Hail the Conquering (Fantasy) Hero

I used to be a pretty hard core fantasy sports player; I played football, hockey, and baseball, and played in stats, head to head, and salary cap style leagues. I actually spent a fair amount of time helping run some fantasy sports related websites; building web based tools to help analyze stats and manage their rosters. Of course all of this takes a bit of time, and between family and work and what not I’d gotten away from playing. But this year, after several years of fantasy sports hiatus, I decided to play fantasy football again in a league a bunch of my co-workers are in. My impetus was that last years champion was a relative newbie who wasn’t really even in to football, so I figured that it shouldn’t be too hard to be competitive. Or at least that was my pitch. If any of you work with someone who did graduate work at Hopkins, work that involved hacking postgres and designing replication systems, you too know that figuring out how to be good at fantasy sports probably isn’t the hardest problem they’ve worked on. Fantasy football is really about research, analyzing of data, and guesswork making accurate predictions based on that information. Anyway, the league was set up pretty much as normal; we had 14 teams with 15 players each (qb, 3wr, 2rb, te, k, d). This makes for a pretty deep league, and puts added emphasis on having a good draft. I suck at drafting, or at least I’m too competitive to sit on anyone who isn’t making a direct contribution (not a big fan of escalation of commitment), and I constantly question my choices enough that I’ll determine I can improve things on my teams several times throughout the season. Did I mention I won the league? Finished first in the regular season standings (10-3 record) and won three rounds of playoff matches to get the 1st place trophy. So how did my roster fare over the season? Like normal I had quite a bit of turnover during the season; of the 15 players I drafted, only 7 were still on my squad at the end of the year. Granted, one of the players I dropped in the final week after having been on my roster all season, but then one of the remaining players did a stint on the waiver wire before I picked him back up. No one I drafted after the 10th round managed to stay on my team all year, and my highest ranked player to get dropped was my number 1 pick, in the last week of the season (he was playing hurt in a bad matchup, so I was going to start him). Previous to him, the highest drafted drop was a 5th round wide receiver. It’s worth noting that a lot of the players I dropped weren’t really that bad, or at least not bad in my opponents eyes; 8 of the players who spent time on my team during the year ended the year on someone else’s team; four of those being players I drafted. Unfortunately all of that turnover doesn’t lead to a really dominate team, just a good team where I managed to get the match-ups right. Overall my team finished 6th in scoring during the regular season, with an average margin of victory at 16.64 (including the playoffs). My best win was a 43 point blowout. My closest? During the regular season it was a game I won by .5 points, which amounts to winning by a 5 yard run. That’s a close game, but even that sounds solid compared to my second round playoff game, which I won by a mere .14 points. Thats basically the equivilant of a yard and a half. That’s a margin so small that basically if your player falls over in the right direction you can pick up .14 points. Or worse, when you see those quarterbacks kneel down at the end of a game; if mine had done that I’d have lost. Close victory indeed. And that was actually key to my season; winning the close games. I amassed the best record, 10-3, compared to the second best record being 9-4, going to the team with the highest scoring total for the league. It could have been much different if you consider that during the season I went 5-0 in games decided by 3 points or less. The other half of that is that I didn’t lose games to any of the top teams; the highest ranked team I lost to finished 7th overall, so while I won a lot of close games, I managed to best all of the top teams during the regular season. A couple weeks before the season ended I had mentioned that I thought it was very important to finish first to have a good playoff run, and in a playoffs with no upsets (interesting in it’s normalcy is how I put it), I think it made a difference. A lot of talk at the end of this year has been the ridiculous numbers put up by Deangelo Williams at the end of the season. I certainly benefitted from this, as he was the primary reason I won my championship game. In my defense however, I actually drafted Williams, and held on to him during his slow start this year (I actually discussed trading him a couple times, but nothing ever came of it). I also had Pierre Thomas, who was another person who had a big end of the year. I can’t say that I saw that coming, but I did draft his teammate (McCalister) because it seemed to me that whoever was playing alongside Reggie Bush had the potential to be a solid starter. So that pretty much sums up my “glorious” return to fantasy football. Initially I thought I would play one season, have some fun, and then fade back into obscurity, but having won the darn thing, I could probably be convinced to come back next year to let everyone get their revenge.