Last Week's Question
last column, I posed a series of questions relating to the
importance of the draft as compared to the match-up decisions
that most FFers face each week. Essentially, I wanted to know
whether most FFers think it’s more important to draft a
pair of reasonably productive QBs such as Aaron Brooks and Jake
DelHomme or to pick the right QB between those two for your weekly
lineups. I received a number of lengthy responses to that question,
but before we get to those responses, I want to take a moment
to share Scott’s response to the newspaper link I provided.
As I indicated, my own preference for tracking down information
on individual NFL players is to consult local papers, many of
which are available for free online. I invited readers to submit
links to more comprehensive lists of papers than the one I included
in the column, and Scott came through with a much
more comprehensive link, though it will only be useful to
those who already know the names of the papers they want to consult.
Scott also seems to be aware of the annoying practice that many
of the papers follow, which is to require that readers provide
an email address and a password in order to read the contents
of the papers. It’s not much trouble to provide this information
if you just want to consult one or two papers, but it can become
tiresome if you are trying to get access to a dozen or so publications.
You may also run into the problem of having to wait for an automated
response from the papers that can sometimes take a long while
for their cyber-gatekeepers to send out. If you find yourself
in this kind of a bind, Scott recommends the use of a website
that “provides user IDs and passwords for sites that require
registration before viewing the articles.” My thanks to
Scott for the information.
We’ll start with Stewart’s response to my main question
because I don’t want it to be said that there are no perqs
that come with supplying LMS picks for FFToday’s readers:
You might think that the start vs. sit decision
is the most important one given how many posts every week on FFToday
are about these very questions. But there are two problems with
this way of thinking:
1. Your choices are limited to the players you've either
drafted, or picked up on waivers or through trades. If you have
a crappy collection of players, spending eons of time on the
start/sit decision can be sort of like rearranging the deck
chairs on the Titanic.
2. I've seen too many instances where a bold decision to
bench a regular starter backfires (e.g., benching a stud RB
against a tough defense, in favor of a lesserRB against a weaker
defense). We owners out-think ourselves. Maybe the stud RB puts
up 25-130-2 while the lesser guy turns in a 15-47-0. And there
is no worse feeling in fantasy football than knowing that you
screwed yourself out of a win this week because you tinkered
with your normal starting lineup. If I have to lose, I'd rather
tell myself afterwards that I started my best players and it
just didn't work out.
I think the relative importance of draft picks and WW/FA
pickups depends on the structure of your league. If your league
allows a roster of 24 players, and charges $5.00 for every WW
or FA pick, then draft day is far more important than if you
only have a roster of 15 players and unlimited free WW/FA picks.
I have to agree with the last point Stewart makes. Part of the
reason that I posed the question is that I am finding one of my
tried-and-true strategies (making multiple waiver wire moves to
play marginal starters on weeks that provide them with break-out
strategies) simply isn’t working for me in a league that
I just joined this year. With rosters of more than 20 players,
that marginal waiver wire talent simply isn’t available,
so fretting over match-ups is, as Stewart says, “like rearranging
deck chairs on the Titanic.” Eric wrote in to underscore
that point by stressing the exceptionalism of keeper leagues:
It may be different depending on if you have a 'hold-over'
or 'dyansty' league such as the one I am in. We hold 7 players
and draft 7 in a 12-team league. There is a limit of 2 years that
you can hold a player. Over a four-year stretch a friend and I
looked at a season’s draft at the end of each season and
came to the conclusion that while there are steals and gems in
any given draft, only about a quarter of the players drafted really
panned out. Admittedly we did consider in what round a player
was drafted and if the player was worth an early pick or if a
player taken late turned out to shine throughout the season. Again
perhaps it is because of the fact that I am in a 'hold-over' league
but somewhere just under a half of the players drafted would still
be on rosters towards the end of the season. The teams that have
won our league more often than not are the teams that pay attention
during the season and make trades and scour the waiver wire. Some
owners are looking for the next big thing and others are playing
to the matchups in the NFL, but the winners are almost always
the teams with more transactions rather than less.
This is the only league that I have been in, so I cannot
compare it to drafting a new team from scratch every year. I
have no problem believing that the draft would take on a higher
level of significance (but not an alarming amount). Still though,
managing your team throughout the season would have more impact
on your win/loss record than the draft would in my opinion.
Dan appears to be in complete agreement with Eric about the importance
of remaining active on the waiver wire:
Last year was a perfect example of my original drafted
team being very different at the end of the year, and my championship
was a direct result of waiver wire activity. We draft 17 players
and start 8—with an extra backup for any position.
I ended up with only 7 of those players at the end of the
year. Besides winning the most money as League Champ, I also
spent the most money in transactions (George Steinbrenner's
influence). Going after pickups like N.Goings, L.Johnson, J.Jones,
and M.Moore at the perfect times was the key. Mind you, I wasn't
just taking flyers right and left, but I was forced to make
lots of moves because of early-season injuries.
I heard similar stories from plenty of other readers, but the
moral of the story was adequately summed up by Nelson:
I am of the opinion that leagues cannot be won on
draft day though they can easily be lost. Winning takes waiver
moves, good start calls, and a LOT of luck.
One question that grew out of my larger question last week was
whether FFers who trade players are not also trading “remaining
schedules.” This is most clearly evident when an owner who
has already swallowed a stud’s bye week trades for another
stud whose bye week is yet to come. Imagine trading Priest Holmes
for Edgerrin James in Week 6. The person who started with Holmes
and ended with James has two weeks (Week 5 and Week 8) with an
elite RB on a bye, whereas the one who traded James for Holmes
never had to face a week without a premier RB in his lineup. These
things are clear with byes, but less clear when a player who has
already racked up yardage vs. San Francisco and St. Louis is traded
for a player whose has those match-ups ahead. Opinions on the
importance of match-ups varied widely. We’ll start with
Derrin, who hardly even considers such things:
Maybe I am a big dummy, but I very rarely look at
the future schedule of someone I am possibly trading. If I do
look at future schedule, it is one of the last things I do. There
are other larger factors.
One of the main things I look at when trading is what my
opponent is getting in the trade (I’m in a point league
with no head-to-head matchups) and whether it is going to make
him tougher to beat. If it is not going to make that much difference
on their team and will make me tougher to beat, then I like
the trade. This is possible when people are in love with the
player and not looking at his recent production.
Sean acknowledges the importance of match-ups, but doesn’t
seem to think that breakout performances against weak teams are
predictable enough to make much difference:
Victories week to week do seem to rest highly with
who you decide to start. Even so, I feel that regardless of match-ups,
you simply stick with your guns. I wonder how many people benched
Ronnie Brown in week three due to his lack of production through
two weeks and going against a solid Carolina Defense. If he was
a starter for you in weeks one and two, he should have been again
in week three. The one thing about the NFL is that whatever is
true this week, is unlikely to be true later on.
I’ll conclude with Andrew’s response because it engaged
my question in all its forms:
When you draft a team you set yourself up to be a competitive
team. Occasionally the top teams in a league will wind up going
wire to wire with basically the lineup that they draft. However,
at least one (and frequently 3 or 4) teams emerge from the depths
by making a couple of savvy wire pickups. Willie Parker won some
fantasy games this year, but consider what players like Reuben
Droughns, Mike Clayton, Nick Goings, Mike Anderson, TJ Houshmandzadeh
did for their owners in recent years. That’s the kind of
production that takes a good team and makes it a championship
In short, you can’t draft a bunch of jackasses and rely
on waivers to be competitive. Conversely it’s possible but
highly unlikely that you can draft a championship team and take
that to the bank without making any moves. Over a period of years,
success is going to come if you prepare for the draft fairly rigorously
AND pay extremely close attention to the waiver wire. Any sustained
success using only one approach is bound to be a product of good
luck or incompetent opposition.
Finally, on the question of making the right choice week to week,
I don’t find this all that difficult. I have occasionally
left points on the bench (like Trent Dilfer in my 2 QB pool) but
for the most part my sample of players to choose from is small
enough that my starters are obvious. Much like in multiple choice
exams, you don’t want to out think yourself and become convinced
that Trent Dilfer is a ‘must start’ over Peyton Manning
for the rest of the year. When I’m in these situations I
think of it like Poker or Roto Baseball: The odds are what matters.
Rather than convince myself of a specific outcome, I analyze what
the range of outcomes are and what the likelihood of each is.
I don’t actually attribute any values or do an calculating,
but the end result is that I usually pick the right guy.
This Week's Question:
The question for Week 5 comes not from your humble scribe, but
from a reader named Mike in Pennsylvania who wants to hear feedback
on the way that other leagues handle vetoes of suspicious trades.
About five years ago, my league established a committee of one
commissioner and two vice-commissioners to vote on trades. We
also have recently voted that 3 owners MUST
file a complaint to get a league vote on a trade, which cuts down
on the BS.
I posed a question similar to this one last year and got great
feedback, but new readers may want to share their thoughts or
explain their predicaments.
Matt let me know that he couldn’t get his picks to me last
week because he was too busy being in Hawaii (poor baby!), but
he’s back on board now. The good news is that Stewart, who
stepped up to the plate in Matt’s absence, has agreed to
stay with us. You have to love options!
Trap Game: Miami at Buffalo:
If this game was played in December, you could place your money
on the Bills, but Miami has a defense that is playing up to par
and the weather is far from wintry in Buffalo. While Losman will
be watching the game from the bench and Kelly Holcomb should jumpstart
the offense, the Bills still may struggle if their defense can’t
contain the Dolphins’ offense. The Eagles vs. Cowboys game
is my honorable mention trap game because it is a divisional game.
#3. Denver over Washington (2-1):
This will be the week that the Redskins wake up from their dream
season. Champ Bailey has had this game circled since the schedule
came out, and the defense will look to stuff Clinton Portis at
the line. While Mark Brunell has breathed some life into that
passing game, it will be the passing game of the Broncos that
will shine since the Redskin defense will be focused on making
them one dimensional.
#2. Baltimore over Detroit (2-1):
Until Jeff Garcia comes back from his injury, this offense will
continue to struggle—and against the Ravens’ defense
Joey Harrington will have a very long day. Look for Jamal Lewis
to finally have a decent day out of the backfield and Mark Clayton
to show management a glimpse of the future.
#1. Cincinnati over Jacksonville (1-2):
This is not a misprint. The Bengals have an all-around solid team
and should go into Florida and win this game. Jacksonville has
been slow to get started and has played some tough games, but
Marvin Lewis has his players thinking playoffs, and this is a
game that they must win to prove that they belong in the post
season. A loss here could set the Bengals back not one, but a
few games. Look for them to win in a squeaker.
#3. St. Louis over Seattle
In week 4, the Seahawks repeatedly allowed Mark Brunell plenty
of time in the pocket, yielding big 3rd-down conversions all game
long. Give that much time to Marc Bulger and the Rams offense,
and you are looking for trouble.
#2. Detroit over Baltimore
The Lions put up a stronger effort than I had expected against
Tampa, completely shut down Cadillac Williams, and made Brian
Griese beat them (and even then, it took a highly controversial
call from the officials to do it). I have a hard time imagining
any Baltimore QB doing something similar on the road.
#1. Indianapolis over San Francisco
Just on the off chance that you haven't used Indy yet this year,
here's a no-brainer. San Fran didn't put up a single offensive
score against the Cardinals, and now they face one of
the best defenses in the game. Yikes.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.