Are you ready for some virtual football?
BAY ROBERTS, NL - Fantasy sports is a crapshoot. High profile players might have a down season and others could lose the season to injury or suspension. Teams rise and fall based on whatever transpires.
Things get intense and there could be a lot riding on how an athlete performs during the year. Every professional sport has an online equivalent - or thousands - where team owners test their sports know-how against others.
Last week was a big one for those armchair quarterbacks looking to flex their digital muscles as fantasy football got underway. Just days shy of the beginning of the National Football League season, millions of team owners around the globe got together and filled out their wish lists while completing their league drafts.
Bay Roberts native Neil Morrow completed three such drafts prior to kick-off last Thursday. Like the rest, the 27-year-old made sure to get the best players and form a team he thinks is capable of winning it all.
The key to winning it all is all in the approach.
"I don't research players, I do more research on what's the best strategy heading into the draft. Then, take a look at what players are available when I come to make a selection," said Morrow.
He used to be one of those guys who kept an eagle-eye on the average draft position of a player. When it was Morrow's time to select, he'd see who the top-rated player was and take him.
This year, Morrow thought outside the box. For two of his three leagues, he focused on skill positions and made his first half-a-dozen picks wide receivers or running backs.
"I did some strategy," he said. "I read some experts and they were going for a lot of wide receivers really early. That's the strategy I did in my last two drafts and I'm happier with those two teams than I am with my first team.
"I had picked out quarterbacks who were ranked from (spots) five to 10. I picked my favourites from there because I knew I wasn't going to get Cam (Netwon) or Russell Wilson ... and I was OK with that. For me, the difference between the first quarterback and the eight quarterback isn't as big a difference as the first wide receiver and eight wide receiver."
In fantasy sports, there are a couple of ways a league can go when it comes to drafting players and setting teams.
Of the half-a-dozen options, perhaps the two more popular versions are a keeper league and the standard league. A keeper league allows players to protect players from the previous season.
The leftovers are thrown in the draft pool for any player to select.
A standard league is as vanilla as it sounds. Everyone is up for grabs and league owners select players through a serpentine draft system.
When it comes to selecting players, Morrow prefers the standard league.
"I'm a huge draft fan," he said. "I enjoy the fun of it, preparing for it and the night itself."
For owners, the preparation is where you lay out the groundwork for the players you want to grab. Whether it's checking out sports websites to gather a wide range of information or mapping out how you want to conduct yourself.
Morrow's pre-draft research starts at FantasyPros. It's a site that pools the rankings from sites all over the web and gives a rounded view of things. From there, he can do some important prep work leading into the big night.
On draft night, there's plenty of windows open on his Internet browser if the need arises to do a quick rankings search. When it's baseball season, Morrow usually has a spreadsheet done up in Excel.
"I mostly have notes to myself," he said. "I listen to some podcasts and they might sell me on a player that might be available later in the draft that'll be really good value.
"It's nice to have these little reminders to myself of good value that other people have identified."
Some team owners live for the bragging rights that come with a league victory. Others strive to pick up the jackpot at the end if they're league has a buy-in policy.
Morrow has a different goal when he sits down to join a league.
"I like making sure my friends don't win, if that makes any sense," he said.
5 MUST READS FOR FANTASY FOOTBALL FANS
1: FF Today rounds up all the latest fantasy football news in one spot
On Twitter @FF_Today
2: Fantasy Pros expert directory is a wealth of information
3: Read the Sablich brothers, the NY Times' source on fantasy football
On Twitter @5thdownfantasy.
4: Want more analysis? Fantasy Football Librarian has offered in-depth coverage and research since 2006.
On Twitter @fflibrarian
5: Get season and weekly rankings in the Fantasy Rundown directory
On Twitter @FantasyRundown