I’m an expert at fantasy football bloopers. I’ve played in the same league, with the same group of guys (plus one gal) for 24 years. During that time I won my league championship once. The other 23 years are a legacy of bad drafts, dumb trades and a revolving roster of regret.
The one good thing to come from all of that losing is, it inspired me to write an eBook. The book is called “Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak.” It’s a best seller on Amazon and GeekWire calls it a fun read.You can buy it here.
Anyway, without further ado, here are 5 important lessons I learned from losing.
The Fantasy Professor speaks
I asked Brody Ruihley, PhD, what sets winning fantasy teams apart from losing ones. Brody should know: He wrote his PhD thesis on fantasy sports and he teaches a college course about fantasy sports. According to Brody, the most-successful fantasy players share two traits:
They take their fantasy team personally, but they don’t get too attached to certain players.
Brody is one of the many interesting and colorful characters I got to interview for my book. Let’s break his advice down:
#1: Take your fantasy team personally…
Every year before my league draft, I fill my head with “expert” advice. I read Fantasy Index magazine cover to cover. I study the fantasy websites. I plug all of my picks into a spreadsheet.
But until recently, I couldn’t tell you how many points my league awards for rushing yards versus passing yards. Or, how many points a 45-yard field goal is worth. I wasn’t sweating the details and it was killing me. All of the expert advice in the world won’t help if you don’t understand the nuances of your league’s rules and scoring system.
But don’t just take my word or Brody’s word for it. In my book I also interview the guys who work behind the scenes at a major fantasy website. They spill the beans on the killer mistakes that fantasy owners make every season.
#2: …But don’t get personally attached to your players.
I have a man crush on Darren Sproles. In 2011 I stole Sproles in the 10th round of my league’s fantasy draft. He went on to set the NFL single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,696. Sproles was a big reason why I won my league championship, the WAFFL Bowl, in 2011.
Unfortunately, Sproles was a big reason why my team stunk in the years that followed. I was so enamored that in 2013 I drafted him again–this time in the 3rd round instead of the 10th. He finished the 2013 season with 46% fewer points than in 2011. I finished the 2013 season in dead-last place.
That didn’t stop me from drafting Darren Sproles again. And again. The results were equally bad. There’s a pretty chart that breaks down the perils of personal attachment in my book. (Did I mention you can buy it here?)
#3: Avoid the early-season yips
If there’s a single factor that separates my one championship season from the 23 losing seasons it’s this: Patience over panic.
In the championship season, I cut four players during the first half of the season. In the losing seasons, I averaged nine cuts during the first half.
I was turning over the roster so rapidly during the bad years that I allowed insufficient time for players to overcome slow starts. On several occasions, a player emerged after I cut him and he out-performed his replacement. Meanwhile, the guy I cut ended up helping my opponent to the championship.
For example: In 2016 I cut Randall Cobb in week 4. He was averaging 3.6 points per game. Over his next 9 starts, Cobb’s production shot up by 137%. He ended up leading TWO of my opponents into the playoffs. This debacle gets an entire chapter in my book. That chapter is appropriately titled “The Curious Case of Randall Cobb.”
#4: Beware of the “Blanda Blunder”
Does your fantasy league give out a loser trophy to its worst team? The first-ever loser trophy went to a guy named Andrew Mousalimas. In 1963 Mousalimas had the first pick in his league’s draft. He selected a QB, George Blanda. Big mistake. The next team up selected a RB, Jim Brown. That team won the championship while the Mousalimas team finished dead last.
What happened? It’s simple. Blanda was a fine fantasy QB, but equally good QB’s were available later in the draft. By contrast, Brown was in a class all by himself at running back. He won the NFL rushing title that year by gaining 1,863 yards, eclipsing the runner-up’s total by 83%. Years later, Mousalimas was famously quoted in an ESPN article: “I should have taken Jim Brown.”
In my book, I analyze championship-winning fantasy drafts going back more than a decade. I break down the ideal round for drafting QBs, RBs, and the other positions on your team in the chapter titled “Draft Like a Champion.”
#5: Know when trusting your gut is bad for your team’s health.
Fantasy football is full of decisions that can make or break a season. Oftentimes we make those decisions on gut instinct. But when it comes to deciding whether to start or sit an injured player, there two reasons to ignore your gut.
Reason number one: Tradition. Football players are tough. We expect them to play through injury. Reason number two: Personal attachment. “A lot of people want to go with their favorite players,” says Tracy Hankin, CEO of Inside Injuries. “There’s just that deep emotional tie.”
In other words your gut might be telling you to start a player simply because you want him to be healthy, regardless of his true condition. Chapter 6 of my book provides case studies for coping with injuries and other variables. You’ll also find links to helpful resources like Inside Injuries, which combines data and medical insight to help fantasy owners make fact-based decisions instead of emotional ones.
Losers. Winners. Trash Talk.
If you don’t read “Fantasy Football: The 24-Year Losing Streak,” your fantasy team will probably do just fine. Probably. But why risk it? I mean, it’s a quick read with small words and big charts. Plus it might make you laugh and you might learn a few things.
Good luck in your fantasy league this year. And if this year isn’t your year, then good luck in the next 24 years to come!
Here’s how to get your copy right now: