Column: A first-time fantasy football player’s draft experience


By Alex Wise / For The Pitt News

This school year marks the first time I’ve ever participated in fantasy sports. I’m a football fan, sure, but I’ve never gotten into the NFL enough to pay attention to every single game. In fact, I’ve always found fantasy sports a little bit contradictory, especially for people who are die-hard fans of a certain team. For example, it’s impossible for a Pittsburgher to be totally in favor of a Steelers win if they start the Ravens defense. But, much like war and taxes, being a broke college student changes a man, and throwing away $10 in hopes of winning $100 now seems like a good investment — this is why the casino loves me. So here I sit, concentrating half on writing this and half on checking Yahoo!’s fantasy sports page for updates that don’t even exist yet.

You could call my first fantasy draft experience an entertaining one. The league,  titled WardFest after the name of the block party my housemates and I have dreamt about starting on our street, includes 10 fans: myself, my roommates and a few other friends. Most of the members of the group are knowledgeable football fans, and the rest of us know enough to get by. Hopefully.

The group is comprised of four divisions: Three are knowledgeable football minds who take fantasy football seriously, four are fairly knowledgeable football fans who don’t take fantasy football seriously, one is a semi-knowledgeable football fan who could name-drop each team’s stars and one or two other random trivia facts (this is me) and two just play because everybody else is playing.

The first and second rounds of the draft went in accordance with what everybody says the first and second rounds of fantasy drafts usually look like: The top running backs and wide receivers go early, followed by a handful of quarterbacks. I fought the lifelong Penn State fan inside of me (I know, I know, light your torches and grab your pitchforks) and refrained from drafting American hero Matt McGloin, instead using my first round pick on Calvin Johnson. Judging by the middle fingers I received from a friend drafting immediately after me, I think it was a good decision. Picking up Drew Brees was my next move, another one I’m confident about.

And that was when the draft went to hell.

Recognizing that Johnny Manziel might not even play, let alone start, one roommate took Johnny Manziel in the fifth round just to make another roommate angry. Then, the injured draftees came: Wes Welker wasn’t a bad person to pick up because NFL team doctors don’t believe the hype about “three concussions in nine months being a bad thing” and “serious brain damage from repeated blunt force trauma.” Somebody drafted Sam Bradford not knowing that Sam Bradford had torn his ACL just hours earlier. How he missed the countless SportsCenter updates is beyond me.

Next were the suspended players: Josh Gordon happened. Matt Prater, the Broncos’ kicker suspended for drinking a few beers, happened. Ray Rice happened. I’m pretty sure that if Justin Blackmon was available to be drafted, he would’ve been drafted. Fortunately for my idiotic friends, the multiple-time offender of the league’s drug policy wasn’t even listed as a draftable player. Still, we could’ve made an entire team of guys who can’t play until at least Week 3. 

One of the better moments of the night involved the entire group laughing at one person for drafting the Dallas Cowboy’s defense, which was the worst defense in the league last year. Then the Cowboys lost their top three players – DeMarcus Ware to free agency, Sean Lee to a torn ACL, and Orlando Scandrick to drug policy suspension. He has since dropped the defense and picked up a running back instead. Apparently this is okay.

I really don’t understand fantasy football.

But the best moment came in the final round. While most of us were scrambling to find decent bench players or a second defense, one league participant went scrolling to the bottom of Yahoo!’s best available list for a certain somebody with whom he shares a name. For his sake, I won’t say  his  actual name. I’ll only tell you that he spent a few years at Penn State before transferring to Delaware and is now a backup for the Dolphins who will more than likely never see the field. 

The draft was a lot of fun. I spent a lot of time laughing at friends who drafted injured and suspended players, guys who would never see the field and guys who have the same name as the person who drafted him. But fun time is over. I have $10 invested in this league, and that’s an alarmingly large investment considering the contents of my bank account. 

Since I wasn’t a huge proponent of fantasy sports before and since joining only encouraged my slight growing gambling addiction, I felt it necessary to find some good in the whole thing. Here’s what I managed to come up with: Checking for fantasy updates on Yahoo! has drastically cut into my Twitter time, which can only be healthy for a social media addict like myself. 

Whatever works, right?

Only time and luck can make the decisions for my fantasy football team, because I sure as hell don’t know what I’m doing. And if WardFest ever pans out, I’ll be sure to let everybody know.

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