Read an Excerpt
Fantasy Football The Next LevelHow to Build a Championship Team Every Season
By David Dorey
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2007 David Dorey
All right reserved.
IntroductionThe Other Side of the Goal Line
Back on a late- summer day in 1970, I gathered with about 20 other fourth- grade boys to form a Pee Wee football team. I already loved football to be sure, but I didn't yet know how it was really played. I only knew that I wanted to participate in a sport that seemed to be popular, fun, and actually encouraged me to bash into other people. After we took a knee in front of the dads- turned- coaching-gods, we listened as our head coach, Mr. Henderson, stood before us casually spinning a football in his hands.
"So who can tell me what football is all about?" he asked.
Being only nine years old, we didn't know enough to say endorsements, hot chicks, or signing bonuses. After listening to a few futile attempts regarding snow cones or serving the unfulfilled lives of our fathers, Coach Henderson held out the football.
"It's very simple. Football is about one thing-the other side of the goal line. We get this ball on the other side of their goal line, we score. We let them bring it across our goal line, they score. At the end of the game, biggest score wins."
Woo- hoo! We're ready! Let's play! Let'splay!
We figured that was about all we needed to know. Football, like any sport not involving Tiger Woods, is just about scoring more points than your opponent. It was true thirty years ago, and it is true today.
Fantasy football is no different. It too is a competition that uses the results from players in professional football games to determine which fantasy team has more points each week. The utter beauty of it is that instead of traveling all over the country and dealing with hostile crowds, we gain our points while at home, sitting at a sports bar, or even while we take the kids to the county fair on Sunday so they can ride something appropriately named "The Vomit Blaster."
Okay, so participating in professional football in this manner may not bring millions of dollars or national fame. But at least we get a chance to own a handmade trophy, and maybe enough cash for a night out with the spouse to make up for all the weekends spent watching games. For leagues made up of co- workers, it also means that every Monday morning only half the guys are thinking, "God, I hate working here" (though they hate it even more than usual).
And so now you, I, and millions of other people are playing fantasy football. And we all know that fantasy football is about scoring more points than our weekly opponent. But how much further have we taken our involvement beyond just knowing that fantasy football is about the other side of the goal line? It's just about picking players that score a lot of points, right? The team with the most player points at the end of the game wins, right?
Sure. At the most basic level, that is always true. But as with any competition that becomes more refined and sophisticated, there's much more to the game than simply understanding the main goal. Fantasy football can be nothing more than using a listing of players and picking a team before the season starts-and for many people that's all they do, and that's okay. But for others, like you, there is more to learn and do to improve a fantasy team's fortunes every year.
This book is offered as a way to blast through the learning curve for people who are still relatively new at fantasy football. It also offers tips, insights, tools, and information that can help even seasoned veterans improve already formidable abilities and knowledge. This book is not about the hot running back for this year or what particular quarterback to avoid. This is not about the new crop of players this year. Reaching The Next Level is not just knowing about individual players in a specific season; it is about arming yourself with the knowledge and insight to understand the unique aspects of your league, your scoring system, and how to best create your team-not merely with a collection of names left at the top of the list you tore out of a magazine or copied off the Internet.
We'll travel through the four areas of the fantasy football cycle-the off- season, the preseason, the regular season, and, in case you have never been there before, that small collection of games at the end called the playoffs. For many fantasy team owners, all that matters is the preseason draft and then using those players during the season. But the more devoted team owner comes to realize one rather important, and yet somewhat overlooked, component to owning a fantasy team-that you own "a team." Not merely a listing of players, but a related group of players who have to address the unique aspects of your specific league in the way they are drafted and how they come together on a weekly basis to provide you with the optimal fantasy score.
Let's run down the fantasy football cycle that we'll be considering:
The Off- season
This is the downtime of the year because you have no team, right? It is if you want to remain with the cheat sheet masses that wait until the week before the draft to catch up on the NFL. You do have a team; it just does not have any players yet. You still are part of a league (or will be), and this time of year should be used to understand your league as it relates to your team. That means doing a bit of analysis on those unique starting and scoring rules that set the later stage when you finally fill your roster with players.
Every league has some combination of scoring rules, roster limits, and weekly starting requirements. The variations can be endless, and yet there is only one scenario that is of any importance to you. The only one that matters is how your particular league scores player performances, how many players are on your fantasy team, and which positions you will be starting every week. Until you understand the unique nature of that, you are just worrying about the other side of the goal line without knowing how best to get there.
You cannot draft a team intelligently without knowing the true value of positions to your total team. This becomes critical because while you are picking individual players, everyone else in your league is as well. All too often they are taking the same players you have your sights on. It doesn't really matter if you know a handful of surefire, cannot- miss sleepers who will win your league if you cannot draft them first. Reaching The Next Level is about team first, positions second, and only after that-actual player names.
Not to worry, there are ways to attain that knowledge without impeding on your plans to visit the Bahamas or preparing for your next audition for American Idol. The biggest bang for the buck comes well before you start to formulate strategies to grab specific players. It is when you spend just an hour or so understanding your team and league better. Entering your draft without understanding the unique nature of your league is like going to the auto parts store without knowing the make and model of your car.
"Yes sir, I am looking to buy something to make a car go fast. I mean really fast. My car is named Nut Crushers. And I want something that was shiny last year."
Training camps open and preseason games are on television to whip up the fantasy football fever! Never mind that you will not recognize some of the names of the players because, within a month or so, many of them will be back to building patios. There is football on the television. Life is improving all the time.
Preseason is for preparing for your draft and determining how all those players should be ranked and pursued. It's time for making player projections, checking out mock drafts, and creating your own killer cheat sheet. Armed with the knowledge gained from just a few off- season activities, you can intelligently build that team that respects your league and scoring rules. We'll look at the basic truths of NFL players that increase your odds of getting the right players for your team.
This is the most exciting time of the year because no fantasy teams have lost a game and, as far as they think, they are about to draft their best team yet. Only a few will, of course, and those will be the teams that respect the uniqueness of their league and accumulate players who make the optimal set of starters.
There's little as much fun as a fantasy draft, and amid the camaraderie, trash talking, and false bravado you'll be picking players for your team. Every round you get to select any NFL player-but only if he hasn't already been picked. The biggest challenge is not about knowing which players will do well for the year; it's about making an optimal pick when you finally get the chance to draw from the ever- dwindling supply of unclaimed players. Tools like mock drafts, tiering, and the Advanced Draft Tracker will allow you to plan ahead and be able to quickly react as your draft uniquely unfolds.
You'll be making critical decisions in those early rounds that will have a great impact on what you can, if not must, do in later rounds. A fantasy draft is not about picking players as if they were horses in a race, because all positions are not equal and your aim is to create an optimal set of starters. Before you sit down in your draft, you must know what your intentions are on grabbing positional starters, with enough flexibility planned that you can react to fortuitous events like players you covet dropping to you that you had not expected. Aside from all the work on ranking players, a draft is a mini- world all its own that will never be the same between any two leagues. The draft wouldn't unfold the same way if it were just delayed a day.
The Regular Season
This is the time to continually monitor your roster for upgrades. The process begins with the first kickoff of the season and ends only when the waiver wire is closed for the year. The NFL is a dynamic collection of 32 teams that are always changing as players rise and fall in production, others get injured, and the schedule gets tougher or easier.
No NFL team ends with the same depth chart that they had to start the year-neither should your team. Churning your roster can be the road to staying a step ahead of disaster and, even better, a way to constantly improve your set of starters every week. Sweetest of all-you can grab players you don't even need but other league mates could have used against you.
"Gosh-you wanted him too? And to think I don't really need him!"
Every season has fantasy teams that appear to be a league monster (based on last year), only to float down the standings as expectations are not met and a few critical injuries or changes to NFL teams spell disaster outside the realm of their control or reasonable anticipation. Doesn't matter-you have to assume you will own that team every year and never stand pat. You'll get points from starters scoring-it doesn't matter who the players are or when or how you obtained them. And you never get points for what he did the previous season.
Nothing matters if you do not get to the playoffs, and yet, you must continue winning through the final game. Learn how to anticipate a playoff run without affecting your chances to get there. Just like in the regular season, it doesn't matter if you have different players in every position at the end; all that matters is getting starter points.
Once you understand the fantasy football cycle and embrace the unique nature of your individual league, you'll find that you can build and manage a far better fantasy team and possibly even take less time to do it because you will better understand what is important and what is not.
That first year that you played, did you go to your draft with no more preparation than a list of names to pick? If all the time you spend is on player names, have you really gone beyond that first year? Are you really any better at fantasy football? Fantasy football is about players, to be sure, but it is about so much more than that. It is about a team-your team. It is about players-but only your players. It is about gaining an edge beyond the individual names called out on a fun- filled night in August. If you're happy just picking names and letting it ride, more power to you and I hope to see you in my leagues. If you want to gain advantages, understand what it means to own a fantasy team in all aspects, and have more fun with fantasy football than ever before-perhaps you are ready.
Welcome to The Next Level.
Excerpted from Fantasy Football The Next Level by David Dorey Copyright © 2007 by David Dorey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.