In August, nine-contest winning fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were invited to team headquarters to take part in a one-of-a-kind fantasy football draft. It was held in the actual draft room at the AdventHealth Training Center where Jason Licht and company conduct the Buccaneers' efforts in real NFL Drafts, and it kicked off the inaugural Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge league.
Only one of those nine fans was invited back to Bucs headquarters this week, and that's because only one of them managed to best not only the three Buccaneer Insiders who were playing in the league but also eight other very fantasy football-savvy fans. And that person is Jason Swinford, whose team, The Great Marpet Capers, defeated Justin Beetz's The Revolution in the league championship game this past weekend, 143.46 to 136.08.
Swinford returned to the AdventHealth Training Center on Thursday to collect the league's coveted championship belt as well as to claim his prizes of Mercedes-Benz Hall of Fame Club tickets and field passes to the Buccaneers' season finale against Atlanta on Sunday. Swinford also got a tour of the facility and, perhaps most importantly, secured bragging rights in the FANtasy Challenge until at least next December.
Swinford brought his wife Sarah with him for Thursday's tour, which was fitting because his contest-winning entry in August centered on his hopes of showing her that his participation in fantasy football was actually worthwhile.
"It feels pretty cool," said Swinford of becoming the first FANtasy Challenge Champion. "It's something I just did randomly in the middle of the night. I came up with a reason of why I wanted to do it. My wife had been giving me a bunch of crap because I was in six leagues. If I could win this, I could prove that it was actually worth it, all the study was worth."
The Great Marpet Capers, featuring such 2019 fantasy darlings as Drew Brees, Mark Andrews, D.J. Chark and especially Christian McCaffrey, were among the highest scoring teams throughout the season but had one potentially-costly blip in the final week before the playoffs. Swinford's team scored only 80 points that week and lost to Christopher Dombrowski's Risky Biscuits team, a costly outcome as it dropped the Capers out of second place at the last minute. That meant no first-round bye.
It wouldn't matter. There would be no more down weeks for the Capers, who thrashed my team, Plunder and Lightning in the first round, 138.96 to 100.50, thereby clinching that the league would be won by a fan and not a so-called Pro. In the semis, Swinford ran into the team that took his first-round bye at the time, the red-hot Matt Gay 4 Trey squad run by Brandon Durfey. And, indeed, Durfey's team had a huge week with 150.90 points. Unfortunately for him, the Capers scored 162.28.
The Capers had the league's second-highest point total in Week 14 and its highest total in Week 15, and faced with a winner-take-all Week 16 against Beetz's crew, they once again scored the most points of any team (all 12 were in action thanks to consolation games). That's a pretty convincing way to win a championship.
And Swinford's team had a pretty convincing lead heading into the Monday Night Football game between Green Bay and Minnesota, the last NFL game of the FANtasy Challenge's entire season. Then things got a little nerve-wracking for the Capers.
Thanks to McCaffrey – who somehow scored 32.30 fantasy points without even having a touchdown – plus Brees (22.86), Andrews (27.30) and running back Melvin Gordon (22.70), Swinford's squad had a 31.98 point lead heading into Monday night. The only player on either team scheduled to take part in Monday's game was Beetz's last wide receiver, Davante Adams of the Packers. Beetz surely enjoyed watching Aaron Rodgers throw the ball in Adams' direction over and over again; 16 of his 38 passes targeted Adams, producing 13 catches for 116 yards, good for 24.60 fantasy points. But the night belonged to running back Aaron Jones, who scored both of Green Bay's touchdown. Had Adams found the end zone at some point, it would have gotten very interesting.
As it turned out, it was too little too late. Adams was The Revolution's top scorer of the week and Ryan Tannehill essentially matched Brees with 23.68 points. Robert Woods also topped 20 points and the RB duo of DeAndre Washington and Milton Mack put up 18 each, but there were no breakout stars for The Revolution this week. The early-season injury to Cam Newton and a trade that sent away Lamar Jackson before Jackson fully exploded onto the fantasy scene put Beetz in chase mode for quarterbacks all season. Near the end, he found a surprisingly productive Tannehill to keep his head above water. Ironically, though, the man who replaced Tannehill in Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick was sitting on Beetz's bench with 31.66 points this week. Had he put Fitzpatrick in for Tannehill – and nobody is suggesting that was a strong consideration before the weekend – he would have won the championship by a point.
But there are no do-overs in fantasy football and our champion remains Swinford. Those he vanquished included me, Durfey, Dombrowski, Beetz, Pros Carmen Vitali and Casey Phillips and fellow fans Nick Russin, Justin Morris, Campbell Sears, Becky Hartman and Christopher Hatton. Swinford plans to enter for a chance to play in the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge next year, as well.
"I'd enter again in a heartbeat," he said. "I'd love to be able to do it again if it was possible. It was a lot of fun. The people who did it were interesting, to say the least. There were a lot of different personalities, some who took it very seriously, some who didn't take it seriously at all and some just had fun. It was a really fun group to get to know."