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SITE NEWS: What I Do In The Shadows

Introducing Battle Red Blog’s newest writer.

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern California Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Up until the start of middle school, I was completely unaware of the NFL’s existence. In my small town school, almost every guy was on the football team, so naturally I joined hoping at the very least to be able to use the weight room in the offseason as a free gym. What I ended up finding was a love for the comradery, the teamwork, and the adrenaline that came from competition.

Growing up in the heyday of the Tim Duncan era with my mom being a ride-or-die San Antonio Spurs fan, unselfish effort towards the greater good was instilled into my core. With football in particular, I fell in love with the idea that it could be as simple yet as complex as you chose it to be. Numerous variables affect the outcome. Football became a fascinating puzzle in my mind.

Team building soon took its grip on me as I daydreamed of positional prototypes and key traits the stars of the league all seemed to share. At this point, I began to fall in love with the NFL Draft. The first one I ever watched was in 2006, in large part due to Vince Young being a top quarterback. Constantly curious by the new talent entering the league, I entered NFL.com’s “Predict the Pick” challenge in 2013 to see if I could piece together team needs with who the analysts viewed as the best of the bunch. I enjoyed the experience so much I continued to do mock drafts for years after. I’d even bet pizzas with my roommate over who could get the most picks right.

I won every year, just for the record. Yes, I too am a sicko.

The competitive juices were now fueling my curiosity in the most delightful ways. Each passing year felt like another layer of the game opened up to me. Unveiling the multiple tiers of complexity that separated the college from pro games was enticing. By this point, a sense of confidence, albeit somewhat unfounded, had begun to well up within my soul. My roommate, who had plans to go into high school coaching, told me of a new challenge to add to my plate.

Originally the idea came from a great Twitter follow and Bengal fanatic Joe Goodberry, known as a “Shadow Team”. The players would never line up on the same field, but the concept centered around testing your own evaluation skills hand in hand with the general managers across the league. Each year, I would select a bundle of prospects under a predetermined draft slot with the goal of filling out a 53-man roster of the best football players I could assemble. `That roster is then put through a simulated Madden season (note: I am currently winless) with the end of season ranking/record determining your draft slot. You can do a few other things in the weeds to enhance the experience, like compensatory picks for rookie starters or carrying a practice squad. In theory, you could even utilize a salary cap to it if you really want to get crazy.

Shadow teams allow you to plant your flag on your guys. To really call your shot, so to speak, something most people do all the time if they watch college football. I already carry my first quarterback regret in not taking Justin Herbert (I went Mekhi Becton), and I look forward to seeing the highs and lows team building will bring me. With two “shadow drafts” in the books for me now, my team, the fightin’ Houston Houdinis, have a set roster and are ready to show that simulator what they are made of.

As for the Texans, I’ve been a fan ever since I knew I wasn’t a Cowboys fan. My grandfather worked for IBM back in the day and he had two major assignments—the first being sent to North Carolina to develop a use for the UPC barcode the company recently purchased, and the second job took him back home to Texas, to Galveston more specifically. His job was to lead the install and set up of NASA’s “Mission Control” in Houston. In a way, it just seemed natural to root for the underdog closest to my home and I quickly fell in love with superstars we’ve had the pleasure of seeing throughout the years.

My main objective here at BRB is to keep fans informed of college draft prospects who will be entering the NFL soon. More importantly, I want to be able to paint a clear picture for people to conceptualize what exactly it is they are getting in a rookie player come draft night.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @HoustonHoudini.