I finally am starting to realize how my father felt when his kids started to beat him at basketball. My father was a proud man. In his younger days he was a very athletic burly individual who loved to play basketball in the yard with his boys. He was a street kid from the Bronx who played a rough and tumble form of basketball. He played in the local Catholic Athletic League as an adult and sent many a friend’s father to the floor with his Wes Unseld like physicality.
My father would play the same way against us, his kids, as he did any full grown adult. Body blocks, broken fingers and road rash were regular occurrences. He even dislocated a colleague’s elbow with a hard foul one Saturday afternoon. The man probably thought he was going to shoot some friendly hoops with the boss and found out the hard way there was no such thing as friendly hoops in the Esser’s back yard.
My father’s skills started to diminish as we started to grow up. He could no longer block my brother Frank’s shots because Frank had managed to perfect a high release jump shot with his long 6’3″ frame. My brother Tom had started doing his best Pistol Pete impressions while running circles around the heavier and slower version of my father. My father didn’t exactly take this turning of the tide in stride. He quit. Never to lose a game to his sons on the court he had built.
I recently started to realize my advantage in Fantasy Football keeper and dynasty leagues had started to slip like my father’s basketball skills. My first round rookie picks were no longer sure things much like my father’s patented unblockable hook shot had become less automatic. My leagues were getting better and more competitive just like the way my brothers developed their basketball games as they grew up. My leagues that were once cake walks had become filled with stronger more determined competitors. I could have retired with the belt like my father did, but I chose another path.
The tide has been turning the last few years in my fantasy football leagues. I haven’t been as sharp at identifying rookies or realizing the potential of some second year players. I found myself struggling to keep up with some of my younger foes who seemed to have the inside skinny on every drafted rookie and even the undrafted free agents that could be assets down the road. I felt the floor shifting beneath me and realized I needed to take stock and focus on what I was missing.
I looked back at how I used to evaluate rookies and second year players. I was a huge fan of college football and the draft process for as long as I can remember. I would watch, and a lot of times bet, every game that was televised. I was betting Fresno State and Middle Tennessee State while my friends thought the only teams that existed played in the Big East. I would do mock drafts and big board the entire draft on notebook paper. I eventually graduated to Excel sheets that my wife would help me build.
All that work paid off with a huge advantage in my keeper and dynasty leagues. My knowledge of rookies would help me on draft day and was an even bigger advantage when it came to trades. What looked like an even trade when it was made, would look like an all time steal just a few short years later. The last few years my juggernaut teams have started to show some holes. I was still winning and doing well, but clearly I was missing more than ever in rookie drafts. In truth I felt like the Patriots of my dynasty leagues where some of my drafts were just a waste, yet I still managed to stay near the top.
I realized that I was never going to be able to be the college football/draft guy I was for a number of reasons. The main reason was my Saturdays were now reserved for spending time with my wife and kids. Saturdays are the days we go to pumpkin patches, petting zoos, Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and every other place you can think of. My wife works long hours during the week and all she wants is to spend some time with me and our beautiful girls on the weekends. How can I deny that and say that I need to watch Rutgers play Houston or Northern Illinois play Akron? I can’t.
While I accepted that fact that I was going to have some limitations for the foreseeable future, I didn’t accept the fact that I couldn’t be as informed as I once was. Luckily for me there is a wealth of knowledge and tools available on the internet. Whether it’s a premium subscription to DLF or just listening to some more podcasts while my kids are napping I was going to figure out a method that got me back on my game.
The key for me was time management. I needed to create or subscribe to the best Twitter list I could find. (@SigmundBloom’s NFL Draftniks is a great place to start.) Once I had a list of writers and draft minds that I thought looked at prospects the same way I did, I narrowed down my focus. If they tweeted they were high on a prospect I would add that prospect to my list of draft prospects and then go to work reading as much as I could and watching as much game film as I could get my hands on.
Good to hear @JoshNorris shares the love for Devonta “Sonic the Hedgehog” Freeman. My favorite RB for dynasty leagues in rookie drafts.
John has one of the best Twitter accounts in the industry and he happens to be very good at spotting talent and focusing on guys that are going to be big time Fantasy contributors. The running back he mentions here was no where on my radar at this point. Now I will go work trying see if I agree with Johnny’s opinion. (And no I don’t consider this group think, or a self-full-filling prophecy because I don’t always agree after doing my homework.) The way he breaks down a prospect’s talents as well as opportunities mirrors the way I would be doing it if I was still able to keep up with college football. He is just one of a number of great draft/fantasy talents that can point even the experts in the right direction. Please give him a follow and take a listen to his 2MugsFF Podcast he does with his partner @RyFo18.