Over the last decade, we have seen high stakes leagues explode in popularity. Several high stakes leagues have come and gone in that time span, but the Fantasy Football Players Championship and, its online sister, the Footballguys Players Championships are alive and well. While many maintain fantasy football is far too luck-oriented, there are several players that consistently perform at a level above the average participant. We've asked them to give us some insight into how they approach the high stakes leagues.
Name: Glenn Lowy
Occupation (when not playing fantasy football): I'm a Project Executive for a national development company that I've been with for 8 years now.
Family life: I'm happily married for 16 years with a 4 year old son and twin 2 year old baby girls, all four the loves of my life (though fantasy sports might be fifth). :)
Years playing fantasy football: I've been playing fantasy football for 17 years now. My first year was 1995 when my soon to be brother-in-law asked if I wanted a spot that opened up in his existing local league. I remember my first draft pick was Bam Morris coming off his impressive rookie year, but he turned out to be a disappointment that season. Luckily my 2nd pick was Brett Favre and he turned in the first of his three MVP seasons carrying me to the most points in the league that season. It remains a great league with little turnover and big smack talk and a league that I'm still a part of today.
Your biggest score(s) in fantasy football: I've had a few high finishes in fantasy sports overalls recently, six top six finishes over the last two years over various contests. I'm very proud of that record obtained in contests against the best, most competitive, and most talented players in the world with as much that is on the line for these High Stakes events. My biggest score should have been my 2011 2nd overall finish in the WCOFB Main Event combined with a first overall finish in their Online Championships. However, we all know what happened there and unfortunately only a court of law remains as a last hope towards receiving that $67K+ in winnings I earned there. The biggest score I've actually received in fantasy sports to date was in this past season's FFPC Main Event where I finished 2nd overall as I earned over $20K with that team. It also stands as the most exciting time in my over 20 years of playing fantasy sports. As of the second quarter of the final game of the fantasy season, I was first overall in line for a $200K payday. I can't describe the intensity and excitement of being in a moment like that. I wouldn't trade it for the world. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had held on....a lot better. :)
Do you prefer drafting live or online? Why? I prefer drafting live, there's no comparison. When it comes to Live High Stakes Main Events, there's nothing like that moment you walk into the draft room and see table after table filled with player after player in the hundreds of like-minded lovers of fantasy sports. It's an intense moment. There's also a phenomenon that occurs because of the live drafts of these high stakes contests that you wouldn't expect coming off the more anonymous format of online drafting. A community develops. You get to know your competitors, you become friends with them. The interaction on the message boards are more of a blast because there's an actual face you can put to the screen names. I'm a big fan of high stakes fantasy sports, but an even bigger fan of the high stakes fantasy sports community.
Name two players that you expect will be undervalued in most fantasy drafts this year. Explain why you think these sleepers could drastically outperform their ADP. I'll give you one early pick that I don't believe will be going early enough. Jimmy Graham to me is undervalued even as a late first rounder in the FFPC format. I believe the gap between the best tight ends this season and the field will be the biggest edge you can obtain at the drafts this year. I have Graham as the top tight end. He's an absolute beast, will have less competition for touches this season, and I believe will be the primary focus and the most unstoppable weapon in a great offense. While Gronk is coming off an enormous season, his competition for touches even at that team's tight end position is huge. I believe Gronk has had his career year, while I don't think we've seen Graham's ceiling yet. Though I reserve the right to change my mind as the September draft season gets closer :), I did recently grab Graham 4th overall in the Genesis draft completed in May.
Name two players that will not be on your roster at any draft position. Explain why you think these busts could drastically underperform their ADP. I don't think there's any player I will not draft at any draft position. There's a value to every draftable player, its for all of us to decide what that value is and where that player needs to fall in order for us to personally grab him. I've been part of two high profile early drafts this season thus far, the NFFC's Trendsetters and the FFPC's Genesis drafts. From what I've learned from those two drafts, the two players I probably won't be grabbing at the spots they've gone is Michael Turner and Jahvid Best. In Turner's case, I'm making a conscious decision this season to focus on pass catching backs in a PPR format. I'm also wary of the inevitable decline that's coming and if this will be the year that it comes. In Best's case, he'd have to fall into flyer territory to end up on one of my squads. I just can't see spending an early pick on a player who might be lost for the season if a rain drop hits his head the wrong way no matter how talented a player he is.
Give us a snapshot of how you prep for a fantasy draft once you know your draft position? Learn the player pool, evaluate the player pool, rank the player pool, decide how you want to construct your team (both in what positions to focus on first and if there are any specific must have target players), and where there is an ADP available determine values against that ADP and how to fit those players into your team construction.
How do you go about evaluating talent that you will add via the waiver wire? Evaluate the role of the player on his team to determine the likelihood for continued or future opportunity, evaluate the player's talent to determine if there is upside if given that opportunity, and evaluate the need on my team for that player's position and what he will or could bring.
How much of fantasy football is skill? How much is luck? There is definitely luck involved in fantasy football. Anytime unforeseen injuries play such a dramatic role in determining the success of a fantasy season, luck is a factor. The general format of most High Stakes contests with the regular season leading into a reset for a 3-week sprint for the big money also lends to a hot (or lucky) streak determining the champion. However, it takes skill to get yourself into the position to be part of that sprint. It takes skill to draft enough depth or find capable enough replacements via free agency to absorb the inevitable injuries. It takes skill to win these leagues and these overall contests. When you see players who are consistently competitive and/or consistently winning their leagues or placing in the overalls, it's a testament in their "skill" at circumventing the "luck" inherent in these fantasy games.
What advice would you give a player taking a shot at high stakes for the 1st time? Without giving away all of your secrets, how can a newbie get up to speed quickly in the world of high stakes? Preparation, there's nothing more important. Be current in your information, don't utilize outdated information. Learn the player pool, be aware of ADP to determine values and where you need to draft your targets, and come to the table with a draft plan. Everyone else at the table will have one.
What is your favorite high stakes format? (Main Event, Draft Experts, Dynasty, Auction, etc). Why do you prefer this format? I play them all and love them all. They each bring something different that makes each unique and special. The Main Event is the Main Event for a reason, we all play it. Going against hundreds of the greatest players in the world and racing for that big prize at the end is what brought most of us to high stakes. There's nothing like an Auction. Having the ability to bid on every player and deciding whether to go that extra dollar is an intense and truly fun experience. Draft Experts leagues are great if you don't savor the idea of managing the team for the entire season. Draft and go and let the computer do the work in-season. It's great for those who truly love drafting but only drafting or for those who wish to use these drafts as preparation for drafts for those bigger leagues down the line. However, if I was forced to choose one format and only one format, it would be Dynasty. There's something great in building a team not just for this season, but for years ahead. I'm in two Dynasty leagues right now and every time a new one is offered, I have to control my urge to join yet another.
To TE or not to TE? With the FFPC dual flex (and awarding 1.5 points per reception for TEs), this position is extremely valuable. Do you generally pay a premium for a top 5 TE or do you seek value at RB/WR and look to grab your TE later? See my earlier answer on undervalued players and Jimmy Graham. That pretty much says it all regarding whether I would pay a premium for a tight end. I will say however that for my team that finished 2nd overall in the FFPC last season, I didn't grab my tight ends until the 7th and 8th rounds where I drafted Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Pettigrew. Therefore, I believe a lot depends on where you're drafting and how the draft falls to you.
Many of the best players in the FFPC wait on their QBs. But with the NFL moving more and more to a passing league (and guys like Rodgers and Brees putting up ridiculous totals), when will you be looking to grab your QB in the Main Event? It's funny because often in the FFPC where many others have waited on QB, I've grabbed a QB earlier because they seem to fall where they appear to be great values to me. While in the NFFC where QBs are placed at a premium, I often wait on QB because grabbing them where they go there always feels like a reach. I guess I play the QB position as a wild card, dependent upon where the draft falls to me.
Make a case for why someone should come to Vegas and participate in some high stakes events. I'll actually be making my first trip to Vegas for High Stakes football this season. I've always drafted the FFPC online and stayed east coast for the NFFC and WCOFF during my three years playing high stakes football. However I made Vegas my high stakes destination for the first time this past March for the NFBC's baseball drafts and got as addicted for the Vegas high stakes experience then as I did for high stakes in general after my first high stakes draft three years ago. I hear the football drafts are even more of a blast. I can not wait.
What's the thing you wished you'd learned 5 years ago? I wish I knew there was even such a thing as high stakes 5 years ago. In fact, I wish I knew about high stakes 10 years ago so I could have been part of it since its inception with the inaugural WCOFF season in 2002. I feel like I missed out on a lot of the fun, though I've been trying to make up for it these past three years. :)