Fantasy football diary: Tonight things get real

Who will Steve pick?
Steve’s decision to take Jamaal Charles or Ray Rice is the Manning vs. Leaf debate of the 2013 Sports Unlimited Fantasy Football Draft

Haircuts are often meant for big occasions.

Senior portraits, weddings, family pictures, holidays and things like that.

I got a haircut last night, our Sports Unlimited fantasy football draft is today. That’s not a coincidence; tonight’s draft is a very big occasion.

Some of us have been studying for weeks, mock drafting our hearts out. Others spent yesterday afternoon printing out cheat sheets in 1-point font. Pretty much the only strategy that has been consistent among league members has been hounding Steve to reveal who he’s going to pick at #4.

It’s a really hard decision for Steve between Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles and one that he’s lost plenty of sleep over. We had an important meeting about it where our company president Don stressed the importance of full disclosure among employees. Steve responded by taking two days off just to hide in his basement and avoid the pressure.

There are other key decisions and high drama that will undoubtedly ensue.

It starts at pick #2 where Doug has made multiple pie charts to convince us he won’t draft Arian Foster. But we all know he’s lying. The biggest question is how high he’ll draft Ben Tate.

I sit at 10 where I’m hoping to have someone else to pick other than Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris. Although I shouldn’t complain about two guys that combined for over 3000 total yards and 24 touchdowns last year – as rookies. I definitely won’t be choosing Steven Jackson, that much is true.

The babysitters are arranged, the pizza order is in and the countdown clock keeps ticking. The action figures to be fast and furious tonight and for those interested, you can follow us on Twitter and try to influence our picks.

And by all means, please feel free to harass Steve. He’s the defending champion and we don’t want him getting cocky.

By Lou Rusnock
Lou is a writer at Sports Unlimited.

True confessions of a fantasy football junkie: What I’ve learned from 50 mock drafts

Hi I’m Lou and I’m a fantasy football addict.

When teams opened training camp in late July, I was already a 173-page magazine and eight mock drafts deep into a personal gauntlet of training for the greatest four months of the year. I’m talking, of course, about the fantasy football season.

We play fantasy football for many reasons. To bond with friends, to talk a little trash, to prove we know more than everyone else and even just to distract us from the work week. (NOTE TO EMPLOYER: I mean at night, after work hours.) Most of all we play to win. Whether its for a huge cash prize or a gaudy championship alligator head, the thrill of a league title can make or break the other eight months of the year.

For the last month, I’ve embarked on a quest that’s been driven by an embarrassingly bad championship game loss last year. My goal was to get to 50 mock drafts before my first draft in late August. It became a nightly journey through ESPN, FantasyFootballCalculator, and Yahoo which quickly became an addiction – more release than resource. Many of these mocks took place with fellow league members Tug and Brian (names changed to protect the innocent), meaning we’ve either tipped our hands or been involved in a massive, time-consuming hoax.

It’s been a taxing month, but all my hard work has led to some absolutes. And when you can go into your fantasy draft party knowing some things for certain, it makes the most inexact science of the year that much more easy.

There’s probably not enough time left for you to do 50 mock drafts of your own, so in celebration of the launch of our Fantasy Football Name Generator, here are some tips from an expert addict on how to handle your own draft.

1. The only thing I like less than Steven Jackson this season is the people who mock draft (and probably will really draft) Steven Jackson.

Steven Jackson looks mad, but he’s happy to be in Atlanta. Don’t be so happy to compare him to Michael Turner.

Over 92% of all mock drafts I’ve been in have someone with major love for S-Jax. We’ll call this person Gaskins. It’s pretty easy to spot a Gaskins. He will draft Steven Jackson between picks 12 and 15 and quote Michael Turner’s stats from last season. He will never tell you anything about Steven Jackson’s stats and you can laugh at him later when you draft Jacquizz Rodgers. #saynotogaskins

2. Keep calm and draft on.

There will inevitably come a point in your draft where the running back crop drops into a deep abyss of guys you don’t know and guys you know very well and promised yourself you would never draft again (I’m talking to you DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden). Do some digging on the guys you don’t know, because those other guys… well, you already know. And you promised.

3. There are some really, really, really good wide receivers.

Draft one or two, it’s a safe bet. There’s always one point in the season where you look at the team with two or three really good receivers and you’re staring at a guy that was good for you on your 2008 third place squad and the second receiver on the Jaguars. Don’t let that happen to you. Remember that the NFL is, after all, a passing league.

According to Tug, Drew Brees won’t disappoint owners like last year when he only threw for 5177 yards and 43 TDs.

4. Drew Brees will have a bounce back year.
Tug called this in the early part of fantasy training camp and I couldn’t agree more. After obliterating the record books in 2011, Brees fell off in a major way, throwing for 299 less yards and three less touchdowns in 2012. There is no way he will slip to those lowly numbers again.

5. If you have the tenth pick, you probably have at least an extra mid-round draft pick.

The later you are in your draft order, the more gambles you should take. Why? Because if you pay attention, you’re getting another starter off the waiver wire in a week or two. There’s always a breakout guy that no one’s talking about. (SEE “Morris, Alfred” and “Cruz, Victor”) Who will be that guy this year? If anyone knew, he wouldn’t be on the waiver wire Week 1.

6. You don’t HAVE to draft anyone.

We’ve all been down this road before. A guy you don’t like is the top ranked player on a board you didn’t rank yourself. You have an open slot at that position that you’re itching to fill. The clock is ticking. You really don’t like him. But you really need that position. You’re friends are making fun of you. It’s starting to get personal. You don’t want it to be your pick anymore. Screw it, you think, I’m taking this guy and going to cry in the bathroom.  A month later, you’re 0-4 and that old, washed up RB you picked has been supplanted by a rookie and sunk your season. I knew this was going to happen, you say, I just had to pick him there. No, you didn’t, the draft board is more than one player deep. Take the guys you like. You have to cheer for them anyway.

7. Who you don’t mock draft is probably more important than who you do pick.

This piece of advice came from my best friend Mark, who turned me on to the mock draft game. If you really like some guys, don’t draft them. That way you can look and see where they’re likely to go. You don’t get to use your mock draft team anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. This would not be a good strategy to take with you into your actual draft.

8. T.Y. Hilton is not the #2 receiver on the Colts. And his real name is Eugene.

T.Y. Hilton may be a good grab, but he’s not even the #2 receiver on the Colts’ depth chart.

A true story, despite what almost all the fantasy rankings will tell you. Every fantasy football expert is insisting Hilton is a better bet than the Colts’ real #2, Darrius Heyward-Bey. I’m not here to argue with them, but I’m also not going to argue with the Colts coaches. The lesson here: do your own pre-rankings. After the top few guys, no one really knows how things are going to turn out. It’s YOUR team, so trust YOUR gut. Didn’t all those experts tell us not to draft Adrian Peterson last year? That turned out well.

9. CLIF bars count as dinner.

When you really get sucked down the deep hole of mock draft addiction, sometimes you don’t have enough time for extravagant meals. Don’t forget to keep some quick meal replacements on hand.

10. If I just drafted guys to spite people, my team wouldn’t be very good but I would be able to spite a lot of people.

Don’t forget that there’s a difference between mock drafts and real drafts. One is to go to battle on a weekly basis and bask in the glory of a conquering warrior sitting on his couch watching the Red Zone. The other is to make fun of Gaskins.

By Lou Rusnock
Lou is four steps through the recovery program and a writer at Sports Unlimited.