“Papa’s got delusions of grandeur.”
That’s what my wife told our dog when I explained to her how I control the NFL. By drafting players to Dolphin King Bowser, I explained, I ensure they get injured and miss most of the regular season. Last year, over half my starting lineup – Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Rob Gronkowski, John Brown, and Giovani Bernard – was either on Injured Reserve of had missed significant time by season’s end. Not shockingly, I finished 2-11.
Wait, there’s more! In 2013, I lost three of my top five draft picks before the season was even half-over. I wound up 3-10 that year. Back in my two-leaguin’ days, long before the league I’m in now, I once lost three of my four starting running backs in week one.
My wife says the universe doesn’t care enough about me to ruin my fantasy football seasons. I think that’s absurd. I think the universe prioritizes ruining my fantasy football seasons, even more so than preserving the human race (gestures broadly at everything). Nevertheless, I challenged her worldview.
I did two things differently. First, since drafting “safe” players never worked out for me anyway, I sought electric playmakers who could score in exciting fashion. Second, rather than do this at home in my underwear, I went out to a bar (fully clothed). The closest thing to a sports bar in Plymouth is this big-box-looking, faux-fancy establishment called The Sunshine Factory. That’s where I drafted. I made picks, drank cheap beer, and people-watched between rounds.
I left with … yeah, a pretty good team. I’m currently projected to have the second-highest-scoring team in my league this week, and I’m starting one backup. I’ve got a couple of sleepers I feel great about. My team is balanced, and will be fun to root for. I’ve never typed this before, but … I really like my team this year, gangsters. The universe has been tempted; let’s see where its priorities really are.
Here’s how Dolphins King Bowser came together this year.
The basics: I play in a 12-team league and we snake draft. One quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, tight end, flex, kicker, defense/special teams. This year, thanks to the order in which the commissioner’s dog eat pieces of cheese, I drafted 10th.
There’s no way any other league’s draft was this cute:
The Sunshine Factory is a sports bar in Plymouth, as far as sports bars go in Plymouth. The Factory’s big-screen TVs are situated for proper sensory overload, and least one local high school sports jersey is framed on a wall. They sell pull tabs – an exhilarating sport, indeed! – and jumbo glasses of Miller Lite go for $3.75. Hey: even I sometimes just want to drink cheap without drunkenness being a worry.
Example: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was taken first overall! I would’ve shot whiskey, but I had this big glass of beer already in front of me.
I’d flirted with perhaps taking Brady in the second round, but I was consistently finding good quarterbacks in the seventh and eighth rounds. My only fear was this pick setting off a domino effect and forcing me to grab a QB much earlier. It didn’t happen. Seattle’s Russell Wilson was the only other quarterback taken before my first time on the clock. Barring an M. Night Shymalan-level plot twist, my plan was to draft Falcons running back Davonta Freeman. That’s who I got.
The Falcons’ offensive coordinator might have gone away to a new team, and that offense will most certainly regress, but it’s not like they’re going to just forget how they did it last year. At least I hope. I chose him ahead of Bills RB LeSean McCoy, because the Bills are probably tanking this season and screw the Bills anyway; and Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi, because I know better than to believe a Dolphins RB can perform well for more than one season. Both of them came off the board, along with Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, before I drafted again.
Michael Thomas was on my second-round list, and so was Jordy Nelson, but Nelson had gone fifth overall and Thomas was just recently taken … but, somehow, A.J. Green was still available. He was on my first-round list! Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who’d been labelled a sleeper by anybody labeling sleepers, was also available. He was as much a sleeper as I am a vegan at this point. I thought long and hard about Hunt – Andy Reid’s offensive systems historically produce incredible running back numbers – but a rookie with an uncertain quarterback situation and the Chiefs’ brutal schedule this season? I might regret this, but I bet on Green’s bounce-back instead.
Anthony Jabberjams Green, come on over!
And with that, the dark tea time of the soul began. Eighteen players would come off the board before I picked again.
They were playing Bingo in the bar, and the poor hostess of DINGO had to suffer fake shouts of “Bingo!” constantly at the beginning of and in-between rounds. Listen: even if that truly was clever, even if it hadn’t been done to death long before any of these poor sods were born, civilization would have been just fine without it. Just like we have minimum ages for things, we should have maximum ages for things. The maximum age for this type of behavior needs to be, like, 15.
A bespectacled woman on the other side of the bar, with curly hair and thick fingers, yelled “Bingo!” as a new round began. She shrugged her shoulders, muttered something inscrutable, then looked straight at me. The look on her face begged for a pity-laugh. I instead abruptly turned back to my screen. It was time to see who’d been taken off the board, or perhaps check my Facebook notification, or do anything else but acknowledge her.
Kareem Hunt was drafted immediately after I picked A.J. Green. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott had also been taken. So had Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and a pupu platter of unexciting receivers and running backs. Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook was drafted early third round, three spots after Saints QB Drew Brees. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, however – the second-highest-scoring TE in football last year – was right there, staring me right in the face with his name. For how few tight ends today can reliably score fantasy points, a player of Kelce’s caliber was worth going off-script for.
I’d had my sights set on Green Bay’s wide-receiver-who-pretends-he’s-a-tailback Ty Montgomery, but I couldn’t pass up those TE points. Montgomery’s touches might pile up in that Packers offense, and it was bummer that I was going to give them up to … myself, I guess, except in the fourth round.
It was 9:09 p.m. I’d been there for just over 20 minutes, and my jumbo Miller Lite had just become empty. I didn’t yell “Bingo!”
The Ringer published a great piece in mid-August about the new way to think about fantasy football. Maybe the concepts weren’t NEW new, but it was nice to have them presented through independently-compiled interviews rather than a bunch of yuks from the same station or website circle-jerking together.
The key takeaways were think volume, not skill; avoid anyone depending on rookie quarterbacks; bet on bounce-back years; rank your players in tiers, rather than individual rankings, to allow flexibility.
Finally, have fun. A quote from the article: “Fantasy is all about having fun at the end of the day,” said Gelhar. “Everybody wants to win, but it’s far more fun week-to-week having the players you believe in and want to root for on your roster, sinking or swimming with them.”
I took Dolphins WR DeVante Parker in the fifth round over some receivers who might ring up better stats because I want to win with a Dolphin. You can make all the jokes you want about for-real-their-QB-now Jay Cutler – you’re a few dozen behind me, I promise – but I can’t wait for those 50/50 balls he chucks up for Parker. Tannehill didn’t have the spine for it. The spine for it might be the only thing Cutler’s got left.
I found myself standing at the edge of the QB cliff when Round Six came around. Panthers QB Cam Newton was pretty much the last stop before the abyss, so I grabbed on. He might not start Week One, so I started scoping out backups accordingly.
Later, I found myself squinting at the screen again when the running back who was fourth in the league in touches last season … was still there?! Is that really you, Doug Martin? He’s suspended for the first three weeks, yes, but you can afford to wait that out when you’ve got a wide receiver starting at running back. For the fifth or sixth consecutive year, the Buccaneers are “an up-and-coming team to watch out for.” Deal me in!
In Round 8, I was first into the kickers. Hey: if Ravens kicker Justin Tucker really DOES nail a 70-yarder during a game, even if it’s just accrual of some fantasy points, I want to be part of it. I was actually going to take him in the seventh.
After 8 p.m. nightly The Sunshine Factory offers $4.95 cheeseburgers. I hope the full-priced cheeseburgers are a hell of a lot better than mine was, but it wasn’t too shabby for $4.95.
To my left, four seats or so down, sat a couple whose bodies looked romantic together but whose faces looked so distant from one another. He had a thin sweatshirt on, big hands, and a sharp nose. He stared off into space, or perhaps college football, while he worked on his second bottle of Heineken. She wore a striped T-shirt shirt. Her nose was small, her hair long and brown. While his gaze seemed fixed on one location, hers went back and forth like a Pong ball. She played with her glass of red wine every so often, but I never saw her actually drink.
Her body was pointed at him, but she wasn’t touching him at all. His arm reached across her lap, hand rested on her thigh. It looked perfunctory, though, not passionate. I couldn’t tell if this was a first date inching toward second base, a breakup in progress, or a fragrance ad photo shoot. Had I been creepier, I’d have taken a picture and texted my wife. My wife is like Professor X with this shit.
Where were we?
Washington RB “Fat Rob” Kelley was drafted by a team called Macho Mustachio late in the eighth round. His team logo is Tom Selleck, and he finished fourth last season. I bring this up because he’s the guy I beat in the Super Bowl in 2014. I trailed by over 60 points going into Sunday night. His players were all done. I had two left. Giovani Bernard played Monday night, and Russell Wilson played Sunday night.
Oh, did he ever …
I watched Giovani Bernard walk into the end zone the next night at Thirsty Pagan, and bought a round for everyone sitting at the bar. I may never win another dime in this league, but I’ll always have this.
I’d originally drafted Nick Foles to be my starting quarterback that year.
With the Lions facing a relatively QB-easy schedule this season, I drafted Matthew Stafford in the ninth to back up Newton. A sleeper I’d kept stashed in my queue, Browns WR Corey Coleman, I took in the tenth. Arizona’s defense in the 11th because I had to have one, and that was pretty much my last chance for a non-doormat unit. New England Patriots second TE Dwayne Allen in the 12th to cash in on Rob Gronkowski’s inevitable injury (see above: grandeur). Jets WR Robby Anderson, who might literally be their only offensive weapon, in the 13th (May his garbage-time targets block out the sun!). Broncos backup RB Jamaal Charles in the 14th. How quickly we forget how good Jamaal Charles was, and so recently, and now we have to read it online to be sure he made a 53-man roster.
Look what this man used to be capable of!
Call me crazy, but Denver’s starting running back isn’t that good. If Charles’ legs stay on this season, I think he pushes for that starting spot.
Finally, Lions rookie WR Kenny Golladay in the 15th. I heard his name in a sleeper article and remembered it.
That’s my team! That’s what I was building toward when I did six mock drafts that day, getting D+ and D- grades over and over by Yahoo. (which they use to sell you their draft expert services – not that you be putting too much stock in Yahoo’s judgement anyway). This is what I wrote down names, 3-5 names for each round, for. I’m not kicking myself this time. I look over my team and I’m content. I checked the waiver wire and didn’t see a single player who’d immediately be an upgrade over anyone I drafted.
I feel good about my team’s chances, and I think they’ll be a lot of fun to follow.
Until they’re not anymore.