Each Thursday morning I go through my fantasy teams one-by-one, and with the help of a couple of expert sites write out my odds of winning each of my games that week. It’s not the most useful exercise, but it does give me some perspective on where I stand overall.
This week, I did that and kept seeing chance-to-win percentages in the 30s and 40s. My record in lineup leagues through three weeks is an ugly 26-42. It’s starting to get to me – not just because of the bad results, but because I haven’t been able to figure out why it’s happening.
If last year was a breeze, this one’s a tornado.
Trust the process, right? Isn’t what the Philadelphia 76ers used to say? (Wait, the Buffalo Bills too?) My process was not my problem. If anything, I did more research and background work this year. I had more free time than last year (didn’t we all?), and I spent plenty of it on draft planning.
You expect to get better with experience, just like fans expect young players to get better by playing. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not.
After taking cursory looks for a couple of weeks and not seeing clearly what has gone wrong for me this year, now I think I get why I’m struggling so much.
Here are the five biggest reasons:
1.) Better competition
I was fortunate this year to be invited into some expert leagues. I had planned on playing in fewer leagues this year, but I wasn’t going to turn down offers from Mike Dempsey of Football Diehards, Pros vs. Joes, Draft Sharks and Mark Stopa, to name a few.
These leagues consist either entirely of fantasy football writers and/or hosts, or a combination of those people with other avid fantasy players. Tough rooms!
Pros vs. Joes (I led the overall competition after one week before dropping) and Draft Sharks, where I lead my division through three weeks, have been fun and successful – but there’s no weekly win or loss to record. It’s total points. Football Diehards – a massive 50-round, 32-team, double-player dynasty startup – has been a learning experience. So far, I sit a humbled 2-4. That has team has … you know what, this is its own reason.
2.) Saquon and CMC
My F.D. team is one of three Saquon Barkley squads, and I have five others with Christian McCaffrey. Both are injured, as you may be aware. Anyone can get hurt, but because you picked Barkley and CMC at first and second overall, it’s that much less likely that you have adequate replacements.
While they’re not all dead either, none of these eight teams so far this season is well-off. One McCaffrey team is 0-6 (like F.D., it’s two decisions a week). Ouch!
Another of my Barkley teams has a different obstacle still.
3.) The Dynasty Factor
For two-plus seasons, Barkley has been my No. 1 asset in the “League of Schopps and Dreams”. Last year, I was one of three or four top teams, and I was lucky to win. Well, just as in real sports, when you win a title, you draft last the next year. You won’t see Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathon Taylor on any of my dynasty rosters.
It can even go further. If you made a push to win as I did in that league and another in which I have McCaffrey, you can spend your top draft picks to try to lock up the title. On the McCaffrey team that happened to go first and then second the last two years, my first pick in the rookie draft was No. 23 (Zack Moss). Makes it tough to stay on top.
There’s “The Dynasty Factor” and then there’s, simply...
4.) The Dynasty
That’s the name of a league I joined this year. I felt pretty pumped up after making 10 finals in 2019, and one day I put the word out that I was ready for another challenge. A listener of ours named Brett reached out and said, in so many words, "Are you sure?" Hey, I asked for it, so bring it on.
This team has the special quality of being both bereft of good players and bankrupt of draft picks. The team name should be "Bankrupt and Bereft". I set out to trade anyone of value to try to recoup picks. Best case – like, really best – is I’ll have a chance to contend in 2022.
It’s a combination of longshot rookies (Gabriel Davis, e.g.) and retread veterans. If I win two games this year I’ll be shocked. My starting lineup this week: Matt Ryan/Rex Burkhead, Malcolm Brown/Kendrick Bourne, Andy Isabella, K.J. Hamler (in the books with a zero)/Logan Thomas/Gabriel Davis and Mo Alie-Cox.
Take on teams that are almost guaranteed to lose every week, guess what happens to your overall record?
5.) Lamar Jackson
Regression had to come, and so far Jackson is nowhere near the fantasy superhero he was last season.
It’s early, and he did have a great Week 1, but you just wouldn’t expect him to be behind, say, Joe Burrow in fantasy points through three weeks.
You could have drafted Jackson in the second or third round of your redraft leagues, and if you did that you may already be regretting it. I picked him in the fourth round of two FootballGuys Championship Leagues, because at that point I couldn’t resist the value. Ask me right now if I’d have a roster of Jackson and, say, Curtis Samuel, or their positions drafted in the opposite rounds (Calvin Ridley? Jared Goff? Burrow?!).
And naturally, I had Jackson all over dynasty teams that won last year. In the end, I’m rostering him on eight teams. And, of course, you’ll never take him out, so if he doesn’t pick it up those teams will struggle to dominate, win, repeat, what have you.
A sixth reason might be that, especially in local or “home” leagues, usually other players would beat me to the Bills (and I would tend to welcome that). Of course, this year the Bills are not very Bills-like, passing and scoring at will. Kudos to those who spent up and bought in; I’m looking up at you in our standings.
Still early though. I’m going to stuff the overall record into a drawer and not bother anymore to keep it. I’d have to admit that I kept it last year for posterity. This year so far it’s an eyesore, and it could lead me to panic. Don’t want to do that.