Senior learns fantasy football ropes

Rookie takes advantage of technology, beginner’s luck

Senior learns fantasy football ropes

Max Wirth, Sports Co-Editor

Every NFL season produces its twin counterpart: fantasy football, which provides a gateway to interaction between viewers and their favorite players. Participants across a slew of media platforms (CBS, ESPN, NFL.com, Yahoo!) enjoy drafting a personalized squad with players and defenses from every NFL team.

Mixed feelings toward football

Senior Blake Lafnitzegger is far from the everyday football fanatic. Lafnitzegger grew up playing CYO football, but never really held much passion for the sport, he admits. “I’ve played fantasy football maybe three times before this year in middle school. I didn’t have winning seasons and never cared about it,” he said.

However, this fall, the fantasy football gods favored this uncultured follower, gracing him with an abundance of playmakers as he recorded a league-second best 7-3 record. “I have never been this good and am thoroughly enjoying it,” he said. Lafnitzegger fell victim to peer pressure and found himself somewhat forced to join a league. “My friends put me in this year. I wasn’t really looking forward to participating,” he said.

The senior did not foresee the multitude of success he would reach, with a top four playoff seed looming in the future. Despite the negative feelings, luck seemed to be on his side. “I had no plan for the fantasy draft this year. Somehow, I got the first pick, and I decided beforehand I was taking Tom Brady,” he said.

The randomly assembled squad features star power at the quarterback position, an explosive rookie running back tandem and a skilled slew of veteran receivers. Brady is his starting quarterback, not to mention Carolina Panthers go-to playmaker Cam Newton as his back-up. Lafnitzegger was fortunate in the draft. In the third and fifth rounds, he selected rookie running backs Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Leonard Fournette (Louisiana State). These newbies rank second and fourth in the tailback position, respectively.

“Hunt racks up numbers nearly every week, and Fournette runs all over the field. It even surprises me how well they play, considering their age,” he said. The backfield’s freshness resembles Lafnitzegger in his young campaign.

Automatic tactics

How did Lafnitzegger know to choose these rookies, totally unaccustomed to the speed and strength of the NFL? Simply put: He didn’t.

“I used auto draft for nearly every round after the first two (rounds),” he said. Auto draft is a mode where the computer chooses players for the participant based off of the player’s statistics from last season. “I just sort of timed out. I didn’t really care anymore after getting Tom Brady,” he said.

His cast includes two-time Pro Bowl tight end Delaney Walker from the Tennessee Titans, who averages 9.4 fantasy points per game, ranking seventh best among the league for tight ends. Walker receives a heavy load of catches on a Titans squad with Marcus Mariota.

Lafnitzegger also scooped up the Cardinals’ future Hall of Fame wideout Larry Fitzgerald, a veteran who still performs like he just entered his prime. Fitzgerald is the fourth-rated receiver this year. Fitzgerald sees a variety of action on a suffering Cardinals team that is missing its best tailback, David Johnson, who is out for season.

Lafnitzegger adds support with a stifling defense in the Baltimore Ravens; the team currently ranks fourth in position, according to ESPN. “I honestly thought Ray Lewis was still on their team,” he said. Lewis, arguably the greatest linebacker of his time, retired four seasons ago.

This unprecedented run sparked a new interest in Lafnitzegger. Football rarely crossed his mind. “Before this, I have never followed the NFL closely,” he said, “but now I’m interested week to week, and I watch the games on Sundays.”

And watching a made-up team is no doubt more entertaining than seeing the Colts, rather in person at Lucas Oil Stadium or by watching on TV, lose game after game this season.