Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fantasy Football

Fall is a time when the baseball pennant race heats up and football players gear up for the long season ahead.

But fall, of course, is a time when players of a different sort get ready to do battle on the gridiron field.
Yes, Fantasy Football is a sport that is just as gritty and hard-fought as the players who lace up their sneakers and fight it out in the NFL on any given Sunday.
This year, Fantasy Football is a crap shoot and everyone from the online experts to the players at home in local leagues can only guess what's in store for the 2011-12 football season. That's because a settlement was reached in July that finally put players back in shoulder pads and cleats in a rushed, non-traditional fashion.
The hurried season continues to put pressure on players and team officials, who would normally prepare for a few months to help mold a team to a championship-caliber level. The same is true for fantasy owners.
Owners have but a few short weeks before most fantasy drafts, and some say it's too early to tell who will be a surprise superstar and who will be a bust.
But fantasy owners must cram for the big test that is the fantasy draft. The draft is a where certain moves can make or break a season. This year is different. This year, it's tough to say which players can overcome an offseason with little time to prepare and come out like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice did in the 1980s.
I don't plan to gamble on players who are unknowns. I am going into my third season as a fantasy owner and must be competitive with some owners who have been playing this game since Reagan was president and hair bands were popular.
Sure, there are the safe bets like Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson who seem to perform year-in and year-out. But I, like most owners, must bet that certain players such as Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who will be in an elite class.
Fitzgerald, a few years removed from being teammates with future hall-of-famer Kurt Warner, will rely on new quarterback Kevin Kolb to bolster his numbers. Last year, Fitzgerald wasn't much of a fantasy threat with three awful quarterbacks at the helm.
Other teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles should have plenty of players to choose from. It seems like the Eagles, who have acquired many stars from around the league on both sides of the ball, should introduce the team slogan "Eagles: Reloaded."
But who knows? Players on any team that win fantasy championships could go down at any moment. Tom Brady, heralded as the savior of the New England Patriots, went down a few years back and no doubt crushed the fantasy hopes of at least some team owners.
No one player should make or break a season, but owners should rely on the players that have gotten them to the promised land in years past. Don't get me wrong รข€• do your research. But go with the players that are a safe bet to bring home the gold.
I have had mixed results with drafting players who were supposedly going to catch numerous passes and dance multiple dances in end zones across the NFL. The season is full of unknowns, but my approach is no different: take the best player available.
Some owners will draft based on their favorite players or their favorite team. That philosophy doesn't usually work. Playing fantasy means you don't have allegiance to any one team.
For me, that's easy since the Arizona Cardinals, a team notorious for losing games over the years, was in my back yard growing up.
I agree with some that trades could be a factor this Fantasy football season. Owners must rely on research and past experiences that have gotten them to the playoffs and beyond.
The season will be long and hard-fought like Ali vs. Frazier in the 1970s bout. The fantasy season should be full of plenty of battles and surprises.
I can't wait.