This Week's Question:
When do you recommend having your fantasy draft?
Anyone who has made a brief survey of fantasy football message
boards has seen an inordinate number of posts about when it is
appropriate for leagues to have their drafts. Some people draft
before the preseason has even begun. If you were in such a league
this year, you may have drafted Ricky Williams through no fault
of your own. If you were in such a league last year, you may have
opted to go with Michael Vick or Chad Pennington as your starting
Does Ricky Williams' retirement mean that all leagues with early
drafts are run by chuckleheads? Obviously not. I never cease to
be amazed at how thoroughly people manage to lose sight of the
fact that fair rules are rules that are the same for everyone.
Hold your draft in March if you want to for all I care. It's true
that the participants will be going in blind, but the fact of
the matter is that they will all be going in blind, so I don't
really see how anyone ends up with an unfair advantage. Is Williams'
retirement an "unfair" turn of events for those who
drafted him in leagues that start early? Well, there is a big
difference between "unfair" and "unlucky"and
since Priest Holmes could have been carried off by a twister last
week and Clinton Portis could be invited to serve as the next
Dalai Lama tomorrow, I don't really see where "unfairness"
comes into the picture.
But even if I don't object to early drafts on principle, I do
object to them as a matter of personal preference. I like the
idea of drafting as close to the beginning of the season as possible.
It isn't simply that I am afraid of preseason injuries or of contract
disputes that don't get ironed out by opening day. It's that I
want to get a look at the first quarter or so of as many preseason
games as possible. Although I think the preseason games come much
closer to telling us nothing than to telling us very much, I like
to give them a chance to tell me something. And whether
you agree with me or not, the majority of the guys in my league
feel the same way, which is why we never consider having our draft
before Labor Day.
I think there are probably a lot of leagues around the country
that are very much like ours. If Labor Day weekend were not a
3-day weekend, it would be the perfect time for a fantasy draft.
However, since most Americans use the holiday for some sort of
family outing or vacation, it is difficult for the average league
to arrange a draft at that time.
Of course, if the NFL didn't schedule the season opener for the
Thursday evening prior to the first Sunday's games, we could have
this year's draft on Saturday, the 11th. The Thursday night game,
however, makes such an arrangement impossible.
Or does it?
Two years ago, in order to be able to have our draft on the Saturday
before the first Sunday of the NFL season, the members of my league
agreed not to watch the Thursday night game. We knew we couldn't
get from Thursday to Saturday without hearing the score, but that
was all we were supposed to know going into the draft. We couldn't
review stats, and if a player that was being drafted in the 4th
round or so suffered a season-ending injury in the game, that
player should have been drafted in the 4th round of our draft.
This plan failed miserably-not because of cheating (though there
may well have been some of that), but because we all wanted to
watch the Thursday night game. It's a long, long wait from the
Super Bowl of one season to the opening game of the next. And
we were as starved for football as anyone. So it seemed idiotic
to deprive ourselves of real football for the integrity
of a fantasy draft.
And if you think any of us are going to Tivo Thursday's contest
between New England and Indianapolis and save it for after the
draft, you're nuts.
Nevertheless, as has been our tradition for years now, we will
have our draft on Saturday, two days after the first game of the
season has been played. If Marvin Harrison gets shut down by the
Patriot defense, then whoever drafts him will do so knowing that
one of his 16 games was a bust.
Not only will we all have watched the Thursday night game, but
most of us will have watched it together. So here's an obvious
question: If Corey Dillon gouges Indy for 130 yards and 3 TDs,
won't that affect where he goes in the draft?
Well no duh.
Dillon will obviously move up several notchesmaybe morein the
event of such a performance. If I wanted to, I could burn the
seventh overall pick on Dillon just because of a great opening
day. But I doubt that I would do so. Again, the rules are the
same for all of us. If any of the people in our draft want to
throw their rankings out the window because of what Edgerrin James
or Tom Brady will do on Thursday night, they are welcome to do
And this isn't just about individual players. Theoretically,
one of our owners could draft a team that would be a virtual lock
to win its first game of the fantasy season. It could work
out that the best fantasy performances will be turned in by Brady,
Dillon, the New England defense, and Indy's Reggie Wayne. A cagey
owner could go through the draft with an eye for picking up all
4 and going into the first fantasy game of the season with a ridiculous
lead over his opponent. But at what cost? Anyone who wants to
build a team around a guaranteed win in Week One can be my guest.
As is fairly customary, our league favors teams with losing records
when it comes to waiver wire activity. The owner who built his
team last year around guaranteeing himself a victory in Week One
had no chance at picking up Anquan Boldin on the waiver wire.
I don't think the one win was worth it.
Now I'm not asking for your approval. Our league is secure in
its masculinity, thank you very much. But it seems a bit odd to
me that more leagues don't do things this way. Are there other
leagues that make similar arrangements? If so, why? Are there
leagues that would never consider this arrangement? If not, why
not? Thanks for your feedback. I'll include as many responses
as possible in next week's column.
LMS Picks (A Note)
Last Man Standing Pools (also known as "Survivor Pools,"
"Eliminator Pools," or "Knock-out Pools")
do not take the Las Vegas line into account. In traditional LMS
pools, participants must choose one team to win each week, but
can never choose that team to win again. One wrong pick results
in elimination from the pool, which continues until only one player
remains to claim the purse. I have participated in pools with
over 2,000 participants, but no pool I have ever played in has
lasted all the way through the NFL season.
Matt's LMS Picks
Matt contributed his picks to this column all the way through
the 2003 season-and was more accurate than I was. It looks as
if he'll be sharing his insights with us again in 2004. Matt is
also kind enough to include a "trap game" with his picks-a
game that he recommends being wary of in your LMS pools.
Trap Game: Philadelphia over NY Giants
All signs point to a blow out. The Giants have [a suspect] offensive
line, and Philly's defense is probably even stronger than in years
past. The only problem is that this is a divisional game and these
teams know each other. Tom Coughlin might be the new head coach,
but I promise that the Giants are more than motivated to win this
game. It was last season when Brian Westbrook ran back the punt
to win the game with one and half minutes left that started the
complete collapse of the Giants. They might look for some redemption
here. But let's be realistic, as long as Philadelphia stays focused,
the Eagles should win running away with Owens and Westbrook each
getting at least one touchdown.
#3: Minnesota over Dallas (16-1 Last
The Vikings are starting to look like a team that can win their
division. Culpepper-to-Moss should be solid for a number of years
to come, and their defense is supposedly better than average this
year. On the other side of the ball, it is the Vinny-to-Keyshawn
story all over again, albeit in a different city. Is there enough
magic in big D to win this year? Maybe, but the winning streak
might have to start in week 2. Take the home team and relax as
Dallas gets a Nordic welcome.
#2: Seattle over New Orleans (12-5
The Seahawks are a popular choice to represent the NFC in the
Super Bowl this year. All the pieces are in place, and their conference
schedule should be pretty easy. New Orleans has got the pieces
on offense but seems always to be missing one or two items on
defense. While this team is not the Aints of old, they do not
have enough to stay with the Seahawks in week 1.
#1: Tennessee over Miami (15-2 Last
Miami has had one of the worst off seasons in their history. Ricky
Williams retires but is willing to come back if Miami renegotiates
his contract, and Miami wants their bonus money back if he doesn't
play. Either way, if he did come back he would be suspended by
the league. With all of this and a number of injuries along the
way, it looks like Miami has an uphill battle this season. Tennessee,
on the other hand, may have upgraded their running back in Chris
Brown, and if Steve McNair is healthy, he still has some weapons
in the wide receiver area. Look for the Titans to win this one
in spite of Miami's home field advantage. The only thing that
prevents a Miami loss from occurring on Sunday is Hurricane Ivan.
Mike's LMS Picks
#3 Tennessee over Miami (13-4 in 2003;
I mostly agree with Matt about this game, but I can't rank it
first because the last time the Titans should have won vs. Miami
on opening day (back in 2001), they didn't.
#2 St. Louis over Arizona (13-4 in
2003; 37-12 cumulative)
The Rams are no longer what they used to be, but then again neither
are the Cardinals, with the difference being that the Cardinals
weren't very good even when Anquan Boldin was healthy. Will Denny
Green reshape the Cardinals into a winning organization? Probably.
Will Larry Fitzgerald be the receiver in '04 that Boldin was in
'03. Possibly. Will Fitzgerald's breakout occur on Day 1 exactly
as Boldin's breakout occurred last year? I doubt it. And even
if it does, remember that Boldin's banner day was part of a losing
effort against the lowly Lions. As long as Mike Martz remembers
to pay attention to the scoreboard, I'll take the Rams.
#1 Houston over San Diego (11-6 in
2003; 33-16 cumulative)
Two years ago, I picked the brand new Houston Texans to lose their
very first NFL game to the Dallas Cowboys. The Texans won.
Last year, I picked the Texans, in only their second NFL season,
to lose in Week One to the heavily favored Miami Dolphins. The
Prior to the Texans, the only expansion club to win its first
game was the Carolina Panthers. Their head coach was Dom Capers,
who has won his opening-day games for as long as he has been at
Houston. I'm betting on Capers to pull off yet another opening-day
win-and it doesn't hurt that his club will be playing at home
against a Charger squad that has nothing going for it apart from
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football