I typically spend my March combing through season outlooks and trying to figure out how I can contend in Steve Soucie's insane 20-team fantasy baseball league.
That annual ritual was underway last month when, well, the world changed.
What's a fantasy junkie to do when his entertainment is suddenly on hold for the foreseeable future?
I decided to reach out to six of my fellow Friday Night Drive writers and editors to set up a high school football fantasy draft.
So let's go over a few of the ground rules:
• We're using a standard snake draft with a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers and a flex position.
• The player pool goes back to 2000, but a player must have played their final high school game to be eligible. So sadly, no, we weren't allowed to just draft East St. Louis' starting offense from this year.
• I left the criteria for how we would judge the best team extremely vague. I didn't want everyone to simply pull up the IHSA record books.
• We will post results round by round. Once completed, we'll compile the rosters and set up a poll so readers can vote for who they believe drafted the best team.
Now, let's get to the first round.
1. John Sahly: Samson Evans, QB, Prairie Ridge. Fifth all time in points scored for a career in IHSA history, to go along with 128 touchdowns. The master of the option offense. There have been a lot of truly special QBs in this state over the past 20 years, but I’ll go to war with Evans and let the rest of you figure it out.
2. J.T. Pedelty: John Dergo, RB, Morris. I felt compelled to use my first pick on a guy I covered during his playing days, and it doesn’t hurt that Dergo had a great career and one of the most dominating seasons in Illinois high school pigskin history. He is sixth all-time in scoring (second in a single season with 376 points in 2005 on 52 touchdowns, a still-record 51 of those coming on the ground) and in touchdowns. He rushed for the fifth-most yards in a single season (3,010, again in that ridiculous 2005). I’ve got my RB1.
3. Steve Soucie: Ty Isaac, RB, Joliet Catholic. No offense to the players selected ahead of my choice, but it’s always good when you get the No. 1 player on your board. A frightening blend of speed and power, I keep thinking back to a state championship game in 2011 where he rushed for 515 and literally could not be stopped. Isaac’s collegiate career was derailed by injury, but I haven’t seen a running back at the high school level that was more imposing at the time.
4. Josh Welge: Justin Jackson, RB, Glenbard North. Welp, same as J.T., I felt like I should take a kid I covered in high school. Glenbard North’s offense was give it to Justin, and let him go. This young man, who went on to a stellar career at Northwestern and now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers, is seventh all-time in IHSA history with 6,531 rushing yards. My team can only hope that Jackson can replicate his 2013 season, when he went for 3,171 yards (second most in IHSA history) in 11 games. He also had 85 career TDs. He also ran for 5,440 yards and 41 TDs at Northwestern, but who’s counting?
5. Kyle Nabors: Juice Williams, QB, Vocational. I typically like going running back in the first round for fantasy football, but I can’t pass up Juice. Williams was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, and for good reason, when he committed to Illinois in 2005 before his senior season. Williams came armed with a strong arm and incredible speed. He threw for more than 1,800 yards as a senior and averaged 21.8 yards per rush attempt.
6. Eddie Carifio: James Robinson, RB Rockford Lutheran. It’s funny because I had the opposite thought as Kyle, I was thinking about taking a QB here because I think it will be less deep than at running back. Plus I have a thought at quarterback that I hope Joe doesn’t steal. So I couldn’t pass on Robinson. Honestly I'm surprised he's still here. Four seasons of at least 1,800 yards. The all-time leading scorer in IHSA history with 158 touchdowns. Fourth in the NFHS scoring books. And he's got NFL prospects.
7. Joe Stevenson: Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Montini. I usually prefer going running back early in fantasy, but I can’t pass on Westerkamp. I saw him break Marian Central’s heart enough times and I saw that crazy 2011 Class 5A state championship game when the Broncos scored like a video game. He had back-to-back 1,600-yard receiving seasons, 4,548 career receiving yards, most in the state by more than 700, third most receptions (235) and the most TDs (68) by 11. I’m happy to see the Nebraska Cornhusker still available.