This year is going to be exciting. I’ve narrowed down my fantasy football options, and I’m only playing with either a) people I know or b) in leagues I’ve played before. From double-digit teams to… 6 teams, and three of them I’m league manager. See, playing fantasy is almost entirely about the relationships, the ribbing, and the “smack” that will be talked (along with the all-consuming desire to be the last team standing). The best part is that I don’t have to worry about cheating the way you do in a public league.
My “favorite” cheating story comes from last year: in a public ESPN league, one guy admitted to having three teams in the same league. That’s right: he opened up three different web browsers (like Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox) and increased his budget from $200 to $600. Of course, he got a couple of good trades to himself while some owners were AWOL, and suddenly, the league was pointless. That doesn’t happen when you’re playing with your friends.
A recent Sports Illustrated article was entitled “Why Men Cheat.” I thought it was going to be a statistical study about why men feel the need to cut corners; instead, it was about foreign minorities are pressured to use steroids more than Americans. I thought it was going to talk about A-Rod and Ryan Braun, about how we as Americans (or is it the human race?) have mixed up #winning (thanks, Charlie Sheen) with success. We’ve become convinced that we need to be the top dog more than we need the process of trying, that coming in fourth on our own merits isn’t better than winning by destroying relationships and breaking the rules.
But playing with your friends can change all of that.
I tallied the folks playing in this year’s leagues: there’s a real estate agent, a private school teacher, a grant writer, a human resources manager, two IT guys, a banker, six writers, a news producer, a politician, a county planner, a news reporter, and… ten ministers. (For the sake of my numerical exploration, there’s no overlap.)
For the first time ever, I’ll actually be playing against family (my newly minted brother-in-law Josh is in a league, and his brother is in another). Several good friendships from the present will be tested, as well as three I made in seminary; my best friend from high school will be playing in one of my leagues for the first time, and fantasy football literally has us chatting for the first time in a decade. Several of my ministerial colleagues are wading in for the first time, and one of my former youth stands to be my fiercest competitor.
These folks are my real-life dream team, a group of guys I’ll razz, laugh with, and stay in better touch with because I’m playing against them.
But my “fake,” fantasy dream draft? I’ll let you in on my ideal line-up, and check back in next week with who to add, who to drop, and whether or not my line-up holds up after four drafts this week.
First rounder/$45: Jamaal Charles. Seriously, if I get the first pick or Adrian Peterson goes for less than $45 (yeah, right), I’m all over AP. But otherwise? I’m taking Andy Reid’s new pet project over the rest of the maybe-they-will-or-maybe-they-won’t. Honestly, AP is the only one that’s as pure a shot as an MJ jumper from fifteen.
Second rounder/$35: Dez Bryant or A.J. Green. Which one of these guys are you counting on for 10 TDs and over 1,000 yards receiving? The talented head case or the dinged-up, one-trick pony? Tony Romo’s head or Andy Dalton’s arm? I’m giving Bryant a slight edge, but I’d be happy with either of these guys as my top wideout.
Third rounder/$30: Stevan Ridley and Maurice Jones-Drew. With the first guy, I’m counting on Bill Belicheck to not pull a Shanahan and go away from what gave the team stability last year (with apologies to Gisele and mighty Smurf, Wes Welker).
Fourth rounder/$20: Larry Fitzgerald. You need at least one more WR. Why not count on Carson Palmer to be a more “half full” than “half empty” kind of glass?
Fifth-eighth rounder/$10-15: Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, Darren Sproles or Lamar Miller. Which year are you going to give more credence to, 2011 or 2012? If you think last year was a fluke, I’m going Stafford; if you think last year was “the truth,” I’m going Ryan. For the second pairing, it’s all about whether it’s PPR or not. Either way, one is going to be a steal.
The rest/less than $10: Chris Ivory, Vincent Brown, Tony Gonzalez, Carson Palmer, Daryl Richardson. Obviously, I’m not getting, nor do I need, all of these guys. But they’re some of the ones I’m targeting at the backend for potential starting jobs, and some sleepers that may ring it up for me as the season goes on. You might notice that I’m of the opinion that the quarterback position is deeper than the fry vat at McDonald’s; there’s just no reason to reach for one of the really expensive guys at the beginning.
And I’m still not taking a Defense/Special Teams or Kicker until last for $1 each.
Tune back in next week to see how I did, and to evaluate the first week of real live play and how it impacted our little fantasy world.