The year was 2016. I was among the lucky RotoUnderworld minions who received an invite to the Scott Fish Bowl. For the uninitiated, the Scott Fish Bowl is a veritable who’s who of the fantasy football community. That year’s edition featured “only” 480 players. Now, to walk away the victor, I have to best “only” 1,439 other competitors.
No, that’s not an exaggeration.
In my three appearances preceding 2020, I’ve drafted against the likes of Jody Smith, Scott Barrett, John Evans, Christipher Bean, Andy Singleton, Peter Overzet, Doug Moore, Jason Tran, Mat Harrison, Zac Reed, #SFB480 runner up John LaPresto, the FF Engineer Kevin O’Brien, and Impact Wrestling’s Eric Young. Despite the stiff competition, and having never had a draft slot earlier than No. 10, I’ve still somehow managed to make the playoffs twice in those three years. It’s a good confidence booster, especially when considering I drew another proverbial murderers row of divisional opponents this season.
Picking at No. 1 in my division? Only the Dynasty Commander himself, Rotoviz’s Curtis Patrick. Picking at No. 2? Only a super close friend of the Underworld in Mike Randle. Picking at No. 10? Only the creator of the RotoGrinders app that we all use to post screenshots of our rosters to Twitter in Josh Hornsby. Picking at No. 12 in a great place to potentially start positional runs? Only two-time Scott Fish Bowl runner up Tyler Buecher. To say I have my work cut out for me would be an insult to work. I did draw the No. 5 pick though, so at least my gamble of not choosing a preferred division or draft slot payed off.
Tales From The Underworld – Part IV – Navigating #SFBX
Regardless of divisional opponents, making it to the playoffs is only half the battle in a large-field tournament. Having the firepower to make it through each playoff week is key, as is making the right lineup choices. Last season, a seemingly innocuous decision to play Kelvin Harmon over Bo Scarbrough cost me the chance to advance to the Week 15 semifinals for the first time. Given that this team featured Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Mark Andrews, that was an especially hard pill to swallow. Although I’m not sure it would’ve mattered. Because I know exactly what would’ve happened had I made it to the Week 16 championship.
With Cook out, I would’ve picked up and played Mike Boone after he put up 17.6 fantasy points in Week 15. If the Boone truthers haven’t blocked it out, he ended Week 16 with 4.3 points. Adding insult to injury, he put up 24.0 points in Week 17 from many a fantasy bench (at least in leagues with a Week 17 championship, which I never recommend). No matter how good your team is, making the right decisions when the pressure is highest is what separates the great fantasy football players from the elite.
Of course, the draft still matters, and will go the longest way towards determining the Scott Fish Bowl champion. In spite of my competition, I’m stoked about the team I’ve put together. After all, this is fantasy football, and you’re supposed to like your team. You’ll only catch me saying otherwise if things went completely off the rails. Time will tell whether I properly accounted for the unique nature of the scoring settings, but here’s how I got here.
Early Rounds and QB Strategy
Here are the rules, which incentivize drafters to lean toward bellcow runners and Konami Code QBs. Not being prone to sacks or turnovers is also important for #SFBX’s most important position.
You can imagine my surprise when Lamar Jackson, the highest scoring player in this format a year ago, was available to me at pick No. 5 overall. Though no one can or should be faulted for taking Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Patrick Mahomes or Ezekiel Elliott. A Robust RB build was my plan going in, but the best fantasy draft plan is always flexibility. Picking Jackson here also put Mark Andrews on my Round 2 radar. Which seemed like a pipe dream after Travis Kelce went at pick No. 6 and George Kittle went at pick No. 8, but Andrews was there in the second and I went with the stack. Given the extra .5 points for TE first downs and receptions, this struck me as the optimal move. Had I ended up with Zeke or Mahomes, RB would’ve been the target here.
Though Tyler Buecher started a small QB run by taking Drew Brees and Dak Prescott at the 1/2 turn, I resisted the urge to draft a second until most of the other teams had at least two. This nearly backfired, with Curtis Patrick taking Joe Burrow as his QB3 between my picks in the eighth and ninth rounds. I had to hope the only team picking before me in the ninth with one QB didn’t take Teddy Bridgewater. He took Gardner Minshew, my fallback option, and I smashed the button on my boy Teddy B, whose accuracy and ball security give him a real chance to smash in this format.
By the time my pick in Round 12 rolled around, four teams had three QBs. Wanting a chance at a third viable starter, my choices were between signal callers from Washington, Miami, Los Angeles (Chargers) and Chicago. Though I only hope to start this third QB one time, I still shot for league-winning upside. Pinpoint accuracy plus hidden Konami Code ability equals Tua Tagovailoa.
Stacking and TE Strategies
Do you even stack, bro? All the cool kids are doing it, and it’s a viable strategy in both large-field tournaments and redraft leagues. Having at least one stack with three or more players will give your team massive upside in the weeks when said team is firing on all cylinders. Pairing players who project to be the beneficiaries of a consolidated Target Share adds to the upside. Especially when they play on an elite team that projects to score copious amounts of fantasy points. For that reason, it was surprising to see that I was one of only five teams in the entire field to pair Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.
Putting all of your proverbial eggs into the baskets of too many teams is detrimental. Picking the right teams to stack is key. Those who closely follow the Underworld know that Carolina is one such team to target. Partially because much of the fantasy community is still sleeping on them despite the positive situational tailwind they face. Taking Teddy Bridgewater naturally pushed Ian Thomas, the LRTE Roulette NFC Edition cover boy, up my priority list. The question then became who between Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel to pick in Round 15 to complete the stack. Given the elite Deep Ball accuracy Bridgewater has displayed over his career, Anderson was the choice.
While many drafters focused on stacking QBs with their WRs, being able to stack both of my TEs with their starting QBs strikes me as ideal given the emphasis the scoring settings put on both positions. Because we’re only required to start one TE, the built-in upside of having two QB-TE pairings gave me the confidence to only take Andrews and Thomas into the regular season.
Not taking my first RB until Round 3 disqualifies me from saying I went with a true Robust RB team build. As such, I spent the next few rounds loading up on any players with bellcow potential. The ever-polarizing Leonard Fournette is the perfect pick in a league that values RB opportunity over efficiency. A strategy we often preach at the Underworld is to buy last season’s inefficiency, especially with runners who project to be workhorse backs. Lenny Fortunate (because he can’t be as unlucky as he was in the TD scoring department last year) is the poster child for this thought process in 2020. Jonathan Taylor‘s upside was hard to pass on, but I felt I needed more early-season stability in that first RB slot, even though the trade rumors that have surrounded Fournette since 1897 do give him ambiguous upside.
My wife made me promise I wouldn’t pick David Johnson under any circumstances. Not for her sake, for my own. Can’t blame her; she just doesn’t want to see me get hurt again. I can also never get myself to push the button on Chris Carson. I passed on both in favor of Cam Akers in Round 4. While the Rams have a bad offensive line and the hardest projected schedule of rush defenses, the potential for Akers to become the lead dog in the backfield, combined with his own ability, give him the upside edge over Dust Johnson and Hips Carson (note: these are bad nicknames). The same sentiment can be applied to D’Andre Swift, my fifth-round pick. Only Swift, a souped-up version of Miles Sanders, faces the easiest projected schedule of rush defenses. We know of Matt Patricia’s “rush first, ask questions later” instincts. The wheels; they’re up.
Check out D’Andre Swift’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:
While I was worried about how my early Ravens stack would affect my RB depth later, I felt better about it after nabbing Derrius Guice. By the time I picked him as my RB4 in Round 7, two other teams had already drafted at least four RBs, while four other teams had only drafted one. The depth I’ve acquired to this point let me spend the next five rounds focusing on other positions.
We’re now at Round 13. I find myself faced with a decision that I’d never wish upon any of the Underworld faithful. I have to decide between Duke Johnson and Chase Edmonds, because I know I won’t get both with this group. Edmonds may be the secret code to get into the good analyst room, but I needed to get my hands on at least one Johnson (:D). Seriously, Houston has the league’s most vacated carries (254) and fourth-most vacated targets (167). That combined with Duke’s elite year-over-year efficiency gave him the nod.
The Rams have 234 vacated carries, only trailing the Texans in that category. Even if I hadn’t already drafted Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson would’ve been a target in Round 14 for that reason. Though already having Akers and wanting to hedge my bets pushed him up my proverbial board a bit.
The Jerick McKinnon and Mike Boone picks in Rounds 17 and 18 were made before Raheem Mostert restructured his contract and Dalvin Cook reported to training camp, but I wouldn’t change them. McKinnon’s path to exceeding expectations requires staying healthy and filling a pass-catching role in San Francisco’s backfield. Boone’s path to fantasy relevancy won’t come without Cook, and possibly Alexander Mattison, missing time, but he’s already displayed week-winning upside when called upon. Even if that week last year was Week 17.
The Wide Receiver Room
A hidden advantage to being among the slower drafts in the Scott Fish Bowl was the ability to see how other drafts were unfolding and use the ADP data being formulated to our advantage. I knew I wanted pieces of a Jacksonville offense that’s projected to see a good amount of negative Game Script. With an #SFBX ADP of WR19, I knew I had to take D.J. Chark as the 19th receiver off the board and above receivers we had ranked higher. Still, if I’m going to have an alpha to build an RB-heavy squad around, I’m glad it’s a player who many sharp minds in the industry are touting.
Speaking of highly-touted breakout WR candidates, I knew I had to reach slightly for Marquise Brown in Round 8 to complete my Ravens stack. Though he’s a player I’m targeting in all formats regardless. Rounding out my starting lineup is tenth-round pick A.J. Green. The nature of the Scott Fish Bowl forces drafters to choose a position to be weaker at compared to the others. Only taking three receivers through ten rounds, and not taking another until Round 15, made me uneasy. Taking six with my final eight picks made me feel a bit better.
After completing my Carolina stack with Robby Anderson, it was time to throw darts at potential game breakers with elite speed. Denzel Mims, who has the clearest path among the group to alpha dog status, fits that bill, as do Andy Isabella and K.J. Hamler, who both play for offenses I wanted at least some exposure to. Finally, the guys I can’t quit in Tre’Quan Smith and Albert Wilson. One is likely to be Drew Brees‘ deep threat in New Orleans now that Ted Ginn is gone, and would be a league winner if anything were to happen to Michael Thomas. The other is projected to start in the slot in Miami, and the option to pair him with Tua Tagovailoa in a given week is there if the opportunity presents itself.
We can argue the logistics of an RB-heavy strategy versus a WR-heavy strategy versus a TE-heavy strategy in this format until we’re blue in the face. In the end, we all believe our way of constructing a league-winning team is the right way. Only one of us will be on the right side of history. Regardless, there are three basic takeaways that you, the reader, should get from this experience:
Know your league settings and how to take advantage of them to draft a killer squad.
The best fantasy draft plan, regardless of league format, is flexibility and the ability to change strategies as the draft dictates.
Get. Your. Guys.
See y’all at the finish line (whether that’s Week 13 or Week 16 for me is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, I’ll see you there).
When we last left our hero, me in this case, he (I) was taking part in the occasional PlayerProfiler/Breakout Finder rookie mock for ADP collection purposes. I thought what better way to generate RotoUnderworld article content than to talk about the process that went into making my picks. All while trying to be entertaining and provide actionable information along the way. That’s the basis of this series for those of you who are new here, but I digress. However, between editing/cranking out 60-plus rookie profile articles in March and April and helping finish up the “World Famous” Draft Kit in May, I needed a break from writing. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that. Because you’re getting more of me.
Through The Podfather, I’ve been invited to my first Reality Sports Online league and will be sure to talk about my experience. I’ll be competing against yet another murderers row of fantasy footballers, including Kevin O’Brien, Graham Barfield, Sal Leto, Bob Lung, Tyler Buecher, Kyle Dvorchak and Michael Salfino, to name a few. Pray for me.
As for Part V of Tales From the Underworld, redraft season draws nigh, and my first home league draft takes place on August 3rd. It’s a league where the defending champion gets to set the parameters. Keeper rules, starting lineups, etc. This year, we can keep one player from last year’s roster at a two-round cost. I drafted Kyler Murray in Round 9 last year and will be keeping him in exchange for my seventh-round pick. The quest for my first league championship since 2010, and first finals berth since an excruciating one-point loss in 2011, is set to begin.