The Internet rules. Hooray, Internet.
It's made life infinitely easier, from shopping to travel to keeping up with old friends. It's given us a baby monkey riding a pig. And there's one other big thing that's been helped by the Internet. I forget exactly what it is, but I do know that it made "busty asian flight attendants" a popular search term.
It's also been hugely responsible for the explosion of fantasy sports. The ability to keep track of stats instantaneously, the quick management and research tools, the means to set your lineup and work your team from any computer or mobile phone (at least on ESPN) ... it's been a godsend. Except for one thing.
Because, as I've written before, for all the amazing advances the Internet has made to help fantasy sports, there is one downside. And that's the fact folks no longer need to be in the same room to draft.
It's just not the same. If I was creating the perfect league, it would start with that as the No. 1 hard-and-fast rule: a live, in-person draft. I've been thinking about the perfect league a lot these days. Those of you who watch "Fantasy Football Now" on ESPN2 every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET already know that the show is delivered by Papa John's Pizza. And as part of their commitment to fantasy, they're looking for the fantasy football league that's better than the rest.
Friend-of-the-podcast-no-thanks-to-PodVader Antonio Gates, a big-time muckity muck for Papa John's named Andrew Varga and myself are judging this year's entries. So as I've been looking at all the leagues, I've been thinking about what makes a league the best. The Southern Illinois league has 32 teams. "The Dude Abides" has a championship belt that the winner must wear in public. The AFFL has a weekly podcast for its league. It goes on and on. Crazy, fun stuff ... read more about these and other leagues by clicking here.
At a minimum, a great league has an in-person auction or draft that is held at a remote location and is a whole-weekend event. The league is filled with people who are all committed owners. Guys who set their lineups every week, respond to trade offers in a timely manner, aren't annoying, talk great smack, play to win every week no matter what their record is. The perfect league gets together to eat lunch once a week and always gathers at a bar or someone's home to watch all the games on Sunday. The perfect league has the same owners year after year, a crystal-clear constitution and a strong commissioner. It has a postseason party, a trade deadline get-together and there's never a need to veto because everyone knows what they are doing. And even if they don't, no one vetoes, because vetoes are for a-word-that-I-can't-say-but-that-you-can-find-images-of-on-the-Internet. Hooray, Internet!
The closest I have to a perfect league is the first one I ever played in, a fantasy baseball league that's been together for 26 years. I wrote about it this past spring and much of what I wrote in there applies to fantasy football as well, so I recommend checking it out, plus you get to see actual footage of me at my very first fantasy auction as a dorky 14-year-old.
My longtime fantasy football leagues with all college buddies, including my fellow ESPN analyst AJ Mass, includes obscure '80s references for divisions, the loser having to write a poem in honor of the winner and for a while we did a "Survivor"-type thing where each week, the lowest scoring team got "voted off the island" and the highest scoring team scored immunity for the following week until there was only one left.
Regardless, I asked the folks who follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/matthewberrytmr) for some examples of great leagues and I got some great ones as well. If you are thinking of entering the contest next year, consider implementing ideas like the ones I talk about above plus ones that many suggested, like weekly power rankings, polls, Facebook pages, video pre- and postgame shows. Many leagues have dedicated web pages with career records, including such minutia as career record versus opponent. Here's some of the best features that you sent my way:
@traunt53: 14 team league, all old high school friends. Team names must be a weird kid from high school.
TMR: Love it. If I did that, my team name would be "Matthew Berry." Wait ...
@nehm15: Competitive league. Trash talk in the form of very professionally written fake news articles involving various ESPN figures.
TMR: Why do I think I figure prominently in those?
@a_lang: We have fines for every loss, worst loser of the week, playing players on bye week, etc. and it goes into an account. We use the funds to take everyone to Vegas.
TMR: Officially on board with anything that involves Vegas.
@joecervelli: The winner of our league picks draft location (14 owners spread out around the country). Last-place team has to plan it.
@shefron: Having a rule in which the last-place finisher has to rent a van and chauffeur the whole league from Houston to New Orleans.
TMR: Officially on board with anything that involves punishing a loser. Especially if a van is involved. Nothing good ever happens in a van.
@kitchTN: Caption Contest. Find the most embarrassing picture of a league member floating around on net & post each week.
TMR: Hilarious, but clearly a league I can never be in. There's no shortage of embarrassing photos of me on the Internet. I also heard from @keepitlocked, whose league does something similar, but photoshopping league members.
@narcuri: I'm in a baseball league where each owner has their own Topps baseball card with annual stats. It's total nerdy dedication.
TMR: What gave you the clue it was nerdy? I actually think that's sort of awesome. Nerdy, sure, but awesome.
@rafterous: 8 teams w/HS friends as another way to make fun of each other. Have a website, blog and twitter @thePFFL. We draft in suits.
TMR: Drafting in suits is what got me. Love the formality of it. And speaking of Twitter ...
@ducalcrownEGC: Our #DucalCrown lg is most fun I've had. We started Twitter names for it so we don't bug other friends w/ #FF nerddom.
TMR: Love this. Here's how together this league is; they all bombarded my Twitter for a mention. I think I got a tweet from every single one of them. And any league that uses new technology and separate accounts entirely for smack talk is OK in my book.
@grittysquirrels: Commish appointed rivalry weeks based on prior year matchups. Wagers of some sort must be made on rivalry weeks.
TMR: You guys should take it a step further. Ex-girlfriends, high school bullies, mean bosses ... everything is fair game during rivalry week in the gritty squirrels league. Which, I can only assume, will be sponsored by ESPN in the next two years.
Tons and tons of leagues came in and I appreciate everyone sharing their league with me. Ultimately, it's the people who make a league and while there are many, many different ways to go, maybe it just ultimately boils down to this ...
@nick_rangel: Consistency. Engagement. Vulgar team names.
Don't look back in Anger
Regrets and recriminations only hurt your soul. -- Armand Hammer
I had a pretty good week last week in the pickup column with Tashard Choice, Earl Bennett, James Davis and Anthony Dixon among the guys I suggested you grab. Their values have all gone up, obviously, but I've already written about them. So check out the column from last week if you want more info on them. Otherwise, here's the order in which I would claim the "obvious" guys and players I've already written about.
Also, at this point in the year, I'd bid according to how much you need a guy. It's basically a bunch of one- or two-week seasons at this point (ESPN standard league playoff games are two weeks for each matchup). So, with a win-or-go-home situation, bid whatever you need to get the job done.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs (67 percent), Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (56 percent), Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills (34 percent), Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys (14 percent), David Garrard, QB, Jaguars (42 percent), Sam Bradford, QB, Rams (36 percent), Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (38 percent), Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots (60 percent), Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (69 percent), Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys (5 percent), Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers (60 percent), Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers (7 percent), James Davis, RB, Redskins (1 percent), Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (56 percent), Donald Driver, WR, Packers (69 percent), Earl Bennett, WR, Bears (1 percent), Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins (28 percent), Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins (2 percent), Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders (8 percent), Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (41 percent), Ben Watson, TE, Browns (26 percent), Joel Dreesen, TE, Texans (4 percent), Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (53 percent).
Plus, a reminder that Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (54 percent) is expected back this week and I like him more than any of the wide receivers listed above except Rice.
Pickups of the week
You must be going to hell, baby, 'cause it's a sin to look that good.
Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys (38 percent): If it seems like we've been here before, it's because we have. From Weeks 3-6, he was one of the hottest wide receivers in fantasy, with 232 yards and five touchdowns in three games. Then Dez Bryant got healthy and Roy went back to fantasy irrelevance. But with Bryant out for the season, Roy should get a lot of targets and could be an interesting deep league sleeper against an Eagles secondary that's been torched the past two weeks without Asante Samuel.
James Starks, RB, Packers (1 percent): Off the PUP list and into our hearts, Starks ran 18 times for 73 yards. And Brandon Jackson got only four carries. That said, coach Mike McCarthy said during his Monday presser that he'd like to use a three-man rotation of Starks, Jackson and Dmitri Nance. Plus, keep in mind the Packers have John Kuhn there, who got a goal line run. My guess is they'll use Starks more on first and second, with Jackson being the passing back and Nance getting a handful of carries. If I had to pick one guy, I'd probably go with Starks, but I don't feel super-confident about it. It's a crap shoot, especially on a passing team like Green Bay, but a Packers running back has value, especially one getting that many carries this late in the season.
Drew Stanton, QB, Lions (1 percent): Now, the reports are that Matthew Stafford (22 percent) is going to try throwing Wednesday, so who knows? Maybe Stafford comes back. But clearly, it doesn't seem to matter who is the quarterback of the Lions. Whoever it is will put up fantasy points. It's a team that is often trailing, that throws often (Detroit is second in the NFL in pass attempts) and has a bunch of playmakers on offense, starting with Calvin Johnson. If you're in a deeper league looking for some playoff magic, Stanton's a mobile guy (always nice) who gets the Packers this week. Pretty sure they're gonna be down in that one, too.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers (2 percent): Ahh, Week 9. That was a glorious week. Four receptions, 111 yards and a score, when no one was else was standing, Ajirotutu was healthy and productive. And we're looking at sort of a similar situation here. With Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd banged up, Legedu Nanee and Vincent Jackson expected to miss this game and a run game that may be just Mike Tolbert and Ryan "they don't trust me at all" Mathews, we could see the man they call Seyi get some work. Not a great matchup with Kansas City, but not a terrible one either. A desperation gamble in the playoffs but one with enough upside to justify it.
Daniel Fells, TE, Rams (1 percent): Another deep league guy, but hey, when you got guys like Chris Ivory out there in 70 percent of leagues, it's tough to come up with new names. I bring Fells up for a few reasons. One, if you own Antonio Gates, you need another tight end. If the Chargers lose Sunday, they could very easily decide to shut Gates down for the rest of the season. Second, with Michael Hoomanawanui out for the year and Billy Bajema banged up (he's day-to-day), you might see even more of Fells. Sam Bradford has thrown for 17 touchdowns this year. Seven of them (or more than 40 percent) have gone to a tight end. Only Drew Brees has attempted more passes than Bradford in the red zone. The Rams get in close, they are throwing and Bradford is looking for his tight end. Now, I'd much rather have a guy like Pettigrew or Watson or even Randy McMichael if Gates is done, but deep leagues ... I think Fells is a sleeper the rest of the way.
Javarris James, RB, Colts (1 percent): What's the saying? Once is lucky, twice is a trend, three times is a pick-up? He's not going to get a lot of touches. He is the ultimate feast or famine guy and frankly, I'd have to be pretty desperate to start him. But you can't ignore the fact that he's scored in three of the last five games, including two multiple score games. He's the guy the Colts like around the goal line with Joseph Addai expected to miss this week's Thursday game against the Titans. Think of him like Willis McGahee in terms of fantasy. You're rolling the dice he scores. Period. Anything else you get is a bonus.
Others receiving votes
"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center." -- Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree, is gonna take over the No. 3 role that Roy Williams had before Dez went down. … We have to see the extent of the injury to Todd Heap, but I like Ed Dickson over Dennis Pitta if you're speculating on Ravens rookie tight ends. … With John Carlson down (not to mention Mike Williams North and Ben Obomanu), the Seahawks used tight end Cameron Morrah to the tune of 69 yards. As Tim Hasselbeck mentioned on Monday's podcast, they like him in Seattle. Speaking of Seattle, with those two guys down, someone has to catch the ball. We keep hearing about Golden Tate, but I'd probably gamble with Deon Butler before him this year. … If I owned Maurice Jones-Drew, I'd make sure I owned Rashad Jennings.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
I'm not saying you definitely must dump these guys, but rather, if you need to find roster space, I don't have an issue dropping them in 10-team non-keeper leagues. None of the following are players I feel must be owned in every league. And if they're not among your "must-owned" list, then they are legitimate candidates to be dropped. As always, use your brain and team needs to determine if this makes sense.
Vince Young, Shaun Hill, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Troy Smith, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez, Derek Anderson, Mike Hart, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Jackson, Maurice Morris, Cadillac Williams, Justin Forsett, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Beanie Wells, Chester Taylor, Ryan Mathews, Marion Barber, Willis McGahee, Nate Washington, Randy Moss, Lee Evans, Santana Moss, Steve Smith South, Mike Sims-Walker, Jerricho Cotchery, Eddie Royal, Steve Breaston, Dez Bryant, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Kevin Walter, Visanthe Shiancoe, Heath Miller, John Carlson, Jeremy Shockey, Dustin Keller, Owen Daniels.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- thinks the greatest league he could play in would be one where no one reads him or has any idea who he is. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend