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Q&A - What Measures Can Commissioners Take to Encourage Trading in Stagnant Leagues?
Week 5

Last Week’s Question:

How Does Your League Handle Dual-Position Players?

Last week’s column featured a question from Nestor, whose league is having trouble with Dexter McCluster because he is listed as a running back and a wide receiver on the Yahoo! site that hosts the league. Nestor wonders whether McCluster’s owner should be able to plug the player into an RB slot or a WR slot depending upon his needs each week.

Readers had widely differing (but in most cases sensible) responses. The most legalistic answer came from Todd:

Precedence works for the legal system—and should work in games as well. Whatever McCluster’s owner did first should stick for the rest of the season. If he started him as an RB in Week 1, then he’s a running back for the rest of the season. If he first started him as a receiver, then he is a receiver for the remainder of the year. It is clearly an unfair advantage to be able to put one player in at multiple positions (since that is freakishly rare in the NFL), and I would make a stink about it if anyone in my league tried to use the same player in multiple roles over the course of the season.

I am glad that this question pertains to a player with the limited productivity of McCluster (who has scored a grand total of 22 points so far this season in my primary league). I understand the point of raising a stink on principle, but the good thing about addressing this question in regard to a player with marginal fantasy impact is that most heads will remain cool, and the question can be answered more soberly than would have been the case with a star such as Eric Metcalf (who spurred Eric’s league to put a rule on the books for dual-position players years ago):

Our league (the Semi-Tough Fantasy Football League) has been in existence since 1993 (albeit with only 2 original members of an original 10-team league still in the league). We dealt with the issue of dual-position players way back in the days of Eric Metcalf, who was listed as a RB/WR and subsequently codified it in our league rules:

Players listed as multiple position players (e.g., a player is listed as a RB/WR) can be played at any position at which they're listed. The bible will be the official rosters as listed at the site.

We also addressed and codified instances where defensive players sometimes play offense (we do not use IDP), called

1. The " Deion Sanders rule":

a) All defensive TD’s scored off of a fumble return/recovery, interception return, or blocked kick (FG or punt) will be scored to the team defense, not the individual player.
b) All offensive TD’s scored by defensive players playing an offensive position will be scored by the individual player, not the defense.

2. Special team scores will be scored by the individual player, not the team defense (except where noted above) including:

a) Kickoff and punt return TDs.
b) TD passes, receptions, or runs resulting from fake kicks.

Shaun’s response might not stand up to a great deal of scrutiny, but the simplicity of his position is very attractive:

Sometimes we have to be bold enough to imagine that we are smarter than Yahoo. Just because a website says someone is a running back doesn’t make it so. If McCluster were a running back, then you would think he would have some rushing yards to his credit this season, but my stat sheet shows that his only yardage has come from receptions and punt returns. There’s really no question here. Move along.

Nestor’s league might be persuaded by Shaun’s logic, but there isn’t much here that is generally applicable to the question of dual-position players. If I start a receiver who goes into a game and gets one touch on an end-around before being shut out for the rest of the day, then my receiver wasn’t transformed into a running back just because his only yardage for the day was rushing yardage. Nevertheless, Shaun’s response is funny and moderately compelling.

The response that is likely to ruffle the fewest feathers in Nestor’s league (and that seems generally applicable in similar cases) came from Evan:

[The problem of] players listed at multiple positions never came up as an issue in my league—maybe because our site doesn't list multiple positions. But if it did, I would have to allow [the owner to use the player however he wanted] if that is how the site [categorizes him]. In my league, if we do not have a specific rule for something, the site's default rules apply (e.g. the Robert Meachem Play).

My thanks to everyone who wrote in concerning the dual-position question. Even if all the responses were not included here, I believe that all of the positions on the question were represented by the responses above. I wish Nestor and his league the best of luck in figuring out how to proceed from here, and I will try to inform readers about his league’s decision if I hear back from him.

This Week’s Question:

What Measures Can Commissioners Take to Encourage Trading in Stagnant Leagues?

Before I get to this week’s question, I want to thank everyone who has been submitting questions to me so far this season. In order to keep the column coherent, I try to focus on the one question each week that seems to be of greatest general interest to the fantasy football community. But I also consider the “time-sensitivity” of questions when deciding whether to ask them right away or to save them for later in the season. For some reason I have received an unusually high number of good questions in the last three weeks, and I will do my best to feature them in the order that seems likely to do the greatest good for the greatest number of readers.

I want to focus on Evan’s question about trading this week because the timing is right for trades to be happening at a brisk pace (as I explain below):

Our league is fairly active. There are 5-10 free agent/claims every week—with people swapping out their rosters regularly. However, there are rarely more than a couple of trades the whole year. Some owners are trying very hard to trade, while others are very complacent, even at a detriment to their team. We have a veto procedure to challenge, but it rarely gets used. Are there any ways to increase trade activity?

In my experience, trades occur with their greatest frequency immediately following the draft, then fizzle out for the first three weeks of the season when there are no byes because everyone is still in love with their own roster depth. Trades start to pick up again in Weeks 4 through 8, but often fizzle out again starting around Week 9 or 10 because many of the owners who need help most through trades simply give up on the season at that point.

Injuries and the bye week schedule should put sufficient pressure on owners to consider trades, but there are some leagues in which owners would rather make do with the players they have than risk embarrassing themselves by making a bad trade. I am speaking generally here about the various leagues in which I have participated. I cannot say whether any of these observations apply to Evan’s league, but my take on trading is that if it doesn’t happen in Weeks 4-8, it isn’t going to skyrocket later in the season. What advice can FFers offer to Evan and his leaguemates to get those trade juices flowing ASAP?

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

Last week I got all 3 games correct along with the upset alert as Baltimore rallied for a last second win. For the season I am 10-2 on my picks and 3-0 on the upsets.

1) Baltimore over Denver
Denver got a surprising win on the road at Tennessee, but the Broncos will not be able to pull another surprise right away against the best team in the AFC. Orton has been on fire, but he's up against the top-ranked Ravens pass defense (which is yielding only 119 yards/game to opposing QBs). With no rushing attack, the Broncos will have to rely on special teams and/or turnovers to get the job done in Baltimore.

2) Indianapolis over Kansas City
Even though KC is undefeated and coming off of a bye, I don’t see the Colts falling to 2-3. Manning is throwing the ball well and KC is 25th against the pass. The Chiefs will be able to move the ball on the ground, but Manning's will and focus should be the deciding factor in this one.

3) Cincinnati over Tampa Bay
Cincinnati will recover after a disappointing loss to Cleveland. Tampa’s defensive backfield is terrible (28th against the pass) and if you saw what TO did last week, get your popcorn ready for more of the same from him and Ochocinco.

Upset alert – I try to look for a home dog, so my top candidates were Cleveland over Atlanta or Washington over Green Bay. I’ll go with Cleveland over Atlanta. Both teams are tough against the run and Cleveland is terrible against the pass, so Matt Ryan could post some big numbers. I think Joshua Cribbs will be a difference-maker somehow. Even though the cold weather hasn’t set in, Atlanta is outside and away from their dome.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.