The NFL season has just started, and so has the fantasy football season! I am entering my fifth year of playing. As mentioned in my first diary article, this series will look at my experience playing different league formats. Don’t worry, I won’t put you to sleep spouting out all the specific league rules and scoring. Do I even know them all myself? This is just me sharing my personal journey as a fantasy player.
Redraft leagues are the run-of-the-mill style played by professionals and amateurs alike. Each year in a redraft league, you draft a brand new team of players. You get to start fresh. Oftentimes, this league is the format typically played when a fantasy player refers to having a “home league.” A home league is usually the very first league a fantasy player is in. It’s the one where a fantasy player learns the ropes to playing fantasy football before venturing on to other leagues or formats. Many times, a home league consists of a group of people who know each other through school, the neighborhood, or from work.
My very first league was a redraft league through my workplace at the time.
I didn’t know anything about fantasy football, but I saw my coworkers talking about the league, and my curiosity was piqued. I had to know what this game was. One day, when I saw a couple of them talking, I went up to them and asked, “Can I play?” and so my journey into fantasy started.
There was definitely a learning curve for me to learn how to draft players, what ADP is, what to consider when making start/sit decisions, and even learning about trades. The league was pretty active with trades, especially with one leaguemate who would constantly throw offers out. Sometimes, I had the feeling he was targeting me and trying to take advantage of my naivete into agreeing to a bad trade. I developed a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove myself as a fantasy player.
As I highlighted in my first article, I contribute a majority of my fantasy football education to the Ballblast content put out by Kate and Michelle Magdziuk. I learned from them and other fantasy advisors that when making roster changes, it’s about identifying the needs for your specific team and meeting those. I had a gaping hole in my running back depth. One notable trade proposal I received from this particular leaguemate included trading away Terry McLaurin and receiving Cordarelle Patterson. Even though he wasn’t a glamorous option at running back (sorry, CPatt), bruiser Patterson met what I needed for my team, so I smashed accept.
I played in this particular work league for my first four years of playing fantasy. My best finish was 3rd place in the 2021 season. Thank you, Austin Ekeler. I never considered it at the time, but as I reflect back on my experience with this league, I wonder if this had been my home league.
Each year, for the draft, we met in person whether at a restaurant or at someone’s house. It was time spent away from the workplace where we could gather, share a meal, and have conversation as friends. Then we dove into the grueling draft picks. I looked forward to this draft every year. During the season, we talked about our fantasy teams at work and how we fared each week. There was one game that my rostered New England Patriots defense got 30+ fantasy points, and the person I won against was fuming mad that it was possible for a defense to get that. Sorry?
Coming into this season, I was thinking that it may be time to move on from this league.
I no longer work there, and it’s designed as a work league. I was conflicted. This league is the reason I even got into fantasy football. It’s where I found my footing in how to play. I wanted to attain that hard-to-reach championship honor and earn those ultimate bragging rights. I didn’t want to walk away until I achieved that. The choice ended up being made for me as they filled the spots with current staff. I found myself feeling unanchored as my fantasy journey continued coming into this 5th season.
I was in another redraft league during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, in which I played with a group of Twitter friends. Last year, I finished in 2nd place due to having Justin Jefferson and Travis Kelce on my team. This league was the first Superflex league I played in. This differed from my first league, which had a roster construction of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, and 1 D/ST. Superflex, on the other hand, has the 1 QB spot but then also has a Superflex spot where you have the option to start another QB or a position player (RB, WR, or TE).
When you draft for Superflex, typically, quarterbacks are drafted sooner than they are in 1 QB leagues. I drafted the combo of Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins for my team last year, which also attributed to my successful finish. I felt both the immense satisfaction of finishing 2nd but also the angst of coming up short in grabbing that championship title. Despite the fun experience shared with this group, I felt like this league was meant to be only a short stop on my fantasy journey, and have since moved on.
This year, I joined a redraft league with my current workplace. They were previously a 10-team league, and I convinced them to make it a 12-team. I told the commissioner that, “I play fantasy football. And I’m good at it.” There’s a different dynamic when you play people you see regularly. The trash talking happens in person. Specifically, with a work league, you get to talk about something fun with your coworkers, which breaks up the monotony of the work day. I enjoyed having that with my first league, so I actively sought to be a part of this one.
This was my last draft of the year, and I have never experienced the level of weirdness I saw in that draft. When you play against more seasoned fantasy players, you tend to see trends and strategies playing out in a more methodical fashion. With this group of casual players, I was unable to anticipate how the board would fall. I was also having difficulty navigating a platform I don’t typically draft on. While I did practice with mock drafts ahead of time, I still felt out of my element. I also have never drafted zero RB before. The very idea fills me with panic. Yet, somehow, that’s what I ended up doing. I did not pick my first RB until the seventh round when I selected Dalvin Cook.
As Week 2 of this current season wrapped up, I was sitting at 0-2 and lacking severely in the RB department. I started exploring trade options with one coworker of mine. We went back and forth on multiple counter offers but struggled to come to an agreement that felt mutually beneficial. After a day passed, we pared it down and completed a simple trade of my WR Davante Adams for his RB James Conner, which helped both of our respective teams out.
I had considerable depth at WR and felt comfortable with this trade. Week 3 wins for both of us proved the trade successful. During the trade process, the coworker noted he hadn’t seen the back-and-forth of trade proposals that he and I did in all his years in this league. I guess it took a woman fantasy player joining this league- which was previously all men- to shake things up 😉
During my relatively brief time as a fantasy player, it is noticeable that, generally, there are more men who play this game. In my first league, what was possibly my “home league,” there were three women to nine men. In both the Superflex league and now this current work league, I was and am the only woman to 11 men. I hope we continue to see increased interest and participation from women as this game grows.
Last year, after the Fantasy Football Expo in Canton, I had an idea spark.
I dreamed of playing in a league with a bunch of my favorites in this space. I wanted to go head-to-head with tough competitors in the industry. This dream wouldn’t become reality unless I made it happen. So, I created my own redraft league and started personally reaching out to people I wanted to play with. I wasn’t sure what the response would be to this crazy idea of mine, and I was extremely nervous about even asking and didn’t want to bother people. I knew everyone was so busy with their own home leagues, their industry leagues, and whatever else cool leagues they’re in. What would they say to little ol me, meekly asking um, hi.. I want to play with you? Would they just laugh me off?
The first person I asked and the first one to say YES was Kyra Wiaterowski. I will forever be grateful for her belief in me and this crazy idea. Her joining gave me the motivation to fearlessly continue asking people and make this dream come true. I HAD to invite Michelle and Kate Magdziuk, who, as you know by now, will forever be my favorite fantasy football teachers. Um. Not only did they say yes, but it was an emphatic yes. What?
I filled out the league with more tough competitors and new friends I met at the 2022 expo: Andy B, Katie Mest, Stephie Smalls, Hoov, Mad Jester, Joey Wright, Britt Flinn, and Trashsandwiches. Yes, look at that list of names. Pinch me. It really happened. Getting to sit at the same table as these seasoned players was only going to make me a better fantasy player myself. To sum up the talent that I gathered together, I named this league Crushing It.
Starting this league was also the first time I tried my hand at commissioner. When asked what the fee would be, my reply was, “Just bring the good vibes.” It never occurred to me to even consider a buy-in. Since I’ve started as a fantasy player, my goal has always been to have fun, develop new skills, and achieve ultimate bragging rights. This group has been an absolute dream to play with and easy breezy to lead. Even though there was no money on the line, each person brought their A game and competitive spirit week in and week out last season. The only thing I hated about this experience was Joey Wright winning, and we have NOT heard the end of it. (just kidding…love ya buddy!)
As the season ended last year, a few of the leaguemates mentioned something to the effect, “I hope we can run it back next year.” I never had a big-picture plan for this league. My dream came true last year: getting to play with this group. Hearing them say they wanted to do it again had me pause and think, wait.. maybe there is something here with this league. Earlier this summer, I reached out to these leaguemates, asking if anyone wanted to do this league again. I honestly expected a couple to say, “No, not this year.” Remember, these are notable fantasy players and analysts with plenty of leagues at their disposal. But EVERY single one of them gave an immediate yes. Wait. What? I don’t take it lightly what a privilege it is to play in a league with these individuals.
I find myself at a crossroads on this journey of having a home league or not.
Like I said before, I’m coming into my 5th year as a fantasy player. My time with my very first league ended after having four fulfilling years, which were instrumental to my growth as a fantasy player. Do I remain unanchored to any particular league? Do I walk this journey independent of any attachment to a league? Or what if. What if this group I brought together to play in Crushing It is more than just a line item on my fantasy football list of goals?
Playing side-by-side with these 11 Crushing It leaguemates is a masterclass of playing fantasy football that I get to have a front-row seat to every week. And they are much more than fellow competitors. They have been my fantasy advisors as I navigate drafts and make roster moves in other leagues. As a fantasy content consumer, they are at the top of my list for content to consume. I will always be the first in line to read, watch, or listen to their latest piece of content. Beyond the fantasy game, they have been true friends to me through life’s highs and lows. These are my people. What is a home league if it isn’t this?
This is year 2 of Crushing It. I look forward to further developing my skills and learning more from these fellow competitors. Maybe someday, it will be my turn to hold that championship title. What I do know is I will enjoy the ride. I will bask in the fun of getting to play with my friends in this new home league of mine.
How about you? Do you have a home league you play in? How did you get involved with it, and what does playing in it mean to you?