Worst to first

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago my team was 0-7 in the Washington Area Fantasy Football League (WAFFL). Back then CBSSports.com offered this blistering commentary about my team, the UndaDawgz:

UndaDawgz showed off the form that earned them the worst record in the league…”

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.58.04 AM

Today, one year later, my team is 6-1. Here’s what CBSSports.com had to say this week:

UndaDawgz started week 7 with the best record in the league, and finished week seven with the best record in the league.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.53.36 AM

I recently wrote a book about fantasy football. I use this column to report the effects of following my own fantasy advice. A worst–to-first transformation looks good on paper. But before I start sounding like an infomercial, let’s dig deeper into the Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

Here is what’s made the difference for me this year:

Having a position-based draft plan. I researched championship winning drafts going back 14 years and created a chart showing  which positions are drafted most frequently by round. You can see the chart here.

Waiting on a QB in the draft, then pouncing on a QB via waivers.  I waited 10 rounds to draft Philip Rivers as my #1 QB. Waiting on a QB allowed me to stock up on quality at other positions, including the #1-ranked wide receiver Antonio Brown and the #2-ranked running back Kareem Hunt.

After the season started, I took a flyer in week 2 on a free agent QB. I picked up Alex Smith, who’s currently the #2-ranked QB in WAFFL.

Trusting my gut…less. During my 24-year run of fantasy ineptitude, I relied on emotions more than I relied on data. During those years, if Philip Rivers was projected to score 15 points and Alex Smith was projected to score 25 points, I’d go with Rivers anyway based purely on gut feeling. This year I’m trusting the data.

Check out the chart below. I acquired Alex Smith as my second QB in week #2. I use the CBSSports.com projections each week to decide which QB to start. The projections have been correct nearly every week and — in week #3 and week #7 — the point difference between the two QBs was a substantial 15+ points. The projection was wrong in week 6 but, the difference between the two QBs was a mere .82 points.

QB Projection

The Bad

I can’t recall a season where so many elite fantasy players — David Johnson, Odell Beckham, and Aaron Rodgers to name a few — suffered significant injuries. My team stayed healthy so far but that’s changing — indirectly. Carson Palmer’s broken arm holds consequences for two of my fantasy players, Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson.

In week 6 Fitzgerald and Peterson looked unstoppable. They scored a combined 50.2 points. Then Palmer went down in week 7 and the Cardinals offense sputtered. Fitzgerald and Peterson scored a combined 6.2 points. With their QB Palmer out for at least eight weeks, the fantasy future is cloudy for Fitzgerald and Peterson.


The Ugly

Speaking of things that don’t look so good, my other team is 3-4 in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Experts B League. Several players on that team are busts so far, namely: Isaiah Crowell, Mike Gillislee and Jamison Crowder. See the chart below for a comparison of their draft position vs. current position after seven weeks of football. Gillislee’s current ranking would be far worse if not for two strong weeks at the beginning of the season, after which his production fell off dramatically.

If things don’t pick up for my FSTA team, I’ll miss the playoffs despite a hot start.


Three and out

Week 8 features a marquee matchup of the #1 and #2 teams in WAFFL. My top-ranked UndaDawgz face Brett’s second-ranked Pop Warner All-Stars. I live in Seattle and Brett lives in D.C,. so this matchup will also decide which Washington dominates fantasy football. PS: You can see which state ranks #1 in overall fantasy football enthusiasm here.

Jen and I were in Dublin last week and were thrilled to discover that the pub around the corner from our rented flat carries NFL RedZone. The pub showed American football on two screens. The bigger screen featured the London game between the Cardinals and Rams, while the second screen had RedZone.

My best friend and fantasy football arch rival, Don, visited Seattle this week. I crushed Don’s team in week 4 so I owned bragging rights for the weekend. We put our differences aside long enough to belt out a karaoke version of “Take It To The Limit.” In our minds and ears, we crushed it.


Playoffs Baby! (Don’t pinch me)

Welcome to the latest edition of Good, Bad and Ugly. I wrote a book about fantasy football and I’m following my own advice. Each week (or so) I write this column to track my progress.

The Good: We’re in the plaaaayoffs! (If the season was one-month long)

If the season ended today, after four weeks and one Thursday night of football, I would be playoff bound in both of my fantasy leagues. This is a huge, major, epic accomplishment considering my history of fantasy ineptitude.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today. But please suspend your disbelieve for a few paragraphs. Then we’ll return to reality.

If the season ended today, my fantasy league MVP would be Kareem Hunt. Kareem the Dream. Field of Kareems. The Kareem Team. I drafted Kareem as the 14th RB (27th overall pick). He’s currently the #1-ranked RB and the #3-ranked player at any position (Source: CBSSportsline.com, standard scoring).

Honorable mention would go to Alex Smith. I grabbed Smith off of waivers after his four-TD performance in week 1. He’s currently the #3 QB in all of fantasy, just four points behind Aaron Rodgers.

These two guys are the core of my UndaDawgz team in the Washington Area Fantasy Football League (WAFFL). My WAFFL team is 3-1. The future looks even brighter. That’s because the “Dougernauht” Doug Martin is back from suspension and he’s off to a great start with 74 yards and a TD in his first game.

Unfortunately the future looks cloudier in my other league. Which brings us back to reality.

The Bad: Duds Ahoy

My book earned me an invitation to participate in a 14-team experts league with industry savants from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA). I went undefeated in the first two weeks and I was feeling myself.

Experts, schmexperts.

That was two straight losses ago. Now I’m 2-2 and I’m clinging to 5th place overall. I’m at risk of falling out of the top 6 and missing the playoffs unless my team improves.

I drafted LeSean McCoy as the #5 RB; he’s currently ranked 10 spots lower at #15. Meanwhile my second RB, Isaiah Crowell, is looking like a bust. I drafted him as the #14 RB and he’s currently ranked #47.

The FSTA league uses a Points Per Reception (PPR) scoring system. It’s the first time in 25 years of playing fantasy that I’ve participated in a PPR league.

In my book I advise people to fully understand their league’s scoring system. Unfortunately I failed to grasp the full importance of pass catchers in a PPR league.

Two of my WRs are ranked in the top 10: DeAndre Hopkins (#3) and Tyreek Hill (#9) (Source: RTSports.com, PPR scoring). That’s great, but I also drafted these three underachieving WRs:

1) Jamison Crowder. I drafted him as the #37 WR and he’s currently ranked #74.

2) J.J. Nelson, who started strong but scored a total of 6.4 points during the past two games.

3) John Ross, who looked unstoppable when he set a new record in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, then scored a mere 1.2 fantasy points in three NFL games.

Crowder and Ross are cut from my roster, but free agent pickings are slim in this 14-team league. Facing a lack of good receivers in the free agent market, I just splurged $31 to acquire RB Latavius Murray in the hopes of injecting more offense into this squad. Fingers are crossed.

The Ugly: Losing to myself (sort of)

Mark recently changed his fantasy team name to “Anyone But Harms !!!!!!!!” I’m not joking – his team name includes eight exclamation points. (Also, in case you missed it, I am Harms).

I’m 3-1 in WAFFL. My one loss came against Mark. The guy whose team logo features my face.

Mark's Logo.png

Putting a guy’s face on your logo, then beating him by 45 points, is next-level trash talking.

Three and out

1) Here’s a list of steals and duds through the first four weeks of WAFFL. The chart compares where a player was drafted at his position, versus where he ranks after four weeks of games. See if you agree with my list.

Steals and Duds

2) In my book I discuss the role of fantasy football in establishing lifelong friendships. But don’t just take my word for it, read a few of these wonderful letters to Matthew Berry.

3) This article about Eddie Lacy’s struggle with his weight is one of my favorite articles I’ve read in a long time.

That’s it for this update. Go get ’em!

Week 2 Report: Undefeated

Road Trip 2Welcome to Week #2 of the Good, Bad and Ugly. I’m following my own fantasy football advice, straight from my book, and reporting the results. This week’s dispatch is a road trip edition: Jen and I are touring our home state of Washington via Jeep.

Let’s get right to it.

The Good: We might be on to something here

A year ago the UndaDawgz were 0-2, en route to an 8-game losing streak. My team finished the season in dead last place (again) with a record of 2-11.

Today the UndaDawgz are 2-0. I own the highest-scoring team in the Washington Area Fantasy Football League (WAFFL).

I’m also undefeated in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Experts B League. I own the second-highest-scoring team in that league.

Obviously, the season is still very young. Nonetheless, two factors are key to this early success:

1. I took a data-driven approach to my fantasy draft, utilizing tactics from past champions of the last 14 years. (Read more about this in my Week 1 report.)

2. I avoided early season yips (so far). The two-time reigning champion of WAFFL  is nicknamed the Ice Man. The nickname is not a coincidence. We both started last season with similar records. I made 10 roster changes during the early weeks. Ice Man made two changes during that same period. This year I’m playing it cool as Ice, by keeping early season roster moves to a minimum.

The Bad: Can’t stop won’t stop

The good thing about losing at fantasy football for decades is, you learn to look on the bright side. I went outside on Sundays instead of watching football all day. I exercised instead of ordering in pizza. I used my phone for other tasks besides checking my fantasy scores.

This year, I’ve watched every available NFL game of the season. I endured the entire Thursday night snoozefest between the Texans and the Bengals, just to watch my defense score eight points. Here’s me checking my scores on a hike during our road trip.


The Ugly: I get so emotional, baby

I cheer for my players. I berate them. I berate my opponent’s players. I cheer the players who help my players and berate the players who help my opponents’ players. And so it goes. I experience a lifetime of emotion in the course of four downs. Jen says I’m having “fits.” Like a toddler.

Three and out

1) Our road trip has a football theme. We spent Saturday night watching the Huskies beat Fresno State. In between plays we spied on this guy making beer, which was pretty cool.

Beer making at Boundary Bay Brewery.

2) On Sunday we watched early games at the Narnia-inspired Aslan Brewing Co. Jen picked up a few t-shirts. Aslan closed early for a private event, so we caught afternoon games at the Beaver Inn. The Beaver Inn sells t-shirts plus thong underwear. We didn’t buy anything.  I did eat my weight in free popcorn.

The Beav

3) We love our Seahawks (and our puns) in Washington State. Marshawn Lynch is gone but not forgotten at the yummy BreadFarm bakery in tiny Edison, WA.

Yeast Mode

That’s it for the Week 2 update. Good luck and happy sailing in your fantasy league!

Happy Sailing

Week 1 Report: This “Kareem Team” ain’t so dreamy

Some cool things happened in the two months since I published “Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak.” Jen’s fantasy league decided to award my book as the “loser trophy” to this year’s last-place team. I am humbled.

Hamilton NFLAlso, thanks to your support the book hit #2 on Amazon’s best-seller list for a minute. And it got some good press. Plus it got one bad review which I shall refute peacefully, rather than challenge the reviewer to a Hamilton-style duel.

But let’s get down to business. I’m following my own fantasy football advice all season long and reporting the results. Here’s the Good, Bad & Ugly from the start of the 2017 fantasy football season.

The Good: A Yip-Free Draft

I got invited to participate in an experts fantasy football league with 13 colleagues from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA). I followed explicitly the chart that appears below and in Chapter 5, “Draft Like a Champion.” The chart shows how fantasy league champions draft by round, dating back 14 years. (Source: CBSSports.com, standard scoring system).

There’s nothing magical about the chart. But it removed all emotion from my draft. For me, that was the magic.

How WAFFL Champs Draft

I tend to overthink my fantasy football decisions. That’s an understatement: I obsess over my fantasy football decisions. The chart eliminated hand-wringing and second-guessing. I knew which position I would take every round. I paired the chart with the top 200 list of players from one of my favorite fantasy writers, Dave Richard. When my turn came each round, I knew which position to draft (courtesy of the chart) and which player to draft (courtesy of Dave’s list). It was that simple.

The result? My team killed it in week 1. I scored 156 points, more than any other team in the FSTA Experts B League. The victory was a well-balanced, all-around team effort. Here’s my starting roster:

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 8.21.08 AM

The Bad: Team Kareem Needs Help

This season marks the silver anniversary of WAFFL — the Washington Area Fantasy Football League. WAFFL is the group of guys, plus one gal, I’ve been competing against for 25 years. They are the inspiration for my book.

This is me, three minutes into the start of WAFFL’s 25th season.


Jen captured the photo, and my frail emotional state, after my #1 RB Kareem Hunt fumbled on the first play of his NFL career. I get emotional about WAFFL. I can’t help it. It affects my decision making. It affects my mood. It affects Jen, who has to put up with my multiple personalities. This is me a few minutes later, after Kareem scored one of this THREE touchdowns:

Mike Making It Rain
Making it rain in da club, the uncool version.

In my article 5 Ways to Ruin Your Fantasy Team, tip #2 is: “Don’t get personally attached to your players.” Well, it’s too late for me. I’m hooked on Kareem. Seriously. He scored forty-six percent of my team’s total points in week 1. Kareem is unlikely to score three TD’s every game, which means my other players need to step up if I’m going to be competitive in WAFFL.

I’m not the only one who dreams of Kareem. Matthew Berry, another of my favorite fantasy writers, has Kareem as his “Ride or Die” fantasy player of 2017. Berry got Kareem to do this funny 12-second message to all fantasy football owners:

Speaking of bad things, I’d like to address the bad review (two measly stars) that somebody gave my book on Amazon. The guy called my book “simplistic.” That’s fine, I can accept that. I’m a simple man after all. But he crossed the line when he said my book wasn’t funny. Dem’s fighting words.

The Ugly: Waiting is the Hardest Part

In the book I counsel against drafting a QB too early in the draft. (Yes, I know this is simplistic advice. But so is “Have a Merry Christmas.” And nobody gives Santa Claus two lousy stars.)

WAFFL champions usually take a QB in Round 5, according to CBSSports.com data. So I waited. Then I waited some more. Then I drafted Philip Rivers in round 10. Then I panicked.

Did I wait too long? What if Rivers sucks? So I drafted another QB, Andy Dalton, two rounds later. You see what’s coming here, don’t you?

I started Dalton at QB in Week 1. He was awful. I mean terrible. Four interceptions, one fumble and zero touchdowns terrible. Minus two points terrible.

Here’s my team’s box score from that Week 1 WAFFL game. (Mr. Dalton is no longer a member of that team.)

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Summary: Week 1 Report Card

I’m off to a strong start in the FSTA Experts League. I’m 1-0 and my team scored more points than any other squad. It’s early but I’m cautiously optimistic. Grade: A-.

Kareem Hunt led me to victory in WAFFL. Hunt scored nearly half of my team’s total points. Unfortunately the rest of my team was average. Grade: C.

Three and Out

1. In the book I interview Brett, who did zero draft prep in 2016 yet still reached the WAFFL Championship game. I asked Brett about his 2017 draft strategy. Here’s what he said:

I did a little more pre-work this year. Not sure what to think of the team yet…every one of my players except Ertz underperformed in week 1. Some severely. Need to be patient and resist knee-jerk reactions. I liked last year’s team better. Funny, the [CBSSports] bot liked my draft this year better.

2. Jay missed the 2016 WAFFL playoffs by tenths of a point. A few years prior, he lost the WAFFL Bowl championship to Commissioner Lou on Christmas Eve. This year, Jay’s luck appeared to change when he nabbed the first pick in the draft. Jay drafted David Johnson. Johnson promptly went down with a serious injury in week 1.

3. Fantasy football keeps our group of WAFFL friends together. Jen and I traveled to Washington, D.C. a few weeks back to celebrate Commissioner Lou’s birthday. We enjoyed tacos and more than a few margaritas with the Commish and other WAFFL pals.

Here’s Commissioner Lou awarding the #1 pick of the draft to Jay:


Bad drafts. Dumb trades. A revolving roster of regret.

How does someone lose at fantasy football for nearly a quarter of a century? How does a league of guys (plus one girl) survive into its 25th season and beyond? What can you learn to dominate your league for seasons to come?

(Update: “Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak” is now a best seller on Amazon. Plus, GeekWire calls it a fun read. Don’t let anyone tell you that losing gets you nowhere.)

Fantasy Football The 24-Year Losing Streak Cover

Kindle Button 3

The answers are funny, insightful and sometimes painful. Follow a fantasy football underachiever as he seeks help to draft like an expert, navigate free agency, assess injuries, talk trash and win an elusive title (the WAFFL Bowl).

Along the way, you’ll learn secrets of the “Magnificent 5.” You’ll get schooled by a fantasy professor. You’ll go behind the scenes at a major fantasy website, revisit infamous moments in fantasy football history and, hear a CEO discuss her fantasy company of the future.

Whether you’re a fantasy football veteran or new to the game, “Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak” will make you a better player. More than that, you’ll spend time with a group of people whose passion for fantasy football transcends winning, losing and time.

Here’s how to get your copy right now:

Buy it on Amazon.

Don’t wait! Losing never felt so right.

“Fantasy Football is dreamy!”

That time Tebow won a WAFFL* Bowl

One of my favorite things about writing an eBook that’s dedicated to losing at fantasy football is that I get to interview interesting people who share the same passion. This post highlights a few of those conversations. Note: This post previously appeared in my fantasy football newsletter which you can get here.

Relax folks, they don’t mean it, they’re only robots

Does your fantasy league website send out automated stories that critique your league’s weekly games? Our league’s website does this. Apparently, we fantasy players are thin skinned.

I interviewed a customer care expert who works for a fantasy sports website. He told me that he receives angry messages from fantasy players whose feelings get hurt by those automated stories.

“People have gotten quite upset. They take it personally. We get emails.”

C’mon people, lighten up. Remember this is still fantasy football. 🙂

Here’s a typical automated story about my team:

UndaDawgz had a bad week, and nobody is more at fault than Coach Mike Harms. Ouch.


“I will play WAFFL ‘til the day I die, because of you guys”

“Sweet Lou” is the most successful player in our league’s 24-year history: He’s a 6-time league champion who’s never lost in the finals. Sweet Lou is also the co-host of the weekly SLZE Sports podcast. Oh, and he televised the past six presidential inaugurations.

I love the above quote from Lou because it captures the thing I enjoy most about playing fantasy football: Competing against my friends.

Our league started in 1993. We were 12 guys living in Washington, D.C. We named our league the Washington Area Fantasy Football League (WAFFL).

Over time, we scattered from D.C. to places all around the country. A woman finally joined the league. A quarter century later, we’re all still playing together.

The thing that keeps us playing together is friendship. That, plus the desire to beat the crap out of each other.

“I want to win so bad it hurts me inside.”

That’s a quote from Mark, a long-time WAFFL member and co-leader in playoff appearances with 11*.

In the U.S., 43 million adults aged 18 or over play fantasy sports. That’s a lot of passionate people.

The majority of us who play fantasy sports care more about sports because of fantasy. 64% of us watch more live sports, and 61% of us read more about sports because we play fantasy**.

Anyway. Sweet Lou is a fantasy expert in his own right. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from our interview:

“It’s about winning games by the week. How are you going to get 100 points every week?”

Lou credits Matthew Berry for this principle. But Lou executes it extremely well: his team reaches the postseason 64% of the time, plus he’s got those six championship rings.

To give his team a legit shot at reaching 100 points (or more) each week, Lou follows these tactics:

He drafts a “Big 3”: A stud QB, RB and WR. These are his point machines. In 2014, his most-recent championship year, Lou’s Big 3 consisted of: LeSean McCoy (1st round pick), Antonio Brown (2nd round) and Cam Newton (9th round).

He goes for depth at WR and RB. A stable of steady performers supplements the Big 3 and helps Lou to accumulate points every week. Lou will wait as long as the 9th round to take a QB: This lets him use more of his early-round picks to stock up at the RB and WR positions.

He does his homework. Lou uses multiple information sources to inform his decision-making. During the draft he still uses handwritten notes to stay focused. And it helps that he reviews every NFL team for his sports podcast.

“I was not terribly comfortable going into the WAFFL Bowl* with Tebow.”

I gave Brett a ton of grief when he picked up Tim Tebow off of waivers in 2010 and started him in the championship game. The joke was on me when Tebow threw for 300 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another TD, leading Brett to the title.


I suck at waiver wire moves. I constantly second-guess myself, which leads to endless roster tweaking and frequently leads to disaster. Like the time in 2005 when I cut Thomas Jones, starting RB for the Bears, to pick up Chris Baker, a part-time TE for the Jets. That move killed my season.

Brett runs the second-most successful team in WAFFL history, with four championships, two runner-up finishes and a 64% playoff frequency. He’s also a VP at a major investment firm. It’s fascinating to hear how he uses his financial experience to make fantasy football roster decisions.

“Being in investing, you have to be unemotional. Make a decision and go with it. There are always going to be chances that some other investment would have gone better.”

I thought Brett would follow a conservative “buy and hold” philosophy toward the waiver wire. But he’s more aggressive and it works for him.

“I’m pretty opportunistic. If I think someone on the waiver wire is better than someone I have, then I’ll pick him up.”

Gronk if you’re horny

Rich is the reigning WAFFL champion. He’s also an experts league champ over at FFToday.com. Perhaps most important, Rich wins at best team name pretty much every year. My interview with Rich was a no-holds-barred affair full of gems like this one:

“I never draft wide receivers that just changed teams. It’s always a dumpster fire.”

I’ll share more of my interview with Rich, plus more tips from Lou, Brett, Mark and those awesome customer service folks, in the near future. I also keep a running commentary on the LoseAtFantasy.com blog. Finally, all of the in-progress book data (with charts and tables) is available here for download.

Three and out

Before you completely close the book on your 2016 fantasy season, The Fantasy Footballers have a timely podcast and article addressing 10 Things to Remember from 2016.

Speaking of look backs: I loved reading Atlanta, Mike Vick’s honest, sometimes raw first-person piece about playing for the Falcons.

Draft edge: Add Inside Injuries to your Twitter feed for deeper insight into players’ health. I got to watch this company pitch itself at the Fantasy Sports Conference last month. Good things happen when a group of doctors form a fantasy company.

That’s about it for this issue. If you like what you just read, I would be stoked if you forwarded this newsletter to a friend.

Please do me a solid by adding me on Twitter and Facebook to receive a recurring dose of “WAFFL breaks,” quick stats to help you not suck @ fantasy.

Thanks for reading. Only 80 days ‘til the NFL draft.

*Playoff frequency percentage for Mark, Brett and Lou is from CBS Sportsline league history, 2003-2016.

**Demographic data citing 43 million fantasy players in the U.S., with 64% consuming more live sports and 61% reading more about sports, comes from a June 2016 report presented to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association by Ipsos.

Draft tactics of WAFFL champs

I analyzed our league’s championship-winning drafts going back 14 years (2003-2016). Our league is called WAFFL, though the name is unrelated to that tasty breakfast food.

We are the Washington Area Fantasy Football League. It’s been at least a decade since we all lived in Washington, D.C. But we still compete like mad every year through the magic of the Internet.

Speaking of the Internet, I am geeking out on data stored in our league’s online archive, courtesy of CBS Sports Fantasy. My mission is to solve the riddle of why my team consistently loses every year.

Here are a few nuggets gleaned from the WAFFL archives. We use a 12-team snake draft with a standard scoring system based on TD’s and yardage.

WAFFL Draft Trivia

Q: What position do future WAFFL champs overwhelmingly select with their first round pick?

A: Running Back. Eleven of the last 14 teams (79%) that went on to win a WAFFL Bowl chose a RB with their first pick.

Q: Is this trend changing?

A: Maybe. Rich, the fearless Irishman, broke the mold in our most-recent draft. In 2016, Rich drafted Odell Beckham with his first round pick. It’s the first time, going back to 2003, that a future WAFFL champ drafted a WR in round 1.

Q: True or False: A WAFFL champion once drafted a kicker in the fourth round.

A: True! In 2004, en route to a WAFFL Bowl victory, “The Gods” drafted Mike Vanderjagt in Round 4.

Q: Which QB was drafted most frequently by future WAFFL champs: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?

A: Manning. Manning was drafted by 4 future WAFFL champs. Brady was drafted twice. Rodgers was never drafted by a WAFFL Bowl winner. More on this later.

Q: Which TE was drafted most frequently by future WAFFL champs: Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey or Jimmy Graham?

A: Shockey. Shockey was drafted by 3 future WAFFL Bowl winners. Gates and Graham were each selected once. Gonzalez was never drafted by a WAFFL winner. More on this later.

Draft Tactics of the WAFFL Winners

#1: They usually draft a running back first

Of the 14 WAFFL champs since 2003, 11 drafted a RB with their first-round pick, 2 took a QB and 1 took a WR.

Rich shook things up this year by taking a wide receiver, Beckham, with his first pick en route to winning the WAFFL Bowl. Does this mean that Rich initiated a new trend in 2016?

It’s hard to say, but consider this: Rich also won a WAFFL Bowl in 2015. He took a RB (Marshawn Lynch) in Round 1. He took a WR in Round 2: Odell Beckham.

#2: They are patient when drafting a QB

Among WAFFL champs, the most-popular round for taking a QB was round #5: 36% of WAFFL winners drafted their QB in the fifth round.

The next most-popular round for taking a QB? It’s tied at Round #1 (14%) and Round #7 (14%).

Teams that won multiple WAFFL Bowls have a special knack for patience when it comes to drafting a QB. In each of his three WAFFL Bowl wins since 2003, Brett drafted his QB in the 5th round. Those 5th-round picks were: Favre (2003); Favre again (2010); and Manning (2012).

The same goes for Rich. He drafted a QB in round 5, en route to winning the past two WAFFL Bowls. Those 5th-round picks were: Russell Wilson (2015) and Drew Brees (2016).

Sweet Lou is the riverboat gambler of WAFFL champs. He once waited until round 9 to take a QB! In his five WAFFL Bowl wins, Lou took a QB in the following rounds: 7th (Brady in ‘05), 6th (Matt Hasselbeck in ‘06) 4th (Brady again in ‘07), 3rd (Manning in ‘13) and 9th (Newton in ‘14).

There were five instances (out of 14 drafts) when a WAFFL champ drafted a QB earlier than round 5:
1. Daunte Culpepper was a first round pick in 2004;
2. Brady was a fourth-rounder in ’07;
3. Manning was first-rounder in ‘08;
4. Manning was a second-rounder in ’09;
5. Manning was a third-rounder in ’13.

#3: They prefer a WR3 over a TE1

WAFFL champs aren’t particularly anxious to draft a Tight End. The most-common draft position for a TE among WAFFL Bowl winners is round #9.

WAFFL champs frequently draft their third WR before drafting their first TE. This happened 71% of the time between 2003-2016.

There were three instances (out of 14) where a WAFFL champ drafted a TE1 before drafting a WR3:
1. Jeremy Shockey in ’04 (he was drafted in Round 8);
2. Shockey in ’06 (drafted in Round 5);
3. Jimmy Graham in ’11 (drafted in Round 6).

#4 WAFFL champs make their own draft rules

I thought I might find a consistent drafting pattern among WAFFL champs. But no pattern exists. WAFFL winners certainly have a draft plan each year, but it varies by team and by year.

For example, here’s a list of Lou’s first five draft picks from each of his championship seasons:

2005: RB; WR; RB; WR; WR
2006: RB; WR; RB; WR; TE
2007: RB; RB; WR; QB; WR
2013: RB; WR; QB; WR; RB
2014: RB; WR; WR; WR; RB

There’s no discernible “magic formula” here.

Also, sometimes “best practices” – like waiting until the late rounds to draft a kicker and defense – don’t apply. In 2004, “The Gods” won the WAFFL Bowl in a season where they drafted a D in round 3 and a K in round 4.

#5: Parting shot: Are there any “must-draft” players?

Among the WAFFL champs, six players and one Defense were drafted three or more times between 2003-2016. Manning was drafted four times. Lynch was drafted three times. So was Alshon Jeffrey.

Here’s the full list of players that were drafted three or more times by future WAFFL champs. You can decide whether or not they are difference makers.

QB: Manning (selected in 4 WAFFL-winning drafts).
RB: Lynch (3)
RB: Jerious Norwood (3)
WR: Alshon Jeffrey (3)
TE: Shockey (3)
K: Adam Vinatierri (3)
D: Steelers (4)

What does any of this mean for your fantasy team?

WAFFL is one league of 12 teams, in a fantasy universe with 53 million players. So, of course, your league’s result may vary.

A lot of fantasy content is short-term advice on who to draft, who to start, who to sit, etc. My goal is to provide data-driven examples that your team (and mine!) can use for long-term success.


Is it better to draft first or last in fantasy football? Try middle.

I play fantasy football in a league that’s been together since 1993. That’s 24 years of competing and trash talking.

Several guys in our league are fantasy studs. Our league commissioner, Sweet Lou, is a six-time champion. He co-hosts a live online sports show. He could go toe to toe with any so-called fantasy “expert,” if he wasn’t such a modest dude.

I am not a fantasy stud. I’m writing a book based on my league experiences. It’s called 24 Years of Sucking @ Fantasy Football.

As part of my research, I analyzed our league drafts going back 12 years. I wanted to measure the impact of draft position on a team’s chances for reaching the postseason and beyond.

Here’s what I found:

First pick vs. Last pick

Our league uses a 12-team snake draft. Over the past dozen years’ drafts, teams with the first pick reached the postseason 50% of the time. Teams with the last pick also reached the postseason 50% of the time.

In other words, picking first or picking last was a push. Teams with the first pick and the last pick reached the postseason the same number of times.

So what’s the best draft position?

Mid-pack is where’s it at. Teams drafting in the #6 and #7 position (out of 12) had the most success at reaching the playoffs.

Pick #6 and pick #7 each reached the postseason 75% of the time. Additionally, teams with the #6 pick were most likely to reach the championship game.

And…what’s the worst draft position?

There’s no competition. The worst draft position was #11. During that 12-year span, the #11 pick reached the postseason…once. That’s an 8% frequency.

By comparison the next worst position, pick #10, sent four teams to the playoffs during that same period. That’s a 33% frequency.

There’s a silver lining. That one time when pick #11 made the postseason? Sweet Lou took it home, all the way to a league championship.


Parting shots

Over the past 12 years, teams in our league reached the playoffs from every draft position on the board. But, draft position alone guarantees nothing.

For example: teams that picked first, middle and last all won league championships during that period. But, teams picking in those same positions also finished dead last.

Like Rihanna says: To win a fantasy title, you gotta werk werk werk, all season long.

Want more insights into winning and losing in fantasy football? Enter your email to reserve your free copy of “24 Years of Sucking @ Fantasy Football.”

All charts and data used in the book can also be downloaded for free here.

Bad drafts, dumb trades, and a revolving roster of regret.

My first-ever draft pick was Elway. Friends warned me against taking a QB in round one, but I ignored them.

Things didn’t work out between Elway and me. In the ensuing years, there would be more bad decisions. Lots of them.

“Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak” shows you how to fail at fantasy. So you can succeed, by doing the opposite of everything that’s in this free eBook.

I’m in! I want my copy.

Click to purchase the book on iBooks or Amazon. Get more purchase options here. To get a free PDF version, enter your email address. We’ll email you a copy plus, you’ll also receive an email newsletter of fantasy ramblings.

I’m marginally interested. Tell me more.

Expert advice won’t give your team an edge in fantasy football anymore. Today, anybody with a pulse can download a draft guide or pull up a cheat sheet on an app.

Back in the early 1990’s, 12 friends formed a league and got together to draft. They brought hand-scribbled notes and a few copies of Fantasy Index magazine. There was no online draft, no real-time data, no smartphone apps.

Over the ensuing two-dozen seasons, the Internet fueled a fantasy explosion. Participation leapt from 3 to 57 million fantasy players. Connected devices, automated scoring and ubiquitous stats brought fantasy into the mainstream.

As the 12 friends scattered across the country, they moved their league online and kept playing together. For the UndaDawgz, one thing remained constant for nearly a quarter century: losing.

Here’s how to get your copy right now.

Buy it on iBooks.

Buy it on Amazon.

Get a free PDF version (email address required).