Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fantasy Football and Mathematics Draft Day

Friday was draft day for our Fantasy Football and Mathematics project. Unfortunately, drafting took far longer than I anticipated. We could have finished with the entire period devoted to drafting, but they were having trouble with the short weekly quiz we did beforehand and took far longer than expected.

After hinting about fantasy football since the first day of school, last Friday I formally announced our project and asked students to start gathering information. I provided a copy of the roster sheet they would need to fill out later so they could take notes during Week 1 of the NFL season. I listed the many ways they could find information about players without watching games (which, understandably, some students didn't want to do):
  • Watch highlight shows on local news, ESPN (NFL Live, NFL Primetime, Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown), and FSN
  • Go to,,, for ideas
  • Type in "fantasy football" in any search engine
  • Ask a friend or family member who knows/watches a lot of football
  • Read one of the 9 different fantasy football magazines I had purchased
  • Alternatively, wait until Monday and Tuesday and read our local newspaper, The Monitor, in class (free copies are delivered daily through the Newspapers in Education program)
Most importantly, I emphasized that you don't need to know anything about football to play the game. The great equalizer is the $40 million salary cap. This means that even if you know all the best players in the league, you can't afford to have all of them on your team. Also, students are allowed to pick the same players if they want to, so the background knowledge necessary for your average online FF league isn't needed.

I had to guide many students past the frustration of not knowing anything about football by emphasizing that point--if all else fails, they could do just fine picking anyone that could fit under the cap. Even if you want to see pictures of players so you can fill your roster with the hottest guys (as some of my students are doing) you can. You'll probably have no more or less success than anyone else.

The other side is that even when they did excellent research, as one Pre-AP student did, they might come up with a roster no one (in fantasy or real life) could ever afford:
  1. QB - Peyton Manning, IND
  2. QB - Tom Brady, NE
  3. RB - LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
  4. RB - Steven Jackson, STL
  5. RB - Frank Gore, SF
  6. WR - Marvin Harrison, IND
  7. WR - Terrell Owens, DAL
  8. WR - Chad Johnson, CIN
  9. WR - Steve Smith, CAR
  10. K - Adam Vinatieri, IND
  11. K - Robbie Gould, CHI
  12. DEF - Chicago
  13. DEF - San Diego
I told her she had done an amazing job assembling a great team, but the salary cap was going to make her team a little less like a Pro Bowl roster and more like the Kansas City Chiefs. Based on Fantasy Football and Mathematics' player values, this team would probably cost 2 or 3 times the cap. For example, the 2 most expensive players, Tomlinson and Jackson, cost about $22 million together (and you'd still have to fill 11 other positions).

Even though no class finished filling out their rosters, this was a great start because now students have a jumping off point. Many were excited to go home and do "research" over the weekend. Some students told me they had a sibling or cousin who they would seek out this weekend to help fill out their rosters, and I'm glad to both get them excited about school and foster some family bonding.

They must have their roster set by next Friday, in time for Week 3. I expect that students will pick up on how good or bad their team is fairly quickly and be scrambling to make adjustments as the weeks go on. After Week 3, they will learn how to calculate their points. Later, I can incorporate several activities and ideas from the FSM curriculum to extend the project into other areas.

So here's my list of what's needed for draft day:
  1. Build pre-draft buzz - Start talking about it ASAP, discuss the information gathering suggestions above, start bringing in newspapers and magazines
  2. Player values printouts - Free with the FFM Teacher's Guide (if you have an older edition of the guide you can purchase this year's numbers for $4), or already included in the FFM Student Workbook
  3. Handout of FF Description and Rules/Fantasy Roster - Again, you can get this from the Teacher's Guide or Student Workbook. This describes the basics including the salary cap.
  4. FF related magazines - I found 9 different titles out there, but they are expensive (usually a $7+ cover price)
Optionally, Internet access would be helpful so that students could find up-to-the-minute information.

If anyone else reading the blog is using this system, I'd love to hear about it. Please leave feedback or email me!