The football season hasn't even begun yet, and already I have found my nemesis. His name is Bradley Evans.
First, immediately following the Yahoo! Friends and Family League draft, Evans agrees to trade Joseph Addai – who is projected to score a ridiculous 21 fantasy points in Week 1 – to Brandon Funston, who I just-so-happen to be playing against in Week 1.
On Aug. 15, the Yahoo! expert makes an awful pun of my name, calling me "Michael 'Bolton's Next of' Gehlken" in an article. Because of him, I received a voicemail from my mother the next day asking me why there was some man on the Internet comparing her youngest son to her favorite pop singer. (For the record, Michael Bolton sucks. I'm sorry, Mom.)
Then, a week later, on Aug. 22, he beats me to the punch with what could have been a major roster addition. He nabbed reserve Packers wide receiver James Jones from free agency seconds after starter Donald Driver suffered what, at the time, appeared to be a potentially devastating foot injury. I watched Driver be carted off the sidelines and into the locker room from my living room and acted quickly, but because of Brad "My Enemy" Evans, it wasn't quick enough.
Eight days later, in another article, he destroys my good name again, this time misspelling it. Like team, there is no "I" in Gehlken, Brad.
On the very next day came the final straw. I started reading a feature article on rookie free agent Broncos running back Selvin Young, who was available in our Friends & Family league. As I was reading it, I started to realize that Young carried enough upside to make him worth a pick-up for my team.
You know where this is going. I go back to the league page, and there I see it at the very top of the 'Recent Transactions' list: "8/31 Selvin Young (Den – RB) Add Free Agents Y! – Evans."
I yell, "NO WAY!" to my computer and send to Evans an email that was typed less with my fingers and more with my adrenaline. It read: "Are you kidding me? I just finished that article on Selvin and was about to add him. Unbelievable."
Forty minutes later, I get a reply: "Welcome to the world of competitive fantasy football. Have a great Labor Day weekend! – Brad."
Oh, it's on.
At first, my goal in the Friends & Family League was to not finish last, because that would be a career-ending showing in my first ever expert league. Then I upped my goal and aimed to win a friendly competition with Funston, who entering this league was the only person I knew. Then I wanted to outperform Scott Pianowski, who mistakenly thinks he's a better Scrabble player than me and boasts, "If we play, you're going to be the Orioles to my Texas Rangers."
But now, the others are at my peripheral, and I'm set on "bringin' the noise" to Brad Evans. He and I meet twice during the season, once in Week 5 and again in Week 8. Technically, we could meet a third time in the playoffs, which I doubt, because I think my team will do better than the consolation bracket.
One-Man Preseason Poll
Entering the season, here's how I handicap the Friends and Family League's two divisions:
1) Y! Behrens (Andy Behrens)
Winning the LaDainian Tomlinson lottery with the first pick was plain lucky and instantly put Behrens in title contention. If Calvin Johnson lives up to the hype and a top fantasy running back emerges in Carolina, this team could be unstoppable.
2) Y! Gehlken (Me)
What kind of owner would I be if I didn't like my own team? I drafted as well as anybody could at the No. 11 spot, and if neither of my first two picks (Laurence Maroney and Cedric Benson) bust, I can give Behrens a run for his money.
3) Y! Evans (Brad Evans)
He may be my nemesis, but he's also got one hell of a core in Donovan McNabb, Brandon Jacobs, Terrell Owens, T.J. Houshmanzadeh and the Baltimore Defense. If Evans had a better No. 2 back then Marion Barber III, he would have my team beat – no question. And if Selvin Young emerges to become that No. 2 back, I'll be depressed.
4) Y! Lago (Joe Lago)
Like he admitted in the draft follow-up, Lago should have taken either Clinton Portis or Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in the third round instead of Jamal Lewis. (I'd go Portis.) Even so, this team could go far with Steven Jackson leading the way.
5) Y! Buser (Matt Buser)
Can Willie Parker score another 16 total touchdowns in '07? Probably not. But Julius Jones was a steal in Round 5, and Philip Rivers, Marvin Harrison, Donald Driver and Antonio Gates should put up points consistently.
6) Y! Sports Romig (Matt Romig)
Like Lago, Romig made one of my least favorite draft decisions by picking Carnell Williams in Round 3 with Portis and Peterson still on the board. Because of that, the Fred Taylor pick in the sixth round will likely come in handy. Peyton Manning at No. 26 was huge, but make no mistake: this team goes only as far as Larry Johnson is physically able to take it. How far? After an NFL-record 416 carries in '06, it's tough to say with much confidence.
7) Y! Funston (Brandon Funston)
Jay Cutler, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown and Randy Moss will all have to seriously exceed my expectations for this team to put together a championship run. If they don't, we could be seeing a result from Funston that is comparable to that of his fantasy baseball blog league.
1) RotoWire_Liss (Chris Liss)
Liss' wide receivers (Torry Holt, Reggie Brown and Santonio Holmes) are scary good, and he was still able to build a potentially great running back rotation in Frank Gore, Jerious Norwood and Brandon Jackson. That said, I would have taken Portis over Norwood in Round 3 and Julius Jones over Jackson in Round 5. It could turn out OK, though.
2) RotoWire – Erickson (Jeff Erickson)
Those RotoWire guys can draft. Like Liss, Erickson also has a great group of wide receivers in Steve Smith, Andre Johnson and D. J. Hackett. I also really like the duo at running back in steady Rudi Johnson and Minnesota's Peterson, who was a draft-day steal.
3) FantasyGuru.com-Hans (John Hansen)
As I've stated in the draft follow-up, I really don't like taking Jon Kitna in the fifth round. As opposed to what his balding head might suggest, Matt Hasselbeck isn't about to turn 35 years old like Kitna is and would have been there for Hansen in Round 7. Even so, Hansen had a good draft overall, taking some of the league's finest athletes in Brian Westbrook, Chad Johnson, Roy Williams and Vernon Davis. If Ahman Green runs well in Houston and Kitna stays on the field, then this team is dangerous.
4) pianowski (Scott Pianowski)
Taking Portis as the 24th running back off the board is the Scrabble equivalent to using all seven tiles to play the word QUARTZY over a triple word space with the letter Q or Z over a double letter space. Translation: taking Portis there was really, really good. Because of that pick, this team is the league's strongest at running back, with Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch starting. If all three backs reach their potential, Pianowski could afford to use one of them as trade bait to solidify his wide receiver corps, making this team a little bit of a project heading into the season. I like the direction it's headed, though.
5) PROTRADE (Kevin Lewis)
Reggie Bush, Lee Evans and Anquan Boldin need to produce well enough to make up for Edgerrin James' goal-line inadequacies. Even if they do, Eli Manning is still this team's wild card. For Lewis to make a playoff run, Manning must put the adoption rumors to rest and put up numbers past the season's midpoint.
6) FantasyAuctioneerGdP (George del Prado)
It all comes down to del Prado's running backs. Can Maurice Jones Drew produce like the back who scored 10 touchdowns in the final eight games of the season? Can Willis McGahee return to his rookie form in Baltimore? The answers to both those questions could be "yes," but as of now, it's wait-and-see for this team.
7) KFFL - Nicholas Minnix
The wide receiver corps is the worst in the league, and with Tom Brady at quarterback, there really was no need to draft Hasselbeck. If Minnix can trade him for a wide receiver with some decent upside, this team will be much improved. Until then, it's got some work to do. And Adam Vinatieri in the 10th round? Really? Tell me that wasn't an autopick one more time, editor [editor's note: It wasn't autopick]. Wow.