This is the second installment of a season-long series.
If you read last week, you may know that I have embarked on a journey to understand America’s obsession with all things fantasy football. As an NFL fan but fantasy football first-timer, I will be journaling my way through my fantasy football experience- stress, confusion and excitement included.
Despite being two weeks late in creating a fantasy football team, I decided to choose a host for my team and join a league.
If I’ve learned anything in this first week, it is that fantasy football is a lot of decision-making. You essentially have four options for choosing a host for your league. Some participants swear that it makes or breaks their fantasy experience, while others simply choose whatever pops up first when they Google “create fantasy team.”
You can use ESPN.com, Yahoo’s website, MyFantasyLeague.com or the official NFL website. Each seems to have its pros and cons, and honestly, it seems to come down to personal preference and personal history with the site.
In an unofficial poll of mostly guy friends who have been known to check their fantasy teams multiple times per day in front of me, ESPN.com seems to be the No. 1 choice for hosting your league, so that is what I decided on.
I was not let down in my first major decision of my fantasy experience. ESPN.com provides by far the most comprehensive statistics, making it easy for people with little knowledge about teams beside their home team to choose their players. The website is set up in a way that is easy to use, and the new and improved app is a must-have for obsessively checking your lineup on the go.
While I felt accomplished in the amount of research I had put into my first major decision, it did not prepare me for what was to come next: the draft.
I take pride in being organized, composed under pressure and a master of time management, but the fantasy draft tested everything I found to be true about myself. I am a double major in maximum credits, and let me tell you, this was the most stressful part of my week by far.
Once again, you have options when drafting. First, you have to choose which league you want to join. Most people join leagues comprising of their friends, coworkers, etc. Since I joined late, I opted to join a general league comprised of other anonymous players across the nation that I would compete against.
I looked at their usernames and imagined the people I would be competing against, internally smack-talking them as I glanced through the usernames. Kyle5059STAR. PhillyGuy98. I can only imagine the college frat boys and middle-aged dads behind the usernames, and the lack of a name with a face did not stop me from quickly growing a spirit of superiority over them all. I had done my research, I knew the players, read up on the injuries, looked at the player projections, and there was no way I would be out-drafted.
My next decision was how I wanted to draft. The league you join determines a time that the draft will take place. If you choose to draft yourself, you can pick your own team. If you are going to be away from your computer, you can choose to auto draft, which means when it is your turn to pick a player, the computer simply selects the next available player for you until your team is full.
I cleared 45 minutes during my lunch to draft, so I decided to draft on my own. Surrounded by two of my fellow sports reporters, I clicked the “Begin Draft” button and randomly received the first pick in the draft.
Then the panic set in as my friend leaned over and calmly said, “Hurry, you’ve only got 90 seconds.”
What? This was ridiculous! There were hundreds of players to choose from and no one told me there was a time limit and how on Earth I was supposed to make an informed decision under this sort of time restraint. I’m pretty sure this is the point where I yelled, “Help!” to whoever would hear my plight.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by four other people. My call for help was like a signal to any person who had ever panicked during the fantasy league draft, and just like that, I had five people helping me select my team who understood the true terror and importance of these moments.
Once you choose your player, you have several minutes for other players to choose theirs, which allows you some time to breathe and ponder your next move.
The entire draft is very strategic. My initial instinct was to choose my quarterback first because of the importance of the position. However, I was quickly corrected and told that the quarterback should be chosen much later in the draft since there were so many talented ones.
Running backs and wide receivers, on the other hand, are different. There are fewer skilled players in these positions, so they are best chosen early in the draft. It seemed counterintuitive to choose lesser-known names like Antonio Brown and Lamar Miller and sit idly by as big names like Tom Brady and Eli Manning remained unselected, but it ultimately was the right decision.
At the end of the draft, I let out a sigh of relief and glanced down at my roster with a sense of pride. My badass, unique team of all-stars, all mine, under my control, for me to play and bench and hire and fire as I pleased. I felt like a general manager and a head coach all in one, and dare I say, the power is intoxicating.
I pictured Matthew Stafford just waiting around in the little virtual draft room biting his nails wondering if anyone will pick him. He sweats a little as he considers that he may have to be picked off waivers as an undrafted free agent, and then suddenly I imagine him jumping for joy as he hears me read, “Brittney Bulawa picks Matthew Stafford as her 7th round pick.”
You lucky man, Matthew Stafford. Don’t let me down, son.
I am assured that I have a “solid” team, chock-full of players who are consistent and fairly low-risk picks, but only time will tell. Anything can happen in fantasy football — a simultaneously terrifying and thrilling premise.
Tune in next week to see how my team does in its first week of fantasy football, and as always, happy fantasy season, Zags.
Follow the writer on Twitter: @britbulawa