The streak is over. For the first time in my three years of participating in a fantasy football league, I will not be one of the teams in the championship game. I was mad about it on Monday, but as the week has progressed I’ve come to be at peace with it.
In 2018, I was thrown in the deep end of the fantasy football pool. I hadn’t been following the NFL closely for a few years and quickly realized I didn’t recognize many of the names still in the league.
I had to teach myself who the players were and remember their names and positions and teams. For some reason, that kind of memorization has always come easy to me.
I attribute my first year success to drafting Patrick Mahomes in the 11th round of the draft to be my backup quarterback to Drew Brees. Little did I know, Mahomes would be the MVP of the league that year.
The only reason I picked him was because I had decided a few days prior that the Kansas City Chiefs would be “my team” and I watched a YouTube video of his preseason highlights and thought he looked pretty good.
If there was a narrative around him at the time about being the next great QB in the league, I wasn’t aware of it. I lucked into the pick, and drafting Tyreek Hill – his #1 Wide Receiver – in an early round, gave me a nice (unexpected) stack every week.
Of course, I lost in the championship game.
In 2019, I used my 11th round pick to select Lamar Jackson, who would go on to be the MVP of the league. My strategy that year was to draft quarterbacks who could break out and do for me what Mahomes did the year before.
I should note that I took Baker Mayfield a few rounds before Jackson and that didn’t pan out.
Jackson and others led me to my first fantasy football championship.
Going into this year’s draft, I had the 10th pick (last) for the second year in a row. Last year, I took two wide receivers. That’s what I thought I’d do this year, but as I did mock drafts in the weeks leading up to the draft, it became clear to me that if you didn’t take any running backs in the first two rounds, you were going to be left with players you can’t really trust later on.
That’s what I told myself, at least.
I can’t tell you how many nights this kept me up, thinking about whether I should take two top wide receivers, like I did last year, or make sure I get quality running backs, instead.
I went with two runnings backs with my first two picks.
This is the part where I admit that some ego got in the way of my draft selections. I could’ve easily taken two receivers, but there was a part of me that wanted to try and see if I could win the championship by doing it in a completely different way.
And in 2018, my first two picks were running backs, so there was a redemption storyline manifesting itself in my head. I was thinking, “let me go back to the strategy that didn’t work and make it work this time, since I know what I’m doing now.
Just too much bravado.
No one else thinks like this, I’m sure of it.
The depth at WR this year was deep and I knew I’d be able to draft four or five of them in rounds 3-7, if I wanted to. And that’s what I did. I took four in a row.
My rule for fantasy drafts is simple: Don’t draft a player you don’t want.
After the draft, I was happy with my team. Everyone I drafted was someone I wanted. Admittedly, I probably believed in a few of them a bit too much, which made me hold onto them for longer than I should have. Thus, missing out on free agents who were better options.
That’s a sports fandom fault of mine. I always believe in the guy that hasn’t broken out yet because you never know when they’re moment will come. You just hope you’re there to see it.
When the Week 1 scoring projections came out, I knew I had made some mistakes in the draft. There wasn’t anyone in my lineup who I could confidently look at and say, “They’ll bail me out, if some players underperform”.
When you look at a fantasy roster and can’t figure out who the top picks were, that’s a problem. Who are your horses? If they aren’t obvious, you don’t have any.
By Week 7 or 8, I knew I didn’t have the horses this year. I had some really good players and was near the top of the standings, but I wasn’t scoring a lot of points. I was just backing my way into some low-scoring wins because my opponent also underperformed.
And yet, the whole time, I was still confident I’d be able to get a Bye in the first week of the fantasy playoffs and not have to play Week 14.
Every now and then, I’d peek at my Week 15 and 16 lineups, knowing that if I could just get to Week 15, I’d have a chance. My players have very favourable matchups in Week 15 (this week).
“Just get to Week 15, just get to Week 15.”
I was in first place after Week 11, with two weeks left in the regular season. I thought I was golden, Ponyboy. And then I lost my Week 12 matchup, which caused a three-way tie for first, though I was technically in third because of the “Points For” tiebreaker.
That was the first time, all year, that I gave any thought to playing in Week 14. I always assumed I’d get the Bye. Heck, in the previous two years, I never had to play in Week 14.
Then I go lose my Week 13 matchup, solidifying my 3rd place finish with a 9-4 record, and securing myself in a Week 14 matchup for the first time.
My team did well. They put up 141.34 points. Most weeks, that’s good enough to win. But my opponent scored more. What can you do?
The loss was made easier when I realized that no combination of players on my team would’ve scored the necessary amount of points to win.
As I said before, I just didn’t have the horses this year. I knew that. Yet the thought of, “just get to Week 15, just get to Week 15” always gave me a glimmer of hope.
Hope isn’t a strategy, though, so now I’ll either finish 5th or 6th overall this year.
And because I am me, I can guarantee that I’m going to compare my score this week to the team I would’ve faced had I won last week. And then I’m going to do the same for the championship in Week 16.
I don’t know why I am addicted to this sort of pain, but I am.
I don’t blame any of my players. I actually still believe in them, even the ones I’ve had to let go of during the year. The people who tweet at players and say things like, “I lost my matchup because of you” or more vulgar things, are nothing but losers.
That’s taking things to a level this doesn’t need to get to.
Those players are focussed on doing their job, to ensure someone wants to employ them. Sure, that may include putting up big statistical numbers. But it also may include them doing the little things that help their team win, that don’t show up in the box score.
Fantasy Football is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you hate it, the next minute you love it. And it is those ups and downs and end-arounds that make it so much fun.
Do I take it too seriously? Absolutely. No question. I’m someone who would scout other intramural teams in university, so I knew how to play against them. As someone who loves sports and competition, I can’t help myself.
And it’s not because I have this unhealthy desire to win. No. If I lose, I’ll get over it. I just really enjoy the process. I enjoy the “game within the game” aspect of things.
Now, I have a complete laissez-faire attitude toward my Week 15 & 16 matchups. It’s a new feeling. I don’t know how to get myself excited for meaningless matchups. If this is what it’s like to not take fantasy football seriously, then I don’t want it.
Give me the stress and agony. That is fun to me.
At the end of the day, this isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s just a fun thing to do with friends.
And as disappointed as I am to see my fantasy football season end early, I’m more disappointed that I have to wait nine months for next season to start.
I already can’t wait.