It’s done. On Friday I became a first-time participant in a 16 team Fantasy NFL (American Football) league; Friday was ‘Draft’ day.

I’d asked our Topeka, KS, USA colleagues about some level of participation last year, and a couple of us Brits got an invite. It’s also way outside my comfort zone.

I mentioned there are 16 teams in my league because it’s unusual to have more than 10 or 12. Each player has as many rounds to choose what they consider the best squad of 16 players from the available pool. For 10 teams, from a pool of a couple of thousand players, that’s 10 rounds x 16 players = 160. For 16 teams it’s 16 rounds x 16 players = 256!

Because of the way this league draft format works, in the first round I drafted 5th. When the 16th player has picked they pick again and the order reversed so the 15th, 14th, etc. pick until the previous number 1 is reached. It’s supposed to bring fairness, ensure the last to pick isn’t disadvantaged in each round.

I found that past the late mid rounds though I’d heard of so few players I had to leave my script and pick by anticipated 2020 points. The talent drops off very quickly after the early rounds, so a lot of the squad is likely to be there in case of injury, suspension, or for covid-related reasons.

Now Yahoo’s post-draft analysis placed me 5th overall with a B- grade. Even though I’m it won’t translate into an easy season (2nd highest strength of opposition) I’m pretty pleased to be honest; even the League Commissioner, an experienced (Platinum!) fantasy league player remarked on how few players they knew in the later rounds.

Here are my tips for success:

  • Concentrate on which players remain rather than who’s been stolen from you.
  • Chat with other participants if you must, but keep an eye on the approaching snake so you don’t have to rush.
  • Don’t be too chatty and give anything away that could be used against you tactically as the season progresses. (Like this entire blog post?)
  • Keep an eye on ‘bye’ weeks. The real league has 16 teams in a 17- week season so teams have a week not playing in real life. So there’s a reason their bye week number is quite prominent one every player’s listing – they won’t score points.)

If you’ve got this far you’ve probably already worked out that yes, after about an hour into the process I ignored the basic stuff, all of it. And it’s such a short list!

Week 8: 4 players on a bye. It’s ok, not time to panic.

Week 7 though, now that is an absolute triumph of noob ineptitude. 3/4 through the draft overall and with 4 out that week already I took *time* to pick. I also made the mistake of telling one of the other participants.

And then… yup, 2 consecutive rounds of panic, picking half-decent players but both with byes in week 7. Six out in one week!! How the fark does that happen?

Beers? I had beers. It’s all I can think of to explain where it all went a bit wrong.

It has to be said that I also forgot my mock draft strategy and missed out on a second TE. And, er… did I mention it was on Friday night, just before Ryquell Armstead’s covid-positive news dropped? But he’s on my bench, so no point in over-reacting right now.

This is my squad: (link to imgur screenshot)

One thing that some people say at a time like this: “I took longer choosing my team name than preparing to choose players.” In fantasy NFL that statement is, as I found out a week or two ago, a load of old bollocks!

So, my team name? Baz’s Kardiac Mids. (Cleveland Browns fans of a certain age will get this reference, but for anyone else there’s this.)

If it sounds as though I know what I’m talking about I’ll add one final thing, should I have added an asterisk to ‘pretty pleased’ above?

I now need to check the Waiver Wire.

Yes, another learning experience!

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