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: Todd Hunter
Occupation (when not playing fantasy football): Attorney
Family life: Married, no children (you know, other than me)
Years playing fantasy football: approx. 25
Your biggest score(s) in fantasy football: 14. My biggest score ever has been 14. No, but really, I would say I have a typically modest portfolio: just last year cashed in both my FFPC dynasty leagues, made the championship game in 3 out of my 6 FPC leagues (one win); multiple-time winner of 20+ year local league, etc.; nothing exciting on a national level. Yet.
Do you prefer drafting live or online? Why? I enjoy online because I don't really like to wear pants. But there is nothing like drafting a FFPC team live in Vegas; headed back this year, I think.
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 like Tony Moeaki, the young tight end returning to the Chiefs after a serious injury. We have seen in the past that Matt Cassel uses him like a "binkie" when under duress. And in light of opportunity and injuries, I am also starting to warm to Giants rookie WR Rueben Randle. I can only hope he feels the same way about me.
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. Perennial underdog Shonn Greene comes to mind. Nobody ever likes him. But hey, I never saw any harm in drafting him in the 5th round or so as a way to lock in 10-15 dependable points at a bargain price. Not anymore. I think with Tebow's arrival, Greene's red zone chances don't have a prayer. (that's right; I went there) Also, how about Michael Crabtree? I have never been very impressed with him, despite his excellent college numbers. They have added multiple weapons in San Francisco, including Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and AJ Jenkins. Throw in big target Vernon Davis and you have to wonder how Alex Smith (Alex Smith!) is going to keep everyone happy on a team built around its defense. Really, you have to wonder. I mean it. This is not a suggestion! Start wondering, damn it!
Give us a snapshot of how you prep for a fantasy draft once you know your draft position? Can I rap my answer? Picks 1-5, damn, that's live! 6-9, just divine (I may have borrowed that one), 10-12, I call the commissioner or league administrator and threaten to stick a cap in his or her (you know who you are) ass. That might not rhyme. But you get the point. After that, it's just juggling value and positional necessity. Or if you get picks 10-12, crafting a rock solid alibi.
How do you go about evaluating talent that you will add via the waiver wire? It's a tripartide process: stats, beer, darts.
How much of fantasy football is skill? How much is luck? Just like in a poker tournament, you have to have a little bit of both. I think Louis Pasteur once said "Luck favors the prepared mind." And he won a gold bracelet back when they held the WSP at Binions's Horseshoe. True story!
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? High stakes draw high players. No, wait. That's not right. High stakes draw good players. There will be no freebies. Sharks are in the water. So don't be a slave to the ADP (Avg Draft Position). You might well pick a team that finishes in the top half that way, but you should be in it to win it. Get a good list of players you like and go out and get them. In the big national contests, 300th place and 900th place pay the same. I think. This could be subject to change the way the prizes are growing.
What is your favorite high stakes format? (Main Event, Draft Experts, Dynasty, Auction, etc). Why do you prefer this format? Dynasty, mostly due to Linda Evans. (Dear Lord, how old am I?)
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? Draft Gronkowski or Graham really early. Right now would be good. Otherwise wait and grab Witten, Davis, Gates, etc. a couple rounds later. But don't wait too long or you might be running Dustin Keller out there, which will not be pretty this year (see Greene/Tebow, supra).
Give us your top 6 picks in the FFPC Main Event:
- Calvin Johnson
- Graham (if Brees signs, that is)
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'm a waiter, unless one of the big five (Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Newton, Stafford) starts to slip. Here's a tip (hey, I said I'm a waiter!): you could do worse than RGIII. But if you go that route, grab another QB in the 9th or 10th round.
Make a case for why someone should come to Vegas and participate in some high stakes events. Really? You need an excuse?
What's the biggest mistake you see high stakes players make? Even at the highest level, people just space. Two years ago, a guy in my FFPC league in Vegas started his draft with four very good running backs, including Arian Foster relatively late. It was pretty intimidating. But in the 5th round he picked.... another running back. What's the point if you can only start 4 of them? I dunno. Maybe he was hung over. So I guess my advice would be... no drinking in Vegas. Or gambling. Or staying out late. Wait a minute. This might not work.
Aside from the obvious payout and competition level, what's the biggest difference between high stakes leagues and regular leagues? As suggested above, in "regular" leagues, I think you can draft a fairly good team just sticking to the ADP and looking for value. In "high stakes" leagues, risk is your friend. Or enemy. But at least you took a shot.
What's the thing you wished you'd learned 5 years ago? Those fellas over at Apple seem to have some pretty good ideas.