Wednesday, August 5, 2009

1992 – My First Year in Fantasy Football

Oh, the rookie mistakes I made. Armed with the overall #4 pick, I figured I needed a franchise QB to serve as the backbone of my team. When it was my turn to pick, I chose Mark Rypien, who was fresh off a Super Bowl victory and still had “The Posse”, comprised of Hall-of-Fame WR Art Monk, as well as Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, at his disposal. Amazingly, I left studs like Dan Marino and Jim Kelly (who would turn into a fantasy football royalty that year) on the board. I knew enough about the NFL to know that Marino and Kelly were supreme talents, but I wanted Rypien badly, as his value appeared higher in my newbie eyes. Needless to say, Rypien did not match his stellar 1991 campaign. In fact, he was, to be generous, mediocre, and would continue to prove that 1991 was the lone season that would shine on Rypien’s resume.

My draft would only go from bad to worse. Although he only garnered 11 carries the year before, I was convinced a monster season was in store as I selected Bobby Humphrey with my second round pick (I just threw up in my mouth a little after typing that). Humphrey was pretty good when he was the starting RB on the Broncos his first couple years in the league, but he got traded to Miami in the offseason. Since this was before the days of Rotoworld and countless other fantasy sports information resources (you were lucky if you or someone you knew had a Prodigy account!), I failed to learn that my future second-round pick wasn’t even the starting running back on the Dolphins (the immortal Mark Higgs owned that honor)! The much-anticipated Week 2 Monday Night game against Cleveland featured Higgs getting 25 carries to Humphrey’s two (although Humphrey was more favorable in PPR leagues with 54 catches that season, he was still hardly second-round material).

In the third round, I was thrilled to have taken RB Neal Anderson, a player I had seen shine for the Bears in previous years. Unfortunately, I failed to realize he was over the hill at this stage in his career. Although Anderson’s 11 TDs helped my team get a handful of wins, I realized after this inaugural season of fantasy football how much I had to learn about real vs. perceived player valuation.

Speaking of over-the-hill football players, I selected Mark Clayton in the fourth round. I remember reading about his 12 TDs scored the season before, and simply assumed that as long as Marino was throwing him the rock, he was due for a repeat season of double-digit TDs. This would be Clayton’s last year as a Dolphin, as he was just awful with fewer catches than, ahem, Bobby Humphrey.

I’ll spare you the painful details of the rest of my draft, but let’s just say I finished 4-10. Regardless of my sub-par performance, I was hooked like a video game junkie who just played Grand Theft Auto for the first time. On Sunday mornings at 10am, not even an earthquake could pry me away from the TV. In fact, I was at my worst when I was forced to travel with my Sunday School classmates to retirement homes to hang out with convalescing octogenarians. As soon as we got to the TV room, I would convince one of my classmates that Florence and Mildred on the back couch wanted someone to change the channel from “Meet the Press” to the Rams/Giants game. I know it sounds dirty, but if you had Rodney Hampton and Henry Ellard in your starting lineup, you might have done the same!

My mom was both amazed and worried at the diligence with which I would spend hours talking trade. She envisioned me as a future Hollywood / Wall Street power broker as she witnessed my repeated attempts to fleece fellow league newbie Mike Winston of Thurman Thomas in exchange for a package of Gaston Green, Mark Duper, and Chip Lohmiller. Mom initially dismissed this fantasy football thing as a phase – little did she know I would spend hours of my future workdays as an adult poring over which defense to start instead of returning sometimes-urgent emails to clients.

I had grown up primarily a baseball fan who only began to delve into NFL action once my sister, who then attended Denver University Law School, sent me one of those triangular pennant flags. Coupled with the fact that I watched John Elway in “The Drive” against Cleveland, I became a Bronco fan. This would result in much derision from my peers, who were either 1) Raider fans, the Bronco's long time arch-rival, or 2) 49er fans (the bane of my existence after Super Bowl XXIV) as I always loathed front-runners.

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