All in the fan­tasy

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Fan­tasy sports are a big deal for mil­lions of fans of near ev­ery team sport imag­in­able. Neil Mor­row of Bay Roberts was among many peo­ple last week gear­ing up for a new sea­son of NFL foot­ball. He re­cently chat­ted with The Com­pass about his ap­proach to se­lect­ing a team and what he likes about fan­tasy sports in gen­eral.

Fan-tasy sports is a crap­shoot.

High pro­file play­ers might have a down sea­son and others could lose the sea­son to in­jury or sus­pen­sion. Teams rise and fall based on what­ever tran­spires.

Things get in­tense and there could be a lot rid­ing on how an ath­lete per­forms dur­ing the year. Ev­ery pro­fes­sional sport has an on­line equiv­a­lent - or thou­sands - where team own­ers test their sports know-how against others.

Last week was a big one for those arm­chair quar­ter­backs look­ing to flex their dig­i­tal mus­cles as fan­tasy foot­ball got un­der­way. Just days shy of the be­gin­ning of the Na­tional Foot­ball League sea­son, mil­lions of team own­ers around the globe got to­gether and filled out their wish lists while com­plet­ing their league drafts.

Bay Roberts na­tive Neil Mor­row com­pleted three such drafts prior to kick­off last Thurs­day. Like the rest, the 27-year-old made sure to get the best play­ers and form a team he thinks is ca­pa­ble of win­ning it all.

The key to win­ning it all is all in the ap­proach.

“I don’t re­search play­ers, I do more re­search on what’s the best strat­egy head­ing into the draft. Then, take a look at what play­ers are avail­able when I come to make a se­lec­tion,” said Mor­row.

He used to be one of those guys who kept an ea­gle-eye on the av­er­age draft po­si­tion of a player. When it was Mor­row’s time to se­lect, he’d see who the top-rated player was and take him.

This year, Mor­row thought out­side the box. For two of his three leagues, he fo­cused on skill po­si­tions and made his first half-a-dozen picks wide re­ceivers or run­ning backs.

“I did some strat­egy,” he said. “I read some ex­perts and they were go­ing for a lot of wide re­ceivers re­ally early. That’s the strat­egy I did in my last two drafts and I’m hap­pier with those two teams than I am with my first team.

“I had picked out quar­ter­backs who were ranked from (spots) five to 10. I picked my favourites from there be­cause I knew I wasn’t go­ing to get Cam (Net­won) or Rus­sell Wil­son … and I was OK with that. For me, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the first quar­ter­back and the eight quar­ter­back isn’t as big a dif­fer­ence as the first wide re­ceiver and eight wide re­ceiver.”

Pre­fer the stan­dard

In fan­tasy sports, there are a cou­ple of ways a league can go when it comes to draft­ing play­ers and set­ting teams.

Of the half-a-dozen op­tions, per­haps the two more pop­u­lar ver­sions are a keeper league and the stan­dard league. A keeper league al­lows play­ers to pro­tect play­ers from the pre­vi­ous sea­son.

The leftovers are thrown in the draft pool for any player to se­lect.

A stan­dard league is as vanilla as it sounds. Ev­ery­one is up for grabs and league own­ers se­lect play­ers through a ser­pen­tine draft sys­tem.

When it comes to se­lect­ing play­ers, Mor­row prefers the stan­dard league.

“I’m a huge draft fan,” he said. “I en­joy the fun of it, pre­par­ing for it and the night it­self.”

Pre­par­ing

For own­ers, the prepa­ra­tion is where you lay out the ground­work for the play­ers you want to grab. Whether it’s check­ing out sports web­sites to gather a wide range of in­for­ma­tion or map­ping out how you want to con­duct your­self.

Mor­row’s pre-draft re­search starts at Fan­ta­syPros. It’s a site that pools the rank­ings from sites all over the web and gives a rounded view of things. From there, he can do some im­por­tant prep work lead­ing into the big night.

On draft night, there’s plenty of win­dows open on his In­ter­net browser if the need arises to do a quick rank­ings search. When it’s base­ball sea­son, Mor­row usu­ally has a spread­sheet done up in Ex­cel.

“I mostly have notes to my­self,” he said. “I lis­ten to some pod­casts and they might sell me on a player that might be avail­able later in the draft that’ll be re­ally good value.

“It’s nice to have these lit­tle re­minders to my­self of good value that other peo­ple have iden­ti­fied.”

Some team own­ers live for the brag­ging rights that come with a league vic­tory. Others strive to pick up the jack­pot at the end if they’re league has a buy-in pol­icy.

Mor­row has a dif­fer­ent goal when he sits down to join a league.

“I like mak­ing sure my friends don’t win, if that makes any sense,” he said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Bay Roberts’ Neil Mor­row likes to take a bit of strat­egy into his fan­tasy sports draft.

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