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Getting the Most Out of Your Fantasy Football League
At the time of this writing, I am t-minus 3 hours and 20 minutes to the kickoff of the 2010 NFL season with the pre-season Hall of Fame game, featuring the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals. With football officially in the air I thought now was the perfect time to do an article about fantasy football, how to start a league, how to make your league better and trends to look out for. No one is better equipped to tackle these issues than Max Trujillo. Max and his brother, Phil, have been running a fantasy football league for almost twenty years.
Max and I met at work, during the football season, and hit it off immediately because we both ran our own FF leagues. We would spend every Sunday comparing players, points and injuries. In that time I learned that Max's, All Madden League, was a lot more intense and complicated than mine, or most leagues for that matter, because his league uses individual defensive players, DB's, LB's and DE's, rather than picking a team defense and the scoring system is insane. These guys didn't mess around and I wanted in! I spent the next six months begging, bribing and blubbering to take any open spots, should they arise. I should have been careful about what I wished for because I finished in 9th place that year with only a team, called Prison Sex, fairing worse. I won't lie, that was pretty rough, these guys were experts that knew what they were doing. I spent the summer prepping and studying thus managing to make the playoffs last season and now here we go again!
I asked Max a series of questions to help people starting out with new leagues, those wanting to make theirs better or those wanting any kind of draft day help they can get.
1. How did you get started in Fantasy Football?
I was 14 years old. That was 18 seasons ago. My older brother and I worked at a tennis shop in Mountain View with a bunch of sports fans. He had heard of fantasy football somewhere and decided to start a league.
2. How has FF changed since then?
Our first few seasons were actually before the internet! Can you even imagine what life was like back then? We set up our format in Excel. We got our scores from the San Jose Mercury News and USA Today for a second opinion. I would read off the stats as my brother entered the data. Since the league’s members were co-workers, we posted the scores on the bulletin board at the store. Everyone left a message on our home phone the night before the first game of the week to list their starters.
3. FF seems to grow every year, how do you see leagues in the future?
Social network websites (Facebook, Myspace, etc) will become more integrated with leagues and potentially lead to larger tournament formats with a broader market of users. Basically, my wife and her friends will start playing if it’s easily accessible. Sadly, professional athletes are into Fantasy leagues too. I fear they may change the game if fantasy sports get too big. If Drew Brees just traded Shockey from his fantasy team for Lance Moore, will that skew where he throws the ball in the end-zone? Ha ha, I’m only half kidding.
4. What was your best trade and your worst trade?
My best trade was last year. I traded Vernon Davis for Kurt Warner after Davis’ 3 td game. That’s what we like to call a “sell high” trade. Granted, Vernon is great, but Warner went on a statistical tear at the end of last season and Davis was my bench-warmer. My worst trade was Tiki Barber for Priest Holmes in 2005. Priest was the man until his spinal column met Shawne Merriman. I had Tiki and thought I could improve with the Priest. Tiki went on to have over 2,300 total yards and 11 TD’s. I missed the playoffs that year. That was the only time I missed the playoffs.
5. Teams are switching to a two running back system, how do you feel this affects the draft?
I think RB’s are going to drop in the draft. Quality QB’s and WR’s are averaging more consistent numbers and are far less injured. The Marshall Faulk’s of yesteryear are over.
6. With a lot of pre-season injuries, holdouts and suspensions how does this change the draft strategy?
Some owners are going to take big chances on players like Favre, Vincent Jackson, and Big Ben. Others will be conservative and pick players that are the best available at the time. It shouldn’t change too much. I figure, if you’re a top rated player but are suspended for 4-6 games (Big Ben) then do the math…. That’s 25-30% of non-production. It’s the same as an injury-prone player. If you aren’t playing then you aren’t scoring on my team.
7. What online/print/media tools do you feel are most effective in pre-draft research?
I don’t want to give you all of my trade secrets. I will tell you one thing, get a second opinion. Never trust that your main resource knows what they are talking about. I’ve seen too many players dropped early by team owners because they thought the guy wasn’t going to start. There are so many sports outlets but really only a few actual resources. Listen to the Associated Press.
8. Wanna give a couple hints as to potential draft day dark horses?
Raiders baby Raiders! And this time I am not saying it as a “homer”. Yes, I bleed Silver and Black, but this will be a year that the Commitment to Excellence will garner some fantasy points. Look to Zach Miller, Chaz Shillens, and Louis Murphy for something. Also, if Holmgren stays with Jerome Harrison as his starting RB, the Browns may see some great numbers. Ryan Mathews should come out of the gate strong for the Chargers also.
9. What do you look for in potential new team candidates?
1 Commitment - Don’t flake out the day before the draft.
2 Football knowledge - Don’t ask us “Who’s the starting tight end for the Washington?” especially when you’re wearing a ‘Skins hat.
3 Thick skin – Don’t quit the league when you can’t handle the trash talk.
*all have transpired over the years.
10. What advice would you offer to a new potential league commissioner?
Get league fees up front, put them in a safe place and don’t spend them.
11. How do you prevent collusion within the league?
We had a case of this before. I raised an eyebrow when the last place team traded Larry Johnson (in 2007) to the second place team one week before the playoffs. After grilling both of them, the last place guy confessed to being offered a piece of the winnings if his trading partner won the league. They were cut from the league after that season. I guess you just have to watch closely and watch patterns. I know the guys in my league pretty well. Just don’t have selfish morons in your league.
12. How do you separate friendship from being commissioner?
I just try to have fun with the guys that are in the league. If you have well written league rules and a solid mission statement, all questions are easily answered. My league values it’s scoring to the relevance of a real football game. Plus, my brother and I co-commission. We consult each-other throughout the season. It helps to have outside perspective.
13. Your league uses a ten team format, what advantages does that have over two divisions of five?
That would limit every team from playing each-other. Everyone seems to like the rivalries we create over the years.
14. What should leagues look for in selecting a FF website?
I prefer sites that devote their energy to just fantasy football. NFL.com, Yahoo, and CBS have so many other things going on that their website can get bogged down on high traffic times. I also make sure the site I use has a fast ISP. I don’t need all the bells and whistles. Fanball.com was great for 2 years then they were bought by a larger company and things went to shit. I am trying Myfantasyleague.com this year. I’ll let you know how it went next year.
15. How do you determine whether or not a trade is legit?
Sometimes a trade seems ridiculous until you really think about every aspect. If each owner gives a good reason for why it makes sense, then who am I to get I the way? I let most trades go because we are all grown men. I’m a salesman in real-life. If I can “sell” you on a package deal consisting of Jamarcus Russell and Morton Anderson for Thomas Jones and Aaron Rogers, then I say I am a damn good salesman and owner. And… the other guy is an idiot.
16. Number one pick, Chris Johnson/Adrian Peterson/other? CJ was an animal last year AND Lendale White had 10 f-ing TD’s. 10! White is gone so CJ is going to get a lot of reps. Let’s hope Vince young doesn’t steal a bunch of those goal-line scores. Favre is most likely gone. AP’s rushing numbers could go up but I more concerned with the Viking’s not converting first downs without Favre. AP had 377 less yards rushing last year but picked up about the same in receiving. In PPR leagues, an AP owner wants Favre at QB. Plus, he almost doubled his touchdown production with Favre. Go Chris Johnson!
17. Kevin Smith was a great running back on a bad team, how much do you take supporting teammates into consideration when drafting?
Good players get “theirs”. Kevin Smith was good, but not great. Any starting RB would have numbers like those of Kevin Smith. On the same team, Calvin Johnson had 68 catches for just below 1000 yards in 14 games (injury). Andre Johnson has always been a beast even when David Carr was throwing. Though, a good argument against me is Jamarcus Russell. He single handily took down any Raiders’ chance for an offensive fantasy point. But check out how many tackles Safety Tyvon Branch racked up. (124 tackles was the #10 overall and the first of any non-linebacker position.) That poor bastard spent more time on the field than the NFL logo.
18. What are you looking at when drafting players?
Healthy, well rounded players that can be used in multiple facets of the game. I picked Ray Rice in the 7th or 8th round last year. He can catch, run, block, and score with the best of them. Even though McGahee stole a few TD’s, Rice was the second coming of MJD. (Of which I am also a fan).
19. Self serving question, what would you do if you were drafting 8th?
Get the best QB available.
20. What did I miss?
Don’t draft with your heart. Draft with your brain and your gut. Too many assholes have Man-Crushes on players. Its simple thoughts that go in a guy’s head like, “Anquan Boldin is on my team no matter what!” I know this because it’s been my thought before. When you like a certain player, you end up picking them too early. But, if it comes down to Anquan and someone like Ocho-Cinco? Screw 85. I know I want a guy like Q on my team.
All the prep you do won’t really prepare you for the actual draft. You can never guess what other owners are thinking. Someone has to pick a tight end in the 3rd round and screw everything up. I usually have bad drafts and great free agency pick ups throughout the year. A team like 2Wide4U always drafts well and typically has a good team. He can’t win the big one but neither can I. Guys like Joe Flash win 2 years in a row and it drives me crazy! He didn’t even know about Fantasy Football until I asked him to join my league. It took him 2 years to understand it and them he just started winning. For whatever reason, he just won.
I have to say that I was really upset when I lost in the semi-finals last year. I don’t think I will ever have another team as solid and scary as I did then. It’s the kind of loss that makes it hard to get back on the horse. How could I lose? How could Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Ray Rice, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, Thomas Jones, Michael Turner, and Sidney Rice ALL have a bad game in the same week?!!!???!! Seriously!!!!!!
But when the Hall of Fame game comes around, all the Football Gods start looking down at us all, there’s a little voice in my head saying, “Hey Nerd, suck it up and play this silly game that is essentially Dungeons and Dragons for sports fans.”
21. Why do you like Fantasy Football?
The Lions vs. Browns was the best game last year. Some jerk-off actually started Brady Quinn while another moron started Stafford. They were surprised to say the least. We all were. But that’s what’s great about football and Fantasy Football. Every game becomes watch-able. Even the Lions vs. Browns.
Thanks Max! This just proves that you are the FF master! Want to trade the 3rd pick for the 8th? If you're just getting started in fantasy footbal and want to learn more What is Fantasy Football? is an excellent way to get started!