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Week 10

Last Week’s Question

Our construction of a Point of Reference fantasy league continues this week. In last week’s column, I indicated to readers that the consensus response to my initial questions (both in the FFToday polls and the email responses that I received from readers) was that for such a construction to be useful to the greatest number of FFers, it would feature:
  1. 12 teams;
  2. head-to-head scoring; and
  3. a redrafter format.

Although I thought some readers made legitimate cases for introducing a modest keeper element into the league (perhaps retaining one player from year to year), the number of responses that favored a pure redrafter format was so overwhelming as to make further discussion of the point moot.

We now appear to have the answers to the next three questions that I asked, but we have an almost even split on one category. I’m going with a very slight majority on the question of tight ends, but it isn’t the numbers that sway me on this one so much as the quality of the argumentation. If you have a legitimate counterargument that you think outweighs the points I quote below, I’ll be happy to reconsider. However, at this point, it appears that the next three points have been settled as follows:

  1. no IDPs—special teams to be lumped in with team defenses;
  2. starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 Defense/Special Teams Unit; and
  3. a roster size of 16 players.

Although I know a number of folks who love their IDP leagues, it appears that the team defense concept still rules the world of fantasy football. The poll that Mike Krueger set up indicates that 84% of respondents advocated that format, and at the team defense concept was even more popular with those who wrote to me on the subject. As Ryan put it:

If you want to change the name of this league of yours from the Fair, Fun, and Simple League to the Point of Reference League, go right ahead. But don’t forget that it’s still a good idea to keep it fair, fun, and simple. IDP leagues may be fun, but they aren’t for the average fantasy baller. That’s just way more information than most of us have any interest in processing. This one’s a no-brainer.

A poster named Gobbledog spoke effectively to the next two points with the following comment he added to the thread in the poll:

I'm for 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE... there are so many WRs that starting 3 is easy even for 12 team leagues. I've used the flex position before and I hated it. Stacked teams are already at an advantage. Flex positions just make it that much worse.

As for roster size - I like it relatively small. (16 seems to work fine). I joined a second crap league this year and the dumbass Commish decided it would be a great idea to allow rosters of 20. Well sure enough, our waiver wire is a total joke. There's no reason to even look for good pickups because there's nothing available. NOTHING. Everyone has 2 TEs, 2 Defenses, 3 QBs, etc.... it's ridiculous. IMO scanning the waiver wire is a big part of the fun. Too much roster space kills the fun.

I received similarly thorough and thoughtful answers via email. The two most substantial responses came from Dan and Gary. I’ll start with Dan’s remarks:

For the first part, as much as I love watching individual efforts on defense and special teams, for the sake of sanity of the average Joe, and to limit draft/auction time into a reasonable time frame, I'm going to go with team defense and special teams. This would mean, you get points anytime the defense, kickoff or punt team is on the field. (Not when there's a double fumble recovered by the offense and they score off of that play. Lol, some managers tried to use this before.)

For roster size and preferred lineup, I think this will go hand in hand with total number of teams in the fantasy league. For a 10-team league, you might do a QB,2RB,3WR/TE,1Flex,1K,and 1DEF, since you'll have more fantasy players to work with. We all know there's a limited amount of good producing TE's, so there should be no need to punish a team to require one, as each NFL team makes similar choices. So TE's and WR's should be combined and used at the manager's will. Since I went with a 12-team league in your first part question, I'll base my answer on that. I would like to see the lineup closely resemble most NFL team lineups, and factor in the average amount of viable fantasy starters available each week. (Keeping in mind that this year in Week 6, there were 6 teams on a bye, so for purposes of having a backup for the QB slot, means that in any 14 team fantasy league, one team would not have a possible starting backup. Hence more of a reason to have a 12-team max limit in a fantasy league). Using some more basic math, there are on average 176 viable fantasy starters each week in the NFL, discounting bye weeks (Again, this is accounted for by having a 12 team league). 32 QB's, 32 RB's, which is obviously based on the 32 NFL teams, and 64 WR/TE's based on fant. points generated by those positions for the year. Since I'd require only 2 K's and 2 Def per team that means 24 for each of those. Divide that by 12 teams, and you get just over 14 players per team.

Therefore, roster size would be 16; Starting Lineup includes: 1QB, 1RB, 2WR/TE, 1FLEX (can be either RB,TE, or WR), 1K, and 1DEF/ST. 1 backup for each position is required, also 1 extra roster spot to help deal with the Flex position/Bye weeks/backups, and a special 3rd QB backup will be drafted which would have to be an official QB on the roster of one of your 2 other QB's. This would provide a much needed insurance for the high injury prone/unsecured QB position. The lineup also allows 1 IR position, guidelines to be determined. (If the 3rd QB spot seems unjustified, then I would push for a 2nd IR spot to help deal with that issue).
Note that 2 out of Dan’s 3 recommendations coincide with the consensus view above. He differs from the consensus on the point of tight ends, and I can certainly see the appeal of his argument (since my own favorite league model is one in which tight ends and receivers are simply interchangeable). However, the numbers and the arguments are against Dan on this point. There was no clear majority opinion on how the average starting lineup should look, but only 10% of respondents to the poll opted for the option that did not require a tight end. Moreover, I received some interesting arguments from several readers explaining why the tight end should be a required roster component in an average league. Gary made one such argument in his response:
As for defense, I say we keep it simple stupid and go with Team Defense plain and simple.

As for the Roster, I say we do the following: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF/ST.

The reason for this is your standard pro formation includes 1 QB, a RB and FB (Hence the 2 RB), a TE, a K, and a DEF/ST. Yes you can go no TE or 2 TE or 3 or 4 WR but this is a point of reference league, so as such we shouldn’t have flex positions. By keeping to the standard NFL team pro set we set a standard to compare. This will affect other aspects of the league and is a major piece of the puzzle.

As for the roster size that is simple. I say 18 players—double the starting line up making each team draft double the starting positions so 2 QB’s, 4RB’s, 4WR, 2 TE, 2 K’s, and 2 DEF/ST’s. That makes for 16 players and then the other 2 roster spots can be any position to allow for flexibility of strategy. This roster size also allows some players to be available on waver wire and also makes trading with other manager’s more prevalent.
The primary difference between Gary’s take and most other responses is that Gary is willing to let FFers carry rosters of 18 players, an option which appealed to less than one-fourth of those who responded to the poll in the forums (whereas the 16-player roster appealed to more than half of those who participated). Gary was not alone in thinking that the Point of Reference league should require tight ends simply because most NFL teams do, but perhaps the best argument for the use of tight ends came from Donald:
I don’t care whether you go with 2 or 3 wideouts, but I think an average league in 2006 or 2007 should require tight ends. I think you have to start by accepting the fact that whatever form the PoR League takes initially, it is going to have to adapt to changes in the NFL if you really want it to be useful to anyone. Five years ago, I would have been against requiring tight ends, but anyone can see that the NFL is in the process of reinventing that position. It used to be Gonzo all by himself (or maybe a Shannon Sharpe or Marcus Pollard would get close under crazy circumstances), but now just look around the league. You still have Gonzo, but then there’s also Antonio Gates, Alge Crumpler, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow. Remember Heath Miller on opening night? And how about Desmond Clark, Randy McMichael, L.J. Smith, Chris Cooley if you played them in the right match-ups? This Owen Daniels kid has come out of nowhere, and if your league is supposed to help educate people, then it should get them to think about whether Daniels is a better bet than Benjamin Watson or Jason Witten for the rest of the season.

If I counted right, I just rattled off 15 tight ends that are all impressive this year, meaning that at least 3 of them would be backups in your 12-team league. If it was just Gates and Gonzo, I can see why you might lump them in with wideouts, but tight ends are great right now—and the way the NFL recruits this sort of talent, it seems a safe bet that TEs will only become more important in the near future. If there’s ever a shortage in TE talent, you might want to cut the position, but to leave it out these days would be nuts.
There’s obviously no right answer on this question, but I like Donald’s idea of going with tight ends for at least as long as there appears to be a glut of talent at the position. I don’t think fantasy works at all if we try to be slavish devotees of the NFL model, but I also think there’s something intuitive and attractive about including a skill position for the simple reason that is used by every single NFL team.

This Week’s Question

I want to thank the readers who have responded to the polls set up thus far and to Mike Krueger for setting them up. With any luck, he’ll be able to put together a poll for this week’s batch of three questions:

  1. Should the PoR League award points per reception?

  2. Should the PoR League award bonus points to players who rack up certain amounts of yardage in the course of a game (such as 100 yards rushing for a running back or 300 yards passing for a quarterback)?

  3. Should the PoR League simply award a set number of points for scores and a set number or points for yardage, or should there be bonus points for long scores?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Matt’s Picks

Our condolences go out to Matthew this week, as he reports that his Atlanta pick (about which he was skeptical) eliminated him from his pool. However, our fearless specialist remains committed to helping those of you who are still alive in your pools.

Trap Game: Tampa at Carolina – For those of you who have read my picks over the last three years, here goes another Matthew talking about another divisional game. Carolina has everything in its favor. A healthy Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme comfortable in the pocket, Keyshawn Johnson as a reliable outlet, a healthy DeShaun Foster, and a defense that finally is playing like a John Fox defense. So why would this be a trap game? Well, first of all in the last four seasons, except for two games which were blowouts, each of the games has come down to a single score at the end of the game. And while neither team is at the top of its game recently, that doesn’t make this game a bitter rivalry. Carolina is not much better than the Eagles, and everyone knows how that game went (i.e. a 62-yard field goal to win). If you pick the Panthers because you have used all my choices below, I completely understand. But if you choose this game and the Bucs win, shame on you.

#3: Atlanta over Cleveland (6-3 Season):
The dirty birds burned me last week, and by all accounts I should avoid them this week, but because they are back home, I have to take them against a team that is more injury-riddled than any other in the NFL. The Browns are 28th against the run and the combination of Dunn and Vick should be more than enough to overcome the 6th ranked pass defense of the Browns. Don’t look for a spectacular game from either side, just a grind it out win at home for the dirty birds.

#2: Detroit over San Francisco (7-2 Season):
If ever there was a time to use the Lions, this is the week. Martz and company will open up the air attack against a 49er defense that except for last week against the Vikings, has more holes in it than the Titanic. Combine that with the fact that the Lions defense might be more difficult to run against than most think, and Frank Gore has been a large part of the 49ers offense, the Lions might have the ideal formula for a survival pool pick.

#1: Dallas at Arizona (7-2 Season):
Talk about two teams that are enigmas and you have the Cowboys and the Cardinals. Once a divisional rivalry has now just become a token of years gone by. Both head coaches for these teams might be gone at the end of the season, one because he is frustrated and the other because ownership is. Still there is a game to be played, and if you had to pick a team to win this game, Tony Romo and company have more drive than Matt Leinert who is still trying to get up to speed. Look for a healthy dose of Julius Jones and passes to Jason Witten to help the Cowboys put the salve on the wounds from last week’s game in Washington.


Michael’s Picks

3 - (5-4) - Falcons over Browns - Atlanta needs to bounce back after last week's loss. They are at home and are a good rushing team that should be able to take advantage of Cleveland. The Falcon defense has been giving up too many points lately, but I think they'll get some turnovers from the Browns. Expect Atlanta to get a lead and grind out the victory with ball control and field position.

2 - (7-2) - Broncos over Raiders - Denver's defense has really been carrying this team most of the season. Meanwhile, the Raider offense has been terrible and will continue that trend this week. Expect Denver to get a lead and grind out the victory with ball control and field position.

1 - (8-1) - Ravens over Titans - Rookie QB is still learning to play in the NFL. What do you think the tough Ravens defense will do with him and the rest of this bad offense? Expect Baltimore to get a lead and grind out the victory with ball control and field position (kind of my theme this week).

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 season.

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.