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Arise From Your Coffin to Dominate Fantasy Football’s New Format: Vampire Leagues

by Donnie Druin
May 18, 2020

If you played in a vampire league last season, Lamar Jackson could’ve won you the championship.

Vampires have stood the test of time as folklore bad boys, from their early days as Transylvanian troublemakers to their modern-day role as romantic novel heroes.

They’re now infiltrating the world of fantasy football.

If you’ve been living under a coffin, vampire leagues have slowly risen to popularity in recent years. The concept? Prior to drafting, one player is chosen as the “vampire,” whether by card draw or any other method of selection. If you’re in a 10-man league and become the vampire: Congratulations! You get to watch your other nine league members take part in the draft while you’re left for scraps, only assembling your team with players available after the draft is complete. While the disadvantage is immediately apparent, there’s a catch for those nine players who drafted: They’re not allowed to use waivers the entire season. Thus, drafting properly for bye weeks and overall depth becomes even more important than in a standard fantasy league.

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It’s a roller coaster that seems a daunting task for both the vampire and the rest of the league. Veteran fantasy football player and first-time vampire CJ Browning held the same concerns heading into the 2019 season. “I had little faith in my team,” said Browning before the season started. Yet with a little bit of help from Lamar Jackson, Browning was able to escape week one with a five-point win.

It’s also worth mentioning that should the vampire win, they can claim any starting player from the lineup they beat in exchange for one of their own at the same position, no questions asked.

“I traded Matt Breida for Alvin Kamara (after week one). I ended the year with Kamara, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Derrick Henry, and Melvin Gordon, among others,” said Browning. “I ended the year with 11 wins and the No. 1 seed.”

While the league’s origins are unknown, both the wonderful world of social media has helped grow the format’s popularity. The purpose of the vampire? Defeat other teams and suck their rosters dry of talent. Other rules like protecting your first and second-round picks are held in some leagues, but rules such as those can be discussed with your league prior to drafting.

It’s a simple yet difficult mantra to maintain through the season: Just beat the vampire. These teams obviously have the advantage since the vampire’s team consists of undrafted players, and if the vampire can’t win within the first few weeks, it presents a difficult challenge for them to really get going. Yet Browning, league vampire and eventual champion, believes the advantages of initially being disadvantaged are well worth it.

“The advantages of being the vampire far outweigh the disadvantages,” said Browning. “Being able to pick up the back-up of an injured starter (on waivers) is a huge factor the later the year goes. The ability to take another team’s best player for a low-level second-string can be a critical blow to a roster and beneficial to you when playing them again. However, the glaring disadvantage is not being able to draft. You really need Lady Luck on your side those first few weeks of the league. Winning those first few weeks is critical.”

The above statement offers an interesting but dangerous strategy for opponents of the vampire. Do you sit your star players in fear of losing the weekly match-up and your favorite player, or do you roll the dice in an attempt to win?

Non-vampire and fellow league-mate Darren Stinnett believes that the garlic-covered silver bullet to defeat the vampire is leaguewide collaboration. “So there is a lot of strategy involved in how you play the vampire. Do you sit your entire lineup and just take the L, or are you a gambler, and do you try to go for what should be an easy win?” said Stinnett. “More than anything, it’s not being on the same strategical page as everyone else in the league. People wouldn’t just take the loss when they were facing him. They would put in a half-you-know-what lineup (sitting their studs) and try their best, which made their lineups about even, or at least closer to even.”

With no waivers at their service through the season, Stinnett confirmed that draft strategy is indeed different than your average fantasy league. “This 100% affected the way I drafted, because as a regular member of the league, you could not pick up any players off waivers. So you had to really be aware of bye weeks, and you had to draft two quarterbacks, two kickers, two D/ST and two tight ends,” said Stinnett. “Also, I tried to avoid any players that had prior injury history, because if you have a player get hurt during the season, it’s tough (so the David Johnson’s of the world weren’t getting anywhere close to my team).” Stinnett continued, “In a normal draft, I usually just streamline a defense/kicker. Wide receiver and running back depth is typically way more important, but in this league, not so much. I actually tried to form a coup during the draft (unsuccessfully) to try to take as many quarterbacks as possible so the vampire would be left with scraps. Instead, they (league-mates) didn’t listen, and he somehow got Lamar Jackson, and that went about how you’d expect…”

Despite experiencing the league through opposite roles with different results, the sentiments between vampire and non-vampire were the same: It’s undoubtedly a fun league to take part in.

“I found myself watching the vampire’s score every week in that league and rooting against him even more than I watched my own,” said Stinnett. “I would definitely play in this league again, it was a blast, I loved the mental chess you had to play every week, and I hope I am lucky enough to be the vampire one day.”

The vampire (and champion) agrees.

“Being the vampire was definitely interesting and a fun, different approach to fantasy football. I think it’ll eventually catch on and become popular. I highly recommend trying it out with some buddies,” said Browning.

While traditional leagues will remain the most popular formats for fantasy football for years to come, playing in a vampire league offers a vastly different yet equally entertaining experience. It’s a healthy mix of intrigue and strategy, regardless of your role in the league. Each week presents a different challenge across the table, so it helps keep everybody involved in some form or another. There are no perennial favorites as the season begins, and with the wildcard that is fantasy football, any outcome is on the table in a vampire league.

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Donnie Druin is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Donnie, follow him @DonnieDruin.

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