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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Why is "Big Mo" the Commissioner's Responsibility?
Q & A: Week 5

Last Week's Question: Why doesn't your league use keepers?

My column for Week 4 featured Todd's complaint that his office league (which is stable from one year to the next) is unwilling to add a keeper component. In fact, Todd's fellow owners are so uninterested in keepers that they won't even discuss the matter or put it to a vote. Todd asked me to try to make sense of their position, and I passed his question along to the readers of this column in the hope of generating some feedback for him.

Considering that leagues can play by whatever rules they like (and that even the awesome powers bestowed upon me by do not enable me to dictate how any league should function), a number of the responses were unnecessarily defensive. I wasn't demanding that commissioners justify the rules in their leagues; I was just fishing for explanations of why many redrafter leagues prefer to remain redrafter leagues. I only have room to include the most unemotional responses, and Joe's balanced take is probably the best one to start with:

I am in a 7-person league that redrafts every year. Every year, everyone starts with the exact same chance. I don't have anything against keeper leagues, but to me they are simply different, not better. I don't think our league would be any more exciting or interesting for me if I got to keep my one or two best players. Personally, I prefer to mix it up. Besides if someone lucked out and got one of the league's one or two best players, they've already enjoyed the advantage from that in the year they drafted him -- I don't see that giving people that advantage in perpetuity adds much. Myself, I don't think the league would be any more enjoyable for me if I kept a couple of my guys from last year.

The highlighted line was a key component of most of the defenses of redrafter leagues that I received. It may be true that Todd has more fun playing in keeper leagues than redrafter leagues, but that doesn't necessarily apply to Joe or any number of "pure redrafter" enthusiasts. Joe also touches on one of the concerns that many players have about keeper leagues--which is the fear that keeping studs from one season to the next only makes the strong teams stronger and the weak teams weaker. Daniel amplified this point:

Why don't we use keepers? Simple - because the redraft makes the league a lot more fun for the owners who had bad luck and had a bad year. The people with great teams are already having fun. But it's important to give the losers that "wait until next year" feeling without them thinking that they will start out behind. As the owner who came in dead last year, I know I appreciated it. I wouldn't have wanted to start off the new season with a handicap, and if the first place team is keeping his best players, that's how I would have felt.

Since most keeper leagues require owners to pay an ever-increasing premium on the players they want to retain, some folks would be quick to respond that part of the challenge of keeper leagues is in deciding which of your "best players" are worth the cost of that premium. That point is probably less persuasive to redrafter enthusiasts than the fact that keepers add an extra dimension of fun and excitement to the late rounds of drafts because those are (generally speaking) the players that you get to keep for years to come, and you can luck out with some young QB (such as Ryan Tannehill or Terrelle Pryor) who later blooms into something special. To my mind, that element of luck doesn't really give anyone an advantage, but I understand Daniel's point. Even if keeper leagues don't necessarily ensure that dominant teams will remain dominant, they can create a general feeling of hopelessness among the owners who fall behind in the standings. People like a level playing field, and redrafter leagues definitely feel "fair."

I heard from a couple of readers who confessed that they have never really given keepers much thought because pure redrafter leagues are the only kinds of leagues they've ever tried. As Stan put it, "I don't want to mess with keepers because I like to keep things simple."

There's probably something to that argument. Anyone who plays fantasy football probably knows how to manage a redrafter league; but not all FFers would know how to conduct themselves in a keeper league. Even though I accept Stan's point as generally sound, however, I'll point out that Gary's league does allow for two keepers even though it stresses simplicity above everything else:

The league I’m in is a two-player keeper (if you keep one or two, you are out the first one or two rounds).

Our simplicity lies in our scoring. We are just about a straight touchdown only league. A dinosaur. A player gets three points for tossing one and defense scores 2 for a turnover, 1 for a sack and any points from touchdowns or safeties.

Everything else is touchdown only. No special teams points. A kickoff return isn’t worth squat unless the player is starting for you.

Even if keepers are slightly more complicated than redrafter leagues, Gary's model seems easy enough for novice FFers to wrap their heads around.

The simplicity angle became even more complicated when I got this response from a reader identified only as "Sixshooter." He begins by arguing that keepers are actually less complicated than redrafter leagues (at least as far as the early rounds of the draft are concerned), but he makes this move en route to the contention that keepers are less fun/interesting than pure redrafters AND dynasty leagues:

I am all for a keeper league but personally believe that a Dynasty League blows a Keeper League away. We have three leagues (Re-Draft, Dynasty and Auction) amongst friends and co-workers and it is the perfect mix.

To say that a Re-Draft League is simpler than a Keeper League is a BIG mistake in my opinion. Having all the players available for the annual draft requires much more draft strategy when it comes to the first two or three rounds. I don't believe the strategy involved with deciding what two or three players to keep at the end of the year requires as much strategy as to if you were to come up with a strategy on who to draft in the first two or three rounds of the draft......especially this year!

If you are considering a Keeper League then why not just go all-in with a Dynasty League where there is much, much more pride with the team you have built and managed for years on end??? And then......if you have enough interest in a Re-Draft that as well! A Keeper League is fun but not as much as a Re-Draft or Dynasty in my opinion! You either go all-in with a complete new team each year or you go all-in with a complete team you have built with your knowledge, hunches, etc that are applied year around, year in and year out!

The Auction League just provides a twist to the Re-Draft to where you can go out and get the guy you are wanting on your team if you are willing to pay the price and hope you have enough to fill out your starting roster or you can budget you money to build a solid team of starters in hopes that some of your "sleepers" pull through!

If you want to throw a wrench in the draft......give Tight Ends 1.5 PPR vs 1 PPR as we do in our Re-Draft and Auction Leagues. That makes the decision on picking up a Matt Forte vs Jimmy Graham much more interesting.

Our "simple" 16 team PPR (1.5 for TE's) League has been much more enjoyable that any Keeper League I have been a part of, but our Dynasty League kicks tail over all of them simply because there are trade offers, transactions and smack talk taking place 24/7/365!

As Todd indicated with his question, the largest problem for keeper leagues is owner turnover. In my experience, it's easier to plug a new owner into a pure redrafter league than a keeper league. Andy's league was concerned enough about the change that his co-owners went through a two-year transitional process:

Regarding keeper leagues, the biggest problem I see is to make sure everyone in the league is likely to be around for the long haul, and that they understand all the rules before you start. I first changed my league over to a keeper league in 1998, and we decided we would go keeper at the draft in 1996. This gave everyone in the league two years to [see how the proposed changes would affect us].

In the leagues that I'm in that aren't keeper leagues, the main reason I like the re-draft better is to have at least one draft where everyone is available to me. I prefer keeper leagues in general, but it's nice to start from scratch every year in at least one league.

I like that last line from Andy quite a lot. Those of us who are in multiple leagues can spend our time wondering why the leagues that we like less don't remake themselves in the image of the ones we like more--or we can just accept them for what they are and enjoy the particular opportunities and challenges that they offer.

Take Lloyd's league as an example. I'm not sure that the keeper element of his scoring-only, pseudo-dynasty league is his favorite thing about it, but he shared the details of the league that matters most to him:

We have a keeper league in its 18th year. We have had an owner or two move on and we find a replacement, but the majority of us still are in the league. 18 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of internet support and we didn’t need to hang the commish with a second job. Therefore, we are scoring only. No credit for yardage, catches tackles, etc. Just points scored by the player or the team. Just like the NFL. Also, you can keep your entire team. Just like the NFL. We have 2 QB 4 RB 4 WR 2TE 2 KK 2 Def/ST. You play 1 QB 2RB 2WR 1TE 1KK 1Def. You can also have 2 players in a developmental slot. You can hold them for as long as you choose until you insert them into the lineup. This league tends to have a lot of trading including for next year’s draft choices which are in reverse order of place from the prior year. Our version of parity, I suppose. Over the years, this does lead to some teams having what might constitute a dynasty. Just like the NFL. Does this make it a better league or more fun? No, it's no better or no worse. Just a different game played a different way. It has unique challenges that the other online games don’t have including personal rivalries and histories. I play a variety of FF team games online and each has its merits and drawbacks. But this one has history and close friends. For me, this is the one that counts the most year in and year out.

Mark wrote in to ask what I thought about his auction-based keeper league. (I think it sounds like a lot of fun, and told him so, but I'll invite other readers to chime in with their thoughts as well. If this topic generates enough feedback, we may be able to pursue the idea of the "ultimate keeper league" in a future column.)

I think I have developed the ultimate keeper league after 24 years of fantasy football. Here is a break down:

We have a roster of 18. We use an auction format with $200 to spend. Starters are: QB, 2 RB, 1 RB/WR flex, 2 WR, 1 WR/TE flex, TE, K, Def/ST. 8 bench.

Player values are based on their auction values. Waivers/undrafted players are valued at $1. First year pretty straight forward.

Second year – Rostered player values are increased, based on games played the previous year.

0 games=same value as before
1-8 games=previous value + $2
9+ games=previous value + $4

You can protect as many players for the second year auction, but their new value is subtracted from the $200 you have to spend. You must have enough money to have 18 players on your roster. If your roster is over the $200, you have to cut players to get under the $200 cap prior to the auction and these players now become available for the new auction. There is no salary cap once the auction is complete, so you can trade low value for high value any time during the year, but their value will count against you at the following years auction.

It is very similar to a real NFL team salary cap. What do you think?

My thanks to everyone who wrote in concerning keeper leagues (whether I had sufficient space to include your response or not).

This Week's Question: Why is "Big Mo" the commissioner's responsibility?

Over the years, I've written several columns about owner apathy and the various techniques that commissioners use to prevent it from flaring up. I'm not sure which of those columns Carlos read, but he didn't like what he saw:

Why do you think it's the commissioner's job to keep everybody motivated? Do you figure Roger Goodell calls up Troy Polamolu [to say,] "Hang in there, buddy! We need you Steelers to stay competitive even though you got off to a sucky start."

[The commissioners who come up with] all these crazy plans to keep owners committed to their teams are just wasting their time. If owners want to lose interest in a league and put their teams on auto-pilot, let them! That's how other owners (like me) get to the playoffs.

Anyone who has ever watched a football game knows how important momentum ("Big Mo") is. Big Mo is even more important in fantasy because fantasy owners give up on the season so much faster than NFL teams.

Big Mo is the whole reason I win at fantasy football. I know it's important to get off to a fast start. Big Mo gives you the energy to stay on top of injuries, matchups, and the waiver wire. If you start out losing, it's hard to make the time to keep up with all that stuff.

Not impossible. Just hard. And that's how it should be.

If I have a crappy draft or lose a couple of key players to injury early on, I don't give up. And I don't need commissioners to come up with a bunch of stupid weekly prizes or mini-tournaments to keep me interested. Of course, there are other owners out there who choose to give up before they give their teams a fair shot. They should be allowed to give up. And I should be allowed to take their place in the playoffs.

If Big Mo beats you down in the early season, the last thing I need (as your competition) is for the commish to invent some silly extra side-contest to "keep your spirits up." Screw your spirits, loser. Either find it within yourself to keep competing, or go bury your head in the sand. Your loss is my gain, and commissioners who try to protect you from the effects of Big Mo are interfering with my gameplan.

Instead of listing the methods commissioners use to keep their owners motivated, you should just be telling them to butt out.

Carlos didn't include a link with his note, but he may have been responding to my Week 9 column from 2009, which includes a list of the kinds of "silly extra side-contests" that he finds objectionable. Maybe I was wrong to compile that list in the first place, and maybe commissioners who try to keep all of their owners interested in every game up to the playoffs are doing more harm than good. Maybe they should butt out and let "Big Mo" take its toll.

What do you think?

Survivor Picks - Week 5 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Green Bay over Detroit
The dreaded divisional rivalry between the Lions and Packers may be a game that you wish to avoid this week. Historically speaking, the Packers have done very well against the Lions at Lambaeu Field. The last time the Lions won was in December of 1991. But the Lions are a better team these days, and the Packers aren't what they used to be. Yes, Aaron Rodgers can still light up a scoreboard with whatever running back they find on the practice squad (as demonstrated by the fourth highest scoring offense in the league). But Detroit is 3-1, while Green Bay is 1-2, and despite the statistics that say Green Bay is better on paper, these Lions are feeling like they can win . . . anywhere. Don't bet against any team that starts to win the close ones with your survival pick if you want to remain in hunt. Wait until the Pack play Philadelphia in Week 10 or the NY Giants the following week to use them.

#3: San Francisco over Houston (3-1: KC, NEP, MN, NO)
The 49ers easily won on the road last week in St. Louis and look to continue their rushing ways against a Texans defense that gives up an average of 113 rushing yards and 26 points per game. Matt Schaub and company will definitely find it difficult to pass against the 3rd-ranked passing defense in the NFL and will look for Arian Foster to return to health in a matchup between two anticipated playoff teams. Houston is better than their record, and San Francisco is vulnerable. The edge, however, goes to the home team in this game--and with so few great choices to pick from this week, the 49ers are one of your safer bets. If you fear the Rams or Falcons, you could do worse. Choose wisely.

#2: St. Louis over Jacksonville (2-2: DEN, PHL, SF, IND)
The Rams have a breeze of a game on paper this week, and most early lines have this game as a double-digit win for St. Louis. But when was the last time ANY Rams team was favored by almost a dozen and followed through on it? Probably not since the days of "the Greatest Show on Turf." The Jags have almost no offense, and the Rams should be able to shut down Justin Blackmon in his return to action after a four-game suspension. Blaine Gabbert is likely playing for the future of his NFL career this week and will try and air it out against a defense that gives up 387 yards per game (22nd overall). This fact and the knowledge that the Rams defense is average at best may throw a scare in the Rams faithful and betting public. Make no mistake though; this is probably your best bet of the week. But trusting this team to win on a consistent basis is hard enough, let alone win by double digits. As for a survival pick, do you really trust the Rams?

#1: Atlanta over the NY Jets (4-0: IND, OAK, SEA, DEN)
The Falcons are 1-3 and in danger of not making the playoffs in spite of the fact that they upgraded their defense with Osi Umenyore and their rushing attack with Steven Jackson in the offseason just so that they could represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. While Jackson recovers from his hamstring injury that may now sideline him for six to seven weeks, the Dirty Birds will need to feast on a Jets offense that has turned over the ball a league leading TEN times and stay relevant in an NFC that is looking more and more like a two-team runaway between Seattle and New Orleans. This team needs to start winning, or by the time Jackson returns, it won't matter if he is healthy later in the season. They will have been eliminated with no chance of being the wild card. Take the Falcons knowing they need this badly at home.

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.