Thursday, August 20, 2009

Football and Fantasy

August! Ah, yes.

Football season, pro, college, high school, and fantasy is close at hand.

ESPN980's promo picture for the fantasy football convention caught my, uh, attention. Staring at fantasy players is about all I do these days.

I'm a retired fantasy baller, preferring instead to suffer for my art as a writer.

There were two sites I followed religiously as an active fantasy GM/owner (1990-2004) in Grom's Fantasy League formed by co-workers in the Minneapolis branch of the world's largest computer technology company.

Joe Bryant's taught me 80 percent of everything I know about fantasy football, especially the concept of players tiered by position. His cheat sheets ranked the skill players within tiers.

Tiered ranking helped to avoid the second biggest error when drafting a fantasy team: over-reaching for stars. Do that and you'll build an unbalanced roster.

For example, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees might be listed in the top tier of 2009 fantasy quarterbacks. (I haven't seen Bryant's list for this season, so this is hypothetical.) These three could be expected to deliver near the same fantasy points over the season, so they have equal value on fantasy draft day.

Here's the kicker. Pass up the chance to draft a higher tiered player at another position in a reach for your favorite quarterback will come back to haunt you.

Wide receivers get six points for catching a touchdown pass. Quarterbacks get three points for throwing one. Quarterbacks score more often. Receivers will get you more points per score.

But there's only one quarterback on a starting line-up while there are two or three wide receivers. Your objective is to build a balanced team that consistently scores from every position. Think of players by position and ranked by tiers on draft day on draft day and you will likely arrive at the right assortment of players for balanced scoring without getting carried away by any one star.

Balanced fantasy teams and tiered players inform my own thinking about real football teams. Imbalanceed teams are flawed teams. It's a pointer to which NFL clubs will not be post-season contenders.

We need not mention names of any local teams here. I've pointed fingers at them enough. Instead, look at the 2008 Denver Broncos: strong passing game, injured running backs, poor defense. They finished out of the playoffs in spite of a great start.

Joe Bryant is the founder of Bryant Boats. I've never met the man, but I've enjoyed his emails since 1992.

The guys at Fantasy Football Champs also have very good fantasy draft kits with spreadsheets that you can customize to your league's scoring system. They shine during the season, though.

Their projections on which players to start each week helped me get the most from my roster with success as measured by playoff appearances. No, I did not make the Fantasy Bowl every year, but I was a contender.

I wrote a sports column under the pen name Master4caster for my league in which I predicted the winner of upcoming games using a math formula derived from FFC's weekly projections. I correctly pick the winner of fantasy contests 67 percent of the time.

That happy experience led to the start of this blog in 2005 and later to work on Hog Heaven and Bleacher Report where I now deliver football content.

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Not compensated by or by for this review.

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