5 Real Lessons of Fantasy Football

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Though the NFL grinds on, fantasy football has wound down for the season. I played for the first time this year, and improbably came out on top. My league was admittedly not the most competitive—we didn't even stake any money on the outcome, sadly—but the level of emotional involvement was high. Pride was on the line, and as my team emerged as a title contender I found my mental life almost taken over by the fortunes of my players. And I couldn't help but come out of this 16-week ordeal feeling like I'd learned something, even though the grander claims for the game's real-life relevance seem dubious.

The parallels with stock picking in particular are obvious, and the case has been made that one can teach us important lessons about the other—that fantasy football is really an investing game.

I'm not so sure: while corporate scandals or economic headwinds can come out of nowhere to suddenly devalue a company, Wall Street can't match the NFL for unpredictability: a top-notch player can suddenly be wrenched from the season, while a backup quarterback throws seven touchdown passes in a game. So without suggesting any particular applications for these lessons, I offer what I've learned on any given Thursday, Sunday and Monday these past four months.

What's past is prologue, nothing more.

It felt great when I landed, as my opening draft pick, last year's second best fantasy player, Houston RB Arian Foster. Anyone who follows the NFL knows how this ended: Foster made more headlines on the operating table than on the football field, undergoing season-ending back surgery after scoring just two TDs in seven weeks. He even made his exit during the first quarter of a game, leaving owners in the lurch with 1.10 points on the board from their RB1.