Happy Super Bowl Sunday!
Last year I wrote these words to begin this beloved annual column:
‘And so ends one of the greatest fantasy football seasons I’ve ever enjoyed. Four titles, one oh-so-close second place finish (damn you Todd Gurley!) and two third place booty earned. I finished in the money in seven of my 11 leagues, making the playoffs in eight. Of the three I missed, two were helmed by Aaron Rodgers and the other I had the fourth most points but seemingly no luck. Plus in two I was the defending champ, which always soothes any lingering pain from a season gone awry.’
Looking back that was a pretty good season: Made the playoffs in eight of 11 leagues and won four of them, finishing with a 85-76 record (.528 winning percentage) in the regular season and a scintillating 15-4 (.789) postseason mark.
And yet . . . it can not hold a candle to the my recently completed campaign, one unprecedented in the fantasy annals.
- I made the playoffs with all 11 teams;
- My regular season record of 106-61 eclipsed last year’s win total by a remarkable 21 and upped my winning percentage from .528 to an absurd .658;
- And I was even better in the playoffs, winning 17 and losing only five times (.773);
- I didn’t finish lower than fourth in total points in any league, topping three in scoring;
- Only one time (Week 3 when I went 5-7) did I fail to post a winning mark;
- I went 7-5, 8-4, 5-7, 7-5, 10-2, 9-3, 7-5, 7-5, 10-2, 8-4, 9-3, 8-4, 8-4, 3-2 to finish out the regular season in Week 14 and 2-2 in playoff tilts, then 7-2, 6-1 and 2-0 to dominate the postseason;
- And to top it all off, I went 6-1 in championship tilts and was one starting tight end decision away from perfection.
Below the beautiful highlights from the year gone by and a sneak peek into the bright future ahead in keeper leagues.
Team(s) of the Year
Fuzzy Dunlop and Unironic Witty Name. Two terrific teams for two different reasons: Fuzzy hadn’t won this amazing two point-per-reception league since 2004 and Unironic triumphed in the second year of my über-awesome two quarterback, 1.5 PPR league.
Fuzzy Dunlop’s dominance was evident from the very beginning . . .
. . . buoyed by a fantastic draft . . .
. . . and some sage acquisitions. Fuzzy dominated wire-to-wire, outpacing the league by 201 more points than the nearest competitor:
The only terrifying hiccup came in the semifinals when I chose to start the Los Angeles Rams defense at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. On my bench sat the Minnesota Vikings D which would have scored me 24 fantasy points and secured entry into the fantasy championship. The Rams scored minus three—a 27-point swing—and only the clever add of
secured my one point win. Despite starting the wrong defense, I did choose the right kicker as Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker only accounted for eight fantasy points, while Zuerlien posted 12.
Unironic Witty Name meanwhile learned from its third place finish in the inaugural season to draft three excellent quarterbacks—Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers—and a fourth signal caller (New York J-E-T-S rookie Sam Darnold) that I ended up moving in a package for Matt Ryan before Week 2:
Likely a finalist for Trade of the Year this deal turned out very well for me:
And a minor transaction closer to the playoffs helped add another WR1 to the mix:
The championship tilt:
A very satisfying season!
Game of the Year
Which of my six titles do I choose from? Actually an easy call:
Not only did I take down my season-long nemesis—with the offensive name and scurrilous charge to boot!—but I did so without second round selection Odell Beckham, Jr. for the entirety of the playoffs. I am going to be relishing this win for a long time!
(Non-Playoff) Game of the Year
When I discovered I still had a chance to win with the kickoff of Monday Night Football nigh, I picked up Houston Texas kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn who proceed to earn me 12 fantasy points and—combined with wideout Corey Davis’ heroics (22 points!)—a one point win!
This move harkens back to something I wrote about last year:
“Thanks to a rule change allowing players now to be picked up before their individual games—no longer is everyone put on waivers at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sundays—I added Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker literally seconds . . .
. . . before Sunday Night Football kicked off. (Thinking I previously had no chance to win the matchup, I wanted to preserve a coveted roster spot.) All Butker did was put up a ridiculous 21 points to pull out a very unlikely victory:
And just like last season, Brc ended up on top in Title Town:
Most Heartbreaking Loss
Ugh. Still pains me to even think about it. A glimpse into my mindset:
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is coming off a forgettable (and troubling) seven target, three catch, 22 yards receiving game, the first with Nick Foles back under center. Stocked at my two running back and flex positions—no way I sit Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey or Cleveland Browns rookie running back Nick Chubb—the only way I could get Pittsburgh Steelers starting halfback Jaylen Samuels into my lineup (he of 17.20 fantasy points the week previous) was in the tight end slot.
Playing in New Orleans in what I surmised I would be a shootout (and worried about the Eagles tight end against a stout Texans squad), at the last moment I switched out Ertz for Samuels only to see the former wreak havoc, earning 23 fantasy points by catching 12 of 16 targets for 110 yards and two scores.
Jaylen Samuels held his own, accounting for 64 total yards and a score but the 10.6 point differential was sadly too much to overcome:
Interestingly, although honestly I guess not too surprising, I find teams win the same awards season-after-season—and for similar reasons. To wit:
‘Have to go with my most important league, Lambeau Field. Hours before the draft began I got back into the first round (after trading my top selection for Rob Gronkowski the previous season) by trading picks two, three and six for first, 15th and 16th round selections. There I very happily selected Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon. While not great or all that consistent this season, I have high hopes for him going forward. I got another top target, newcomer wideout Corey Davis, in the tenth round and then snagged all-everything New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara in the 15th and Philadelphia Eagles signal caller Carson Wentz with my final selection with the next pick. But it may have been my choice in the 12th round that played the biggest part in vaulting me to my sixth championship in the league’s vaunted 15-year history.
That selection? Tight end Zach Ertz. Not only did it give me great insurance behind Gronk, but he was the key piece (along with the Rams pass-catcher Sammy Watkins) in a deadline-beating trade that acquired Patriots scatback Rex Burkhead (previously taken by me in round 13) and, most importantly for this year and many more, Saints wideout Michael Thomas. Though Burkhead got hurt before the fantasy playoffs began in Week 15, he slotted perfectly as my RB2 in this PPR league. Thomas, meanwhile, allowed me to start four wideouts again (Amari Cooper was unplayable at this point) and guaranteed me—with Kamara—a huge portion of all New Orleans productivity. Also snagged Chris Hogan—love those QB-WR combos, especially in PPR leagues!—in the ninth round.
Of note: The first four rounds are devoted to keepers. My acquisition of Mixon (and the two late round picks below) came from this transaction:
Here is the draft in all its glory:
My machinations in Lambeau Field this year were even bolder:
On 9 August 2018 at 10.47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time I traded Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Amari Cooper and my first, third and fourth round selections for the number one overall pick.
Selections included in the blockbuster ended up being Brady, Gronk, Cooper, Tarik Cohen, Sammy Watkins and Alshon Jeffery for Saquon Barkley. A real humdinger!
My draft picks:
Back-to-back quarterback picks—Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck—were clutch and then adding Calvin Ridley and George Kittle (more on him below) proved crucial. Looking back on it rounds seven through 12 likely made the biggest difference in winning another Lambeau Field crown.
Considering all my 11 teams made the playoffs this is a much tougher task than usual. Still for the second straight season I’d have to go with my team in Aaron Rodgers’ Avenue, a league I’ve won three times, the last in 2016:
Too many Bears: Both Allen Robinson and Trey Burton were huge disappointments. Still I did maximize value with both Aaron Jones and Philip Rivers in the tenth and 11th rounds, respectively.
Saquon Barkley was even better than expected but I have to bestow this prestigious honor on the young quarterback from the Kansas City Chiefs. I drafted Patrick Mahomes in three leagues, all of whom won titles. Brc chose him in the 11th round (127th overall), GBG in the 13th (153) and Fuzzy Dunlop in the 11th (129). Not bad for the top fantasy scorer!
Honorable mention goes to the San Francisco 49ers sublime tight end. I drafted George Kittle in two leagues—in the tenth and 12 rounds, respectively—and in both instances I finished with the most points by a significant margin (201 in FTC2 and 104.22 in Lambeau Field) and won both belts.
Allen Robinson. First pick in two keeper leagues and even higher (fourth round) in both Aaron Rodgers’ Avenue and AFP All-Stars. Still won two of those leagues but expected much more from the talented free agent.
Greg Zuerlien. I learned last year to wait on kickers, often not even drafting one if the league rules don’t forbid it. And yet because he injured his groin in pregame warm-ups before Week 2, causing him to miss five games, I acquired him at no cost in six different leagues, four of which won titles. For the remaining 10 weeks of the season, he averaged a robust 10.8 fantasy points per game.
Props too go to Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. TR’s Peepers acquired him for $11 of his $100 free agent budget in case Le’Veon Bell’s holdout would extend into the regular season and Snuffleupagus sagely snapped him off waivers before Week 1. His untimely injury right before the fantasy playoffs, however, cost both squads any chance at bringing home bling.
No one comes to mind on the free agent front but I’ve certainly done drafting Josh Gordon. No more!
The preseason swap in Lambeau could help me for a decade but in re-draft leagues it was definitely the acquisition of Adams, Mixon and Ryan for Hilton, Darnold and the aforementioned Gordon.
Only made the three across my 11 leagues and loved them all!
See: ‘Most Heartbreaking Loss’.
Most Valuable Player
Mahomes. But a resurgent Andrew Luck brought two titles home for me as well!
Least Valuable Player
Jimmy Graham. What is it with underperforming Green Bay Packers tight ends? (Last year in this column see: Bennett, Martellus). Oh how I miss Jermichael Finley!
Five Reasons Why
Before we finish fêting our six champions, a quick look at what went wrong with the other five squads:
- After starting out the year 0-3 Sterling Sharpe finished the regular season with nine straight wins but lost both Keenan Allen and Aaron Jones to injury in their quarterfinal tilt;
- Snuffleupagus went 8-6, finishing fourth in the regular season and scoring the second most points in the league but got steamrolled in the quarters by the eventual champ;
- TR’s Peepers failed to win back-to-back titles mostly due to not having Le’Veon Bell the entire season and losing three starting running backs—Kareem Hunt, James Conner and Matt Breida—plus ODB before the first playoff game;
- Pangaea rose from the ashes to win its division and is well-poised to win its first title next season;
- Curly’s Cadre? #regrets #neveragain
Two More Titles
Sixteenth year of Lambeau Field, seventh title (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2018) for the Green Bay Gamblers:
Twelfth year of AFP All-Stars, sixth title (2007, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018) for the Green Bay Gamblers:
Third time (2008, 2017) that the namesakes have taken the title in the same season.
Three of my 11 leagues are of the keeper variety. Here’s a peek into what 2019 may hold:
Pangaea (four keepers, 2 PPR, eighth overall selection):
Likely Keepers: Green Bay Packers Team Quarterback, Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, Keenan Allen
In the Mix: Phillip Lindsay, Larry Fitzgerald, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Patriots Team Quarterback
TR’s Peepers (three keepers, $200 salary cap minus keeper costs):
Likely Keepers: Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Odell Beckham, Jr.
In the Mix: Andrew Luck, A.J. Green, Corey Davis, MVS, Jay Ajayi, Mike Williams
Green Bay Gamblers (four keepers, PPR, last pick in snake draft):
Likely Keepers: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley
In the Mix: Andrew Luck, George Kittle, Calvin Ridley, Carson Wentz
The future is bright!
Enjoy the Super Bowl!
Only 53 sleeps until Opening Day!