My Bar, My Draft: A Retelling

I was completely shaking. An utter wreck. I am picking 7th of of the 10 in my core league’s fantasy draft. That is, if I make it on time.

I am not with my league mates in Chicago, because of an ill-timed vacation home that fell on the our draft date. No problem with my flight into Tennessee, but my early dinner with Nana went a bit late.

The sinking feeling begins with 12 minutes till go-time. I find myself in a cab heading towards the bar that I decided earlier to be worthy of one/two hours filled with strong drinks and isolated focus. I am excited to be home, but my friends can wait. Fantasy Football is not just my priority… for the next two hours, Fantasy Football is the ONLY THING. Of course, I would love to taunt my competitors in the face yet the idea of spending the draft in my hometown with nothing but my rankings and the time-clock sounded simply magical.

The clock says 3:45 seconds with a few stop lights left, and I regret everything. I know I will be set up and ready for the 3rd Round, but what if my team auto-drafts Gronk and Dez and I am making it up from there. That could be someone else’s dream  picks for the opening, but that is not the horse I want to back. I have been preparing for too long. I wrote out my cheat-sheets on the plane – making notes and doing make-believe drafts with ADP list of players. I felt prepared a few hours ago, but the reality of situation is making me nauseous. I focus on my fare…

I exit the cab with the miracle of more than 2 minutes left till the first player is on the clock. Then unthinkable occurs, a sudden urge to relieve the tank. This cannot be happening. I throw everything on the edge of the bar (valuables and all) and let fate take the wheel.

By the time I got the iPad opened to the draft client, there is 0:15 left before draft. It was an Olympic bathroom break, which (yes) included proper hygienic practices. I feel some resemblance of relief, yet I cannot shake the fervor that I have worked myself into. I tremble to the extent that taking my ID out of my wallet is a great task and I truly worry that my shaking hands cannot assure that when I go to press “draft” that my aim will be true. I could end my draft with a team full of people who just happened to be listed just before and after my true intended. I change my order of Bourbon and pop to a double. I will take all the help I can get.

And so it begins…

With the 7th pick, I would love to get one of the uber-elite 6 (Lacy, AD, Bell, Skittles, Jamaal, Antonio Brown), but someone in front of me will need go against the grain. I have fallen in love having an elite wide receiver, so I have largely banked on having Brown start my draft in style. Setting myself apart. Of course, I cannot rely on “plans” because “plans” will always fall apart. But it is the first round, you can have this much of a “plan” figured out. My plan is simple, I will take Antonio Brown if the anointed-by-God tier of runners are gone. If Brown is gone, then Demaryius Thomas is my guy.

By the third pick, I know my draft strategy is laid out. Aaron Rodgers with the 3rd overall pick. Le’Veon Bell, my third round pick from last year, is falling with my dearly expected, Mr. Brown. A quick flash of an alternative dimension shoots me between my ears. (I am able to keep my team name Le’Veon L’Vita Loca. Nothing has to change. Bell & I meet at his favorite coffee shop, where we watch his highlights together on my iPad. Picnics in the park, we bicker over the merits of Hillary’s campaign…) But alas! My daydream is short-lived and had little chance repeat the joys of yesteryear. Today is a new day. Let us live in the present…

 

Round 1, Pick 7: Antonio Brown, Pit WR

Before the preseason, there was a bit of talk about the “Elite 23”, which became “E-21” after Foster and Nelson fell to inevitable curse of Murphy’s Law. The “E-21” are the players who have earned the distinction of fantasy relevancy, simply by virtue of showing up. Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham sneak into the party for those who like to gamble. AJ Green and Shady are given final warnings. Gronkowski looks around for his old buddy, Jimmy, who is nowhere to be found. Regardless, the Hive-mind has spoken… These are the men who will be drafted above all else. Anyone left in the 3rd round will be spoken for quickly.

When picking in the early rounds, you should get whoever the hell you want because all the players at the top will probably do you well. I find myself in the 2nd round with plenty of the Elite guys left. Hill and McCoy are last of the Backs. Megatron and Jolio are staring me down, enticing me with their looks and wares. I even toy with Luck, but I know the man I want at the helm, and I will wait for my man. My decision comes down to this…

When I was a whippersnapper I was Packers fan, because of… Reggie White. I know, didn’t expect that did ya? A hometown hero of Chattanooga, TN this man was the reason I loved football in any capacity. While I still love to watch the team of my youth fandom, I have yet to own a piece of Green Bay’s offense in fantasy ever and it has always turned be bitter. Whenever my weekly competitor has owned Rodgers or Nelson, I would feel as much joy as dismay when they would tear me a new one. It’s hard to be angry when you lose by just a few points, especially when that deciding drive was perfectly executed by the not just a QB, but a Football Artist. This year I will not be one the outside looking in. I want a piece of the pie.

 

Round 2, Pick 14: Randall Cobb, GB WR

I am no dummy, and I have the audacity to position myself as a Draft Expert. I need a Running Back.

We often forget how good some of these players are outside of a fantasy context. “Seattle is terrible at throwing the Ball, Jimmy Graham is will be awful this year. Frank Gore is too old to keep playing. Drew Brees was terrible last year, he can be someone else’s problem.”

I would like to remind the universe that through week 16 of last year (you know, the fantasy season) Brees had the most passing yards last year of all Quarterbacks, with 32 Touchdowns to 14 Interceptions. That was without Sproles, Lance Moore, and only 10 Weeks with a health Brandon Cooks.

I am not trying to convince anyone of drafting Brees, but prospective is a powerful tool. Water-cooler analyzing tends to fall into a form of dichotomized speech. [So-and-so] is great. [So-and-so] is terrible. I don’t know about [So-and-so], some weeks he is great, and some weeks he’s terrible. That last guy was DeSean Jackson.

I don’t know what it is exactly about sports that makes so many see in Black and White, but I have no problem embracing the Grey. I don’t want a rookie, and I don’t need a burner. What I need is a mister reliable. Something safe.

 

Round 3, Pick 27: Alfred Morris, Wsh RB

I am starting to settle and casually overhear my server say something about how Trump is really resonating with her. Man, I forgot how different somethings are in the south. Oh yeah, I am in Tennessee. I almost forgot. (!!!) Holy shit, I forgot you can smoke here. Like everywhere. God bless Tennessee.

“Could I please get an ashtray, Sam?”

Here is a simple checklist to use when drafting:

1) Has any crazy value fallen to you?

2) Is there a hole in your lineup that needs to be addressed?

3) Pick whoever you want, as long as there there is a significant chance they won’t be available later.

I have a dirty little secret about my third round. I really wanted Jordan Matthews more than I wanted Alfy Boring. But as you know, that is stupid. This year I have fallen in love with Wide Receivers. I became obsessed with this idea of seeing my WR/WR/Flex spots filled with 3 Top-Tier Receivers who infuriate my league mates with a mountain of touchdowns each week. However, I just cannot justify watching the top 15 RBs past me by, I know the numbers. I write about the numbers.

The difference between a RB drafted in the first round and RB drafted in the 5th round is something like 10 points a game, statistically speaking.

I just don’t subscribe to such ridged ideas like Zero-RB. I am more of a free spirit type of drafter, like the perpetual fantasy mentor/troll Matthew Berry. There is a way to make any picks work. But you also need to know the rules if you are going to break them.

Regardless, I know that I want another runner. This is my main league, and there is some real competition. I need to keep my head on straight. Plenty of good backs left. Hyde is probably going to be left when my number comes around.

Now is my chance to strike.

I need to sure up my backfield,…

for the sake of everything pure and smart…

fuck it…

 

Round 4, Pick 34: Jordan Matthews, Phi WR

I didn’t even think, I just hit draft! I almost think I did it as a dare to myself.

I promise you that I really did not want to do that. I felt too chicken-shit to pull the trigger in the third. You may not agree, but I believe Matthews is a 3rd round talent. I truly though that if I left him on the wire, one of the 3 drafters after me (all of which are receiving-challenged at this point) would make the decision easy for me. But there he was, my man!

[Todd Gurley is drafted, #37]

The long and short is I need running backs and I need them now. I decided to take a very simple approach for my next few picks. I turn the positional filter on “RB” and ignore all else. I know who I want for my QB. I hate Tight Ends. Just hate them. I order another drink and strong-arm myself into being rational. [Carlos Hyde is drafted, #42]

Melvin Gordon keeps falling…

[Melvin Gordon is drafted, #46]

 

Round 5, Pick 47: Andre Ellington, Ari RB

Okay now I need a drink… yeah a new one. “One bourbon, neat & a shot of Fireball.” I came to get down.

I honestly don’t know much about Ellington other than he was hurt a lot last year, but when he played it was okay. That is the funny thing about being a fantasy owner, if you do not know much about player you will once you hit that draft button.

I decide to keep it simple for now. I want grab up every viable RBs until I feel comfortable moving on.

 

Round 6, Pick 54: Joseph Randle, Dal RB

Remember the first stipulation of my draft philosophy?

“Has any crazy value fallen to you?”

Sometimes, crazy things happens in drafts. Being a good drafter requires you to capitalize on that craziness. In almost every mock I was a part of, Randle was off the board in the 4th. Sometimes he would fall the 5th, and that looked viable. But here I am in the 6th with the biggest swing player in this years draft.

That’s a price I am willing to pay. I need a miracle to happen at Running Back, and I think I found it. Ameer Abdullah would have been fun, but who fucking knows about all that.

 

Round 7, Pick 67: Doug Martin, TB RB

I look down and my ashtray has 3 butts in it. I don’t remember doing all that. Actually, I don’t remember starting the cigarette that is apparently burning from corner of my mouth now. Maybe it is just the novelty of smoking inside, but I have very easily fallen into some former bad habits. I am really enjoying it.

Speaking of repeating bad habits… (boo, I know)

You should really ignore the preseason, but I really want Doug Martin on my team. I really want Doug Martin to not suck. We shall see.

I actually like how this is shaping up. They have a sort-of Bad News Bears quality to them. That this point I know I don’t need a bunch of good running backs, I still need two who turn out to not suck. Hey, if I find a killer, more power to me. But I need to know my season isn’t over 35 minutes into the draft.

 

Round 8, Pick 74: Arian Foster, Hou RB

Okay its official. I found my Kelly Leak (motorcycle kid) of my Bad News Crew.

(Note to self: consider Bad News Crew for team name. Probably whiskey speaking, will revisit at later date.)

My Team so far: The NFL’s 3 best slot receivers (who all can play at the “x”) and the most hated backs in fantasy. I didn’t know I would be working on a theme, but I am loving it. I got me a narrative.

I love my four-star All-Trash rushing core. I almost wish I grabbed Jonathan Stewart in place of Ellington to really complete the set. Ellington just isn’t hated enough. I guess I could have gone with LeGarrette Blount, too. But even I don’t hate myself enough to do that.

Now that I fixed the whole “not having anyone at the most important position” thing figured out I guess I can go ahead and draft normally. Maybe a new receiver or look at that, Matty-Ice is still around.

[Charles Johnson is drafted, #79] … Damn.

[Jarvis Landry, #81]… Damn.

[Stephen Gostkowski, #83]… doofus.

[Matt Ryan, #85]… oh, come on.

 

Round 9, Pick 87: Nelson Agholor, Phi WR 

I won’t say I regret it. It seems sound, but I just do not like rookies the way other people do.

I am becoming loose. I don’t like it.

I have been planning for so long that I did a draft by myself on the plane, without a list of players, for each team. Hell, I got so good at drafting I started to write about it and some people seem to like it. (Hey, ya’ll) I can’t believe that I am going to let myself drink all that practice away.

“Another bourbon, please. You wouldn’t happen to have dry ciders would ya?”

 

Round 10, Pick 94: Ryan Tannehill, Mia QB

Now that I have the team full of players no one really seems to like, it seems fitting to include a guy who only played one year of college at the QB position. I know this tidbit because in Madden 15 they apparently didn’t record any other piece of trivia for Ryan, so it was repeated ever time I played with Tannehill under center.

You maybe saying to yourself, ‘didn’t he say something about waiting on his dream Quarterback? Ryan Tannehill, that’s what all that fuss was about?’ I sure did, and may I say, you are a really astute reader. Either way, this is still not my man.

You’ll see.

 

Round 11, Pick 107: Kendall Wright, Ten WR

What would a draft be without a bit of regret. Boring, boring, boring.

I think every year I pick up Wright at some point in the season. He has averaged 4.7 catches a game over the last 3 years. He’s the perfect guy if you need 4 points, but why the hell is he on my team this early. I would have rather grabbed the Dolphins D. ugh…

 

Round 12, Pick 114: Rams D/ST D/ST

Yeah I pick my defenses early. You can read my whole thing about it here.

I don’t want to pick my defense first, but I prefer not to be last. Especially since the Rams could be last year’s Bills. I will take a shot there.

See drafting defenses article….

 

Round 13, Pick 127: Sam Bradford, Phi QB

Ladies and (statistically speaking most of you), I am proud to present how I plan to win my league this year: Samuel Jacob Bradford.

Here is the thing. I know nothing about Sam Bradford. I mean, relatively… He is nothing more than his story line to me. Here is what I know: He was so good coming out of college that the Rams decided to give him essentially a Peyton-esque rookie contract. He played okay for 3 seasons, then messed up the same leg twice. We blame him for that because guys who get hurt in a violent game are pussies. Either way, the Bobby Fisher coach needed the ESTP to his INTJ, and here we are.

I have always loved players who other people hate. It is just in my nature to be a gadfly. Actually, my favorite QB is probably FitzMagic, but I won’t play him in fantasy (though I have). That is the difference between crazy and stupid.

Oh, wanna know why I drafted Tannehill?

Because I know that If I drafted Tannehill, I would have no problem benching him. I have a safe top-15 player for the purposes of, you know, not losing. But I knew before I started this draft that I was grabbing Bradford in the 13th.

 

Round 14, Pick 134: Adam Vinateri, Ind K

So I picked a kicker…

In my defense, Colin Kaepernick and Jameis Winston are starting to come off the board, so I am confident that everyone else is losing steam. I feel like Forest Gump in the Vietnam-Napalm scene. Maybe that’s a poor metaphor, but I am not going to lose my head. I know there is a few guys at the end of the draft I can win with, so I will just sit back and let everyone else fly off the handle.

 

Round 15, Pick 147: Owen Daniels, Den TE

Yes.

I picked a Kicker before my Tight End. That is somewhere in between cocky and just wanting everyone to know how much I hate Tight Ends. Don’t care for them.

We call it fantasy. The idea is that you are a General Manager of fake football team. In my fantasy I walk up to the most athletically gifted player on my team and say, “You know how much I care for you? You know that guy over there in the corner, who’s about half your size and 15 years older than you.” The Tight End turns and sees the Punter and Kicker playing Settlers of Catan on the edge of the field. “Yeah, I like the that guy more.”

Obviously, I am kidding. If I was an actual GM of an NFL team, my team would be 50% Tight Ends. Imagine what it would look like if I had Tebow behind center, Kelse in the Slot, and Olsen lining up on the outside. Devin Funchess is on the other side, but of course he’s just a decoy. Tebow snaps the ball, and play action fakes to the fullback, Zach Ertz, before dumping off to halfback, Jordan Reed. Reed, being led my Kelse down the left hash-mark, takes it for a easy 14 yard gain.

That is a fantasy football team.

Oh yeah… Owen Daniels. He plays for Denver, right? I’m down for that.

 

Round 16, Pick 154: Brian Quick, StL WR

I take note of every empty glass and the small mound of cigarettes I have accumulated. How long have I been here? Have I always been here? Okay now I am just becoming a cliche.

I look over my roster. I know by heart by now, but that doesn’t matter. I look into the future and can see the season unfolding in its own way…

QB- Tannehill, Bradford

RB- Morris, Martin, Randle

RB- Ellington, Foster

WR- Antonio Brown

WR- Randell Cobb

TE- Owen Daniels

Flex- Matthews or Agholor

DST- Rams

PK- Adam Vinatieri

 

I will probably just drop Wright or Quick in the first couple of weeks for a handcuff or something else. But I just can’t stop admiring it.

I close up my iPad and notice that an old personal friend of mine has been sitting next to me for the better part of an hour. I ask if he can give me another minute before talking…

I need a little more time with my team.

fantasyreaList Writer: P. Christian Swafford

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