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…”

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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.

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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.


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