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The SFB480: Fantasy Football's ultimate draft experience

Far and away, the most intriguing draft I've ever been a part of is the Scott Fish Bowl Invitational (#SFB480 in your Twitter search) – a colossal mega event featuring 480 teams. The leagues are divided into groups of 12 teams, with eight conferences of five leagues each.  Conferences are categorized by genres of famous Hollywood folk (Funny Men, Leading Women, Bad Ass Women). The contest is invite-only with a long waiting list and is about to embark upon its seventh season. It consists of 320 fantasy football writers represented across over 80 sites with the remaining 120 players known as "super fans".

I was placed in the Jennifer Aniston league within the Leading Women conference with several talented colleagues including Mike Tagliere (Pro Football Focus), Zach Law (Zach Law Online), Matthew Price (Dynasty League Football), Justin Winn (RotoViz), John Laub (Football Diehards), Michael Comerford (NumberFire), Jamey Eisenberg (CBS Fantasy) and my new buddy, Liz Loza (Yahoo Sports).

Rules and Scoring

What makes the SFB480 most compelling is the distinctive format and scoring system. Kickers and defense / special teams are omitted entirely. We play four flex spots, one of which is a super flex. This nuance significantly raises the average draft position of quarterbacks making Cam Newton a first round pick and Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers borderline first rounders.

Running backs and wideouts receive half a point (0.5) per reception while tight end is considered 'premium PPR' where each of their receptions garners a full point. An additional spin of a quarter-point (0.25) per carry places the importance of targeting running backs who receive the lion's share of their team's early-down carries. Once the season kicks off, each team sets their lineup weekly and gets $100 FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition) budget to work with.

The 40-league super draft kicked off simultaneously last Monday morning on the MyFantasyLeague platform. The slow draft format allows up to eight hours per pick, though most of the leagues in this 22-round draft were completed within five days as most took no more than 20 minutes (on average) while on the clock.

Draft Results

Despite having limited time to prepare for the draft, I was amazed at the volume of resources at my disposal; SFB480 strategy articles, podcasts and an ADP list based on SFB480 mock drafts. I drew the fourth pick and figured I would kick off the draft with a top-notch bell cow back like Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson or even rookie Ezekiel Elliott. My assumption was that at least two of the big three WR (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr) would be selected ahead of my turn. I also assumed that wide receivers would be pushed down, on the whole, because of unique scoring system and that a first-round RB was the way to go. The first three picks were Jones, Elliott and Newton which provided me the opportunity to immediately pivot off my original plan and snag the Steelers' uber-consistent wideout, Antonio Brown.

Talk about nostalgia. My second and third round picks (Jamaal Charles, Jordy Nelson) were among the fantasy points leaders at their respective positions in 2014 prior to being non-factors last season due to season-ending injuries. Risk is prevalent with both picks, but with ample time to heal, my hope is that each of these studs go back to their dominating ways.

I've been avoiding top tier tight ends in most full-PPR drafts and mocks this preseason, typically opting to continue to pound the all-important WR slots. But with a full point per reception for tight ends, the gift of Greg Olsen fell into my lap near the end of the fourth round. Newton's favorite target averages nearly 76 receptions over the past four seasons and has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons.

In the fifth round, I opted for Bills' quarterback Tyrod Taylor as my QB1. I selected Taylor ahead of his SFB480 ADP, but surmised that he is incredibly valuable in this format given his rushing ability and the added bonus of 0.25 points per carry. Coach Rex Ryan's offense is expected to be a run-heavy one, but this notion includes the fleet-footed Taylor who ranked second among all quarterbacks in rush attempts and rushing yards behind Cam Newton last season.

I followed up my QB1 selection of Taylor with Eagles' Ryan Mathews as my RB2 and a second quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Don't expect Stafford to lose too much of a step despite the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer Calvin Johnson. Stafford is an ideal second quarterback in leagues that involve the super flex. Newly-acquired Marvin Jones has a knack for the end zone while number one wideout Golden Tate is a serious candidate to lead the NFL in targets this season. Running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick (tied for first among RBs with 80 receptions) will play important roles in Stafford's pass-heavy attack. Moreover, Stafford improved his TD:INT ratio once offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter took over in early November (1.7 TD to 1.3 INT before Cooter, 2.2 TD to .40 INT after).

Here is the full squad:

PositionPlayerRound/Pick PositionPlayerRound/Pick
QB1Tyrod Taylor, BUF5.04TE1Greg Olsen, CAR4.09
QB2Matthew Stafford, DET7.04TE2Julius Thomas, JAX10.09
QB3Robert Griffin III, CLE12.09TE3Kyle Rudolph, MIN15.04
QB4Case Keenum, LA22.09TE4Jeff Heuerman, DEN19.04
RB1Jamaal Charles, KC2.09WR1Antonio Brown, PIT1.04
RB2Ryan Mathews, PHI6.09WR2Jordy Nelson, GB3.04
RB3Ameer Abdullah, DET9.04WR3Tyler Lockett, SEA8.09
RB4Shane Vereen, NYG14.09WR4Corey Coleman, CLE11.04
RB5Charcandrick West, KC16.09WR5Sammie Coates, PIT13.04
RB6Darren Sproles, PHI17.04WR6Robert Woods, BUF18.09
RB7Mike Gillislee, BUF20.09WR7Seth Roberts, OAK21.04

For those of us who have played in leagues with friends for many years, it's not often you hear one of them quip "man, I really blew my draft". Most folks are content with their results since they're ideally compiling their preseason targets. Whether those targets are studs or duds is another story entirely and it usually takes a full season to paint the true picture. Those of us who partake in dozens of these drafts every preseason are a bit more introspective, so it's much easier to be critical of our results. Admitting I've had a horrific draft is never a problem. But overall, I'm content with the way I built this roster.  There were several times during the draft where my ideal target was sniped a pick or two before my turn. The squad has a nice blend of star power, stability and upside in guys like Lockett, Coleman, Coates, Abdullah, Heuerman.

Though I'm not typically a running back handcuff guy, I thought it imperative to back Charles up with Charcandrick West. Bills' receiver Robert Woods played hurt for most of last season and could make a nice pairing with my QB Taylor this year – more so if Watkins is fully recovered and actually on the field to draw top coverage. On the flipside, I feel like I may have made a mistake taking Griffin over rookie QB Jared Goff. Moreover, I mistimed snagging Josh McCown to cover my Griffin pick towards the back end of the draft. I expect big things from my collection of receivers this year, but worry about my corps of running backs, many of whom are pass-catching backs and not ideal in a format that rewards the bell cow ball-carrier.

My team ended up with a nice, even number of players at each position – four QB, four TE, seven RB, seven WR. I was intrigued by the roster construction of some of the Fish Bowl vets, particularly Justin Winn who drafted 10 RB and only one TE (Jared Cook). Alternately, two of the teams drafted five tight ends a piece.

Much can occur over the next six weeks prior to regular season kickoff, from depth chart musical chairs to season-ending injuries. It's a risk we take when drafting fake football teams in July. Most of my NFFC, expert drafts and home leagues won't take place for another month, but the draft experience I'm gaining now through the SFB480 and smaller MFL10s is invaluable. It's never too early to get a feel for the player pool and positional tiers. The SFB480 is, by far, the most fascinating format I've been a part of and I'm honored to be a part of it no matter the results. Now, let's move through the dog days of summer quickly and get this show on the road.