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: Jules McLean
Occupation (when not playing fantasy football): Film Industry
Family life: God-mother to my two year old niece and I share my home with two cats (one blind) and a three legged dog :)
Years playing fantasy football: 18 years
Your biggest score(s) in fantasy football: 6 high stakes league championships at $5000 each.
Do you prefer drafting live or online? Why? I prefer drafting live, whether high stakes or local leagues, because of the social interaction. Over the years I've made many good friends and it's great to catch-up in person, compete and just have a good time.
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.
Ryan Williams is one and of course a lot will depend on how he continues to rehab from a ruptured patella tendon. But, with Beanie Wells having constant knee issues, the door is open for Williams to claim a good chunk of playing time. Whisenhunt knows they have to find some balance on offense and they drafted Williams pretty high (2nd round) last year, so I look for Williams to outperform his current ADP of 119.
Doug Baldwin has a current ADP of 178 (that's 14th round in 12 teamers). In PPR formats, he finished as the 123rd ranked player in 2011. I'm seeing Jabar Gaffney, Nate Burleson, Jacoby Ford and Josh Morgan all go ahead of Baldwin. The addition of Matt Flynn, which will give Seattle some stability at the QB spot, will only help Baldwin outperform in ADP.
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 love Antonio Gates, but I've passed on him in every draft I've done thus far. If he's healthy he will have a monster year and carry teams to championships. But, I just don't trust him to stay on the field for 16 games.
Torrey Smith is has an ADP of the 6th round and I'm not buying. Too many drops last year and not a good route runner (yet, hopefully he can improve) makes my very leery of him being able to carry the load as a #1 WR.
Give us a snapshot of how you prep for a fantasy draft once you know your draft position? I'm constantly adjusting my projections because my site puts out a draft kit, so I know those will be up-to-date. I then like to highlight players I'm targeting. I'll mock out 3 or 4 scenarios for the first three rounds. I'll also take a quick look at ADP, but I rarely use that.
How do you go about evaluating talent that you will add via the waiver wire? I'm visually orientated, so my eyes do much of the work. How did the player look in pre-season games, do I remember how they played in college? Then I'll look for opportunity, is Player X getting playing time because someone got injured? Is he better than the player in front of him, etc. I'm big on targets for WRs too, that's a stat I love to follow.
How much of fantasy football is skill? How much is luck? I'd go 70/30 split. And I'm factoring "luck" right from the beginning when your draft position is determined (unless we are talking about an Auction). Pulling names out of a hat and a computer randomizer, that's luck! And in most leagues, your draft position determines your schedule if playing in head-to-head leagues. That's huge! Say you are playing in Week 3 and you put up the second highest score in the league, but you lose because you happen to be playing the one team that put up more points then you. Your teams faces any other team in the league and it's a 'W', but because of draft position that then determines schedule, you get a 'L'. Then of course there are injuries. Numerous players have the injury-prone tag, so I can't factor them in the luck equation, but there are some freak accidents that happen. Jamaal Charles getting hurt out of bounds? Hakeem Nicks getting hurt in OTAs simply by running a route? That's bad luck.
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? Points win championships! You need to find out how many points it took to win league championships and overall titles the previous year. Figure out what your goal is for a weekly average and take your projections and map out some scenarios. I'd also join a low entry fee Satellite league to get a feel for where players are going and the competition level.
What is your favorite high stakes format? (Main Event, Draft Experts, Dynasty, Auction, etc). Why do you prefer this format? Draft Experts because it allows you to draft deep, you can go after your sleepers and not leave them exposed to the waiver wire.
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? I generally like a stud TE on my roster.
Give us your top 6 picks in the FFPC Main Event:
- Arian Foster
- Ray Rice
- LeSean McCoy
- Maurice-Jones Drew
- Ryan Matthews
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? I use to be a wait until after the 6th round to draft a QB type, but the last two years I've nabbed a QB earlier than the 6th. This year I'm reverting back to my old form and waiting on QB. I got Ben Roethlisberger in the 14th round in one draft, Eli Manning in the 8th round and Tony Romo in the 8th round.
Make a case for why someone should come to Vegas and participate in some high stakes events. There's nothing like walking into the big ballrooms at a major casino/hotel and seeing all the draft boards set up and feeling the buzz and energy of all the participants. We all have the same passion for the game and it shows. You will meet folks that will become good friends, there is a special sense of community at the live events. Plus, if you choose the right contest, there are some good eats and drinks to be had!
What's the biggest mistake you see high stakes players make? Being too focused on their own team. For example, it's the 8th round and you are Team 10. You need a QB, so you select one. But, you didn't look at Teams 11 and 12, who already had their QBs. Chances are very slim they would take another QB so early (unless in a Draft Experts). You could have grabbed the WR, TE or RB you were targeting next, but instead you go QB, exposing your next target to Teams 11 and 12. And sure enough, one of them takes him!
Aside from the obvious payout and competition level, what's the biggest difference between high stakes leagues and regular leagues? No trading, which I like! Except in Dynasty there is trading, but other than that, no trades.
What's the thing you wished you'd learned 5 years ago? I'm still trying to learn it! But, I'd say clearing my head of all the outside chatter (internet reports, NFL Network, expert advice, etc) and being able to listen to my own voice.