• Neil O'Donnell

THE WAY: Part 1

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

If you read my introduction article you know that I am the real deal in season-long leagues. It took me a long time to learn how to draft, how to navigate the ups and downs of the season, and most of all, WIN. That said, my ACTUAL first two years of fantasy football were absolutely brutal.

Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick talks during a post-game news conference following a game against the Eagles.
(AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

The Struggle


I was a Freshman in high school, playing with 10 of my closest friends, we started two weeks late so I drafted who was already balling out. ESPN had acted as if we played the two weeks prior and I started 2-0. I would still struggle to make the playoffs and only end up winning because I had one of the most prolific fantasy RB’s of all time (s/o Jamaal Charles). Years 2 and 3 were rock bottom. Two full calendar years in a row of missing the playoffs.

This being in the midst of puberty, testosterone running rampant within the group, and it being common practice to displace your fantasy football frustration on each other through personal attacks that held no emotional restrictions.

730 days of losing was enough mental trauma for me and I started to really dive into what goes into a successful fantasy football season. Of course, the cliché of “take everything as a learning experience” holds true in this situation, because that tumultuous time period is what I owe my grit to. Everything else is owed to me slowly picking up tricks and tips that minimized risk and maximized my odds to not only reach the playoffs but also thrive when I got there.

This series of articles is what I owe about 85% of my success to. I created a process that works for me and believe it can work for everyone in some capacity to help people garner success in fantasy football. What else is the season long team for, right? I am part A.I. and have an algorithm in my head that has yielded increasing success as the years have went on. I do not just write these articles plainly for viewership, I am actually also writing these so I can better understand my own thoughts and become completely evolved. Hopefully my metamorphosis to an actual fantasy butterfly aids me to unzip my ‘Neil O’Donnell’ caterpillar body suit and step-out a 45-year old Matthew Berry, butterfly-like creature, but like with no receding hairline.


Step 1 - Brainstorming

This is going to be step one of my approach to the draft and the season as a whole. I call this... *wait for it*… Brainstorming.


During my brainstorming stage I just simply go through each position and write down who I am interested in. This could be from what I saw last year, trends I have seen in the past, and players that may have passed the eye-test but didn’t get unleashed yet. I try to stay away from mock drafts. The writers and analysts that are making these mocks are just trying to get clout and want to have takes that give them views. Also, these mock drafts will change all the way up until September 9th due to injuries, breaking news coming out, and random hot takes that pick-up steam about a player that is actually not good (looking at you Kenyan Drake).


When doing brainstorming it is important to understand, due to these analysts’ projections you will not be able to get everyone you want. It is mostly to help you gauge where players are valued and spot the undervalued or over-drafted.


Below is my example I wrote down in my phones’ notes section. Fill this out as you wish, keeping in mind that you can put a couple of Tier 1 players, but unless you already know your draft order, this is for role players with potentially flexible ADP’s you find valuable and others you may want on your team at all costs. An example of someone with a non-flexible ADP would be McCaffery, or Kamara. Mahomes would be someone with a less-flexible ADP (probably drafted between rounds 1-2) and then someone like Najee Harris would be flexible just due to being a rookie and inexperience playing a role (anywhere from Round 1-5).


The List

QB, RB, WR, TE, DEF


Quarterbacks:


  • Matthew Stafford - Round 6 or later; tons of weapons, new life in career.

  • Kyler Murray - Potential reach; ability to rush, tons of weapons, RB shaky.

  • Jalen Hurts - If I wait on QB past round 7/8; ability to rush, first full season with reigns, Devonta Smith is in town.

  • Dak Prescott - Potential reach; tons of weapons, can rush, something to prove.

  • Trevor Lawrence - QB2; week one real-life starter, sneaky weapons around him, bad team that will put up points offensively.

  • Sam Darnold - QB2; untapped potential, ton of upside, arsenal of diverse weapons on offense.

  • Carson Wentz - QB2; new-life, team that believes in him... enough.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB2; traditionally scrappy, somehow surfaces as a streamable QB every year.


Running Backs:

  • Christian McCaffery - Tier 1, if I am top 3; receiving, situation has more upside than Kamara’s.

  • Derrick Henry - Tier 1, if I am top 3; Undervalued every year due to not receiving as much. Could probably even go #1

  • Mike Davis - RB2 if I stack up on WR’s, or draft TE early; handling Falcons RB duties, high floor and relatively high ceiling.

  • Jonathon Taylor - If Round 2/3; Top 5 RB ceiling, do not know if I would reach Round 1 yet, but would make me a contender round 2/3.

  • Jags RBs - Robinson, Etienne; Both will be used and maybe even in the same lineup similarly to Kamara/Murray.

  • Najee Harris - RB 2, round 3/4; if he is my RB 3 I could be dangerous, League RB 1 upside.

  • Antonio Gibson - RB 2; passes eye-test, coming off #14 ranked season, could be unleashed.

  • Miles Gaskin - RB 2; no competition for reps, offense loaded up in offseason.


Wide Receivers:


  • D.J. Chark - WR 2; was once top 10 fantasy WR, new QB.

  • Sammy Watkins - Flex; change of scenery where he has potential to hog targets

  • Devante Parker - WR 2; revamped offense with some help surrounding him

  • Deandre Hopkins - WR1; another year of Kyler under his belt, and chip on shoulder from missing playoffs

  • Stefon Diggs - WR1/2; PPR animal, still Josh Allen’s favorite target. Did not draft RB so passing will still be prevalent.

  • Devonta Smith - WR 3/4; smooth and polished already. WR1 on a team ready to let Hurts loose.

  • Julio Jones - WR2; every other year is under-valued, this is that year. Sticking with Matt Ryan so he will find his favorite target.

  • Allen Robinson - WR1/2; Trubisky-🡪Fields, contract year.

  • Michael Thomas - WR1, tier 1; Winston chucks.

  • Robby Anderson - WR 2 if I stack up on RB’s or draft early TE; reunited with Darnold, 1,300 yards and 11 TD’s when playing together.

  • Deebo Samuel - STRONG WR2, WR3 if I go stack up on WR; Would reach. If healthy, monster season coming.


Tight Ends:


  • Darren Waller - Carr is below average and needs him as security blanket. PPR animal.

  • Travis Kelce - Mahomes’ favorite target and somehow always open. Not big on TE first couple rounds but would draft if he is there Round 3.

  • T.J. Hockenson - if I wait for tight end.

  • Cole Kmet - if I wait even longer for tight end.

  • Mike Gesicki - revamped offense, picked up steam last year.

  • Jared Cook - if I draft a TE 2, in deeper leagues; on chargers now replacing Hunter Henry’s usage.


Defense:


  • Cleveland Browns - off-season additions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers - dominant last year

  • Denver Broncos - Kyle Fuller, Patrick Surtain will induce turnovers.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers - returned all starters.

  • Minnesota Vikings - Patrick Peterson and coming off down year.

  • Indianapolis Colts - absolute juggernaut last year, if they had a QB they would have ran away with defense #1

  • Washington Football Team - front 7 arguably best in NFL

  • Arizona Cardinals - Budda Baker, JJ Watt, and unicorns Isaiah Simmons/newly drafted Zaven Collins.

Conclusion


Ok, final thought — When you make this list, it is important to note what your league rules are, which friends usually draft what players, where is your pick in the draft, who hates the Packers and will never draft Jeopardy host Aaron Rodgers, etc. This is just based on how my leagues are set-up and people I enjoy as of May 2021. This can change for me or you at any time but the premise behind this is to collect your own data and block out the terrible information sports’ media culture can create sometimes (says the guys writing a sports article for fantasy football site).


P.S. I drew a blank on a name for this, so the working title is “The Way” because Star Wars is GOATed and the Mandalorian ‘way’ is how I expect you to follow this series of articles.


That’s it.. that's the whole article. Stay tuned for my next algorithmic steps being explained via, “The Way“, series of articles. Meanwhile, go write the players you are interested in targeting and start forming your God-squad before your friends.