by Jared Smola
How do you knock off 971 other fantasy teams and take home a $200,000 grand prize? There’s no magic formula. (If we had one, we’d be somewhere near the equator sippin’ margaritas.) It takes a combination of skillful drafting, deft waiver wire work, and smart weekly lineup decisions.
Josh Neblett and Paul Miller had it all this past season. Their squad, Caucasian Invasion, took home the 2012 Fantasy Football Players Championship Main Event title.
So how did they do it? Let’s take a look!
Neblett and Miller left the draft with a well-balanced roster — and a couple studs. Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin were 2 of the most valuable players in fantasy football this past season. Caucasian Invasion had them both. They scooped up AP in the 3rd round and added RG3 in the 11th. Those guys carried the squad for most of the season.
Invasion’s TEs also came up big. Remember that FFPC rules award 1.5 points per reception to TEs. Hitting on that position is crucial. Neblett and Miller used the 4th overall pick on New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham. While Graham fell a bit short of expectations this past year, he still finished 3rd among TEs in FFPC scoring. The pick obviously didn’t ruin the squad.
But it was a 15th rounder that made Invasion dominant at the TE spot. That’s where they grabbed Heath Miller. He was the 26th TE off the board but finished the season 4th at the position. Having a pair of top 4 TEs (who can both start on a weekly basis in the FFPC setup) gave Neblett and Miller a big leg up on the competition.
The QB spot was another strength of the championship roster. Behind Robert Griffin on the depth chart was Tony Romo, who was picked in the 7th round. Romo started the first 2 weeks before heading to the pine. But when Griffin went down late in the year, Romo stepped up in a big way. In the final 2 weeks of the FFPC playoffs, the Cowboys signal-caller posted outings 24.65 and 36.8 fantasy points.
Neblett and Miller’s draft was far from perfect though. They whiffed on Maurice Jones-Drew in Round 2. They handcuffed MJD with Rashad Jennings in the 10th round, but he was only useful for a couple games. Darrius Heyward-Bey (8th round), Titus Young (9th) and St. Louis’ Steve Smith (13th) didn’t pan out either.
But a couple key waiver wire adds helped mask those mistakes. With an $83 dollar bid (out of a $1,000 free-agent budget), Invasion was awarded James Jones prior to Week 4. That Sunday, he went for 56 yards and 2 scores. It was the first of 3-straight 2-TD outings. Jones was in Caucasian Invasion’s lineup for the final 2. The Packer WR also provided massive 29 and 23-point outings in the final 2 weeks of the Main Event playoffs.
Marcel Reece was another key addition off the waiver wire. He was a pricey $333 add but paid immediate dividends. Reece went for 23.3 fantasy points in his first week in Invasion’s lineup. He put up double digit points in 2 other outings.
On top of the Jones and Reece additions, Caucasian Invasion used the waiver wire to play matchups with Ks and DEFs. In total, the squad started 7 different Ks and 10 different Ds. And the strategy worked. Invasion’s Ks averaged 8.3 points per game. Among individual Ks, that would have ranked 7th league-wide. Their defenses were even better, posting an average of 9.3 points. Only 3 defenses scored more than that over the course of the season.
Caucasian Invasion drafted well in early September, but it was their work on the waiver wire that put them over the top.
So what can we learn from their $200,000 season as we look ahead to 2013? We’re seeing 3 important lessons:
First, you don’t need to have a perfect fantasy draft to win your league — even if your league has 972 teams. Missing on guys — even early-round guys — is fine if you make up for it with a few well-timed gambles. Neblett and Miller rolled the dice on Peterson and Griffin and it paid off in a big way. Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences. There’s nothing wrong with a few safe picks, but it’s the smart gambles that win championships.
Of course, you’re going to miss on picks. That brings us to lesson #2: work the waiver wire. Hard. Caucasian Invasion made 27 add/drops over the course of the season. You need to churn your roster. Guys you would have bet your house on will end up being busts. Don’t wait too long to send them to the bench — or even to the waiver wire. Every year there are gems that go undrafted. This past year’s list included guys like Russell Wilson, Vick Ballard, Knowshon Moreno, Cecil Shorts, T.Y. Hilton and Brandon Myers — just to name a few. Finding these breakout players after your draft is crucial to winning your fantasy league. Of course, Draft Sharks helps keep you ahead of the competition with our Waiver Wire reports on Sunday night and Monday afternoon!
The final lesson is something we’ve preached since we started back in 1999. Waiting until your last couple picks to select a K and DEF is the way to go. There’s so much turnover at those positions that targeting a supposed top option at either just isn’t a smart bet. There are always valuable producers available on the waiver wire. Caucasian Invasion took their only defense (the Eagles) in the 16th round. They grabbed Sebastian Janikowski as their only kicker in the 19th. Then they went to work on the waiver wire, cycling in DEFs and Ks based on matchups. The team ended up getting upper-end production out of both spots — without using an upper-end pick on either.