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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Frozen Rosters

Last Week's Question: How do you keep yourself from checking out?

In my column for Week 13, I invited readers to share the strategies they use to motivate themselves to stay abreast of fantasy developments after their teams have been eliminated from the post-season in the leagues that matter most to them.

A commissioner named Sam wrote in to echo my point about the minimal impact of most schemes designed to incentivize participation by owners whose playoff hopes have been dashed:

As the commissioner of a league in its 17th season, I'll be curious to hear your suggestions on how to keep owners that have been eliminated engaged. We have a High Points weekly payout and a "Toilet Bowl" tournament, but they are band-aids. Most people become low-interest spectators once their teams are eliminated and even if they happen to win High Points one week it's not like it rejuvenates their interest.
I’ve heard the same thing from lots of other commissioners over the years. One major shortcoming of the weekly high score payout is that the leagues that can afford such extra prizes tend to be the ones that charge transaction fees. In the first half of the season, when everyone still has a chance, most owners are willing to eat the cost of whatever fees are necessary to give their teams a competitive edge.

When Jay Ajayi left Miami for Philadelphia at the beginning of Novemeber, for example, there was no shortage of owners eager to pay for Kenyan Drake or Damien Williams or both. However, fast-forward to the beginning of December, and you can find leagues with Mike Davis available on waivers even though there are plenty of teams that desperately need help at running back. The problem is that those teams aren’t going to the playoffs, so the owners don’t feel inclined to blow a transaction fee on a fantasy football writer—oops, I mean a running back—that they never heard of. If you blew $5 on Drake in November and he helped you claim the high point prize in your league in Week 10 or Week 13, that’s great. But you didn’t acquire him to win that prize. You acquired him to improve your team’s chances at the playoffs. Once your team is out of the hunt, paying for player transactions in the hope of winning a weekly prize doesn’t make a lot of economic sense.

So commissioners like Sam end up in an impossible position: They’re trying to encourage 100% of their owners to give 100% of their competitive effort to the league—even after 40-60% of the participants have a 0% chance of reaching their goal for the season.

Such leagues have done everything possible to incentivize owners to stay engaged, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect owners who have no chance at the big purse to remain as engaged as those who do.

So what else can commissioners do?


Honestly, at a certain point, it’s on the owners themselves to stay engaged. Stop relying on your commissioner to keep you engaged. Find a way to engage yourself.

But simply deciding to remain engaged won’t be enough. Reading all the breaking news about the NFL may help keep your head in fantasy football, but it won’t do anything for your heart.
For me, the best part of the fantasy season is the single elimination tournament at the end.

Hoping for the best from my own players while dreading the best from my opponent’s team adds an extra thrill to watching the games. I enjoy fantasy football more when I’m in the playoffs because I get a sense of emotional amplification from the games.

Being out of the playoffs means missing out on that fun . . . unless I recreate it somehow.
One way to recreate it is to start a new, short-lived fantasy league from scratch in the final weeks of the season. Such leagues, however, can be difficult to pull off on short notice—and most of us don’t like to think about being out of the playoffs until it’s too late to react to being out of the playoffs.

Another way is to rely on DFS websites such as DraftKings or FanDuel. Simply by continuing to place wagers on fantasy outcomes (even if it’s just a $1 ticket each week), you’ll be motivated to read the breaking news in the fantasy world.

But I take things a step further by trying to recreate the feeling of a team marching towards a championship. Starting from the week that I’m eliminated from post-season contention, I focus on the strongest teams in the NFL, and I try to build my DFS rosters with players from those teams just to recreate that sense of momentum that all championship teams (whether in fantasy or the NFL) experience at the end of the season.

As silly as this strategy may sound, it keeps me connected with real-world teams that are doing exactly what my fantasy team failed to do. It’s therefore helping me build the kind of emotional habits that are associated with a winning mindset. If I stack Le’Veon Bell with the Steeler defense, I probably won’t be able to afford Tom Brady and Brandon Cooks, but I could grab Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz and round out the team with the likes of Adam Thielen and Rex Burkhead. The point is that I want to find the surging-est teams in the NFL and invest all the emotional energy in them that I can no longer invest in my fantasy teams. As of now, those teams appear to be the Vikings, Eagles, Patriots, and Steelers. But if Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen keep playing the way they’re playing, maybe the Chargers will be my standard bearers in DFS.

Another strategy might be to build DFS tickets around the best players from your own fantasy team or perhaps one that features the star players from the best team in your league. But the point is that even though DFS tickets require no advance preparation and can cost almost nothing (some entry fees are less than a buck), they still reward players for paying attention and making educated guesses that happen to be correct—just like traditional fantasy leagues. DFS contests are readily available, easy to understand, affordable, and fun. Even if you don’t think they’re as enjoyable as traditional season-long leagues, they’re far better at keeping me engaged at the end of the season than a weekly prize or a toilet bowl tourney.

This Week's Question: How frozen are frozen rosters?

The question for Week 14 comes from Rudy, who wants to know just how frozen rosters should be in leagues that suspend all waiver wire activity for the post-season:

Our league has two contradictory rules. One is that all rosters are frozen the week before the playoffs begin. The second is that players can only be kept on IR in fantasy as long as they are on IR in the NFL. If I have Aaron Rodgers on IR before the playoffs, what should happen if he starts in Week 17 (my championship game)? Does he have to stay on IR because my team is frozen? Or is my team required to “thaw” enough for me to reactivate him?
Readers with answers for Rudy’s question should either post them as comments below or email me with their responses.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 14 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Cowboys at Giants

Steve Spagnuolo has replaced Ben McAdoo and has reinstated Eli Manning. Will that be enough to rejuvenate a woeful Giants defense that gives up more than 375 yards per game on average? I think so. Moreover, if Dak Prescott continues to press as he has been in the absence of Ezekiel Elliott, the crowd at MetLife stadium could end up dancing to "Back in the New York Groove" in an upset of their hated rivals. Remember, survival pools are about avoiding the upset—and this has upset all over it.

#3: Bengals over Bears (8-5, BUF, TB, CLE, NE, NYG, ATL, PHI, MN, SEA, PIT, KC, NO, BAL, TEN)

Mitchell Trubisky started his NFL career with a 2-1 record but finds himself 2-6 and caught in a 5-game losing streak. Over his first 8 games, he has posted 1237 yards, 5 TDs, and 4 picks. Those numbers don’t scare any defense, and the rest of his teammates only muster 15.5 pts per game. Combine that with the fact that the Bengals’ stingy defense only yields an average of 19.1 pts per game and this is a formula for a Bears loss. Keep it simple this week, and if you haven't used the Bengals, take them at home as they rebound from their loss to the Steelers against the tame, lame Bears.

#2: Chargers over Redskins (9-4, NE, SEA, PIT, ATL, PHI, HOU, TN, CIN, JAC, LAR, KC, WAS, OAK)

Philip Rivers is probably having one of his best seasons. After starting 0-3, he has led his team back to a 6-6 record and an opportunity to challenge the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West in Week 15. Before then, the Chargers need to take care of business against one of the two NFC East teams playing in LA on Sunday. Washington's playoff chances are starting to flicker out, which makes them desperate, which makes them unpredictable, which is why this choice isn’t perfect. But Rivers is surrounded by lots of great weapons, whereas Kirk Cousins is surrounded by injured players (like Jordan Reed) and disappointments (like Terrelle Pryor). The difference is so stark that Charger fans have more to fear from wildfires than from Washington this week.

#1: Packers over Browns (10-3 ATL, OAK, NE, SEA, PIT, DEN, DAL, PHI, HOU*, DET, JAC, CIN, LAC)

Brett Hundley has been doing his best to show fans that the Packers will be just fine without injured star QB Aaron Rodgers, who is slated to return in Week 15. This week though, he gets another easy challenge against Cleveland, the team that we have bet against in this column for the last three weeks. The only red flag is that the Packers are on the road against a Browns team that wants to pass it deep, the Achilles heel for Green Bay early in the season. True, the Browns aren't that bad. But as they say, don't fight the trend. Take the Pack on the road.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.