Fantasy Football Ate My Soul: The Draft Just Blew Me Away

Adrian Peterson is #1 Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

I spent more time picking my fantasy football team's name than I did on my draft strategy.

Fantasy football is the least interesting of all the fantasy sports, takes the least talent and knowledge and has created a cultural dead zone in which everyone from bearded, Pliny the Elder-sipping hipsters to the Nike-and-North Face set is having the same terrible boring conversation every weekend at the bar. After a year of overhearing these passionately menial back and forths, I decided I couldn't bear being part of the problem any more.

But then I received an email inviting me to join THIS IS THE LEAGUE, a bicoastal, 12-team, head-to-head auction-draft, keeper league made up mostly of graduates from my alma mater. I couldn't resist the commissioner's summons to his league owners ("The clouds are starting to gather on the horizon. The tide is rolling in. Your wacky uncle is nailing the windows shut… "). I was also flattered that I had been chosen to replace the one dropout from last year.

Then there was the scoring, which is Talmudic. There are 51—51!—game outcomes that can result in positive or negative points. Among the more germane nuances are the fact that this is a PPR (points per reception) league, where every caught pass earns a player one point, and you lose lots of points for missed short kicks and earn very little for short kicks that go through the uprights, but at the same time, you earn a ton (seven) for a 50-yard kick, but lose nothing if your kicker misses that moonshot. Safeties are worth four points. There are many more intriguing tweaks to the points system, but I don't want to start sounding like one of those guys in one of those bars...

I didn't have much time to prepare for the draft. I set aside a few hours to cram, though I knew, given that everyone in my league has access to the same online information I have, it was futile. It's a cliche by now, but there are no longer any "sleepers" in fantasy sports—we all read the same exhaustive (and exhausting) scouting reports. I printed out ESPN's Cheat Sheet anyway, and it made me feel old – many of the guys I thought were stars turned out to be on the decline or retired.

I did come up with something that I could pretend was a game plan for my draft. I wanted to build my team around one of two running backs: Matt Forte or Jamaal Charles. In standard leagues, Adrian Peterson is probably the top running back pick, but in a PPR league you want an RB1 who's going to catch the ball a bit more, and that means Forte, Charles or LeSean McCoy, but he's on the Philadelphia Eagles and there's no way I'm drafting an Iggle as my main man. (I'm a New York Giants fan, and I'd rather hurt my fantasy chances than have to root for an Eagle or a Dallas Cowboy every week.) Beyond that, I wanted to focus on players with high upside—there's not much fun, I thought, in picking for safety and security. This is fantasy football, after all, and all that's at stake is $20 and a bit of dignity. I can afford to lose both.

Here's how our draft started:

Draft NumberName, Team, POSAuction Price
1Adrian Peterson, Min RB$59
2Calvin Johnson, Det WR$58
3Eddie Lacy, GB RB$49
4Marshawn Lynch, Sea RB$48
5Peyton Manning, Den QB$52
6Matt Forte, Chi RB$54
7LeSean McCoy, Phi RB$59
8Jamaal Charles, KC RB$58
9Stephen Gostkowski, NE K$3
10Justin Tucker, Bal K$3

I held tight until one of my guys came up, then went all in. I was ready to go up to $58, so I was happy to get Forte for less. The next two picks justified that price, since McCoy and Charles were the other two RBs I had grouped with Forte, and they went for a little more. Next were two kickers, I think to ease the rising blood pressure in the draft room after that run of the eight most expensive players in the draft.

11Demaryius Thomas, Den WR$49
12Rob Gronkowski, NE TE$22
13Arian Foster, Hou RB$42
14Alfred Morris, Wsh RB$36
15Andre Johnson, Hou WR$28
16Julian Edelman, NE WR$19
17Aaron Rodgers, GB QB$59
18Alshon Jeffery, Chi WR$34
19Aaron Hernandez, FA TE$2
20A.J. Green, Cin WR$43

After my big spend, I got pretty gun-shy. I really wanted Alshon Jeffrey, but wasn't ready to part with any more e-dollars just yet. In a room full of Cal grads, it was obvious someone would overbid for Aaron Rodgers, so I avoided him.

Then came the $2 purchase of Aaron Hernandez, who is being held without bail after being indicted for three murders, and will almost certainly never play football again. I assumed this was some kind of inside joke I didn't get.

21Doug Martin, TB RB$42
22DeMarco Murray, Dal RB$40
23Le'Veon Bell, Pit RB$40
24Dez Bryant, Dal WR$43
25Jimmy Graham, NO TE$51
26Matthew Stafford, Det QB$22
27Pierre Garcon, Wsh WR$18
28Larry Fitzgerald, Ari WR$22
29Drew Brees, NO QB$42
30Julio Jones, Atl WR$33

And I kept sitting on my pile of money for a while. I liked Le'Veon Bell a lot, but I also felt like I could probably get someone similar later in the auction for $10 less. Everyone else in this group was boring. But when Julio Jones came up, I jumped. It felt like he was being undervalued after an injury-filled year in which he only played five games. Tony Gonzales is retired, so who else is Matt Ryan going to throw to in Atlanta? (See, I can talk the talk.)

31Robert Griffin III, Wsh QB$21
32Reggie Bush, Det RB$31
33Zac Stacy, StL RB$44
34Montee Ball, Den RB$33
35Cam Newton, Car QB$25
36Frank Gore, SF RB$19
37Jordy Nelson, GB WR$31
38Brandon Marshall, Chi WR$41
39Nick Foles, Phi QB$16
40Antonio Brown, Pit WR$34

RGIII was my first Boom or Bust pick. If he has a year close to the one he had in 2012, I'll probably win the league. If he has a year like 2013, I'll probably come in last. Fantasy Football is that stupid.

41Andrew Luck, Ind QB$22
42Andre Ellington, Ari RB$20
43Johnny Manziel, Cle QB$5
44Julius Thomas, Den TE$39
45Giovani Bernard, Cin RB$37
46Ben Tate, Cle RB$29
47Colin Kaepernick, SF QB$13
48David Akers, Det K$2
49DeSean Jackson, Wsh WR$19
50Shane Vereen, NE RB$16

I stayed relatively quiet after getting my QB. I had a nice schadenfreude moment when Zac Stacy went for $44, because I have this feeling he's going to end up a two-down back this year. I really like Jordy Nelson, but told myself I would stop at $30, and somehow mustered the self-control to do it. I grabbed Andre Ellington, the second year Arizona Cardinals running back, for $20. This will be his first year as their featured back, and a lot of pundits think he's ready for a breakout season. Since I don't watch any preseason football and have never half the guys in the NFL play – and, to be honest, know very little about football – I generally trust the pundits. Boom or Bust, here I come.

My other big spends: C.J. Spiller for $25 (bounceback?) and Vincent Jackson for $23 (easily my most boring pick— I was really disappointed when Victor Cruz, who I like about one million times better (okay, homer pick) went for $17 about 10 picks later, at which point I basically had no more money. I spent my last few dollars on low-floor, high-ceiling guys (B-O-B!) like Cordarrelle Patterson, Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham.

And f you are wondering why David Akers, who is currently a free-agent place kicker, was bought for $2 in our league, it's because he shares a last name with one of the owners.

My final team:

6Matt Forte, Chi RB$54
30Julio Jones, Atl WR$33
31Robert Griffin III, Wsh QB$21
42Andre Ellington, Ari RB$20
54C.J. Spiller, Buf RB$25
56Vincent Jackson, TB WR$23
77Cordarrelle Patterson, Min WR$11
78Odell Beckham, NYG WR$1
96Sammy Watkins, Buf WR$4
102Texans D/ST D/ST$1
121Kyle Rudolph, Min TE$2
126Steven Hauschka, Sea K$1
137Josh McCown, TB QB$1
159Rueben Randle, NYG WR$1
179Jerick McKinnon, Min RB$1
190Saints D/ST D/ST$1

Well sort of. Immediately after the draft I went on the waiver wire. I dropped McKinnon and picked up Terrance West for $1. No idea if that matters, but it assuaged some of my buyer's remorse.

I used to think I knew what I was doing in fantasy football, but after almost a decade of playing it, I've realized in this sport, it doesn't matter. In that vein, I'll say right now I have no idea how I feel about my choices. Not a clue. Oh, except one. I have zero regrets about my team name: 3rd Down for What