...but maybe that's the beer talking.
A few years ago, I convinced my main fantasy football league to change from a snake-style draft to an auction style draft.
My pitch: No more will one lucky coach get the best RB in the league. Now you have a shot at that RB. Hell, you have a shot at anyone you want.
There was complaining, guys mumbling obscenities about me, et cetera. But in the end, it was the best decision that we, as a league, ever made.
We also locked the divisions, to manufacture rivalries. Teams stay in the same division every year. Four divisions, three teams each. Each division winner makes the playoffs and gets a five point home field advantage. The remaining eight teams vie for four remaining post season berths. Eight total teams in the playoffs, four go to the toilet bowl. The toilet bowl loser gets his team forcibly renamed to something humiliating and offensive. And he wears that for a year.
"You lucky prick." one of the other coaches said to me when we locked the divisions. "You have the easiest division."
My division, you see, was comprised of my team (three time league champion) and two relative newcomers to the league, whose level of obsession was yet to be determined. I looked, on paper, like I was in the catbird seat.
Oh yeah, I thought. This is gonna be awesome.
In the ensuing time since that fateful day, the other two teams in my division have beaten me like a rented mule, over and over again. One of them has won the league and the other lost in the finals last year. They have humiliated me, forced me into the toilet bowl and taken away my team name. They have out-planned, out-drafted, out-traded and out-won me.
What looked like a cinch on paper has proven to be my downfall. I thought I was the Spartan, and it turns out I was the dude that got kicked in the hole.
And after a few years of auction drafts I noticed something: the bad teams were gone. Every team was strong. Every team had potential. The guys in my league didn't fuck up anymore. If they blew it on running backs, they'd stock up on wide receivers. They'd draft trade bait. They'd make sure they all had balance.
Inside of a well-constructed system, with competent field marshals, no one fucked up too badly.
And that's what happened this season in the 2012 NFL draft. Two major changes set the table for success:
And when that happened, everyone got better. On paper, anyway.
I was shocked by how reasonable teams were with their choices. The kneejerky or head-scratching moves were few and far between, and were so rare that we all know what they were:
- The Seahawks reaching for Bruce Irvin
- Dontari Poe
- Kirk Cousins to the same team as RGIII
That's pretty much it. The rest of the moves, you can certainly see your way clear to. Heck, even these three moves make sense in some way. If you squint and kind of tilt your head.
But the bottom line is that teams sort of get it these days. I didn't see any team implode.
Were some drafts better than others? Sure, on paper. I thought Philly killed it. So did the Steelers. I thought the Rams did great and the Patriots and the Ravens and the Bucs.
Hell, the Bucs drafted my favorite player in the draft: Mark Barron.
About ten weeks ago I was licking my chops to write an article about the Bucs called "GREG SCHIANO IS AN IMBECILE THAT OBVIOUSLY LIKES TO BE KICKED IN THE DICK."
Why would you ever take that job? Based on what I knew of their schedule at the time, I felt like they were looking at a 10 loss season and would be swept in the division.
But now? I don't know.
I like the moves they've made. The shine is off New Orleans a bit and every offseason brings new hope, even to teams you thought might never have a prayer (like the Bengals last season).
But the point is that everyone is getting better. Young GM's are showing up and kicking ass. It's not like the old days. There are some damn good young-minded franchises out there that are drafting hungry and smart.
What does it all mean?
If I had to pick division winners based on the free agency period and draft alone?
Bengals, Colts, Bills & Broncos in the AFC, Packers, Falcons, Eagles & Niners in the NFC.
But it means nothing now. These players have to get on the field. They have to get to know their coaches and teammates and playbooks. They have to find an identity.
And they all will, soon enough. For better or worse.
But right now, we get to gorge ourselves on the possibilities. The post-draft offseason is a thing of beauty and we can all sit back, enjoy, and hope for a few ACL's to stay true during OTA's.
The NFL is a marvel, and the world's greatest religion marches on. Unfettered, undeterred and unassailable.
But I'll let you in on a little secret I'd never tell anyone else: I know, deep down in my heart, that my team is better than yours.
For now, anyway.