INGWI: Confessions of a Former Fantasy Football Player

My name is Kelen Conley and I’m a former fantasy football player.

My friend Lane sent me a snap about doing a fantasy football draft and it took me back. I was talking to someone at work and we were talking about all kinds of different moments in fantasy football history (since 2010 at least) and that took me back. I saw a random tidbit about a Titans QB (now their third stringer, if he hasn’t been moved) and I was about to offer Anthony and E some advice and that took me back.

But I don’t regret getting out of the game.

Fantasy football was something I first heard about in the late 90s but being in high school, I’d much rather play NFL video games than try to organize what was necessary to play fantasy football back then. I’m not sure when Yahoo started offering fantasy games online but I’m pretty sure I first tried my hand at it online before I graduated. I definitely remember playing fantasy baseball one season with Chiv.

In 2005, I joined a fantasy football league with a few friends and landed in 2nd place.

2007 saw my first championship with a roster consisting of Tony Romo, Braylon Edwards, Donté Stallworth, LaDainian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James, and Maurice Jones-Drew. I have no recollection how such a roster came together but who says Tony Romo never won a championship! And I beat my friend Johnathan, which is very satisfying if you know Johnathan McCumber.

From 2008-2012, I didn’t win it all but I finished second in 2012, which led me think I was playing fantasy football with the best of them. In the 2013 season, I confidently drafted Aaron Rodgers, just 3 years removed from winning the Super Bowl.

The sky was the limit.

Until it wasn’t.

Week 9 saw the Packers lose to the Bears and lose Aaron Rodgers until the season finale against those same Bears. But my fantasy season, turned into chaos. This is when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I would pay my money every year, draft (sometimes on auto), and then make sure that everyone was playing that week and let it fly.

But when you lose your star quarterback and you give up on your backup (Andy Dalton) too soon, there’s no coming back from that. Waiver wire didn’t help, I was trying to read Yahoo’s fantasy advice to no avail, and eventually, I ended the season with a 9th place finish out of 12 teams.

Going into the 2014 season, I vowed it would be different.

I would be different.

I found new resources to gather intel from such as Reddit, Fantasy Pros, as well as actually studying one of those Fantasy Football guides. I started mock drafting a month before the draft on different formats, readying myself to be able to draft at the highest quality from any starting position. I lived, breathed, and ate fantasy football. I was checking news at work. I was logging into Reddit as soon as I woke up. I was no longer going to be made a fool by the fantasy football gods.

My draft was fruitful. Luck. Julio. Peterson. Emmanuel Sanders. Jeremy Hill. Philip Rivers. Mike Wallace. Ingram. I dropped Peterson October 1st once he was put on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list amidst child abuse charges. I traded Rivers October 25th for Alshon Jeffery. Aside from trying to find a consistent tight end and streaming defenses, the roster remained intact all the way to the championship game.

Mondays and Tuesdays, I soaked up everything I could find about possible waiver moves. I was anticipating not only the best available but also who would still be available if I didn’t get my first choice. Wednesdays, I woke up to see my haul and then started following my newest talent (as well as previous talent) to make sure they would be up to speed come game time.

I finished the regular season 10-3. After my first-round bye, I demolished my first playoff opponent and settled in for a championship game matchup against my friend and former coworker, Drew.

I can’t remember who was leading after the Thursday and Sunday games. All I knew was the championship was coming down to Monday Night Football. Bengals at Broncos. Jeremy Hill and Emmanuel Sanders vs. CJ Anderson and Demaryius Thomas.

I stopped looking at the scores before the game started. I rocked a then 7-month-old Aaliyah to sleep as the game begun and then I watched the rest of the game unfold with Angel after I put her to bed.

1st Quarter – Hill, Touchdown

3rd Quarter – Anderson, Touchdown & Sanders, 2 Touchdowns

4th Quarter – A pass intended for Thomas in Bengals territory, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Drew texted me congratulations before it was over but I didn’t celebrate until the clock hit zero.

From having no clue or any hope in 2013 to my second championship in 2014. And the knowledge that I could make this happen every season with the right preparation and a little bit or luck.

Or as Optimus Prime once said, “All we need is a little Energon and a lot of luck.”

I didn’t win that same league in 2015 but I started my own league and ended up taking it all. 2016 saw me repeating in my league and picking up another championship in a third league I joined from a group chat I’m in. I also dabbled in at least 1 ESPN league somewhere in here but I always preferred Yahoo.

By 2017, I was down to one league. I could feel myself burning out. I was on my 4th straight year of devoting my life to fantasy football excellence. I was facing a 1-7 start while facing Marc Rob in my league. At some point during the day before the Monday Night Football game, I made a video of me begging to the fantasy football gods for a win.

I looked desperate. I looked addicted. I looked like someone with a problem.

I’m joking of course but I still didn’t love that video. There are no fantasy football gods. Just preparation and luck. I knew that. And yet, I was facing losing my title reign in my own league and I wasn’t taking it well.

I lost the game

I didn’t lose again that season but I missed the playoffs, good enough for 8th place.

After that, I knew 2018 would be my last year playing fantasy football.

Since it was my last season, I joined 4 leagues: my original one from 2005, a second spinoff league from that one that started in 2014, my group chat league, and my own league. My league ended with me in 8th place again. I got 7th place in the spinoff league. And a second-place finish in my group chat league as I lost by 2.72 points.

In my original league, I overcame a 4-6 start to win my final 3 games to qualify for the playoffs. I was projected to lose in the first round.

But I won. I was projected to lose in the second round.

But I won. And I was projected to lose in the championship game to the 11-2 best team in the league.

And I won. It was by a mere 4.09 points, but I had won that league for a third time for my 6th championship overall.

Not bad for someone who had been completely lost just 5 seasons earlier.

I announced the following July that my league would not be continuing. And after threatening for several years, I finally retired from fantasy football.

Watching football after fantasy was weird at first. Before, I had a stake in every game depending if I had a player or if my opponent did. Now, I was watching football as a fan and I only liked the Raiders, so my investment in the NFL dropped greatly. But believe it or not, it was actually freeing knowing that I wasn’t going to be joined at the hip to my fantasy teams for 3 months out of the year.

I did try daily fantasy but it wasn’t for me. I have an addictive personality so I’ve always tried to stay away from gambling. And watching my small bets vanish every Sunday got to be too much, too fast.

I’ve thought about coming back a time or two but I won’t let myself come back unless I’m going all in. And I refuse to dedicate my life to fantasy football again. It’s nice to know I was able to better myself and win the championships I did (the money didn’t hurt either), but I’m okay with going out on top in the league that meant the most to me. I’m proud I was able to win the same league in back to back years. And I’m very proud of my fantasy football legacy.

Now, if anyone wanted a consultant for a small percentage of your winnings? Slide right into my DMs and let’s make a champion out of you!




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