One of the biggest mistakes new fantasy football participants make is the assumption that fantasy is a static enterprise. These owners subscribe to the watchmaker theory; they do not believe in an interventionist god. They research and draft players and believe their job is done, content to let the brilliance of their drafting strategy carry them forth to victory, dropping by only ever so often to reconfigure line-ups during a bye week, if then.
This strategy may seem on target to pay dividends in Week 1, but imagine the shock, then, in Week 2, when everything you ever thought you knew is ripped away by injury and allegations of off-the-field misconduct. In my 14-team league I’ve been left scrambling to fill the void left by an injured Robert Griffin III, an already woefully underperforming pick who would have still likely put me over the top with even a relatively poor full game. To understand how badly this has impacted my prospects, you need only to know that I am now in intricate negotiations to acquire Jay Cutler, and am faced with the prospect of taking the field led by E.J. Manuel if those don’t work out.* Dark days indeed.
And then there was Ryan Matthews. Mark Ingram. Jamaal Charles. A.J. Green. In the case of the latter two especially, you can hear entire fantasy seasons tumbling into ruins, at least for those owners not nimble enough to make the adjustments and remake their teams into something a bit more patchwork, a bit more governed by stealth, a bit more dependent on names not many knew (or at least would want to rely on), names like Knile Davis and Mohamed Sanu. In that situation you hope for a good waiver position, or that your fellow owners are watchmakers, content to let their teams tick along while you look to either upgrade or salvage your own.
And none of this even scratches the biggest impact happening of them all, the deactivation, and reactivation, and redeactivation, of Adrian Peterson due to child abuse charges. It’s sick and it’s sad and it makes me glad I didn’t own Peterson in any leagues, just to avoid that horrible cocktail of feeling bad because my team is pretty much crippled, then feeling bad for feeling bad about that instead of the real horror of the situation. And in case you hadn’t figured it out, the real horror is the NFL doesn’t care and the NFL fans don’t really care, at least not enough to pull support in any semblance of a meaningful way. It seems we’re in an odd situation where the commercial sponsors of the NFL and its teams are the one’s driving any consequences for these players, because they believe the bad PR might hurt them with their customers.**
All of this is to say that things change, and this year it feels like they are changing more quickly.*** I’m sort of worried I blew up my team and my season by making that big trade, but I figured that sitting back and doing nothing would have been more damaging. Maybe I’m wrong about C-Patt and Cutler still being slightly undervalued for fantasy purposes, and Jackson being overvalued, and maybe I’ll pay for it. But maybe I’m right and it will pay big dividends going forward.
If my fantasy football teams can be said to teach me anything, beyond much more indepth knowledge of matchups and depth charts and “touches” and coach-speak than any reasonable human being would want to know without recoiling in horror, its that you shouldn’t be afraid to trust your instincts and you shouldn’t worry too much about the consequences. If you feel its a really bad idea to trade Giovanni Bernard or Calvin Johnson under pretty much any circumstances, don’t trade them. But if one of them is involved in a grisly injury or turns out to be a serial killer next week (the way this season is going, that doesn’t seem as impossible as it once did, right?), don’t beat yourself up over too much. You don’t know everything, and you can’t know everything, so you roll the dice with what you do know and live with that, even if the computer tells you your decision has reduced your projected score by 2.36 points.
That being said, I’m still worried I made a mistake trading away Rashad Jennings.
*Trade is now done. I got Cordarrelle Patterson and Jay Cutler for Rashad Jennings and Vincent Jackson. Yahoo’s computerized trade machine thinks it is a horrible deal, but I can live without Jennings and I have zero confidence in V-Jax anymore now that Josh McCown is the guy throwing to him in a Lovie Smith-helmed offense.
** People are complex and don’t always pay attention or do things consistently. I would not be at all surprised if some of the same people who religiously watch the NFL each week would be the same people who would boycott, or at least threaten a boycott of, some of the companies with ties to the NFL or the Vikings based on this issue.
*** The future is obviously subject to change, but in fantasy, sometimes the past can change too. I was surprised to learn last week that due to a stat correction, what I thought was my lone Week 1 loss, by a grand total of 2 points, had been rendered a 76-76 tie.