I have been in the same fantasy football league since 2009. It started small but turned into a highly competitive league that now has a waiting list. We don’t get to see each other as much as we would like, but this league is the way we all keep in touch. Draft day is a big deal for us. We have people flying in from all over the country to be here for the day. This league is as high stakes as it gets: 14-man, full PPR. If you don’t come with your A-game, you won’t even make the playoffs.
The calm before the storm
I landed in New York and stepped off the plane wearing my good Luck jersey, which was also my good luck jersey. Andrew Luck is my favorite football player, and the last time I didn’t wear this jersey to a draft, he was a college student. I didn’t pack much else for the short trip, so I planned on wearing this jersey pretty much the whole time. I figured, the more I wore it this weekend, the better luck I would have for my draft.
Saturday evening came, and my friends guilt-tripped me into joining them at a New York Mets game. I hate the Mets. So much for my lucky jersey, right? This past Saturday was very warm in New York City, so I opted only to wear a t-shirt and left my beloved Luck jersey at my friend’s apartment. In retrospect, this may be where everything went wrong.
Once the clock hit 9:30 pm, something happened. I was sitting in the left-field stands of Citi Field with the only people who knew I was in town, but my phone was, how the kids say, ‘blowing up.’ I got so many text messages at once that my phone wouldn’t let me open the messaging app, and it reset itself. I’m a nervous person by nature, so I began to panic. Nothing could prepare me for what was about to happen.
Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement
Once my phone restarted, my soul left my body and never returned. In fact, my spirit is still roaming the mezzanines of Citi Field looking for peace. I took my lucky jersey off for only a couple hours, and I am now convinced this is what caused all heck to break loose.
I was getting texts from people that I don’t even like, offering their condolences. I got more texts and phone calls about Andrew Luck than I did when my dad passed away. Football changed forever for me at that moment. I had to process this moment as a fantasy football analyst and as a fan, and I was still stuck at a Mets game.
All Colts lose major value
The domino effect of Luck’s retirement can not be understated. T.Y. Hilton was in a position to have the best season of his career. Marlon Mack was poised to make the leap to top-12 running back stardom. Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle were both staring a top 12 season in the face. Everything was perfect until it wasn’t.
My initial thoughts were: Jacoby Brissett might be fine, but everyone’s value takes a devastating hit. Hilton became a fringe WR 2/3 in the snap of the finger, I wouldn’t touch Mack with a 10-foot pole, and the two tight ends fell into the streaming wasteland. Worst of all, it was only the 7th inning of the Mets game.
I was 12 hours away from the most important draft of my season and couldn’t have been less prepared, but the show must go on.
Starting the draft
Fast forward to morning, and we randomly select draft positions. I had my fingers crossed for a top-3 pick, but nothing was going my way this weekend. I drew the last spot in the 14 man league, and I began to formulate a strategy.
I knew I was missing out on all the big running backs, so I was planning on taking Travis Kelce so I could have a sizeable positional advantage over the league. My ideal second player would be Julio Jones because he is as safe as it gets, and I want to avoid risk like the plague in this league. Jones was drafted 10th, and Kelce went 13th. I had to switch gears and look at the best available players.
My top two ranked available players were JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, and I was not comfortable with the double-Steelers stack for my first two picks. I was looking at taking Smith-Schuster and Dalvin Cook, or Tyreek Hill and Conner. Smith-Schuster and Cook was the safer route, so I went with it.
I was hoping George Kittle or Zach Ertz would fall to me at the next turn because a tight end advantage in this league is enormous. Neither of the aforementioned tight ends even came close to making it back to me.
Robert Woods found his way back, which I was pleased with, so he was locked in as one of the picks. James White and Phillip Lindsay were the best of the experienced running backs available, which did not interest me. Chicago Bears rookie running back, David Montgomery was available, and his upside is very exciting. Rookie RBs have had tremendous success lately, so I gambled on his upside.
When you draft with knowledgable fantasy football players, quarterbacks and non-top-five tight ends go late, and running backs and wide receivers fly off the board, and that was precisely the case here. I was hoping I would be able to land two players out of Sony Michel, Tevin Coleman, and Miles Sanders. Only Sanders made it to me, but I already had one rookie RB, and another injury-prone one, so Sanders wasn’t my ideal choice. However, every other running back was either a backup or in a deep timeshare, so I rolled the rookie dice again and grabbed Sanders at a decent value.
The foundation of my team was set, and I really liked the upside I had with my squad. At this point, I was comfortable taking some chances later in the draft.
I love the Green Bay Packers reviving corp this season. Geronimo Allison would have been my ideal player of the two, but he was sniped from me right before my turn. I wasn’t too upset because I still really like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, so that was an easy pick.
My second pick was more difficult. I really liked Royce Freeman going into last year, but he got Phillip Lindsay’d into oblivion and was unfortunately irrelevant. I’m not as high on him this year, but he has a shorter path to success than Rashaad Penny or Jaylen Samuels, who were the two next best options. So I took a deep breath and hoped for the best.
At this point, I was loaded with WR and RB talent but still needed a QB and TE. I was delighted with the QBs that fell to me. I ended up doubling up and taking Jared Goff and Josh Allen. My Woods and Goff stack can be a week-winning combo a few times this year. As for Allen, I am in love with his upside as a second-year guy that has as many rushing attempts as he does.
I was the last team to take a tight end, and some teams already took two. I knew if I didn’t take one here, I would end up being upset with myself, so I plugged my nose, held my breath, and grabbed my tight end ranking list.
Thanks to the Luck news, Ebron was still available. Ebron will not duplicate his production from last year. However, he is still really good at football. Apparently, his nickname is Mr.Redzone, so, maybe he will be force-fed even more this year. To be fair, Brissett lead Doyle to a Pro Bowl season in 2017, so there is a good chance one Colts tight end is fantasy relevant in 2019.
I saw a preseason highlight of a Brissett-Ebron touchdown right before, which mostly means nothing, but I guess it was enough. I shrugged my shoulders, said “whatever,” then proceeded to place the Eric Ebron sticker under my name. I wasn’t thrilled, but the pick has the opportunity to return immense value if everything goes my way. Plus, I know it’s what Andrew Luck would have wanted me to do.
End of the draft
I had four picks left, and I still needed a defense and kicker. My league doesn’t require you to draft a defense and kicker, so that means I didn’t. This is a great strategy I implore everybody to use. I drafted four lottery-tickets with my final picks, and the day before the season starts, I will drop the two least-relevant players for a defense and kicker. My four selections were: Jamaal Williams, Malcolm Brown, Jay Ajayi, and Albert Wilson. All four of those players are currently not useful in fantasy football, but they are all one injury away from a significant role promotion. Lamar Miller‘s unfortunate injury creates a need at the running back position that Ajayi could fill nicely (pure speculation on my part).
Oh yeah, did I mention that Lamar Miller was the RB2 on my dynasty super-team, that Andrew Luck was the quarterback of?
Five hours later, the draft was over. I was happy with my team, but the work has only just begun. Fantasy football drafts are important, but I likely won’t end the season with 50% of the people I selected today. There is a lot of work that goes into a fantasy season. You need to be informed to set yourself up for success. You don’t win anything for drafting a good team, but you can undoubtedly lose everything by drafting a lousy team. Everybody needs to pay attention to the waiver wire. If you don’t approach other teams about trades, they may not contact you either. The best fantasy football players are the most active ones. Draft season is almost over, but we’re all in this together.
This season, Andrew Luck is not going to be the fantasy football hero I hoped for, but I am slowly coming to peace with it. He is a terrific person, and he deserves to be happy. It’s been rough sledding for him over the last few seasons, and he did what was best for him and his family. As a fellow Colts fan, I am disgusted at the reaction I have seen so far. This man gave us everything he had, and it broke him.
Our frustration should be with the organization that refused to protect him for years, then disrespected him as he rehabbed his injuries, not with him. He was a true competitor and deserved nothing but best wishes. I remain hopeful that he recovers physically and mentally, and returns one day, but he needs time away from the game so he can miss it again.
Corey Every is a writer for the Pro Football Network covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter @FootballHead18.