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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A - Week 14: Habits of Highly Successful Fantasy Owners

Last Week's Question: What should replacement commissioners do when they inherit a broken set of rules?

In my Week 13 column, I described the problem of forum poster TNG, who got more than he bargained for when he agreed to take over for a departing commissioner.

The rules he inherited prohibited certain kinds of behavior, but did not specify punishments for transgressors. It's all well and good to say, "Thou shalt not steal," but suppose somebody ignores you and steals anyway. What do you do then? There needs to be some fine print under the commandment that explains what the punishment for stealing is.

If you will pardon an absurd analogy, a replacement commissioner may sometimes feel like an armed security guard with no training who is patrolling a park studded with signs that read, "Do not walk on the grass" and "Do not feed the animals" and "Do not litter."

A visitor to the park unwraps a granola bar, throw the wrapper on the ground, and walks across the grass to feed the granola bar to a squirrel. The security guard yells, "Hey! You're not supposed to do any of that!" The visitor shrugs and continues to feed the squirrel. Concerned parents rush to the guard and say, "Do something! We don't want our children to see that there are no consequences for breaking the rules!"

The security guard could shoot the rule breaker, but that might be considered an extreme reaction by all observers not named Benito Mussolini.

The squirrel has already eaten the granola bar, so there is not much the security guard can do about that. Now he is left to clean up the visitor's mess (by picking up the discarded wrapper himself) and to chase after the visitor, which means that he must himself disregard the signs that say "Do not walk on the grass."

Whatever the security guard is being paid, he decides it isn't enough. "Screw this," he says to himself--and starts looking for a job at a park with fences around the grass instead of signs.

Replacement commissioners, many of whom receive no form of compensation whatsoever, are even more likely than the security guard to throw up their hands in frustration when owners disregard the rules. So where do they turn for help when their rules do not specify a punishment for a rule violation than can be proven to have occurred? According to Nick, they can productively ask their league closed questions, but not open ones:

I'm not sure what TNG should do, but the one thing he should not do is ask the members of his league for their opinions. If a commissioner sends out an email that says, "Hey guys, how should I handle this?", he is just opening himself up to a bunch of pointless bitching and moaning that won't go anywhere.

If you require the owners to vote on a limited set of options, you can get an answer to a question. If you just ask for their general advice, you will end up with way more questions than answers.

Cody thinks commissioners who don't know how to solve a problem should definitely ask for advice, but he is skeptical about most of the complaints he reads on the FFToday boards and other sources (including my column):

The problem with all of these "I need advice" discussions is that they are always written from just one perspective. How am I supposed to judge what the commissioner has to say if I can't also hear from the person who (allegedly!) broke the rules.

It's good for leagues that are having problems to ask people for advice, but they should be required to post at least two perspectives, not just one. What kind of judge delivers a verdict without hearing from the plaintiff and the defendant?

And yet that's what happens with these second-guessing conversations about rule violations in FF leagues all the time. We hear one person's story about a broken rule and say, "Well here's what I would do to that other guy . . ." I don't think any of us should form an opinion about what sort of punishment is fair until we get both sides of the story.

I have tremendous respect for Cody's position, though I suspect it may be harder to get both sides of every story than he imagines. I use my judgment when dealing with queries from commissioners, and often I refuse to print a question because of blatantly one-sided phraseology. In some cases, I have asked commissioners to put me in touch with the FFers they are complaining about, but there are a lot of folks who belong to FF leagues even though they do not take FF very seriously. They wouldn't bother to write up their own side of a dispute even if I promised to print it word-for-word in advance. In principle, I agree with the importance Cody attaches to hearing both sides of the story, but in practice . . . well, good luck with that.

Frank did not have an answer relevant to TNG's situation, but he wanted to weigh in on "replacement commissioners" as a phenomenon:

If a commissioner leaves a league that has been around for a long time, maybe the rest of the owners should ask themselves why. Have they, as a group, become a PITA? Is the league not fun anymore because no one can agree on how to fix a broken scoring system?

With websites doing most of the work for leagues these days, people think commissioners don't really matter. In good leagues, they matter a lot. A good commissioner is the heart and soul of any league that has a chance of lasting for decades.

No league worth being in runs itself.

Thanks for the reminder, Frank. I did not mean to offend any reader with my depiction (in last week's column) of how a replacement commissioner can get talked into taking on the job just because "the website does most of the work." It was an attempt (and not a very good one) at humor, and I offer my apologies to any readers who felt that I was in any way belittling the valuable work that commissioners do for the FF community.

This Week's Question: Can we identify the habits of highly successful fantasy owners?

Some people say that fantasy championships are won or lost on draft day. Some say they are won or lost on the waiver wire. Some FFers consider trading a key to their success; others consider it a waste of time and energy.

With the possible exception of RG3, there is probably no single "key" to winning in fantasy football. In the end, winning is about putting up more points than your opponent, so it may have less to do with the good decisions you make than the bad decisions of your competitor.

But fantasy football is definitely about the decisions we make every week. Who do we start? Who do we sit? Who do we cut? Who do we acquire? How deep is our bench? How do we respond when that star quarterback has to miss a month of action thanks to a concussion?

Do you have a theory as to why you ended up wherever you ended up in your league's standings?

Why didn't you make the playoffs? Do you think you weren't active enough on the waiver wire? Did you carry too many receivers all season because you never gave up on Greg Jennings?

Alternatively, why did you make the playoffs? Was it because of your brilliant picks in rounds 8 through 10? Or did you sucker other owners out of their best players by trading away the likes of Kevin Ogletree and Brian Hartline when they were overvalued?

Whatever you imagine the key to your success was, can you please take a few minutes to look over the rest of your league and see if that key to success applied to other successful owners in general? And whatever you think your biggest mistake was, can you find any evidence that other owners who committed the same mistake ended up facing the same consequences?

I have formulated a list of ten questions below, and I will be grateful to readers who work through all ten questions in an effort to determine whether there is anything typical about the top-seeded teams in FF leagues. Please don't approach the list with your mind made up about anything in advance. Don't use your league to prove that waivers matter more than the draft (or vice versa) just because you have an axe to grind. Try to have an open, curious mind. And have fun answering the questions if you can.

1) Number of teams in your league

2) Number of players per roster

3) Is the top-seeded team especially deep at one position? If so, which position?

4) Is the top-seeded team especially shallow at one position? If so, which position?

5) Number of waiver wire transactions for the top-seeded team during the regular season. Is this number higher, lower, or about the same as the number of waiver transactions for other playoff teams? How does it compare to non-playoff teams?

6) Number of trades for the top-seeded team during the regular season. Is this number higher, lower, or about the same as the number of trades for other playoff teams? How does it compare to non-playoff teams?

7) Examine the Week 1 roster of the top-seeded team in your league. How many of that team's top five draft picks (in draft leagues) or most expensive players (in auction leagues) turned out to be busts?

8) Examine the Week 1 roster of the top-seeded team in your league. How many of the team's bottom five draft picks (in draft leagues) or least expensive players (in auction leagues) turned out to be steals?

9) If you have an opinion about the key to the success of the top-seeded team in your league, share it here.

10) If there are specific questions that you think should have been included in this list but were omitted, what were they?

Feel free to modify the questions as necessary to make them relevant to your league.

Last Man Standing - Week 14 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Editor's note: Our LMS expert went 4-0 last week, which is not unusual. It is worth pointing out, however, that his top pick (the Bills) won decisively and that his trap game analysis called for Andrew Luck to lead the Colts to victory over the Lions on a late scoring drive. At this point in the season, Mr. Schiff has extremely limited options left in each category, so he will only be going further out on a limb from here.

Trap Game: Jacksonville over N.Y. Jets (7-6, Wash, CLE, TB, Den, ATL, SF, NYG, NO, MIA, DET, IND):
The Jags and Jets are both out of the playoff picture, but the teams are playing with very different attitudes about the meaningless games left on their schedules. Chad Henne has re-energized a Jaguar offense that has all but lost its star (MJD) for the rest of the season. Montell Owens will get his second start at running back and improve on his 7 rushes for 29 yards this week against the Jets' 29th ranked rushing defense (which yields almost 140 yards per game on the ground). As I mentioned last week, this offense also has a pair of good receivers in Shorts and Blackmon who can stretch the field and help loosen up the run. Jacksonville fans have good reason to be excited about their emerging offensive stars, but the defense continues to be a major problem (ranked 28th or worse in Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards and Total Points allowed). But as bad as the Jacksonville defense is, no Jets quarterback (not even Joe Namath) can carry a team that has lost the will to compete. In this one, you have to love the home underdog that is starting to click with next year’s stars.

#3: Seattle over Arizona (12-1: PHI, TB, CHI, AZ, HOU, BAL, GB, SF, SD, NE, WASH, DEN, DAL):
Russell Wilson pulled off a come-from-behind win that had many sports talk show analysts wondering, “What is wrong with the Bears defense?” The first year quarterback out of Wisconsin has a 95.2 QB rating and a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Not since Dan Marino in 1983 has a rookie had so high a ratio. In an offense that up until recently was “restricted” even according to Coach Carroll, it should be interesting to see what this rookie QB can do against a Cardinal defense that is ranked 7th overall and against which he posted 153 yards, one TD and one interception in his first NFL game. The Seahawks control their own destiny and only play one team (the 49ers) with a winning record over the remainder of the season. Don’t be surprised if Marino’s record is broken by one of the lesser known rookies of the 2012 season.

#2: Cleveland over Kansas City (10-3: CHI, WASH, NO, HOU, SF, PIT, MIN, NE, ATL, BAL, DEN, IND, GB):
Wait a minute . . . Cleveland? Isn’t there a better game than this? If you’ve already used Tampa this season, then no. All the other good prospects this week were used up early on. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you’ve made it this far in your Survival Pool, and now you get the thrill of relying on the rookie duo of Trent Richardson and Brendan Weeden to keep you going. Richardson hasn’t seemed to hit that “rookie wall” and needs only 173 yards to go over the 1000-yard mark as a rookie. Weeden, while not hyped like the other rookie starters, has quietly put up solid numbers with 2800 yards and 13 TDs. More importantly, he now has a chance to help Cleveland win three in a row for the first time since Derek Andersen did in 2009 against the Steelers, Chiefs, and Raiders. The only negative is that Weeden has thrown 15 INTs, but against a Kansas City Defense that has only 7 on the season, there should be nothing to worry about in spite of the inspired play of a Chiefs team that lost Javon Belcher last week.

#1: Tampa Bay over Philadelphia (12-1: HOU, SF, IND, BAL, NYG, ATL, NE, CHI, GB, PIT, DAL, CIN, BUF):
The Bucs are 6-6 and coming home to face a reeling Eagles squad. Andy Reid is making the best of a bad situation by showcasing the talent of his squad for next year’s head coach, and some of those players are pretty good. Bryce Brown has rushed for over 150 yards in each of his last two starts (in relief of LeSean McCoy, MIA with a concussion) . The fact that Philadelphia's season is all but lost might lead us to think that this game is a pushover . However, Reid knows how to get a team prepared for each game and might even be getting more respect from the backups who are getting their chance to shine. The Bucs have an outside shot of still making the playoffs and should be focused enough to win this one at home, but they will be lucky to win by more than three against this 3-9 team. It’s all about the matchups the rest of the way.

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