One of my favorite things that the ESPN Big Ten blog does, is their fantasy football challenge throughout the year. So naturally, the Black Shoe Diaries editors decided that we wanted to do it, also. Rather than trying to challenge ESPN in a winner-takes-their-studio-and-tv-time competition, we figured it would be better to just do this on our own.
Chad, Cari, Jared, Bill and myself went through a draft to pick our teams. All offensive players and team defenses in the Big Ten were eligible to be drafted. The roster calls for two quarterbacks, two running backs, two wide receivers, one flex that can be either a wide receiver or a tight end, a kicker, a team defense and a bench spot. Each week, every team will have their points calculated using the standard settings for a Yahoo! Fantasy Football league. Rather than having head to head competitions each week (and because there are five of us), the team that accumulates the most points by the end of the season will be crowned the champion.
Each week, every team will be allowed to add/drop two players, if they so choose. This could be helpful to avoid bye weeks, or simply to dump a player that picks up an injury or just starts sucking. The bench spot also gives everyone the chance to be strategic, because while they won't add any points to the total while they're on the bench, it's a way for everyone to store a potential impact player who may be out with an injury.
But you probably don't care about all of that. Instead, let's move on and meet the teams.
|QB||Nate Sudfeld (Indiana)|
|QB||Joel Stave (Wisconsin)|
|RB||Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State)|
|RB||Imani Cross (Nebraska)|
|WR||Leonte Caroo (Rutgers)|
|WR||Chris Godwin (Penn State)|
|WR/TE||Josiah Price (Michigan State)|
|K||Brad Craddock (Maryland)|
|Bench||Macgarrett Kings Jr (Michigan State)|
Having the No. 1 pick in fantasy football is usually tough, because there are a lot of ways you can go. Fortunately, when there's a star running back who is a cut above everyone else in the draft, the decision becomes a lot easier, and since I had the first pick, grabbing Ezekiel Elliot was a no-brainer. Rounds two and three were a bit of a risk – while I like Imani Cross and that he's projected to replace Ameer Abdullah, he is more of an upside pick than anything, as is Leonte Caroo, because Rutgers doesn't know who will be at quarterback – and my QB1 has a ton of upside, because Nate Sudfeld has showed that he can do an excellent job running IU's offense. This isn't guaranteed to be the best core, but I feel really confident in it if it all works out.
Heading into the later rounds, Chris Godwin will probably be Penn State's No. 1 wide receiver by the end of the year, Josiah Price may be the best tight end in the conference, and Brad Craddock is as automatic as they come at kicker. To round out my team, I went with one of the three best defenses in the conference (Wisconsin), a quarterback who at the very least will be fine (Joel Stave) and the best receiver in the best pro style offense in the conference (Macgarrett Kings Jr). There are plenty of risks with this team, but with all of the upside I have to go along with Elliot, I'm confident in it.
|QB||Wes Lunt (Illinois)|
|QB||CJ Beathard (Iowa)|
|RB||Josh Ferguson (Illinois)|
|RB||Akeel Lynch (Penn State)|
|WR||Alex Erickson (Wisconsin)|
|WR||RJ Shelton (Michigan State)|
|WR/TE||Jake Butt (Michigan)|
|K||Joey Julius (Penn State)|
|Bench||Braxton Miller (Ohio State)|
What is the purpose of fantasy sports without any cash payout? It's about the lolz. It's about the epic wins. Most importantly, it's about the memes. Team Fat Butt is here to lose every week, sure, but more importantly Team Fat Butt is here to make the five people reading about this every week try to conceal a noticeably loud gut laugh from their cubicle neighbors. Joe Julius is a comically large kicker. I took him in the first round. His name is Jake Butt and he plays tight end, which is itself a synonym for butt. A double butt joke. I stole him in the second round. To lose with dignity is pointless. Lose with memes on your side and you'll always win.
|QB||Connor Cook (Michigan State)|
|QB||Jake Rudock (Michigan)|
|RB||Corey Clement (Wisconsin)|
|RB||Paul James (Rutgers)|
|WR||Danny Anthrop (Purdue)|
|WR||Amara Darboh (Michigan)|
|WR/TE||Geno Lewis (Penn State)|
|K||Sean Neurenberger (Ohio State)|
|Bench||Mike Gesicki (Penn State)|
I used my first pick to select Connor Cook, who is the closest thing to a "guarenteed" fantasy star that you will find in the B10. I followed that up with Corey Clement, who will take the throne from Melvin Gordon as the next Heisman contender to carry the rock for the Badgers. My receivers are unproven, yet loaded with potential. If my hunch that Geno Lewis is ready to become a consistently great receiver stands correct, he will be the biggest steal of the draft. Michigan State's defense will be a steady source of points throughout the season, as will Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger (especially since he is allowed unlimited time to prepare for long field goals by our lovely B10 officials). Also, I have Jake Rudock.
|QB||JT Barrett (Ohio State)|
|QB||Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Nebraska)|
|RB||Justin Jackson (Northwestern)|
|RB||Ty Isaac (Michigan)|
|WR||DeAnthony Arnett (Michigan State)|
|WR||Jalin Marshall (Ohio State)|
|WR/TE||Adam Breneman (Penn State)|
|K||Rafael Gaglianone (Wisconsin)|
|Bench||De'Mornay Pierson-El (Nebraska)|
Going into the draft, the one thing I really, truly wanted, was Penn State's defense. And despite enduring Bill's ridicule, I got that, so I consider it a successful draft.
I also got Barrett and Marshall, which according to LGHL's Luke Zimmermann were really good pickups (and he knows what he's talking about). I was totally fine with having a wideout that had to sit out the first game, UNTIL PIERSON-EL BROKE HIS FOOT AND IS OUT THE FIRST SIX-TO-EIGHT WEEKS.
Considered by some a top five running back, I'm really satisfied that Jackson fell to me. Despite the fact that he was a true freshman last year, he became the Wildcats' feature back (on a bad team) and should be even better after spending more time in the program. And though Armstrong wouldn't be most people's number one QB, he'll be a solid number two and is definitely in the top half of QBs in the league.
I needed another wideout, and as a SEC transfer, Arnett could be the one to emerge from the pack in East Lansing. No one is quite sure who will be Connor Cook's go-to, and he supposedly has had a great spring (and summer camp). And I didn't really care who I picked up as a second running back, so why not a Michigan Man.
And last but certainly not least...he's no Joey Julius, but I ALSO GOT A FAT KICKER CHAD.
|QB||Christian Hackenberg (Penn State)|
|QB||Cardale Jones (Ohio State)|
|RB||Jordan Howard (Indiana)|
|RB||Curtis Samuel (Ohio State)|
|WR||DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State)|
|WR||Michael Thomas (Ohio State)|
|WR/TE||Jordan Westerkamp (Nebraska)|
|K||Paul Griggs (Purdue)|
|Bench||Mike Dudek (Illinois)|
I went the homer route with my first two picks, taking Christian Hackenberg and DaeSean Hamilton. But you know what? I don't really care. Because now when those two hook up for 80 completions this year, I'll get double the points every time. For my QB2, I obviously had to go with my man, Cardale. I personally think Barrett is the (much) better quarterback, but there's still a good shot Cardale wins the job. If he does, he'll get a full season of Urban Meyer pixie dust, so I'm fine with that kind of upside within my quarterbacks.
Aside from Cardale, I went pretty heavy on Ohio State players. Michael Thomas seems primed to be the number one receiver for the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel was great last year, and will likely see even more time with the number of blowouts Ohio State will probably be in. The defense is full of five and four star studs, so I'm happy with that, too.
Jordan Howard is set to be a dynamite replacement for Terrance Coleman and Jordan Westerkamp is the next "how many years has this guy been in college?" Finally, I'm going to hope I can afford to stash Mike Dudek on my bench until he's healthy, at which point I'll have stolen one of the best playmakers in the Big Ten.
* * *
We'll show the results of our teams each week of the regular season, as well as who each team has decided to add/drop, if anyone. Who do you think ended up with the best team?