Introducing the Morgan Wick Fantasy Football Fifty Challenge!

Last year, I decided to carry out a project called the Simulated Experts’ Fantasy League. I’d take the “big boards” of eight prominent fantasy sites and draft an eight-team league using each of them, then play out a season. It was an interesting experiment, but not one I’d like to try again with. I intended to run a second league, the Simulated Experts’ Auction Fantasy League. This league would attempt to hold an auction using several sites that listed recommended auction values for players.

After waiting for sites to have as up-to-date and relevant big boards as I could, possibly too long (Yahoo never did release a big board that reflected the end of the Chris Johnson holdout), I held the SEFL draft all day on Wednesday, the day before the start of the season. On Thursday, I woke up intending to hold the auction draft… and found that NFL.com had replaced its big board with Week 1 rankings. And there was no way to get the big board back, even though you could still draft a team right up to kickoff of the Kickoff Game.

I looked frantically for some way to get the big board back. NFL.com’s fantasy system has a feature where you can enter a draft – not a mock draft, a real live draft – just by clicking some buttons. As I would find, it’s a devious way for them to suck people into their fantasy football product. I entered a draft room to find that I could, in fact, get the big board back that way… but of course, it didn’t have what I actually needed, the auction values, and NFL.com is only supporting actual auction leagues starting this year. Nonetheless, over the course of the time I spent in there, I wound up drafting a team.

It was a strangely engrossing experience, and I decided to run a team in as many sites as I could, but I was only able to draft a team on ESPN before the Kickoff Game started. I’ve said before that I tend to go against the grain of what everyone else is doing, that I tend not to be caught up in whatever the current trend is, but in retrospect it’s kind of surprising that I hadn’t taken up fantasy football before; it involves just the sort of obsessive ordering, sorting, and categorization that’s right up my alley. For someone like me, who isn’t really a fan of any particular team, it’s really the perfect way to follow the NFL. For much of last season I was actually considering doing a live online radio show every Sunday of this year where I keep track of the developments in one specific fantasy league, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

(For the record, my impression was that the people on NFL.com were more prone to make boneheaded mistakes and massive reach picks than the more knowledgeable drafters on ESPN… so naturally my NFL.com team did horribly while my ESPN team dominated the league after Cam Newton basically fell into my lap and I turned out to have something like the two best running backs in the league, propelling me all the way to the championship game before getting crushed.)

Now that I know for a fact what my opinion of fantasy football is, I intend to take it to the next level, and finish what I briefly started last year, by running as many teams as I possibly can – a total of a whopping fifty at the same time. Why? Because I’m apparently insane and have decided that, after a summer I’d earmarked as a critical one with a number of projects I intended to get done that wound up progressing slower than I would have liked, and heading into a hardcore quarter at school where I’ll be taking a class that’s both critical and might end up demanding the most work of any I’ve taken, the best thing for me to do is to take one of the major saps on my time last fall and increase the work involved in it fivefold.

One of these leagues will be one of the MyFantasyLeague.com leagues from FantasySharks.com, despite my having no intention of using the actual advice on their site much – their ranking on FantasyPros.com, one of the sites in the SEFL, doesn’t lie, though their draft advice is of some use. So why am I doing it? Because FantasySharks.com has come up with a brilliant idea that I’m not entirely sure why no one has tried before: bringing promotion and relegation to fantasy football. At the top is the “Great White Shark League”, a 12-team league consisting of nine users of the site, two of the site’s top experts, and an automated team. The bottom four teams get relegated to one of two “Whale Shark Leagues”, which similarly each contain nine users, two experts, and an automated team, with the champion and the team with the most total points promoted to the Great White Shark. Below that are four “Hammerhead” leagues containing all users, then eight “Mako” leagues, then 16 “Blue” leagues, then the current lowest level, the 32 “Tiger” leagues (though there is a possibility that a new “Leopard” level could be added this year).

I love this concept in every way, from the way it raises the stakes on every level to the most important reason I’m actually participating in it, its usefulness as a yardstick of ability and success. I’ve actually expanded this idea out to one of a championship pyramid for all of fantasy football, a good 20 levels following the same power-of-2 structure, complete with a new-player-qualification scheme so new players don’t have to wait a lifetime to reach the top. For the limited competition that’s there now, I’ll be starting in Tiger League 3 with a team with the whimsically nerdy name of the “Green Lantern Corps“.

For the other 49 teams, I’ll be drafting as many teams as I can on every single free fantasy football website. NFL.com has a maximum of six, CBS three, ESPN and Fox ten each. Yahoo and Fleaflicker have no limit, so ten teams on each of those sites brings me to an even 50. All of these drafts, except the FantasySharks league whose draft will start this Monday and has a 12-hour timer so it could last upwards of a week, will be held over Labor Day Weekend and in the run-up to kickoff. To reduce the effect on my time during the school year, I will stop actively maintaining any team that starts 0-4 or 1-5, but I will maintain at least one team on every site and under no circumstances will I abandon the Shark team. I’ll track my progress over the course of the season and give my quick impressions of each site as I go along, on Twitter and on Da Blog.

Here are the times I intend to hold the draft for each league. All times Pacific.

August 13:
6 AM: MyFantasyLeague/FantasySharks.com

September 1:
9 AM: NFL
10 AM: ESPN
11 AM: Fox
Noon: Yahoo
1 PM: Fleaflicker
2 PM: CBS
3 PM: Yahoo
4 PM: ESPN
5 PM: Fox
6 PM: Fleaflicker
7 PM: ESPN
8 PM: Yahoo

September 2:
9 AM: Yahoo
10 AM: Fox
11 AM: ESPN
Noon: NFL
1 PM: Fleaflicker
2 PM: Fox
3 PM: CBS
4 PM: ESPN
5 PM: Fleaflicker
6 PM: Yahoo
7 PM: NFL
8 PM: Fox

September 3:
9 AM: Fox
10 AM: ESPN
11 AM: Yahoo
Noon: NFL
1 PM: Fleaflicker
2 PM: Yahoo
3 PM: Fox
4 PM: Fleaflicker
5 PM: ESPN
6 PM: NFL
7 PM: CBS
8 PM: Fleaflicker

September 4:
Noon: ESPN
1 PM: Fox
2 PM: Fleaflicker
3 PM: Yahoo
4 PM: Fox
5 PM: ESPN
6 PM: Yahoo
7 PM: Fleaflicker
8 PM: NFL

September 5:
Noon: Fleaflicker
1 PM:  Yahoo
2 PM:  Fox
3 PM:  ESPN

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