By TYLER DASWICK
College Contributor Network
More often than not in fantasy football, things simply don't pan out. It has happened to all of us: sleepers never wake up, early-round picks have down years, stars suffer season-ending injuries, and you end up on the phone with your father receiving a play-by-play of how his team pummeled yours for the third year in a row. Classic.
The hard truth is that a lot of fantasy football comes down to pure, dumb luck. Sure, you need a draft strategy and you need to make strong picks week-to-week, but even when you play the odds, the NFL is unpredictable-legs crack in half, spleens explode, and replacement referees throw Tyler Daswick's Packers the finger. It sucks. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It leaves your season, as a fan and an owner, in shambles.
It might be a part of the experience, but sometimes the shifting tides of fantasy can infect our seasons with despair, and although this disease is persistent, friends, there is most certainly a cure. It's time to put a new wrinkle in our Fantasy Football Rulebook. It's time to break out Zombie Mode.
Here's how Zombie Mode works: immediately after one of their draft picks, an owner could choose to zombify the player that they just picked up. When a player is zombified, they become the player they were at any earlier point in their career, assuming the schedule, stats, and injuries of that year. Of course, the trick is to pick the right year to make your zombie.
An example will explain this best: say you draft Tom Brady this year, a guy who ESPN ranked 12th among fantasy quarterbacks and is currently going somewhere in Rounds 10 or 11 during 10-team drafts. Modern Brady's receivers are gone, he is coming off a down year, and you as an owner are worried he might continue his decline, so you decide to zombify him. Being a savvy NFL historian, you know that Tom Brady had one of the best statistical seasons ever in 2007, when he threw for over 4,800 yards and 50 touchdowns. You decide to create Zombie-Brady-2K7.
Now, instead of using Brady's unknown 2014 numbers, all of his 2007 stats carry over week to week, so when you start Zombie-Brady-2K7 on Week 1 for this year's league, he would earn your team 23 points, because in Week 1 of the 2007 season, Brady threw for 297 yards and three scores against the Jets. Pretty sweet deal, right?
It comes with some strings attached, naturally. First off, you can only zombify one player each year. Second of all, when you zombify a player in a draft, you forfeit your pick for the next round (if you're doing this online, maybe you just take a kicker, or in auction leagues you forfeit $10-you're a big kid, you can figure this part out). You also must start the zombie every single week, even on their bye week. Only fair when you have the bloated stats every other game.
Another catch: if your opponent for the week has a player in the same position (QB, RB1, RB2, etc.) who ends up earning a higher point total than your zombie, the zombie's points are negated for the following week (we call this "suffering a headshot"). Suddenly, Zombie-Brady-2K7 has a problem. Smart owners would see that in Week 15 of his 2007 season, Tom Brady threw for only 140 yards, no touchdowns, and even had an interception. That comes out to only three little points-incredibly easy to beat. Because your hypothetical opponent started Geno Smith (of course), Zombie-Brady-2K7 is inactive for Week 16's game, aka the beginning of the championship. He stays a starter, but his points are negated, so the roster spot is wasted on his team. Might not be worth it to zombify Brady after all.
A few things I love about this rule: it rewards research and preparation, and emphasizes strong finishes over strong starts-crucial in fantasy. It also has fantastic high-risk/high-reward flexibility. Do you play it safe and zombify Peyton Manning this year, and ensure that he repeats last year's heroics? You could, but if he is somehow even better this season, you wasted your zombify ability and that second-round pick you forfeited. On the other hand, if you zombified a player who suffers an injury in 2014, that injury becomes irrelevant. If you zombify them to a season when they played all 16 games, then you have 16 games of points, period.
Finally, the sneak-factor of Zombie Mode is off the charts. Consider that LaDainian Tomlinson is eligible in fantasy drafts this year. Of course, right now he is absolutely irrelevant, but if you nab him with your last pick and zombify him to Zombie-Tomlinson-2K6, you do not have to relinquish any draft picks, and you just stole a player who is going to score 31 touchdowns and gain 2,300 yards from scrimmage for the season. Careful researchers would be able to find these players every year, and it totally redefines how you think of sleepers.
Zombie Mode adds a whole new layer to fantasy football-it keeps the draft interesting in the later rounds, it produces some insane matchup potential (imagine two zombie-quarterbacks putting up monster numbers against each other to try and survive the week) and it adds brand new depth to the strategy involved. Most importantly, it relies less on luck and more on preparation. It takes fantasy to another level-making things way more interesting, way more entertaining, and most of all, way more fun.
Good luck, everyone. Time for me to draft Zombie-Owens-2K1.
Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz
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