High-risk route could end up being the road to perfection

The Baltimore Sun

With the New England Patriots roaring through the NFL like no team in recent memory, football fans have perfect seasons on the brain.

As is often the case, the happenings of reality filter down to fantasy.

I went on vacation with college friends last week, and as soon as my buddy Dan saw me, he said, "I think you might want to write a column about my fantasy football team."

Going into the season, he wondered whether he had reached a bit for Tom Brady and left himself thin at running back by relying on rookie Adrian Peterson. Nine weeks later, Brady was on his way to the greatest passing season in history and Peterson had just set the single-game rushing record.

Not only had Dan's Perfect Storm of Fantasy not dropped a game, the team more often than not won his league's bonus for compiling the highest point total of the week.

But fantasy football can be a fickle mistress. Injuries and bye weeks are her favorite tools of torment.

Sure enough, Week 10 brought Brady's day off and a knee injury to Peterson. So ended my friend's Perfect Storm.

That's not even the worst demise of a perfect season I've heard. A friend at work ran the table in last year's regular season, only to fall in the first round of the playoffs to a team with a losing record. It would be like the Patriots going 16-0 and then losing to the Cleveland Browns in January.

But all this talk of perfection got me wondering whether it's possible to shoot for an unblemished record going into the season. I mean, we're all trying to go undefeated by drafting the best teams possible. But most owners assume that even a great draft can't protect them from two or three losses.

Might a different approach improve the odds for an undefeated season? Maybe, instead of trying to minimize risk with most picks in search of a good team, you could maximize risk in hopes of drafting a great one. It would be like constantly trying to shoot the moon when playing hearts.

The approach probably would produce more bad seasons than good, but if it led to one truly memorable campaign, would it be worth it?

It's a deeper question that has confronted artists for centuries.

Is it better to pour your entire soul into one enduring work of genius? Or would you rather crank out solid work week after week, year after year for your entire life?

I know we're not composing symphonies or writing the great American novel here, but the fundamental quandary still applies.

I tend to own multiple teams in every sport, so I'm thinking about devoting one every year to a high-risk quest for glory. Seems like it would be fun. So what might this strategy look like in football?

Well, you'd still probably pick a running back in the first round because you need at least one good one to run the table. But you'd aim for a young runner on the rise instead of a veteran with thousands of carries in his past. This year, you certainly would have taken Joseph Addai, Frank Gore or Brian Westbrook ahead of Larry Johnson.

In the second round, you'd take a quarterback because a passer having a career season would be a huge source of reliable points every week. That would've meant Carson Palmer or Brady this year. Brady would've been the perfect gamble because he was coming off a slightly down year and had gained several new receiving weapons.

In the third, you'd take a young running back in an uncertain situation with a lot of upside. Again, Peterson would've been perfect this year with his unquestioned talent. But his role and ability to stay healthy were in doubt.

In the fourth, you'd take the best receiver on the board, preferably a highly gifted player coming off a down year. Terrell Owens would've been perfect in 2006, and Randy Moss was the high-risk, high-reward target this year. You'd snag another receiver in the fifth and then, instead of picking a tight end or backup runner, you'd reach for a high-scoring defense in the sixth round.

You'd go against common wisdom as often as possible and always draft high-ceiling players over the steady, reliable types.

Now, you could've followed this template in 2007 and ended up with Laurence Maroney, Carson Palmer, Ronnie Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and the Ravens' defense. That team certainly wouldn't be undefeated.

But what if you had Westbrook, Brady, Peterson, Moss and the Steelers' defense? That might be a lot cooler than another 8-5 season and trip to the playoffs.

If any readers have experienced a perfect fantasy season, let me know and I might write about it if this Patriots run continues.


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