Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Mike

Mike's Articles

Last Man Standing
Week 1

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 QB.

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 notches—maybe more—in 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 so.

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 Season):
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 Last Season):
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 Season):
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; 34-15 cumulative)
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 Texans won.

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 LaDainian Tomlinson.

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 season.