Our digital features editor, Amar Shah, has never played fantasy football until this year. He'll chronicle his adventures here.
It's the day before the 2013 season kicks off and I'm in full-throttle, Sonic the Hedgehog mode as I dart through the NFL Network newsroom. There's no news breaking or immediate injury to report. No, it's something far more important that I must get done or else everything I've worked for up to this point will mean nothing.
*Approve means reject *
In my first fantasy go-round, I've been solicited with a number of trade offers. Some absurd, some tempting. One strategy that I've tried to utilize is to find players with injury histories and see if I can get them at a bargain price. Maybe not an actual strategy, but a hunch. Alas, Santonio Holmes is one of those guys. I knew he'd be playing in Week 1 and I was weak at the receiver position. But he was drafted in the 14th round by Patrick Crawley, one of our homepage editors and the owner of Bills to Pay. I told Patrick I was interested in acquiring Holmes and that he should check my roster to see if he wanted to swing a deal. He offered Holmes for Anquan Boldin, my ninth-round pick.
Boldin was my prized sleeper pick. I typed a quick "thank you, but not interested in your offer" message back and clicked a button and moved on. Not quite. Apparently, I hit the approve tab even though I intended to reject the trade. The realization dawned on me and I sprang from my seat. I looked for Crawley at his desk. He wasn't there. The only way to cancel the trade was to find the Commissioner of our league. Hence, my Joan Cusack from Broadcast News sprint toward the other end of the office to where fantasy editor Michael Fabiano sits. The fantasy guys used to sit in the same row, but new seating arrangements forced them to move to the Siberia wing of our facility. Luckily, Fabiano was at his desk. Out of breath, I blabbered my predicament and explained my situation. He was merciful.
Alas, I was rightfully rebuked a day later in email form.
Excerpt from Fabiano message:
...Just two quick points before tomorrow night's kickoff- first, I will approve all trades that aren't absolutely ridiculous (for example, Peyton Manning for Vick Ballard). If people think you're making a bad trade, well, you might want to think twice about hitting the approve button!...
I told my wife about my botched trade, hoping for at least some sympathy.
"Do you need me to make decisions for you?"
Reality over fantasy
My first opponent in the NFL Desk League would be Team Alabaster Ulysses Fresco owned and operated by two of our other editors, Gennaro and Dom. However, my biggest test came down not to another team, but to my team loyalty. I'm a die-hard Jets fan, but at the same time two of the key players on my fantasy team are Doug Martin and Mike Williams. Thus, when the Jets played the Bucs, I was stuck in a conundrum.
My former cubicle mate and (God help him) Philly loyalist Bill "Sudsy" Sudell has a fundamental philosophy about this. (Suds says god help him for being my former cubicle mate)
Others were a little more open to compromise.
Once a homer, always a homer. The Jets won a thriller, 18-17. I spread my arms and ran around the newsroom airplane-style, much to the chagrin of my colleagues. But what they didn't know is that at the same time I was celebrating Geno Smith's ascendance I was simultaneously excited that Doug Martin and Mike Williams both had touchdowns. Who said you couldn't get your win and a few touchdowns, too? Just don't tell Suds.
Setting my lineups was an interesting concept that forced me to study the game in a manner I've never done before. My rooting interests always focused on the Jets and the storylines that rotated around their axis, but fantasy forced me to think about games and predicaments I'd never given more than a cursory glance at before. I now needed to decide whether to start Cam Newton or Sam Bradford. Yes, Sam Bradford. I'm betting high on Bradford to deliver. He's finally got some weapons. Hello, Tavon Austin. Also, Cam was facing a stacked Seahawks defense. Last year he was just 12-for-29 passing against them. I decided to ask "NFL Fantasy Live" analyst Akbar Gbajabiamila for his thoughts.
I also asked Sudsy. He also agreed with Akbar, but put it more bluntly. "Never start Sam Bradford. Never. Never. Ever."
I pointed this out to Suds. He still says "never" when it comes to Bradford. We'll see.
Kickers do matter
"Take a kicker with your final pick" was the adage. Well, I took Adam Vinatieri. But I wasn't ecstatic. I knew there was someone better. I didn't have to go far. This year's 2013 NFL Draft had a hidden little gem from my school, the University of Florida. Caleb Sturgis has an iron leg. I dropped Vinatieri for Sturgis and 13 points later I was numbing the loss from the day before to the Miami Hurricanes. What can I say? I bleed orange and blue.
Who says there's no league for older receivers?
My fantasy fate would fall in the hands of a 32-year-old receiver who got traded for a sixth-round draft pick this year. He's also a Seminole. Well, Team Alabaster and I were going head-to-head into the second set of games. Their tight end Jared Cook was lighting it up and Eddie Lacy was racking up some yards. But then Anquan Boldin went bananas for 13 catches, 208 yards, two touchdowns and 39.8 fantasy points. And...
I actually won.
*The Ramanujan of fantasy and the art of not talking trash *
My new found expertise (after all I am undefeated) had me feeling confident.
I began having notions that I was becoming the Ramanujan of fantasy football. Like the famed Indian mathematician, I would be discovered for my genius after living in obscurity and not having any formal education in the field.
With that moxie, I felt it was time to finally take on the big dogs and go Kendrick Lamar on my next opponents Team Alison Brie operated by Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler.
I also tweeted at Alison Brie.
I've designated Dave Dameshek as my de facto fantasy sherpa because he's the only one who will bother listening to me anymore. I asked him for his prediction of my team this week.
I swear he does know my name.
I won my other league, too. When I told my wife Tejal the good news, she patted me on the head like a toddler.
"You didn't pick Peyton Manning."
"I thought you didn't keep up with football?"
"Seven touchdowns? Even I know that's good."
Next Week: Week 2 results, wife teaches me trash talk etiquette and the dark art of waiver wires
Amar Shah is the digital features editor at NFL.com. He'll be writing about his first-time fantasy adventures throughout the season. You can reach him at @amarshahism. If you have trade or marital advice, let him know.
Previous articles in the Series: