Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Keeper League Confidential: The Worst Fantasy Football Team Ever

On January 7, 2011, I did something incredibly dumb: I re-joined a fantasy football keeper league that I'd quit just a year earlier. The team I left behind went on to win the league's Super Bowl. The team I agreed to take over ended up in the league's super toilet bowl--it had the worst record.

In fact, I (and many of the other owners) went as far as to claim it was the worst fantasy football team ever. My first order of business once I joined the league was to change the team name to the Duluth Zombies, because we would need to rise from the dead to conquer the world.


Here come the Zombies!

(NOTE: If you aren't into football, then I advise you skip this post, because it's over-loaded with football-related stuff.)

Here was the roster (in a 10-team league):

QB: Eli Manning, NYG; Ben Roethlisberger, Pit

RB: Steve Slaton, Hou; Cedric Benson, Cin; Reggie Bush, NO; C.J. Spiller, Buf

WR: Steve Smith, Car; Larry Fitzgerald, Ari; Jabar Gaffney, Den; Darius Heyward-Bey, Oak; Brian Robiskie, Cle; Patrick Crayton, SD; Devin Aromashadu, Chi; Demaryius Thomas, Den

TE: Jeremy Shockey, Car

DL: Justin Smith, SF; Will Smith, NO; Larry English, SD; Ndamukong Suh, Det; John Abraham, Atl; Sedrick Ellis, NO

LB: Bradie James, Dal; Ernie Sims, Phi; D.J. Williams, Den; Brian Orakpo, Was; Kirk Morrison, Jax; DeAndre Levy, Det

DB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ari; Kelvin Hayden, Ind; Nmandi Asomugha, Oak; Ike Taylor, Pit; Brian Dawkins, Den; LaRon Landry, Was

K: Josh Scobee, Jax; Stephen Gostkowski, NE

*****

Now the first place I judge any fantasy football team is by the strength of its RBs. That's not because RBs score the most, but they are the hardest position to stock with quality. Obviously, this team only had one starting RB, and he just happened to be one of my least favorite players in the whole NFL: Cedric Benson, Cin. Beyond Cedric, the RB corps consisted of a bust rookie (C.J. Spiller), a bust veteran (Reggie Bush), and a forgotten sleeper (Steve Slaton). RB grade: F


Cedric Benson is already planning to serve 20 days in jail during the month of October. Yay!

Then, I tend to look at QB, because there are only 32 starting QBs each week. Luckily, this team at least had two second tier QBs in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Both have won Super Bowls and pass to young, talented receivers. QB grade: B

I put WRs third on my priority list. They are important, but I've never had trouble finding serviceable receivers at drafts or on the waiver wire. This team had a super talent in Fitzgerald, though he only finished as the 16th highest scoring receiver as a result of his poor QBs. Every other WR on the roster, not great, though a few have upside. WR grade: D

Usually, I focus on the D-line next. The difference between a top flight DL and a second tier DL can average out to 2-3 points per game, and that's the kind of margin that can win and lose them. While this roster had a lot of clutter at DL, it actually had three top 10 DLs (Suh, Abraham, and Justin Smith). DL grade: A

Then, TE, which equals Jeremy Shockey (Shockey = old and injured) on this team. TE grade: F

At LB, D.J. Williams was the only player I saw worth keeping. LB grade: D

At first glance, my DBs looked pretty unremarkable. The top scorer only ranked 26th at his position. But upon closer analysis, that DB (Landry) only played in 9 games and another (Dawkins) only played in 11 games. Neither was a Top 10 DB, but they had the potential IF they could stay healthy. DB grade: C+

Kickers are ALWAYS last. Gostkowski had upside as the K for New England; Scobee, not so much. K grade: B-

Overall grade: D- (the DL and QB situation are the only positions that show that a living person was managing this team)

*****

While this team looked horrible, there's always a bright side to any situation. In this case, I knew that I had the worst team, so I knew I had--if nothing else--the first pick in the draft. My team was also significantly under the league's salary cap, which is determined by how well individual players perform and which also meant I had the ability to wheel and deal with teams that were well over the cap.

Within a week of joining the league--even with the NFL holdout looming over everything--I had made two trades.

Trade 1:
Owner A gave me: LB-Ray Lewis, Bal; WR-Lance Moore, NO; TE-Kellen Winslow, TB; 1st round pick #9 overall
For DL-Will Smith, NO; LB-Bradie James, Dal; K-Stephen Gostkowski, NE; 3rd round pick #21 overall and 5th round pick #41 overall

Trade 2:
Owner B gave me: RB-Mike Tolbert, SD
For 4th round pick #31


Could Mike Tolbert be a move in the right direction?

In the middle of April, probably jumpstarted by the NFL draft, I completed two more trades.

Trade 3:
Owner C gave me: WR-Terrell Owens, FA
For 6th round pick #51

Trade 4:
Owner A gave me back my 5th round pick #41 overall
For LB-DeAndre Levy, Det

Then, just last week, I made my final pre-draft trade.

Trade 5:
Owner D gave me: 1st round pick #8; 2nd round pick #18; 5th round pick #48
For WR-Larry Fitzgerald, Ari

Trades are an important way to build a team. Another important way is through the draft.

*****

But before the draft, I had to cut players off my roster to give me more draft picks. Players cut from the Zombies:

RB-Slaton, Hou
WR-Gaffney, Den; Heyward-Bey, Oak; Crayton, SD; Aromashadu, Chi
TE-Shockey, NO
DL-English, SD; Ellis, NO
LB-Orakpo, Was; Sims, Phi; Morrison, Jax
DB-Hayden, Ind; Asomugha, Oak; Taylor, Pit
K-Scobee, Jax

*****


Mario Manningham was part of the Larry Fitzgerald trade; so were two RBs that are already on IR. This team is truly looking ahead to 2012.

The 2011 Draft:

#1 overall pick: RB-Daniel Thomas, Mia
#8: WR-Mario Manningham, NYG
#9: RB-Fred Jackson, Buf
#11: WR-Steve Johnson, Buf
#18: RB-Mikel Leshoure, Det
#41: RB-Kendall Hunter, SF
#48: RB-Ryan Williams, Ari
#61: WR-Nate Burleson, Det
#71: TE-Chris Cooley, Was
#81: K-Matt Bryant, Atl
#86: WR-Antonio Brown, Pit
#91: LB-Kevin Burnett, Mia
#96: LB-Thomas Davis, Car
#100: DB-Kurt Coleman, Phi
#103: DL-Corey Liuget, SD

*****

Anyway, nearly eight months after taking over the worst team, I feel that I've at least got a competitive team for this year that has a strong core for next year and beyond. And that's without the third way to build a team (through using the waiver wire during the season).

Duluth Zombies post-draft roster:

QB: E. Manning, NYG; B. Roethlisberger, Pit

RB: C. Benson, Cin; M. Tolbert, SD; R. Bush, Mia; D. Thomas, Mia; F. Jackson, Buf; C. Spiller, Buf; K. Hunter, SF; M. Leshoure, Det; R. Williams, Ari

WR: M. Manningham, NYG; S. Johnson, Buf; L. Moore, NO; S. Smith, Car; T. Owens, FA; N. Burleson, Det; B. Robiskie, Cle; A. Brown, Pit; D. Thomas, Den

TE: K. Winslow, TB; C. Cooley, Was

DL: N. Suh, Det; J. Abraham, Atl; J. Smith, SF; C. Liuget, SD

LB: R. Lewis, Bal; D. Williams, Den; K. Burnett, Mia; T. Davis, Car

DB: L. Landry, Was; B. Dawkins, Den; D. Rodgers-Cromartie, Phi; K. Coleman, Phi

K: M. Bryant, Atl

My first goal is to make my team at the very least competitive. So mission accomplished there.

Next week, I'll share my super sleepers headed into the regular season.

*****

Connect with me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

*****

Still need some last minute draft advice? Here are a few fantasy football links:

5 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

Ok zombies might be slow and smell a bit but they are persistent - if the other teams would just play fair and lay down, enter a creepy house with all the lights out or trip and sprain an ankle, your zombie team could totally have a chance!
Wagging Tales - blog for Writers

Robert Lee Brewer said...

That's totally what we're hoping for!

Brian A. Klems said...

Did I ever tell you that the only time I ever finish above 8th place is when I auto-draft? #NoJoke

Good luck stud.
Brian

Nora B. Peevy said...

You know, I was at Fox and Hound eating this week and saw a league meeting. They were all hunched over their computer screens intently with beers in hand while I ate my pizza. Then they would start gesturing wildly for no reason. I couldn't tell anything had changed on their screens from where they sat. LOL I just don't get the whole league thing. But it was entertaining to watch people so invested in their computers at a bar.

-Nora

Robert Lee Brewer said...

I'll tell you what, Nora. It's impossible to take myself seriously when I *compete* at having the best fake football team in my league. But like all silly things, it's fun.

Brian, auto-draft is similar to picking by the seeds in the NCAA draft. Usually, it yields better than average results. (And I'll take all the luck I can get this year.)