The Draft-Day Manifesto

By all accounts, “The Flintstones” was in trouble.

Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty needed rescuing, and as Steven Spielberg — yes, that Steven Spielberg — looked at the pile of scripts on his desk, he felt he was nowhere close to the answer.

It was the early ’90s and Amblin, Spielberg’s production house, had acquired the rights to bring “The Flintstones” to the big screen. The original director — Richard Donner of “Lethal Weapon” and the Christopher Reeve “Superman” movies fame — had fallen out a while ago and the project had bounced around town a bit before finally landing with Amblin Entertainment. Script after script after script was commissioned … and rejected. Eight different scripts had come and gone and still, Spielberg felt he was no closer to getting the movie off the ground.

It was fall of 1992 and time was running out. Steven wanted John Goodman to play Fred, but due to John’s commitments to the hit sitcom “Roseanne,” John only had May to July of 1993 to film the movie. And so, with no script he liked and the sundial ticking, Spielberg went about finding a new director to attach to the project.

Someone who could help shape a direction for the film and oversee a script.

It was, as they say, “a good gig.”

In fact, it was a great gig. OK, sure, you’re probably not worried about what you’ll wear to the Oscars when you do that movie, but so what? Working with Spielberg? On what would be a big summer movie based on one of the most well-known and beloved animated shows of all time? A movie that you know will get made, will have a big budget and will have tons of support behind it? Getting to see the fun, wild and vivid world of Bedrock come to life, complete with dinosaurs? Did I mention working with a living legend? Or the dinosaurs? Did I mention them?

Great. Gig.

And when there is a great gig available, everyone is interested. And so, as the story that was told to me goes — Steven met with lots of directors, all well-respected, all accomplished, all well-known in Hollywood.

One of the names on the list of potential directors to meet Steven might have surprised some. It’s not that Brian Levant wasn’t successful. A former sitcom writer, director and producer, Brian had done over 400 episodes of various hits, including “Happy Days” and “Mork & Mindy.” He had recently made a foray into directing, helming “Problem Child 2,” which made $ 33M on a $ 12M budget, and then later “Beethoven,” a family film that cost just $ 18 million to make and ended up grossing more than $ 147 million worldwide. This is how studios measure success, and both movies had been done at Universal, where Amblin was housed, so that connection helped as well.

But still. This was to be a summer tent-pole movie. This was “The Flintstones.” This was SPIELBERG. He was, by most accounts, a long shot to get such a job.

And so, one by one, they walked down the long hallway to meet with Mr. Spielberg. I’m sorry. MR. STEVEN SPIELBERG. As close to royalty as you get in Hollywood. Wanting to impress the man, director after director pitched their view of what the movie could be. “I see Fred as a Christ figure.” “Bedrock is an allegory for the bleakness of humanity.” EW.com reported one take was a “Grapes of Wrath-type thing where Fred and Barney leave town during a depression to look for jobs and wind up in a trailer park.”

Each take more complex and filled with symbolism than the next. Except for Brian Levant, who just shrugged at Spielberg and said, very simply, “Come on. It’s ‘The Flintstones.’ I’ll make it funny.”

And that, my friends, won the day.

I spoke with Brian recently about his memories of that meeting, and he explained that the issue everyone was having was easy to spot. “They were trying to reinvent the wheel. I was like … It’s ‘The Flintstones.’ The wheel works fine. You don’t need to reinvent anything!”

An avid collector of pop culture memorabilia (which you see on Brian’s Instagram @BrianLevant), Brian had brought in some of his prized Flintstones memorabilia collection, including some rare items. Brian’s passion and enthusiasm swayed Spielberg, as did Brian’s understanding of the brilliant simplicity that made the show so popular.

“I got the job by embracing the purity of it,” Brian said. “The fundamentals, if you will.”

In fantasy football and in life, we often get into our own heads, overthinking and not seeing the quarry for the stones. Or something like that. The direct and obvious approach is often the correct one.

“It’s ‘The Flintstones.’ I’ll make it funny.”

Which brings us slowly, once more, into the 19th annual edition of the Draft Day Manifesto. Howdy, partner. Pull up a boulder and make yourself comfortable. Can I get you a Brontosaurus burger?

I have been writing the Manifesto for close to two decades now, and as always, there are some things in here that remain unchanged from year to year. The basic blueprint to construct a championship team, some of the strategy and, as I was just saying to some of the extremely happy RotoPass.com subscribers, there will also be some over-the-top, self-serving promotion.

But there’s also updated research, new analysis and at least one new joke. (Editor’s note: That wasn’t it.)

Let’s start with the most important piece of advice I can give you about fantasy football.

At a fundamental level, it’s all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win on a weekly basis.

That’s it. That simple. Everything leads back to that. Every draft pick, waiver move, potential trade, start/sit decision and more.

Everything.

I write it every year because it’s not only true, but because it’s very easy to lose sight of. Exactly one year ago, no one thought Cam Newton would play 15 games and still finish as the 17th-best QB in fantasy. No one thought a fourth-round rookie QB would not only start every game for Dallas, but would finish as the sixth-best QB. That Jay Ajayi, who was literally left at home for the Dolphins’ first game, would end up with three 200-yard rushing games. That Todd Gurley would play all 16 games but score just 1.2 points more than Bilal Powell. And fewer than Isaiah Crowell. That a wide receiver would lead Green Bay running backs in fantasy points. That Rishard Matthews would outscore Allen Robinson. That Cole Beasley would outscore A.J. Green. And Dez Bryant. Or that Kyle Rudolph would have more points than Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Eifertcombined.

You can’t predict the future. I definitely can’t predict the future. No one can predict the future. So all you can do is minimize risk and give yourself the best odds to succeed. If you take just one thing away from this article, make it that. If you take two things away from this article, make it that and the fact that my Fantasy Life App is not only free, but an amazing community of fantasy football fanatics there to help you win. (I mean, hey, I already got the RotoPass plug in.)

As you start the draft prep process, you will be inundated with a vast amount of data, news, stats and analysis. I see it every year as people get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and get way too deep into their own heads. The key is to sort through all that and not get lost or try to reinvent the wheel. It’s “The Flintstones.” Make it funny, you know?

Realize there is more than one path to success, but at the core of them all is to trust yourself and your process.

With Goodman’s hiatus coming up quickly and more than 6,000 sets, props and costumes needing to be built to bring Bedrock to life, time was running very short. So Brian went back to his sitcom roots, hired a bunch of writers to sit in a room with him for a few weeks, and they all collaborated on a new script. Ideal? No. But it got the job done. It got the movie officially green-lit, they made John Goodman’s production window, and when all was said and done, the movie made more than $ 341 million (which would be about $ 700 million in adjusted box office today), plus an insane amount on merchandising, and all for a budget of about $ 46 million.

It was “The Flintstones.” He made it funny.

Whether you liked the movie, hated it or never saw it doesn’t really matter. By the standards Hollywood sets, it was a huge success and certainly had a lasting effect on Brian’s life. Whether it is Hollywood, Fantasy Football or life, getting to the essence of the problem you are trying to solve and then, you know, doing that, is a recipe for success.

And that’s what we’re going to do. Let’s acknowledge the irony about a crazy-long article that has a goal of simplifying your draft day experience, but that’s what we’re going for here. A set of rules, guidelines and stats that ideally, once you absorb them, make draft day a simple, enjoyable first step towards winning your league.

Before we start, one last thing. As I mentioned, I have written this Manifesto for many, many years. And in a lot of places, the framework and themes are similar. So, with a tip of the cap to Brian Levant, I’m going to try to simplify the column this time around. Theory will still be here, but “the math” behind it can be seen in any of the previous year’s versions. Last year’s methodology can be found here.

Still a Manifesto, just a slimmer, more efficient one built for 2017. It’s eco and mobile friendly, baby!

So here you go, you list-loving internet. The 25 best tips for draft day.

1. Just repeating this one more time because it’s that important …

At a fundamental level, fantasy football success is all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win on a weekly basis.

Every decision you make should be influenced by this. Whom to draft, avoid, start, bench, trade, waive, pick up or anything. All of it.

You can’t predict the future. It’s more about “what’s most likely to happen.” And then do that.

Dak Prescott had six rushing touchdowns last season. In the history of the NFL, the only QBs with multiple seasons of five-plus rushing touchdowns are Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. What’s most likely to happen?

Dallas’ signal-caller could and should be great in 2017, but will he be as great?

Jameis Winston had six rushing touchdowns in his first year, but just one in his second.

What’s most likely to happen?

Drew Brees, for instance, has nine straight seasons of 30-plus touchdown passes.

Over the past five years, New England has 9.8 percent more rushing touchdowns than any other team in the NFL.

Greg Olsen, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas are the only players with at least 70 receptions in each of the past four years.

Again: What’s most likely to happen?

Using a little research and basic logic, you can take a moment to think about any particular situation from every angle. What was behind the player’s success or failure? Was it a fluke or is it repeatable? Once you figure that out, the answer on what to do is fairly easy. It won’t always work out, but like everything else in life, if you play your cards right, it’ll work out more often than not.

2. There is no right way to win

They all work. And they all don’t. I’m speaking of “draft strategies.” Value based drafting, Zero RB, RB/RB, etc. They all work and they all don’t. We’ve looked at this every year.

Here’s the list of most common players on 2016 fantasy playoff teams on ESPN.com (I cut it off at 50 percent):