The Journey Begins
Like any fantasy football tale, nobody is more excited about the victory and details of the story than the owner — me. With this in mind, I invite you to imagine yourself as the owner, and take a ride on this fantasy roller coaster...
On most roller coasters, the climb is what builds excitement (the draft, weekly matchup anticipation), the thrilling part is going down (gliding to victory), and the loops and swoops throughout are downright exhilarating (big plays and come-from-behind wins). The worst part of a roller coaster is the end (losing); the flat, slow moving trudge back to the entrance.
The first six weeks of my fantasy season felt like it was over before it started, like I waited in line for the roller coaster for two hours and was instead placed into a limbo of boredom and despair. Little did I know there was a climb in sight. Let me explain...
Draft Day (Oops)
I’ll begin with my draft. Instead of hashing out every player and my thinking behind drafting them, I’ll spare you the details and provide screen shots where relevant (see below). As you’ll quickly learn, my draft was less than stellar. Here’s a shot of my draft day season projection (I was projected to finish dead last, which is obviously impossible to predict, but it doesn’t make you feel good) as well as a shot of my roster after a Week 1 loss:
Some lowlights include taking Eddie Lacy with the 5th pick, who decided to take off the first half of the fantasy season. The next lowlights were Brandon Marshall in the second round, and Doug Martin in the third. Two completely terrible fantasy players, and one completely terrible NFL player — I think you know which of those two players I’m talking about. Pierre Garçon in the fourth round didn’t help my cause either.
The Losses Pile Up
As the weeks rolled by, my team continued to look worse and worse. I was stuck alone on this roller coaster, going one mile an hour on the straight and narrow path to fantasy wasteland while everyone around me was either in the midst of an enthralling climb or a glorious descent; everyone was having fun except me.
I reached Week 7 with an 0-6 record. The average win-loss record at the time was 4-2 in this 10-team standard league, with only four playoff spots available. I’m not a mathematician, but the odds were not in my favor. In fact, even if I won the remainder of my eight games, which any fantasy player knows is a seemingly impossible task, seven other teams would have to post sub .500 performances to finish the season in order for my record to even clinch me a playoff spot. It was a terrible feeling, but as a hardcore fantasy football player, I was not about to give up.
Trades, Waivers, & Fortune
I knew the only way to turn my season around was to wheel and deal, pick up this year’s Josh Gordon (and the real Josh Gordon), and then get ridiculously lucky. I proceeded to pick up the then-suspended Gordon as a stash on my bench, along with the current Denver running back (Ronnie Hillman), and some guy named Odell Beckham Jr. The one positive thing about being winless is your waiver priority is pretty good.
My first trade came in that same week when I was 0-6. I made the trade with a team who was 4-2, who I would also be playing against in Week 7. I dealt Reggie Bush and Doug Martin for Drew Brees and Sammy Watkins. Today, this would look like an amazing trade for me, and a ridiculously bad one on the part of my league mate, but let me give you some context:
He already had Jay Cutler, who was performing at a high level for his team (we all know how that turned out), while Brees had put up his worst fantasy season to date. On top of that, Watkins had yet to emerge, and looked like a bust. My league mate was ravaged at running back, so with Bush looking like a possible feature back of a seemingly juggernaut offense, and Martin’s potential still up in the air at the time, we made the trade. I then immediately went back to market. My goal was to get enough pieces to trade for a top 5 overall player. I also had to start winning. Luckily, in Week 7, I edged out my first win, as shown in the shot below:
One Trade to Bind Them
A few weeks and a few wins later, I secured my top 5 player. I traded Eddie Lacy, Sammy Watkins, and Drew Brees for Demaryius Thomas and Colin Kaepernick. Watkins had come on of late, Brees had just come off his best game of the season and still touted top-shelf name value, and Lacy was starting to look like a first round pick again. I was giving up a lot, but due to the surge of the Denver running back (I would later pick up CJ Anderson when Hillman went out), the ridiculousness of Odell Beckham Jr., and Tom Brady’s reinvigoration, I took the risk. Here’s a shot of the two trades that saved my season:
An Historic Surge to the Playoffs
From there, the trade deadline passed and it was up to me to make the right lineup decisions and waiver moves to keep my team winning, all the while hoping that the other teams in the league would lose enough for my ideal 8-6 record to even grant me a playoff spot. By the end of the season, I’d made a league-high 60 waiver moves. Even though Josh Gordon didn’t end up being worth the stash, hot pickups like Beckham Jr., CJ Anderson, and Mike Evans more than made up for it. After sticking with Tom Brady through his September awfulness, he shaped up to be a top 7 quarterback. Research, wise decision making, and gut instinct helped me go undefeated for eight straight weeks and end the season with an 8-6 record, just good enough to clinch the 4th spot in the playoffs. I suppose I had a little luck on my side too. Here’s a shot of how my season went:
Now that I had made the playoffs against all odds, I felt two things: first was pride that I had actually made it this far, second, which was much more potent, was a sick sensation in my stomach that the universe would eventually balance out, and luck would turn against me. Could Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans really keep putting up 20+ point games? Would I bench the wrong player? Would I miss an injury update and ruin my waiver domination? After all, picking up players to block other league mates from using them had been a highly effective strategy all season long. At certain times during the season, I had hoarded Andre Williams from a Rashad Jennings owner, Knile Davis from a Jamaal Charles owner, and Alfred Blue from an Arian Foster owner. I didn’t play any of those players at any time, but I was able to force other league mates to play worse players, potentially affecting their records in my favor.
The Semifinals: A Glorious Slaughter
Considering that essentially every game since Week 7 was a playoff game for me, I was accustomed to feeling a little pressure to set my best lineup and do my due diligence to prepare for the matchup when the playoffs began. My team performed very well in the first round, and I was able to destroy a team who had ridden Jordy Nelson and Jamaal Charles all season. Those two key players didn’t show up for him in Week 15, allowing me to advance to the finals. You can imagine my relief; I was in the money (only first and second place got paid) and feeling more confident than ever before after just defeating the first seeded team in the league. I had been climbing to the top of the highest peak of this roller coaster fantasy season, and the finals would be the thrilling dropping point.
The Finals: The Odell Beckham Jr. Show
My strategy was simple: go with what got me there. My opponent was weak at the tight end position, so I picked up some potential streaming tight end options to block him from using them against me. From there, I started my studs. The finals began, and in what was a very lackluster fantasy day across the board in Week 16, my team edged out my opponent’s (thanks, Beckham Jr.), and I was victorious. Here’s a shot of the final matchup after all was said and done:
A Tip For Fantasy Players Everywhere
In the end, I learned two things about fantasy football. First, projections mean nothing. I know most fantasy analysts and hardcore players already know this fact to be true, but I feel that some fantasy players rely way too heavily on numbers that are based completely on… well… fantasy. Nobody can predict the future, and if it were up to me, projections would be removed completely from all fantasy platforms. The second thing I learned is Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be my first pick on every fantasy team next year, no matter which position I’m in. Call it blind faith if you want, but right now nearly every Beckham Jr. owner is on a joyous ride on the fantasy roller coaster, while their opponents are not. Get your fast-pass to a winning season next year — pick OBJ.