Sunday night, for the ninth time, I sat myself down at the computer and focused every bit of football knowledge, gaming savvy, and wiseassery I possess on one thing: the Fantasy League of Gentlemen/Gentlewomen draft.  It's a fairly remarkable achievement, actually. Since 2001, my friends Dan, Greg H. Steve, Reed, Ken, Nan, Mike, and I have been dutifully assembling to draft teams and spend the fall in in competition with one another. Granted, Mike did take a year off, and we've brought in new friends (Greg J. and Chris) to take the place of those who have fallen by the wayside, but FLOGG has become an annual celebration of not only our competitive streaks, but our enduring friendship. I've known Dan more than 40 years now, known Reed, Ken, Nan, and Mike for over 30, and Greg H. for 20, so it's sort of amazing that we're even still talking to one another, let alone giving each other crap for drafting players too early. When Dan suggested the league as a way of keeping in touch with our old buddies from Chapel Hill, he was living in Chicago, but I fully appreciated the idea, and it's been a rousing success.

Not that I've won a FLOGG title yet. Dan has--last year. So have Reed, Ken, Mike, and both Gregs. Nan's won two. But yes, Steve and I are starting to look at each other nervously, wondering which of us will be the last original owner to win a championship.

Will it be this year? Hard to say. I've been drafting in spots 6-10 for the last seven years, which means my squads have done well enough to finish in the top half of the league every season, but never well enough to actually bring home the Dick Dinkle Trophy (named after our first commissioner.) Instead, I've concentrated on the creative aspects of playing in this league, where each owner role-plays a character, and anyone who wants to can compose a news article, poll, or epic poem for the league's website. (I also served as Commissioner last year, but have handed in my key to the executive washroom.)

This year, picking sixth, I resolved to shake things up a bit, reasoning that even if I failed miserably, I could at least do poorly enough to assure myself a good draft position next year. I thus watched as the expected big four running backs were tapped (Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Matt Forte, in that order) and the Screaming Boiled Lobsters picked 2008 fantasy stud DeAngelo Williams. I had the option of taking LaDainian Tomlinson, once the top back in fantasy, albeit an older one coming off a disappointing year of nagging injuries. Should I make the expected move?

I said no, and drafted Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This year there are few top-tier WRs, and I reasoned that shaking up my draft strategy should mean grabbing rare commodities while the grabbing was good. Despite the fact that my competitors began snatching up quarterbacks immediately (the Frumious Bandersnatchi, picking 7th, grabbed Drew Brees, and the Donkeys got Tom Brady with the 10th pick), I forced myself to hold off, reasoning that capable signal-callers would be available later. In the 2nd round I took 49ers RB Frank Gore; in the 3rd, with all the top-tier QBs already off the board, I opted for Saints RB Pierre Thomas. And then, when my 4th round pick came up, I noted that all the teams behind me had already drafted QBs; knowing I could wait one more round to grab my man, I first picked top tight end prospect Jason Witten of the Cowboys, then waited until my 5th-round pick provided me with new Bears signal-caller Jay Cutler.

Whether Cutler is going to be the great player I hope he is will of course not be determined for a while, but I feel good about getting the highest-ranked WR and TE in the NFL, as well as solid players elsewhere. I'm also happy about our keeper rules; if you draft a player in round 10 or later and keep him on your squad all season, you can keep him next year as well. I opted to hang on to Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, whom I'd drafted in round 13 last year, and who should be a solid #2 wideout for me. But when the late rounds came this year, I started looking for promising young talent, securing RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Shonn Greene, plus rookie WR Percy Harvin. (I also got veteran WR Laveranues Coles and my required kicker, Ryan Longwell.) Here's hoping they work out to the point where I have trouble deciding who to keep next year.

The draft itself is an exercise in cracking wise about subject near and far, but I think my best crack this year concerned stretch where several consecutive teams drafted wide receivers with reputations as selfish and slightly off-kilter. I surmised that years from now, geologists investigating the draft would discover this layer of Primadonnium and theorize that a blast of egotism had covered the landscape.

But the point is, I'm ready to go play with my friends now, and here's what I'll be playing with:

(You can read that however you like.))

QB: Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton
RB: Frank Gore, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Bryant, Laveranues Coles, Percy Harvin, Vincent Jackson
TE: Jason Witten
PK: Ryan Longwell
D: Bears

Ladies and gentlemen, your Fighting Coelacanths for 2009!

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 25, 2009 1:47 PM.

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