So…Your Fantasy Season Ended, Unceremoniously? Please Read The Following…
*OK, I was going to write a 1,000-word thing about fantasy that was on my mind and publish it last week, but then it just kept expanding and turned out closer to 5,000+ words. A lot of thoughts hit me as I went and as people talked to me about their 2019 season…and I just let my fingers do what they do.
It might be a bit scatterbrained and some overkill in spots, but I hope somewhere in it something speaks to your situation. I want to help all of us. I want us to consider our mindsets and whether they need tweaking on top FF strategies for the new year.
So, settle in and enjoy/consider…
So, your fantasy ended short of the title game (or playoffs) or you lost in the title game? Had a rough season filled with in-game injuries and disappointments? Always picking Player A to start over Player B, and that’s when Player B goes off and Player A sucks? Ready to quit playing Fantasy Football because it is not worth the aggravation?
This is the time of year I hear the following fantasy sentiment a lot…
This was such a frustrating season. If only I would have drafted ____ when I had the chance. I’m never taking ___ again. And how come all my players are always getting hurt? You know what, I might not even play Fantasy Football next season!
I get it.
I had a record-setting 2018 for fantasy (wins and scoring), as did many FFM subscribers. Figuring we had it beat forever, and ready to dominate in 2019…the 2019 fantasy ended up my worst season in like the last five or so seasons. Not terrible, but not as good as they have been. It even leaves me wondering a bit – have I ‘lost it’? I mean, all the time of study I put into this…was it worth it for this? Am I only attracted to players with hidden-faulty hamstrings and kneecaps and collarbones?
When we’ve fallen short of fantasy title runs, we all start kicking ourselves when we’re down (a fantasy norm) and trying to answer the question – what went wrong/where did I go wrong in my planning/moves? I’m a year removed from one of the great fantasy seasons/scouting seasons of my professional career, and then one ‘meh’ season the next with a lot of odd/key injuries…and I’m ready to worry about ‘losing it’ after 5-10 years of a build to scouting elite?
That’s what we tend to do in tough times in fantasy, in life…first reaction – anger and doubt and worst case scenario feelings.
Before you make sweeping proclamations about players and strategies next year (that you’ll forget in a few months)…and before you pondering whether to quit playing altogether…can I speak to you for a few minutes to help you make your decision in 2020…and just speak to you in general to help you in your fantasy journey? It’s a message meant to help us be better fantasy players.
I have been doing this ‘professionally’ for like ten+ years now…dealing with the fantasy owners/players who just do redraft in a friends/family league all the way to people who play for tens of thousands of dollars, and working with and interacting with everyone from regular joes to celebrities/personalities you’d know if I named them (which I will never). I have accumulated a decade of wisdom with inputs spanning the globe with players competing from the U.S., the U.K. and players in the Middle East and Asia and various international cities I’ve never heard of prior. Allow me to just share some words with you for your 2020 planning, and playing, and dealing with the future seasons after 2020…and the negative mentality you might be carrying around after this current season.
1) “Pain is good.” – from Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street
You know why this game is so frustrating? Because you love it. You enjoy playing it. It may be the most enjoyable pastime/hobby you have.
When my wife and I play a game of pool/billiards (for example, why…I don’t know but that’s what came to mind…the one time a year we might play)…when we play, I don’t really care about the outcome -- because I don’t love the game. I don’t spend time on it. So, when we play…I don’t really care besides the fun of the moment.
If I decided to play pool/billiards seriously, I would practice all the time. I would enter various tournaments. I’d study the masters. I’d read books about it. I’d lose a lot of games along the way. If I put all that time and effort into becoming a great pool player -- I’m sure I would then take some losses pretty hard (mentally).
In the fantasy football world, a guy I’m acquaintances with at the local coffee shop asks me every time I see him about his lineup or certain players. He likes playing fantasy football, but I can tell by his questions – he’s not super into it. He lost a game this year because he didn’t know one of his players was out injured for a Thursday Night game…he realized it Friday when he checked his lineup for the weekend. He didn’t even watch the TNF game with his player going…or just check the box score results every two seconds on his phone. He doesn’t really care that much when he loses…he isn’t taking it seriously. Nothing wrong with that. He plays for mild fun and doesn’t really expect to win or care much if he loses.
You (most of you) and I, we take this seriously. To varying degrees, but we take it very seriously. We watch as many games as possible. We read a ton of material. Subscribe to one or more websites. We plan for our preseason FF draft more than we plan our personal finances, for our taxes, taking care of our health, or for making our significant other’s birthday or anniversary something special. Isn’t that crazy?
Even if we do put time into some/all those life tasks…we don’t enjoy the process on those as much as the fantasy football chase.
And football gives back…you love the drama of watching it take place. There’s never a totally dull, boring, empty watching of football activity on Sunday’s.
I love/loved watching Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Office, Survivor, The Walking Dead…but nothing matches my joy of watching football (with Fantasy at stake), especially watching multiple games at a time on Sunday…I’m beyond a kid in a candy store. I think you are too.
All the games mean something…I have players going, they have players going against me, or I’m just scouting for players down the road…and/or I have a bet on the game, or made a pick in a pool, etc. Without Fantasy or handicapping…I could care less about most NFL games. With Fantasy (and handicapping) – every game is a virtual thrill ride.
I’ve never watched a TV Show and cursed at the characters for something. Nor have I ever slammed my first in disgust or pumped my first and screamed for joy because of a movie plot twist. But I have a range of emotions watching football games that I only really get from watching football games…with a (fantasy) purpose. Fantasy (and betting) gives you a thrill ride. I love nothing more than watching some games having players involved on both sides, but also having bet on one of the teams, even if it’s like $25…or even if I just picked them for a simple all-picks pool that I’m in.
Fantasy and betting and picking – it makes these games matter. You love the action. Because you’re in the action – you study situations and make decisions on predicting outcomes. When you win, it’s exuberant. When you lose…it cuts like a knife.
You hate the pain of losing/missing out on something in fantasy – BUT THE PAIN IS GOOD…it means you’re alive and have a soul and hate to lose.
You want to avoid the occasional pain? OK, then you also get robbed of the joy of being successful. You also get robbed of the joy of planning a draft, or deliberating a survivor pool pick, or contemplating a trade. We get months/a whole year of a giant jigsaw puzzle to figure out…a really long game of chess…or a really big Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament to tinker with every day/week/month/year with fantasy/football…why throw all that fun away or just curse the sport/activity because you lose sometimes or have a mediocre season…or even a great season, but a bad title game week and fall short?
The pain is a part of competing. Pain in losing only exists when you care. Pain only exists because you’ve felt the joy of success. Avoiding pain in fantasy is robbing you of the joy that happens as well.
Fantasy football pain is good. It’s a good sign.
Punch a pillow…your season ended short. Throw your punch. Say an expletive. Get ready for the next fight…whether that’s next week in DFS or pick ‘em pool, etc. or nine months from now.
Embrace the pain…it means you care; it means this means something to you. Why run from that? It should be respected that something makes you feel feelings.
…and it’s not just stupid ‘fake football’, as non-fantasy players would mock it as. It’s fake, for sure, it’s not dealing with cancer or anything…but it’s a harmless hobby that’s actually a game of skill (deemed by the government) that you can win money at…a lot of money with this ‘silly’ hobby. AND you’re missing out on opportunity to chase even more money in this game and may not even realize it (and I’ll explain that in a bit).
This explains you…I know it does:
You LOVE to watch football.
You LOVE to play fantasy and pick games.
You LOVE to listen, learn and talk about football.
You LOVE to draft a fantasy team…you LOVE the entire process.
You LOVE contemplating fantasy trades, searching the waiver wire, trying to figure out sit/starts in season.
You LOVE the NFL Draft, trying to figure out the rookies after. You love NFL free agency. You love NFL training camp rumors.
You LOVE a lot of aspects of everything about football and fantasy.
You love everything about fantasy and football, but you HATE to lose! Hey, no shit! Welcome to the club. Did you think you’d win EVERY hand of poker if/when you play? Make every shot in basketball? Pick every stock to invest in right as an investor/speculator? Ace every test you take? Close every sale?
You hate the losses because you LOVE this activity called fantasy football.
Why curse the whole game or quit it because you had a disappointing season? Why rob yourself of all the enjoyment because you can’t deal with a loss in the moment? You’d get all over your kid(s) for acting that way, if they did.
Pain, in fantasy football, is good. Pain works. Pain clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Embrace and respect the pain…if it didn’t exist, you’d be wasting your time in it/not fully vested. It’s worth vesting in more than you think (and I’ll get more into that in a moment).
2) This Is As Real (Football-wise, GM-wise) As It Gets For Most of Us…
If you ever wanted to have the near experience of what it is like being the general manager of something…Fantasy Football is as close as it gets without a lot of the other nonsense.
I used to be in the corporate world. I’ve done it all (mid-level)…sales, operations, finance. It was just a different version of Fantasy Football. I had to pick a team (of employees), manage them, deal with the business and people ups and downs. In Fantasy…I don’t have to play by any rules (besides that of the game). I cut players with no warning, meetings, fear of getting shot, or needing 15 approvals ahead of time, and/or offering a severance package. I couldn’t trade some employees to another business for their employees. Mostly, I had to do the best with the group of people I inherited and it rarely ever paid me back with all good/no bad. Someone always did something wrong…one bad employee, or inside or outside theft, or bad quarterly numbers to deal with. There were always boring staff meetings, forced Christmas activities, kissing up to a too-demanding/big-chunk-of-our-revenue customer, always some nonsense reports on things to send to barely paying attention bosses, personnel reviews, a time clock, etc.
In Fantasy Football, I get all the good and almost none of the bad as I would working in or running any business or running an NFL team. I do my FF research when I want, where I want. I report to no one and no one reports to me, and I don’t have to personally deal with their personal issues nor they mine. I read, I watch, I listen, I take note…I make decisions off of that. I’m in total control. I have most of a week to study, to prepare for my weekend’s contests (it’s not an every second of the day thing like life is). I put my best FF foot forward, consider all my resources and experience, adjust on the fly as needed…then I sit back and pull the slot machine handle and get instant feedback on how things went. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes unlucky, sometimes read it all wrong.
There are injuries. Weather concerns. Player suspensions. It’s a fluid situation to keep up with. The NFL GMs have to do the same. Just when you think you’ve built the perfect fantasy team; things happen to bring it down. The Rams were a joke in 2016. They hired a super-young coach in 2017. They nearly won the Super Bowl in 2018 with the new coach changing their world. We all thought they were the team of the future…the next Patriots, McVay the next Belichick. Yet, 2019…no playoffs, 3rd-best team in their division…now, the future looks in question. One year to the next the Rams have been on a super roller coaster for the past four years. It’s not easy holding a franchise together and staying healthy or getting a nice schedule.
The Patriots have dominated the league for years. 2019 looked like a no-brainer repeat when Antonio Brown was signed, and then the smashing start to the season. Anyone think the Pats are going to win it all today (as of Week 15)? A.B. went nuts and then gone. The O-Line got hurt. Brady is aging fast. Their ace kicker is gone due to injury. Belichick is dealing with the same issues we are in fantasy – things are always changing, how to keep one step ahead of it?
The Patriots have dominated the Ravens for years. Baltimore stumbles upon Lamar Jackson and now they’re the best team in football. How will Belichick respond?
How will you respond if your promising and/or dominant Dynasty or Keeper team in 2018 took a crap in 2019…and you peer over at the person who doesn’t do as much work as you, the fantasy owner you always beat…and they stumbled into Lamar Jackson and are now going to the title game, and you’re not?
You gonna quit?
Is Bill Belichick going to quit…is he just going to assume he can’t take down Lamar? Or will he spend the entire offseason figuring out: (1) How to retool the Pats for the future, and (2) How to scheme to beat Lamar?
We’re in the same boat in Fantasy Football. We got an offseason of new data and examining of the old…how will we retool for 2020 and how to beat Lamar (among others), if we don’t already possess him?
You think you’re fine because you are the one that possesses Lamar? Many of us with Mahomes-Tyreek thought we were invincible coming into 2019 (was Mahomes going to throw for 50+ TD passes this year was the debate this past offseason…and could Lamar be a real NFL QB was also a thing). Everything seemed fine going into 2019 with some of 2018’s top FF-players – and then Tyreek’s collarbone almost (literally) killed him, one quarter into game #1. A few weeks later, Patrick Mahomes knee cap fell off. Just as Tyreek came back…hurt again, hamstring. How could you anticipate that in fantasy…or as an NFL GM? And remember we spent the first half of the year wondering if Tyreek was ever going to play/was he going to jail?
What would Kansas City’s season be like had Mahomes-Tyreek been healthy all season (and what different moves would we have been making in FF if they were always healthy this season/early on)? If both KC guys were healthy all season, would KC be in the lead for the #1 seed? True threats to the Ravens? A few weeks ago, they were in a do-or-die game with Oakland for the division lead…because of the Tyreek-Mahomes setbacks. Our fantasy teams, if tied to Mahomes-Tyreek, might have suffered the same pullback.
Fantasy Football is not ‘draft and forget’. In fact, that FF-world is way far gone. Injuries are mounting, players are handled more cautiously and miss more time than ever. The GAME is a game in Fantasy. It’s moves and countermoves. It’s depth and trades and waivers. It’s good and bad schedules. Good and bad weather. It’s a massive chess game.
A chess game we love. A game we love to read about it. We love to watch being played. A game we watch and get mad at it. Every week we turn the page for an all new page to color in our coloring book each week of the season. It’s captivating planning all week…stressful, but exciting edge-of-your-seat to watch competition, and instant results to react to. And, in the end, harmless fun…no one’s life is really ruined by a bad fantasy week/season. Momentarily depressed? Maybe. Something you’ll talk about on your deathbed, unlikely (although, remember Week 11 last year…the Chiefs-Rams MNF game?).
It’s the best of all worlds. A thing you love to read/listen/watch, but can also directly participate and compete in. The players can’t sue or physically harm you and you don’t have to get corporate’s approval to make a move on them. And if you’re the best at it…or the luckiest…you win money, and satisfaction of a job well-done. Every week is like a great novel where you never know what plot twist is going to happen next.
Why do you hate the couple bad moments so? Be mad at it sometimes, but don’t hate it. Respect the joy and challenge and competition it brings to your life.
All the highs and lows and season-long maneuvering are a microcosm of what a real NFL GM goes through. This is the safest way to be in that NFL GM-world without officially being in it.
3) You’re Missing Opportunity For More Fun, More Money Potential, and Less Stress…
Many, many FFM’ers are into these forms of alternative play, but there’s a still a pretty good chunk of folks who have not explored these fantasy alternatives/enhancements…and this note is mostly for them, but 1-2 options below might be news to you:
The #1 mistake I think people make in Fantasy, I think, among those who really enjoy football and love the details of it and the fantasy and/or betting aspect – why are you putting all your eggs in one or two baskets? Why take fantasy football so seriously, and then play in like one league? There are so many other supplementary ways to play.
I know what you’re thinking… I don’t have the time.
You are missing it, I think. You are missing out on opportunity because you don’t know about or haven’t considered some other options. There are several ways to put your skills to use where the time is minimal, but the payback could huge…and it only adds to your fun/experience playing.
You’re putting all this effort and love into this potentially profitable ‘hobby’ why not get in deeper? You don’t have to be monogamous…you can have your own harem of fantasy things to love, that have payback tied to it. The more irons you have in the fire, ones that are not time consuming at all…it adds to your game watching each week. It doesn’t distract – it adds to it.
The biggest thing more fantasy things/leagues will do for you…it will take the life/death edge off everything you do or have happening to you in that ONE league/one thing. If you get beat in ONE league or format in a particular week, but then win in 2-3 other fantasy events – it takes the edge off. There are several low-time spend, high excitement ways to supplement your fantasy experience, such as:
*This offseason, I plan to do videos/articles explaining more how to start/play in the various leagues/events listed below to help those who haven’t ventured into these untapped worlds.
-Best Ball Drafts/Leagues
More and more sites are popping up with these fantasy leagues. Basically, it’s a draft and forget it scenario. You pay an entry fee/sign up for a draft slot (and the draft options are available starting February and running through to opening day).
You draft a team/roster and then never touch it again. It’s deep rosters (20+ players) and there are no waivers week-to-week. There are no trades. There are no lineup settings – it’s ‘Best Ball’, like golf…whomever was the highest scoring QB on your roster that week…that’s your QB for the week, and so on.
You get all the joy of drafting, prepping for draft…and doing it as early in the year (post Super Bowl) as you want, thus getting the jump on non-FFM opponents who are using the mainstream info. You can draft unlimited teams/times…only limited by paying your entry fees.
Entry fees of various amounts and thus prize money of various amounts. You can win some pretty good cash. We have several FFMers who do 2-3-4-5-10-20+ of these like they are investing in stocks. They don’t have to win all their leagues, or even half of them, to start making a real profit doing multiple Best Ball drafts.
Playing in Best Ball drafts in the spring/summer…helps keep you in tune with the NFL happenings even more in the offseason.
-FFPC (Fantasy Football Player Championships)
They about have it all for the unique/alternative fantasy play options…
The really interesting one they are known for: FFPC leagues where you draft and only make waiver moves (bidding each week with an FAAB budget to bid with for the season). No trading, but you do have to choose your lineup each week. If you win your league…you then go into a three-week point tally competition against all the other league winners.
They have some High Stakes games too – you can play for some outrageous entry fees and even bigger prize pools or play lower stakes with still pretty sweet payoffs.
I’ll be going over the FFPC options in the offseason to help see if you’re interested/can make some profits at it.
-Daily Fantasy (Draft Kings, FanDuel etc.)
You’ve seen all the commercials ad nauseum for years… For $2-5-10 entry fee (and more, obviously), you’ve got something going with a new lineup every week. You don’t have to marry the players, it’s a one night/week stand. It’s an easy supplement to your football week.
With your phone, you could tinker with lineups at work, during staff meetings, etc., and you can keep changing it right up to kickoff.
They have up to a million-dollar contests with prizes for the top 50-100-200+…
I was in the top 10 of a million-dollar contest going into a Sunday night game (just SUN-MON games to go) a few years ago…with, I’ll never forget, Torrey Smith left for me go that night…if he had a big crazy game, I might have had a shot at seven-figures – and I watched Torrey on SNF get two 80+ yard bombs he was sprinting open on…and Joe Flacco overthrew him both times. I about had a heart attack watching that game/those plays. If they had hooked up on those two long TDs, I might have been a millionaire (before taxes).
My point… Where else can you get this kind of thrill – watching something you love (football), having money riding on it and living/dying with every play hoping YOUR guy does X or a guy against you doesn’t do X? And it’s an easy set a lineup and forget, then next week a new slate/budget to figure out for that week’s lineup.
For a low investment every week, you might have that big-ticket hope to watch on the edge of your seat on a Sunday-Monday out of nowhere. It’s a better experience than the lottery -- because who cares about watching numbers drawn through an air tube?
Free, sponsored contests are popping up all over.
For example: I signed up for that NBC Sunday Night $50K contest…where they propose seven this-or-that predictions on players/outcomes for the solo night game. If you go 7-for-7 exactly you get $50K, but there are prizes for like the top 5-10 pickers/scores outside of any perfect one. It's a free entry. I get an app reminder during the week. I quick-pick my outcomes off my gut in about a minute. Then I forget it until Sunday night…I’ll check it and see how I’m doing 2nd-half. I finished in the money on one and didn’t know it until two weeks later…$2 whole dollars. Makes the game a bit more fun, for no cost. And maybe I’d luck out for 50K one week? Who knows? Why not try for free?
Pick ‘em pool, Survivor pool, Betting games, Preseason win total over/unders, Preseason Player performance over/under, etc. More and more states are legalizing gambling, and you can do it through an app on your phone. In another 2-5 years, almost every state will have football wagering.
I’m not suggesting you bet your mortgage on games, but little tastes on games add some spice to the viewing. When I bet on the games or have one in a survivor pool or just a pick contest – I watch particular games closer than I might have before. Betting or pick-contesting on football, makes me a more focused football scout.
I bet money on Allen Robinson having over 900+ yards this season…guess who I took a little extra interest in when watching Chicago games? It makes me focus on how they use him. How he gets his targets, etc. More stuff on the line makes you more aware of what’s going on.
4) Don’t Make Sweeping Statements/Axioms for Next Season After a Disappointing Past Season…
Everyone I’m close to in fantasy, when they have a tough loss or season end short in the playoffs, whatever situation of sadness, they want to jump up and proclaim that they are never doing ‘X’ again…never drafting X player…never taking someone from X system….never drafting a player from that team…never drafting a certain position highly again.
It’s a verbal lash out in frustration, totally understandable. But every season is different. I used to say/think the NFL changes every 3-5 years…then I thought every 2-3 years. Now, I think it’s changing radically every season…and maybe every few weeks in a season. What we think today (right after the fantasy season ends) may be way off base by the summer.
Rookie/young QBs mostly rule now, when rookie QBs could hardly complete a pass 5-10+ years ago when thrown into the fire. Three years of development needed on WRs, not anymore? College football is flooding talent into the NFL and it’s creating supply/demand issues at certain positions. Coaches are changing. Offensive philosophies are changing.
Every season is a unique snowflake that we have to see what coaching changes, free agency, the NFL Draft, training camp injuries, etc., do to all the scenarios…then there is the schedule which looms huge over everything. This year, the early schedule layout crushed Davante Adams out of the gates. It made the Patriots-DST a god. The schedule squashed Baker Mayfield most of the season, and he was rough enough as it was anyway…but there was no break in his schedule to help him gloss it over. Dak’s early easy schedule launched him to the MVP race, and then his later tougher schedule undercut him/exposed him to a degree.
There are so many things changing, let’s take a breath and look back over the next few months but then also reading the tea leaves on trades, free agency, and the Draft – then we’ll start fine tuning the upcoming season’s best strategies, the bargains, the overvalued.
My wife doesn’t get fantasy and why it matters so much to people…as she watches Downton Abbey episodes over and over. Hey, to each their own -- but my hobby I can actually make money with while I also love watching football episodes every week. My son loves The Walking Dead and doesn’t get fantasy football either…hey, you do know zombies don’t really exist, right? There were not really fire breathing dragons like in Game of Thrones?
We shouldn’t even call Fantasy Football a hobby. It’s a small business, if you want it to be. You’re the CEO. It’s a money-making endeavor/opportunity. Your teams are your stock portfolios/investments to buy and sell based on study and hunches.
I wanted to write all of this to encourage some and ground some others – Fantasy Football is an exercise/game for our brains…one we love to watch…one we can win money at…one that harmlessly occupies some downtime (or your supposed to be working time). It’s a beautiful thing you need more of in your life, not less of.
It’s also a thing that will bring some frustration and angst – it only does that because you love and care for it and are applying your time and talents to it. Be angry, temporarily, but respect that the pain comes from your passion for it and effort. Respect that it challenges your mind constantly, like a great puzzle. Respect that it is harmless, but we need things like this to have fun with and challenge ourselves with.
Respect that you cannot dominate it all the time.
You know what I’ll be doing starting January? Trying to figure out how we can all be the smartest in our leagues and rule them/win at a higher rate than anyone else for the next eight months leading up to the regular season. We cannot dominate it, but I’m going to try like heck to do just that…but I know there will be setbacks and curveballs.
God Bless the curveballs and our pursuits on trying to hit them out of the park in Fantasy!
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