After 20 years of fantasy football, I thought I would share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. If you’ve been around long enough, this may seem pretty familiar (if not “duh!”), and if not, hopefully you can learn from my previous mistakes.
This second installment covers 2000-2002:
2000: If you read the previous installment, you know I learned about the pig-in-the-poke that was the injured Brett Favre in 1999. Well, at this stage, our league is a keeper league, and I decided to hang onto him in exchange for my first round pick. I put together a decent squad, but Favre's 2000 season would prove to be even less spectacular than '99, and I posted a winning record, but missed the playoffs. Lessons learned this season include:
1. Don't hang onto a player just to try justify your trade. I messed up trading Kurt Warner for Favre last season, but I compounded that error by giving up a first round pick to keep him, when I'd have been better off with Elvis Grbac at QB and drafting Edgerrin James in the first round.
2. The second lesson is above: Opportunity cost. By keeping Favre, who would finish 10th in TD passes, I gave up a shot at a top RB who would score 18 TD's (see below for why this is no small distinction).
3. Winning isn't enough; fantasy football is about points. I started 4-1, went through a rough patch, and finished 8-6. However, even while winning the final week of the regular season, another team outscored me by 58 points to finish 34 points ahead of me for the final playoff spot.
Had I drafted a little differently, it's easy to see how my team could possibly have won 2 more games and taken the #1 seed, and finished at least 2nd. Instead, I was out of the playoffs for the 3rd team in my first 4 years.
2001: This is a season I prefer to forget. Leaving aside the obvious lesson of 2001 that real life proves to be much bigger than football, the pure football lesson is painfully obvious. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do. Injuries to my starters included Ed McCaffrey, who broke his leg scoring a touchdown in Week 1, Drew Bledsoe, who Mo Lewis literally nearly killed as he went out of bounds, would get Wally Pipped by some upstart named Tom Brady, and Tim Biakabatuka - well, let's not even talk about it. There were others, but those were the lowlights. The lesson of 2001 is that sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes he gets you. Still only one playoff appearance in 5 seasons, and it is getting old fast.
2002: Well, this season was a big first step for me. Tired of mediocrity, I finally decided to wise up and start using some new ideas to help me. No longer a keeper league, so I began reading online articles from June through August, rather than magazines all printed in June. I incorporated Value Based Drafting, the 3rd year receiver analysis, and other tools to draft my way to a second-place regular season finish, my best season in 4 years, and with RB's Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor, WR's Peerless Price, Donald Driver, and Amani Toomer, and the Tampa D, I have almost all the pieces. What I don't have, however, is a good healthy QB. Kurt Warner broke his finger (shades of 1998!), and I roll into the playoffs with Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler. Pennington isn't bad, but I lose both playoff games, and finish 4th, while my nemesis from 1998-99 knocks me off again en route to his 3rd league title (irritatingly, with Favre at QB...see 1999-2000 notes).
Lesson learned: It doesn't matter how you start, but how you finish. I started 7-1, and missed out on the #1 seed by just 38 points, but both top seeds lost in the semifinals, and the #1 seed (featuring Peyton Manning, LT, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds, and Hines Ward) made short work of me in the consolation game, and the #3 seed won it all after dispatching me in the semis.
My next installment will cover a more productive era, as I enter more leagues, and actually start winning some. Stay tuned.