Learn the Universal Truths of Fantasy Football Drafts

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Fantasy Football Leads to Fanatics, That Includes You

[Ed Note]: SB Nation reader and part-time contributor, Dexys Midnight, delivered to my inbox the following tome on the spectacle that is fantasy football drafts. Keep reading to find out what kind of drafter you really are, and the universal truths that extend across all fantasy drafts, no matter where your league is located or what kind of drafts you run.

Fantasy football stories are like poker stories: everyone has one and no one wants to hear about someone else's.  So, as you sit in your office next week telling a colleague how you would have won your Week 1 matchup if only DeSean Jackson didn't get tackled on the three-yard line, just know that he's not listening.  He's only waiting for you to finish your story, so that he can tell you how he would have won his own matchup if he started Jason Elam instead of Lawrence Tynes.  Scintillating, right?

Fantasy football draft stories are worse, so I'll avoid going into too much detail about my bad beat of not getting Marc Sanchez in Round 17 because I thought everyone else would be picking backup defenses.  Instead, this is more of a postmortem on football drafts in general, since we all spend 364 days building them up in our minds to be the greatest day of the year only to watch the season fall apart in a heartbeat (fill in your catastrophe here-2008 first-rounder Tom Brady works for me).  We also know from experience that there is an inverse relationship between how good we feel about our team the moment after the draft and how well they do that year.  This year, I love my team...which scares me to no end.

In writing this, I tried to think of all the universal things I have learned in my many years of fantasy drafts and here is what I have come up with:

Whoever started the idea of drafting defenses/special teams is an idiot.  Can't we all get together and collectively ban this monstrosity?  This shouldn't be hard.  There is a study out there that says that 88.3% or so of people claim that they are above average drivers.  I imagine the same percentage of people would claim that they have been hurt, not helped, by having defense as a roster spot.  Everyone remembers when they chose to start the Steelers as the Packers sat on the bench and returned three touchdowns that week; everyone remembers when they would have won their matchup if their opponent didn't have the best defense/special teams week in history.  No one ever remembers any instance, ever, where their defense helped them squeak out a win.

If you read any draft guru guide, they will all say not to draft a defense until the last round because it is a complete crapshoot with no consistency year to year.  Then why bother?  After all that draft prep, do you really want your season decided by the football equivalent of a coin flip?  I was once in a league where we drafted individual defensive players:  great in theory if you don't want to know whether you actually won or lost until the next day; I never knew until then how drastically tackle totals change from the unofficial stats to the official ones.  In any case, team defenses, individual defenses, no one has come up with a scoring system that makes the use of them feel anything more than random.  And, don't get me started on kickers.

I still miss auction drafts.  I haven't had one in years.  If you haven't done one, arrange one.  Now.  Do not pass go.  It's more fun than you can possibly imagine, and if you've already had your regular draft league, you'll be totally prepared.  Honestly, the difference between regular drafts and auctions is the difference between college and the pros.  No more griping (or listening to people gripe) that you don't have the first pick.  No more waiting 16 picks hoping that Santana Moss makes it back to you.  You want him?  Bid for him.  You don't want him?  Bid for him anyway and drive up the price.  It's like being in the movie Wall Street without the bad haircuts.  Every minute is seeping with strategy, unlike regular drafts, where the most strategy you'll have to muster is picking a WR instead of a QB because the three guys who pick between you and your next pick already have QBs.

Keeper leagues stink.  I've never been in one.  So, how do I know they stink?  Because every single person I know in a keeper league this year is miserable, feeling like the season is over before it started:  "Oh, woe is me.  The Tornado Bombers have Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Larry Fitzgerald as keepers and six of the top 12 draft picks.  My keepers suck.  Yada yada yada."  Guess what?  If the first pick in your draft is Larry Johnson because the top 22 running backs have already been kept, something is wrong with your league.  Like I said, we spend 364 days waiting for draft day.  The least we can do is actually . . . draft.

Keeper leagues also lead to lots of mid-season dumping (usually right before your main competition for a playoff spot has to play that now-minor-league team), and my guess is that they also lead to a lot of people deciding not to play this year, because, "I'm really busy at work" (read:  I don't want to pay $100 to lose to the Tornado Bombers).  In sum, you aren't really an NFL GM, so let's start with a clean slate each year.

Email drafts aren't nearly as bad as you'd think.  This year, my league had to have its draft via an extended email exchange because we couldn't agree on a single date to have it live.  Was it annoying at times?  Sure.  Was it endless too?  Definitely, especially since one of the owners could only participate at night-seriously?  It's 2009!-meaning that once we hit her pick each work day (when all good Americans focus on fantasy football), we had to take an extended intermission.  But five days later, we had completed a draft, and I have to say, the quality of picks was infinitely better, with only one instance of "he was picked two rounds ago" for the entire draft.  And, since I could take an extra minute to look up who I was about to pick, I did not have to worry about whether I was about to pick some guy who had just been suspended, arrested, or recently lost a limb in a bar fight.

Do I like live drafts?  Of course, I do.  I'm just saying that email drafts are an adequate alternative.  As an added bonus, here's the other thing you won't miss about draft day:

Everyone you draft with is annoying.  That includes you.  You don't think so?  Ok, then which one are you?  a) The guy who has to comment on everyone else's pick ("Torry Holt?  Nice Pick...in 2005! Ha, ha, ha.")?  b) The guy who lives and dies by each pick ("Just give me 10 more minutes!  I'm drafting a backup kicker for my bye week and I have to do more research!")?  c) The guy who treats the one draft preview article he read as a bible ("$46 for Brandon Marshall.  That's $2 less than my guide said he should go for.  Total steal. . . .  Wait a minute, what the heck is "conduct detrimental to the team"? . . . .  And what do you mean Crabtree hasn't signed yet?")?  d) The guy who desperately wants to be an NFL scout ("Yeah, his name's Tony Fiammeta.  He's totally going to be the starting blocking fullback for the Panthers at some point.  Guy was a monster gym rat at Syracuse, and I'll bet he sees four to five touches per game by the end of the season.")?  Or, e) The guy who keeps asking whether Thomas Jones has been picked yet ("Well, what about Julius Jones?  Felix?  Indiana?")?  I'm sure I've missed someone, so feel free to add your own categories-we all fit in somewhere.

If someone wants to change the scoring rules, it probably benefits them in some way.  Sorry to be a cynic, but fantasy football is a Machiavellian world where people often propose a change that is "good for the league," but is really good for them.  A couple of days before the draft, Jerry proposes that your league add points per reception?  It's because Jerry just had his draft in a points per reception league and he's prepared for another one.  You remember Jerry.  He's the guy who proposed a keeper league last year... coincidentally, a year after he drafted Adrian Peterson in the 7th round.  Some of these rule changes may indeed be good for the league, and if they are good for you, by all means vote for them.  But you can be sure that they are also good for Jerry.

In conclusion, I hope you've learned something from the above.  But, if not, happy drafting anyway, and try to keep in mind:  if your star running back tears his ACL in Game 1, it probably hurts him more than it hurts you.

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