Know Your Leaguemate: Ben Whibbley

Since the NFL regular season is over and I’m trying to avoid crying about the Titans for at least a month, I thought it would be fun to get to know some of the people who are in fantasy leagues with me. It’s an experiment to help me get through the long, cold, offseason.

In my dynasty league, I had to replace four owners last offseason. One of the four newbies was Ben Whibbley. I met him on Twitter. How many cool people do you know that you can say that about? Since I knew nothing about him other than being a Brit, loving the 49ers, and a borderline unhealthy obsession with Hakeem Nicks, I thought it was time to go deeper.

A quick primer: Zealots 34 is a dynasty league that is standard, IDP, with 53-man rosters. We had the initial draft in 2004 and my first ever draft pick was Julius Jones. We have free agency every year (get to hold onto 40 players) and a six-round rookie draft. I am the commissioner.

Now, onto the questions:

How did you find Zealots 34? I really enjoyed it! People in the league are friendly, and I always think it’s helpful joining a new dynasty league with a replacement owners draft like I did. It gives you a bit more opportunity to select players that you’re high on rather than taking on an orphaned team that could be full of guys who are on your personal hate list! The league’s active enough that you have to plan your waiver claims etc, and there’s still a healthy amount of sarcasm and ribbing on the message boards!

What’s it like being a fantasy football (or just American football) fan in the UK? It has its ups and downs! In terms of ups, being devoid of any forced geographical loyalty (I’m thinking of you Ohio residents, apologies) means that you’re always free to support whomever you want. For me Steve Young dominated the first game I ever saw though and I’ve loved the niners ever since, which wasn’t working out too well though until the last couple of years! Also there’s a real community in terms of the proper American football fans over here, and having the games at Wembley has been great as a spectacle. In terms of downs the evening kickoffs are a real pain, 8.30ET is 1.30am here so TNF, SNF and MNF mean some dreary eyes the next day! Also, the way in which American football is viewed here is similar to soccer in America, it gets a mention on all the sports shows but towards the end, and amongst ‘traditional’ sports fans it’s often still sneered at. Things are changing with the International Series games, but it’ll always be a niche sport here I think as it’s too complex / equipment too expensive to play in schools.

How was your experience in year one of Zealots? Tell us your tale of woe, being a high scoring non-playoff participant. The wording of this question kinda feels slightly leading……..*sobs*…..! In summary myself and two other owners took over a pool of players that was surprisingly strong (I was able to draft the likes of Foster, Spiller, Gates, Patrick Willis etc), and through a mixture of trades and our rookie draft I was able to build a squad I thought was capable of giving it a go this year (Doug Martin, Russell Wilson etc). I think the trade I pulled off where I gave up Brandon Marshall plus others for Phillip Rivers crippled my WR corps early in the season, and it wasn’t until Russell Wilson came on strong that I was able to kick into gear. Like you said, I had a pretty high scoring team (think I put up the most points overall?) but I still finished 6-7 so it’s a case of trying again next year!

During the 2012 season, we had 12 trade proposals back and forth and succeeded in trading twice. Were you this active with other franchises, and are you as active a trader in other leagues? I think at least nine of those trade proposals must have been me trying to get you to trade me Hakeem Nicks, my own personal man crush?! I didn’t realise it was 12 though! Yes, I was pretty active with other franchises, although you’re always pretty quick to come back either way on trade offers, and you had depth at WR (which was what I was after) so it made sense for us to sound each other out. I think the two trades we pulled off were Jake Locker (me) for your Marques Colston, and then Tony Gonzalez (me) for a 3rd round rookie pick? They both seem pretty fair to me. Yeah I’m an active trader (or at least offeror!) in all my leagues, winning always feels better when it’s with the players you like and have hand built!

Name a couple of players who underperformed on your squad who you expect to step up next year.
Jason Pierre Paul had a ‘so so’ year, not bad but nowhere near 2011 levels. I think that with a bit more stability in the secondary next year he should put up a bit better numbers. Also Cecil Shorts didn’t underperform by any means, but I definitely underperformed as an owner in not wanting to trust him enough to start him until I was nearly out of playoff contention! Hopefully he can stay a top 20-30 option each week next year. Finally I think that one of my backup TE duo of Housler and Kendricks could build on their late season form and become every week top 10 options, probably more likely from Housler depending on QB.

Name some players you think you need to “sell high”. Are my league mates going to read this?! I’d sell Philip Rivers for a bag of potato chips right now, which I still think counts as selling high. I dread to think what would have happened if the Chargers hadn’t lucked out on picking up Danario Alexander mid season and Rivers realizing he could just toss it up high without needing to be accurate outside the numbers. Truthfully, in this league there’s not a lot of guys I’m all that worried about on my squad. I’d sell any of my defensive backs for pretty much any value I could get, but that’s partly due to the massive turnover in scoring at the position. I’m a little worried about Doug Martin having been given a heavy workload late in the season, but I’d only sell for the sort of top 12-15 value I’ve seen in recent dynasty start-ups.

Tell us something about yourself that’s not football-related.
Umm….how about that despite being quite literally obsessed with American TV, politics, sport and culture I’ve never actually set foot in the USA? (I promise it’s not just because you now fingerprint everyone on entry!) I think a trip is definitely on the agenda for 2013 though. Oh, and I once played two songs of rhythm guitar in a Nirvana cover band that I tried to name ‘peach duvet’. Fortunately there was an issue with the sound during ‘Come as you are’ though and my musical career has never reached the same heights again.

Anything else? Official apologies for beating you in week 12 and knocking you out of the playoffs. Just thanks for being a decent commissioner, it’s a virtually thankless task (spoken from a fellow commissioner of a UK based league!) and you do it without jeopardising friendships. Oh, and trade me Hakeem Nicks this offseason please.

You can follow Ben on Twitter.

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