Since Week 15, this column has examined the characteristics of top-seeded
fantasy teams (based on responses to a questionnaire featured in
the Q&A column for Week 14).
The Week 16 column
focused on acquisitions through trading and the waiver wire. Responses
to the survey indicated that top-seeded teams are, in fact, more
likely to have participated in trades than the other teams in
their fantasy leagues. However, since I did not ask respondents
to specify when the trades occurred, the relationship between
cause and effect remains murky. Are teams that engage in trades
more likely to emerge as top-seeded playoff contenders than their
rivals? Or is it simply the case that whatever team gets off to
the fastest start in any league is more likely than other teams
to receive trade offers because competitors see trading as the
best way to break up a perceived juggernaut?
Perhaps next season we will be able to delve into that question
with more precision. In the meantime, I want to share a comment
that I received on the Week 16 column from Craig, who was disappointed
to learn that according to most of the readers who responded to
my questionnaire, the typical top-seeded fantasy teams engaged
in just one trade during the regular season (in leagues in which
most owners executed ZERO trades). As Craig explains:
Our league enjoys trading and requires it. You
have to trade a top 4 draft pick before the trade deadline in
week 10. Thus, we get some blockbuster trades when injuries occur
and teams are looking for a 2-for-1 deal for a stud. It makes
the art of trading and projecting future value very fun. I have
played in leagues with no trading whatsoever and I find them horribly
boring because you are simply playing your draft and selected
waiver pick ups.
I think the idea of mandatory trades is something that a number
of leagues might want to explore, and I am sorry that my holiday
travel schedule has prevented me from asking Craig what happens
to teams that fail to execute a trade by Week 10. Are they simply
disqualified from the post-season? Is their fourth-round pick
removed from their roster? If two or more owners fail to comply,
do their fourth-round players get shuffled between teams by the
commissioner? Perhaps I will have more details concerning Craig’s
league in a future column. I confess I have belonged to a couple
of leagues in which it felt like the only way any trades would
happen was for the commissioner to force the owners to execute
Questions 7 & 8 from the survey in Week 14 were designed
to find out whether it was more important for top-seeded teams
to avoid busts with their top picks (or most expensive players
in auction leagues) or to rack up steals with their bottom picks
(or least expensive players in auction leagues).
Although there were some notable exceptions, it seems that avoiding
busts is more important than snagging steals. According to the
responses I received, almost all top-seeded teams had 0-1 busts
in their top 5 picks (or 5 most expensive players in auction leagues).
Steals in the initial draft/auction were not nearly as common
a characteristic for top-seeded teams (perhaps because the most
important “steals” happened after the season got underway).
Reuben provided his own impression of the relative value of various
components that help to build a successful fantasy team:
In general I think that you can't win the league
in a draft, but you can lose it. I'd say winning is 50% luck,
25% pulling smart depth players off the wire (either to keep or
trade), 20% not hurting yourself in the draft (including not spending
too much on a QB), and 5% making good trades.
My data sample isn’t nearly extensive enough to support
or refute Reuben’s conclusions, but I like his general tone.
In most leagues, the performance of an owner in the initial draft/auction
is less about building a winner than it is about not building
a loser. Upside is obviously an important consideration, but it
is not something that top-seeded teams in 2012 put ahead of durability
and consistency—at least not with regard to the earliest
picks in the draft (or most expensive players in an auction).
Here is a quick sample of responses from FFers who report that
the top-seeded teams in their leagues had 0-1 busts in their top
five picks. If you expected top-seeded teams to be great at late-round
steals, then rethink your expectations. Notice that for most of
these teams, there were 0-1 notable steals in the bottom five
No real busts in the top 5 picks. Nelson at #26 overall and Rodgers
at #2 may have been worst value.
No steals among last 5 picks.
Zero busts. Drafted 1. Tom Brady 2. Jamaal Charles 3. Wes Welker
4. Doug Martin 5. Eric Decker. 8th draft slot, live drafted.
Not including a kicker and a defense (13. Kaeding and 14. Arizona)
last 5 picks were 8. Darius Heyward-Bey 9. Stevan Ridley 10. Ryan
Williams 11. Jacob Tamme 12. Jake Locker. So, one steal in Ridley.
The other four hit the waiver wire quite a while ago.
One team has no busts, one team had 1 bust (Vick in Rd 3), one
team had 1 bust (Fred Jackson in Rd 3).
Two teams had no one significant in final 5 rounds. One team picked
Mikel Leshoure in 13th Round and that is now their top RB).
Justin’s League B falls into this pattern, and his League
A almost fits it:
7.) League A: Of the top 5 draft
picks, 2 were semi-busts (Hakeem Nicks and Fred Jackson).
League B: Of the top 5 draft
picks, there was one bust (Greg Jennings) and 1 semi-bust (Fred
8.) League A: DEF and K were
used for Rds 14 & 15. Excluding these, there were 2 steals.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis in the 9th and Reggie Wayne in the 10th.
League B: Of the bottom 5 draft
picks, maybe one was a steal (Malcom Floyd).
Busts from top 5 for top-seeded team—One - Mathews
Steals from bottom 5 for top-seeded team—Zero.
1. (1) RB Arian Foster, HOU
2. (20) WR Victor Cruz, NYG
3. (21) WR Brandon Marshall, CHI
4. (40) RB Darren Sproles, NO
5. (41) WR Marques Colston, NO
Sproles is the closest there is to a bust.
12. (120) RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR
13. (121) D/ST Baltimore
14. (140) TE Jermaine Gresham, CIN
15. (141) K Stephen Gostkowski, NE
16. (160) WR Danny Amendola, STL
Busts in top 5: 0
Steals in bottom 5: 1
McCoy, Graham, Jones, Jackson, Brown – I’d say McCoy
is a slight bust, and Jackson in the 4th is marginal.
Dalton, Eagles, Crosby, Felix Jones, Brian Quick – Dalton
is the only steal, later traded for Heath Miller and Brandon Lloyd
– not a good trade.
The information I am reporting here is obviously subjective.
One person’s idea of a “bust” might qualify
for someone else as a “slight reach” or simply a “poor
value.” Perhaps more importantly, players that perform well
in scoring-only or PPR leagues might not be very valuable in ordinary
performance leagues. For the purposes of this column, I am trusting
the judgment of those who responded to the questionnaire to assess
whether player X qualified as a bust or a steal under the scoring
system of their own league.
Although nitpickers might want to bog down in technical definitions
of busts and steals, the thing about the answers that leaps out
at me is that, generally speaking, top-seeded fantasy teams in
2012 were not built with late-round (or low-cost) steals. They
were built around a core of solid players that were expected to
perform well—and delivered.
Of course, there were exceptions. Joanna participates in two
leagues and reports a higher-than-average number of early round
busts in both:
1) team a - 1- Arian Foster
Team b - 5- Andrew Luck
2) team b - 28- Cam Newton
Team a - 32- Ryan Matthews (bustish)
3) team a - 33- Brandon Weeden (bustish as an offensive rookie)
Team b - 38- Antonio Gates (bustish)
4) team b - 60- Vincent Jackson
Team a - 64- Micheal Vick (bust during stretch run)
5) team a - 65- Torrey Smith (bustish?)
Team b - 66- Dwayne Bowe (bust)
I wanted to include Joanna’s comment to demonstrate that
even though most top-seeded teams tend to steer clear of busts
with their most valuable picks, it is certainly possible for teams
to overcome questionable top picks with solid mid-round value
and savvy waiver/trade activity.
The final question in my Week 14 survey invited readers to submit
questions of their own that they would like to have seen included.
I cannot include all of the answers here (at least not without
taxing the patience of readers), but Bill gave the most interesting
feedback to two of the more popular questions:
#14 (from Justin and Kevin): On a scale of
1 to 10, how much of a factor would you say luck is when it comes
to making the playoffs? (Can you use the points for and points
against the top teams in your league to support this answer? How
different would their place in the standings be if they had played
head-to-head matches against every team in the league each week
instead of their particular opponents?)
Luck always plays a role. For this season, our two top seeded
teams were #1 and #2 in least points allowed, but #5 and #6 in
total points scored. In an all-play scenario, our #1 seed would
have been 72-71 and our #2 seed would have been 70-73. That would
have placed those two teams as the #5 and #6 seeds instead of
#1 and #2.
#15 (from J.R.): For redrafter leagues only. Which pick did the
top-seeded team in the draft have? (In J.R.'s league, the teams
with the top two picks finished 8th and 9th--and did not make
12-team league - top two seeds drafted 9th and 11th respectively.
In fact, our top 5 seeds drafted 9,11,7,10,6. The #6 seed was
an outlier and drafted first overall.
I should have the space to revisit other questions (and some of
the answers to them) in columns for the 2013 regular season. My
thanks to everyone who took the time to write in.
I also want to thank Justin once again for pointing out that
the next time I conduct a survey such as the one in Week 14, I
should ask respondents not just to tell me WHAT happened, but
also WHEN it happened:
I think whether these players are drafted
or are post-draft acquisitions greatly affects the success of
a team. It crops up when you discuss the importance of RB in your
article when you provide some examples of top teams that are deep
at RB. Two of the three teams you list include Alfred Morris.
Since there was a lot of skittishness about drafting a Shanahan
RB and uncertainty about who the eventual starter would be in
Washington, Morris likely went undrafted in most leagues. Given
the relative importance that is placed on RB, the foresight of
a manager to pick up someone like Morris can bolster the chances
of a team’s success.
Last Man Standing - Week 17
(Courtesy of Matthew
As someone who drafted Roy Helu in multiple leagues, I hear Justin’s
message loud and clear.
Trap Game: No Trap Game (8-8, Wash, CLE,
TB, Den, ATL, SF, NYG, NO, MIA, DET, NE, DAL, IND, JAC, KC, Den):
Now is that week to take the risk to win your Survival Pool –
assuming that a tiebreaker doesn’t take you into the playoffs.
But you still need to avoid those “gotcha games” where
the coach is planning on resting his players because the one o’clock
games played out differently than expected and your team already
has a bye locked up before kickoff. Why go out and get hurt when
the second season is right around the corner, right? So with that
in mind, try and avoid that double-digit favorite playing the late
game on Sunday this week if you can. Instead, choose from the one
o’clock games, where even those out of the playoff picture
may still be fighting in the trenches. You don’t want your
final pick’s chances fouled up by the outcome of an earlier
#3: New Orleans over Carolina (15-1: PHI,
TB, CHI, AZ, HOU, BAL, GB, SF, SD, NE, WASH, DEN, DAL, SEA, MIA,
In Week 1, yours truly came out and predicted this matchup as the
trap game of the week because of the bounty scandal that New Orleans
was going to have to deal with in the first few weeks of the season.
That shocking Saints loss followed by New England’s Week 2
loss to Arizona knocked more than 50% out of their LMS pools before
they even really got started. That was then. This is now. And for
now, the Saints want to win this game at home against a very dangerous
Panthers team. It may be the last game of the season, and their
secondary may still give up a lot of points, but it’s payback
time. And NFL players like nothing more than to return the favor
of being upstaged whenever they can. Look for the Saints to march
all over their division rivals this week. Then again . . .
#2: Jacksonville over Tennessee (13-3: CHI,
WASH, NO, HOU, SF, PIT, MIN, NE, ATL, BAL, DEN, IND, GB, CLE, SEA,
I wish that I could go out on a limb and say that the Titans will
run away with this, but with the injury to Chris Johnson’s
ankle during last week’s loss to Green Bay, the Jaguars are
perfectly positioned to steal this game on the road to close out
the season. No, this is not the trap game, and no, I have not lost
my mind. If you had to look at two teams that seem to be headed
in different directions over the course of the season, look no further
that this game. Chad Henne has been revitalized with a receiving
corps that would have helped him keep the starting job in Miami
had Shorts and Blackmon been there. In their last meeting earlier
this season, the Jags improved on their 30th ranked defensive ranking
and beat out their opponent’s 28th ranked defense. No doubt
this game will be for those that have Week 17 fantasy championships
and local diehards. Otherwise, just check the box score on Monday
morning to see if you have won your pool with one of the boldest
picks you can make this week.
#1: Denver over Kansas City (13-3: HOU, SF,
IND, BAL, NYG, ATL, NE, CHI, GB, PIT, DAL, CIN, BUF, TB, DET, WASH):
And so it came down to this: My choices were Tennessee over Jacksonville,
New Orleans over Carolina, and Denver over Kansas City if I wanted
to pick a favorite with my final Survival Pick of the year. Thank
heavens Denver is left, right? Maybe not. This is a divisional game
between two bitter rivals, which is a good reason—all by itself—to
be nervous. But on a weekly basis, KC finds ways to snatch defeat
from the jaws of victory. More importantly, Peyton is playing for
a bye week in the playoffs (albeit outdoors in comparison to his
prior seasons with Indianapolis). If this had been a game earlier
in the season where the Broncos might not be focused, it would have
been a perfect trap. But with so much at stake, and an opponent
that will be playing second and third stringers so that they get
some game film, look for the home team to win easily—just
maybe not by as much as the odds makers expect.
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email