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 two of the most valuable players in fantasy football this past season. Caucasian Invasion had them both. They scooped up AP in the third round and added RG3 in the 11th. Those guys carried the squad for most of the season.
Invasion's tight ends also came up big. Remember that FFPC rules award 1.5 points per reception to tight ends. Hitting on that position is crucial. Neblett and Miller used the fourth overall pick on New Orleans' Jimmy Graham. While Graham fell a bit short of expectations this past year, he still finished third among tight ends in FFPC scoring. The pick obviously didn't ruin the squad.
But it was a 15th-rounder that made Invasion dominant at the tight end spot. That’s where they grabbed Heath Miller. He was the 26th tight end off the board but finished the season fourth at the position. Having a pair of top four tight ends (who can both start on a weekly basis in the FFPC setup) gave Neblett and Miller a big leg up on the competition.
The quarterback spot was another strength of the championship roster. Behind Robert Griffin on the depth chart was Tony Romo, who was picked in the seventh round. Romo started the first two 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 two weeks of the FFPC playoffs, the Cowboys' signal-caller posted outings 24.65 and 36.8 fantasy points.
Reggie Bush (fifth round), Eric Decker (fourth) and Stevie Johnson (sixth) were also rock-solid starters for Caucasian Invasion.
Neblett and Miller's draft was far from perfect though. They whiffed on Maurice Jones-Drew in round two and handcuffed him with Rashad Jennings in the 10th round, but the latter was only useful for a couple games. Darrius Heyward-Bey (eighth round), Titus Young (ninth) and St. Louis' Steve Smith (13th) didn't pan out either.
But a couple of 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 two scores.
It was the first of three straight two-TD outings. Jones was in Caucasian Invasion's lineup for the final two. The Packers' WR also provided massive 29- and 23-point outings in the final two 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 two other outings.
On top of the Jones and Reece additions, Caucasian Invasion used the waiver wire to play matchups with kickers and defenses. In total, the squad started seven different kickers and 10 different defenses, and it worked.
Invasion's kickers averaged 8.3 points per game. Among individual kickers, that would have ranked seventh league-wide. Their defenses were even better, posting an average of 9.3 points. Only three 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 three 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 in the early rounds—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 No. 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 of picks to select a kicker and defense 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 defenses and kickers based on matchups. The team ended up getting upper-end production out of both spots—without using an upper-end pick on either.
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