go young to get the upside late. After 4 years, you pretty much have an idea of how good a wideout is (Brandon Lloyd aside).
Another lesson I learned was about slot receivers. It’s interesting that some of the better players will operate out of the slot. I think it’s because they’re more reliable in a blitzing situation. However, the receivers who work on the outside are more likely to get TDs and catch the long bombs. Something to think about. I think next year I’ll try to target receivers on the outside.
I was right about my draft strategy with tight ends. I drafted on really late, figuring they were all about the same after Jimmy Graham. I also thought Gronk was an injury risk (and so was Hernandez, but that point is moot), and I don’t like picking up players who will eat up a roster spot while being injured for too many games. Some of the late fliers worked out better than others, like Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, but I was right about the middle-class of tight end not being worth it. Players like Vernon Davis are too touchdown dependent, and touchdowns are way more random than yardage. So, they can’t be relied on, which makes them not worth a higher draft pick, especially when you can get a guy like Josh Gordon. I don’t know if this strategy will hold up for next year. There are some guys like Julius Thomas, Jordan Reed, and Jordan Cameron that could be worth it at a higher pick.
I did okay waiting on QB. The young guys had less upside than I thought, and Kap wasn’t great at all, but there’s now a big middle class of QB to select from. The top 3 are Rodgers, Brees, and Manning. I think you can pencil Cam in at 4. Any other guy, though, and you are better off waiting as long as you don’t drop another tier. Russell Wilson was a good pick, though, because he didn’t have too many really bad games compared to other QBs. I panicked in my other league, drafting Tom Brady, when I could’ve waited for Luck or Stafford. It was a response to last year when I kept missing out on QB, and only saved myself with a RGIII trade. I should’ve stuck to my guns.
I don’t have much to say about RBs except that they are important. They carried my team to a championship. And my decent RBs allowed me to snag a playoff spot in my other league. Going 4-deep at running back is better than trading one of those pieces to another team. RBs still produce the best value, and are the best to start at flex. Of course, your team make-up can determine this. But I’d rather start a WR3 at WR2 and a RB2 at flex, than a WR2 at WR2 and a WR3 at flex. Er, let’s just say that an RB2 is more valuable than a WR2.
Wait on defense and kicker. NFC West teams have great Ds, and you can usually find one on the waiver wire. Usually I’d say something disparaging about kickers here, but I’ve sworn off saying mean things after Justin Tucker.
My worst move of the year was starting Jake Locker over Tom Brady. I know Tom Brady was underperforming, and Jake Locker had overperformed in some games, but dude, he’s Jake freaking Locker. How did you talk yourself into that. One guy has talent, the other does not. Too cute.
My other terrible move was drafting Amendola so early. Dude is made of glass. He was way too big a risk to pick as a potential WR1. Yes, he was my first WR drafted. Of course, part of the problem was the QB panic pick, so I don’t think I’ll have this problem again.
I do think there’s value to be had in picking up good players who were injured last year, but you don’t want to pick a guy made of glass too early.
Then, there was the questionable Maurice-Jones Drew pick. I picked him towards the back end of the draft. But my other options were guys like Trent Richardson (terrible), Steven Jackson (old and always injured), Stevan Ridley, Chris Johnson, David Wilson, Frank Gore, and Ray Rice. I knew I could get Frank Gore in round 2. Passing Rice was actually a decent decision given how Ray Rice ended up performing. I couldn’t have predicted he’d do that bad, but I didn’t think Ray Rice was an RB1 after owning him last year. MoJo outproduced him, despite the injuries. (And I think he could’ve done better if he had been healthier.) Still, the best decision was Matt Forte. Oops. But hey, Matt Forte aside, I was right about that tier of RB being done.
Anyway, I’m still a champion. And I will be until next year.