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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

What "extras" does your league offer?
Q & A: Week 2

Last Week's Question: What's your procedure for bringing new owners into an existing league?

My Week One column featured the remarks of Daryl, who pointed out that the veteran owners in his league seemed to be the ones least likely to get the first pick in their serpentine redraft. Daryl's league awards the top draft spot to the team with the worst record, but for two years in a row, the owner who finished last has quit the league--only to be replaced by a newcomer whose reward for being late to the party is the top overall pick in the draft.

Based on the feedback that I received concerning this situation, many commissioners do not share Daryl's view of this development as a problem. I'll discuss the differences of opinion below, but Daryl's solution to his perceived problem was to auction off the top spot in the draft in the event that the owner to which it was assigned left the league. The new guy gets the top spot assigned to him for a preemptive bid of zero dollars, but anyone else in the league who wants to place a higher bid on the spot is welcome to do so. (The new owner is allowed to participate in the bidding, but he can choose not to, in which case he will end up with the spot originally assigned to the high bidder for the top pick.)

Byron was one of several readers to argue that this procedure of auctioning off draft picks seemed like "a lot of effort expended over nothing, since it's not clear that the top pick in a serpentine draft is any better than any other pick." Byron's point might have been a little easier to appreciate before Adrian Peterson broke away for a TD on his first touch of the season, but the logic still holds. A conventional serpentine draft dictates that the greater your advantage is in odd-numbered rounds, the greater your disadvantage is in even-numbered rounds. Like Byron, I don't consider picking first an "advantage," and I certainly wouldn't bid for that spot. Nevertheless, if other people were willing to pay extra for that perceived privilege, I would be happy to let them fatten the league purse with their bids.

My favorite answers came from Rob and Rudy because they were polar opposites. Rob says:

Our 14-man league is going into its fifteenth season, and we have a waiting list of almost twenty people trying to get in. The newest guy joined last year after a five-year wait. Here's what I have written at the top of the waiting list sign-up sheet on the website:

Openings are RARE, but IF you ever do get into the league, you'll get the last pick in the draft AND YOU'LL LIKE IT! Otherwise, don't bother signing up.

We haven't had any problems with this policy.

Rudy's experience has been quite different:

My problem is that when guys decide to leave the league, they usually don't even tell me. We don't realize they need to be replaced until [they fail to show up for the] draft party. Then it's just a bunch of us getting on cell phones and calling people we know trying to find someone who is A) interested in joining and B) available to come to the draft. Of course we'll let the new guy have the top pick in the draft. Who cares about [details like that when the only alternative is to] have a computer manage the tenth team in the league?

Obviously, different league dynamics result in different approaches to bringing in new owners. If you're desperate to fill a spot, you're likely to offer any incentives you can think of to entice a new owner to join your league. And since I still agree with Byron's point, offering the newbie the top pick in the draft is a low-cost (arguably a no-cost) perk.

Serpentine drafts are certainly commonplace (perhaps even standard) in redrafter leagues, but it's not clear how widespread the "worst-to-first" approach of Daryl's league is. I heard from numerous commissioners of leagues in which draft order is randomly determined. In such leagues, finishing last one season has nothing to do with picking first in the following draft, and these commissioners were quick to point out that Daryl could solve his problem simply by randomizing the draft. As Anthony explains:

It seems [Daryl's] league is punishing a new owner for joining the league by putting him at a disadvantage. They should just treat the new owner as if he was the previous owner. If the owners don't like that the new guy is getting the 1st pick, [they can] do a random draft order like we do in our league drawing names from a hat or pick from a deck of cards using ace through ten for 10-team league or ace through queen for 12-team league. Our draft is random every year. In our league we just look among our owners to see if they have a friend or co-worker that wants in. The first person with a recommendation gets in.

Of all the answers I received, the most detailed and satisfying came from Ben. His league used a random approach to start with, but has carried that random starter-pattern forward in a way that is predictable, fair, and fun. What I like best about his model is that when it's your turn to pick first in a draft, you pick a draft position instead of a player. If you want the top overall pick, then fine, it's yours. But if you've decided to draft a WR in the first round and you think Calvin Johnson will be available with the seventh pick, then you can select the seventh pick so that you get to pick far earlier in the second round than would have been the case if you had burned the top overall selection on Megatron.

Several years ago we drew numbers out of the hat. By the numbers chosen you got to select your draft position. Each year it rotates. You move up one spot in the draft selection order each year until you reach the first overall spot. If you have the first spot one year, you drop to the 12th spot [the following] year.

New owners drop to the bottom of the draft order selection process. See below for example. In 2013 we had two new owners.

2012 Draft Order Selection Order

1. Mike – 1st overall pick
2. Tom – 7th
3. Rich – 2nd
4. Ray - 3rd
5. Chad – 4th (left before 2013)
6. Chris – 5th
7. Miguel – 8th
8. Bob – 10th
9. Derek – 6th
10. Ed – 9th
11. Trevor – 11th (left before 2013)
12. Jean – 12th

2013 Draft Order Selection Order

1. Tom - 1st
2. Rich - 2nd
3. Ray - 3rd
4. Chris – 4th
5. Miguel – 5th
6. Bob – 12th
7. Derek – 11th
8. Ed – 8th
9. Jean – 6th
10. Mike – 7th
11. Ryan – 9th (new)
12. Florence -10th (new)

2014 Draft Order Selection Order (if all owners stick around)

1. Rich
2. Ray
3. Chris
4. Miguel
5. Bob
6. Derek
7. Ed
8. Jean
9. Mike
10. Ryan
11. Florence
12. Tom

Since my question from Daryl concerned draft position for new owners, that's what most readers tended to focus on in their responses, but Gary did a great job of tackling my general question about bringing in new owners from a general perspective, so I'll close this section with his remarks:

We have a league, 16 teams (touchdown only) that is embarking on its 24th season. It’s also a small keeper league (we can keep up to two players). This season, we brought in a new owner (a legacy – 20yr old son of one of the early owners) as we had someone quit on us.

The draft is random as we all have been in the league long enough that the worst team might just have had a bad year with injuries. So, no issues with that. What our commish has done (I’m not commish anymore) is allowed the new guy to take over the previous owner’s team and letting him have keepers. This year “The Meat” didn’t keep any of those guys.

This works well for us as we haven’t expanded the league since 1992. When the league expanded (I was one of the teams), we started with a clean slate.

I love hearing stories like this one. When people tell me that fantasy football is a passing fad, it's fun for me to think about a league like Gary's, in which the vets are now playing against an owner who was born four years after the league was founded. Thanks for sharing that detail, Gary.

What "extras" does your league offer that might set it apart from other leagues?

My next question grows out of a couple of emails I received this week that were reports rather than questions. The first story concerns Greg, who won his 48-team mega-league last year and celebrated by drinking too much at his draft party this year. He got tipsy enough to guarantee his opponents that he will win the league again in 2013, which prompted one of them to make him a bet: If Greg fails to win the league championship, he has to show up to next year's draft shirtless--and wearing a brand new nipple ring. If he wins, the other bettor has to show up with a nipple ring. (There are forty-seven ways for Greg to lose as opposed to one way for him to win. It's a horrible, horrible bet. But it's a great story.)

I also received a league newsletter from a reader named Mike. Mike's newsletter (titled "Lies, Rumors, and Results") reminded me of the kinds of "extras" that I used to encounter all the time in fantasy leagues. Take a look at his write-up of a match featuring a team named "Nobody":

Nobody Spanks Gypsies
With Lubbock well known as a place better seen through the rear view mirror, it was no surprise when Sam Stout announced during the off season that Nobody was moving to Lubbock. Sam worked out a deal for Nobody to play in the parking lot across the street from the Student Union Building on the campus of Texas Tech University and it was lined with curious coeds when Robin Stout’s Gypsies showed up for the opener. Sam, looking to impress the girls, wanted to come out of the gate looking good. He got his wish when Denver quarterback Peyton Manning went off on Thursday night. Manning’s 60 point game set a new league record for quarterbacks in a single game, eclipsing the previous record of 57 set by Michael Vick for David Stout’s CowTown Bulls in game 10 of 2010. The Gypsies were down big and would need monster performances just to get back in the game. They put four players in double figures in the early game on Sunday, but Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles’ 16 was the best they could manage, and it was all downhill from there as Nobody spanks the Gypsies 143 – 83.

When I started playing fantasy football in the late '90s, crazy bets (like the one involving the nipple ring) and fun newsletters (such as the one I received from Mike) were everywhere. Part of the fun of joining a new league was discovering what kinds of "extras" were considered normal for that particular group of FFers.

This year I ended up opting out of a league because the commish, who had invited me to the league with the promise of a live draft, changed things at the last minute to an "auto-draft." His explanation: "All the other owners are in multiple leagues, so nobody has time for a draft."

Fantasy football is obviously far more technologically advanced than it used to be. We no longer wait for commissioners to tabulate wins and losses by hand from box scores. We all get updates emailed straight to our inboxes from outfits like FFToday so that it's easier than ever to stay on top of studs, duds, and sleepers. This should give us more time to spend on the fun stuff (such as outrageous wagers and newsletters), but I'm seeing less of the fun stuff than I used to. Maybe this is just because I'm older (and therefore, by definition, lamer). But my impression is that the zesty "extras" that used to define the fantasy football experience are increasingly difficult to come by. Please prove me wrong. Restore my faith in the creative, fun, zany side of fantasy football. Tell me what happens in your league that I just wouldn't see in any old computerized 12-team serpentine redraft league on Yahoo.

Survivor Picks - Week 1 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Washington at Green Bay

Green Bay starts the season against two of last season's playoff teams. While on paper this game looks like a cakewalk for the Packers, the Redskins have a legitimate shot of going into Lambeau Field and winning this game like they did in 2010 (16-13 in overtime). RG III needs to get back up to game speed quickly after playing it safe during rehab in the pre-season. But the Packer defense is vulnerable to the pass as proven by Anquan Boldin's 208-yard, 13-catch and 1-TD day. Combine the threat of the run with last year's 1500-yard back, Alfred Morris, and you have the makings for a legitimate upset. "Blasphemy!" the cheeseheads shout. But the real possibility of a Redskin win prevents me from wanting to go anywhere near this one in a survival pool.

#3: New England over NY Jets (1-0: KC):

Any other week of the season, this could be my number one pick. But let me ask you, Coach Belichick, how many of your key players aren't hurt right now? Amendola and Sudfeld (pulled hamstrings) are doubtful; Shane Vereen (broken wrist) is on short-term IR; Gronkowski (recovering from back surgery) is not expected to return until at least next week; eight other players are listed on the injury reports; and to top it all off, they have a starting running back who can't hold onto the ball (Ridley). This has all the makings of a big time "trap game," and throw in that it's a game between division rivals, and it screams "STAY AWAY." But no, the NY Jets and Geno Smith won't be able to rally the troops in Foxboro where the Patriots are 73-15 all time (9-4 against the Jets) since Gillette stadium opened, and more than enough of a team with subs to beat their division foes. Forget the stats and the injury list. This game will come down to rookie mistakes and an unproven QB playing against an icon in his home stadium. The Patriots win this, but not by as many points as the odds makers think.

#2: Philadelphia over San Diego (1-0: DEN):

The Chip Kelly era has officially started, and it did so with a bang. Up 33-14 at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Eagles held on to win 33-27 Monday night and validate the collegiate up-tempo style of play that Kelly brings to a team that is pretty much the same as its 5-11 predecessor from last year. San Diego will be hard-pressed to keep up with the pace of play that the Eagles will bring, as demonstrated by their lack of ability to prevent Houston from scoring in the final second of their Monday night game, but Phillip Rivers should be able to have a good stat day. Look for Vick and McCoy to "runaway" with this at the Linc to go 2-0 on the season, as this NY Giants fan gives a shout out to his hometown faithful friends, E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!

#1: Oakland over Jacksonville (1-0: IND):

Last week I said that to win your survival pool you needed to pick games that were "locks," such as any game played AGAINST the Oakland Raiders this year. I was wrong; it was the Jacksonville Jaguars that you should pick against every week. Did you see pictures of the stadium in the second half of the Chiefs-Jaguars game? It was 95% empty. It looks like the Jacksonville fans gave up on their season even before the Jags finished their first game. In relief of Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne brings his 14-23 record as a starting quarterback to Oakland, where Terrelle Pryor hopes to win his first NFL game as a starting quarterback (0-2). The "Tebow" chants may still be heard in Oakland as Henne tries to beat Pryor, who posted 112 rushing yards in a losing effort. Unfortunately for the Jags, the Silver and Black faithful should enjoy a rare win in their home opener of 2013.

Reader's Note: This game is not for the faint of heart; it's for the Survival Pool player who knows that he may have to pick one of these two teams at some point this season. Why not take the chance this week when these two cellar dwellers meet?

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.