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Commissioning Without Participating

By Mike Davis | 10/1/20 |

Last week’s question: How are Elliott (and Kamara) owners feeling?

Alvin Kamara

My column for Week 3 was a response to the injuries of Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, the two most coveted fantasy RBs in 2020 in most leagues. Many owners of Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara (the consensus third and fourth picks at RB) suddenly find themselves to be frontrunners for their fantasy championships. Few are in as enviable a position as HS, who ended up with both the Cowboy and the Saint:

I have both Zeke and Kamara in one league. I did a pre-draft trade with another owner and drafted both in the first round.

Right now I feel great! I have the top two RBs in the league and the highest scoring team in the league as well. It's early though, and I’m known for being the owner that the top draft picks more than likely get hurt. Mahomes last year is one example. So I'm feeling great...but very nervous.

Given the rash of injuries we’ve seen in 2020 (especially involving high-profile RBs), it’s easy to see why HS is nervous. But if ever a fantasy team seemed destined for a championship, this sounds like that team. It’s like starting over with the top 2 draft picks and a crystal ball. Congrats!

Craig did almost as well:

Before I can answer your question about Zeke, I need to provide some background about our league. [In my keeper league,] I’ve kept Zeke and Dalvin Cook since their rookie years, then drafted James Conner in the first round (essentially the 3rd round) this year, so I’m pretty set at RB.

Also, due to Covid, our league switched from being a head-to-head league to an all-play league for this year only which also impacts my answer.

Since we are an all-play league, I’m no longer as worried about the CMC or Barkley owners as I think they will struggle.... If we were a head-to-head league and there was a chance I’d face the CMC owner in the playoffs, I’d be very worried.

I am, however, worried about Zeke’s overall prospects because I don’t trust the Cowboys. Not only are they the most overhyped team in the NFL each year, but the tendency for Prescott to call his own number at the goal line has already hurt Zeke’s numbers. It happened last year, and it looks like it will be a regular occurrence this year as well. I’d much rather be the Kamara owner than the Zeke owner this year….and probably moving forward next year as well.

That “all-play” feature in Craig’s league is definitely an important wrinkle to consider. Most CMC owners are probably trying to eke their way into the playoffs in the hope that their top pick can come through for them at crunch time. It’s good news for Craig that he won’t have to face that contingency because of the Covid arrangements in his league, but that must be a bitter pill for the McCaffrey owner to swallow.

Like me, Bruce had Kamara rated ahead of both Barkley and Zeke, but his logic is rooted in hatred of the Cowboys

I got the 2nd & 3rd picks in my 2 leagues this season & chose Kamara in both of them. I might have gone with CMC if he wasn’t taken, but I hate the Cowboys & didn’t trust Jason Garrett to use Saquan well (now a moot point, sadly). So Kamara was a no-brainer for me.

Now that’s a double whammy. He ended up making what currently looks like the right call (Kamara) because he didn’t want the running back in Dallas or the running back in New York whose offensive coordinator used to be the head coach in Dallas. (Bruce’s contributions to this column go back many years, so I know him to be an avid fan of the Bills who never forgave the Cowboys for beating Buffalo in back-to-back Super Bowls in the ‘90s.)

Bruce’s anti-Dallas sentiment notwithstanding, it may well be that Elliott owners are better off than Kamara owners. There’s a lot of football left to play in 2020, and Zeke’s durability has been one of his most impressive characteristics over the years, as Kevin points out:

I am a Zeke owner who selected him third over Kamara. If there is one thing that last week reinforced, it’s that the #1 ability for running backs is availability. Kamara is electric, but has missed time in two of his first three seasons. Zeke will be the last one standing.

Kevin isn’t alone in this thinking on this subject, as Cityside’s comment attests:

I had the 2nd pick and against all the expert’s advice, I went with Zeke. Not only is he a beast and consistent, but he’s on a great team. Also, he is the bell cow in Dallas. Kamara is awesome, but I wasn’t sure if they would scale back his touches to keep him healthy (since he has had some injuries before).... I loved Zeke going in and 2 weeks in am thrilled with my choice, but there’s a long way to go. Still, I’m looking better than most.
Whereas Kevin appears to have been right to defy consensus by taking Elliott ahead of Barkley, Erikthebassist is in a league with owners who defied consensus on Kamara and allowed him to slip to the end of the first round:
Kamara fell to me with the 10th pick in a 12-team league, so it was a no brainer, although I certainly can't be disappointed at this juncture. I'd be 2-0 with the third highest total in the league if I hadn't faced jones last week. Which, btw, how is he not part of this discussion?
As the owner of Aaron Jones in the FFToday Staff League, I approve of Erik’s comment--and I know that my opponent in Week 2 can sympathize with his loss. I streamed Tyrod Taylor that week (when he had the lung puncture just before game time), so I put up 0 points at QB, but Jones was so unstoppable that I still won.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I enjoyed all the feedback I received (even though I didn’t have space to include everyone’s response).

This Week’s Question: Are there any commissioners left out there who manage leagues in which they do not participate?

Over the years, this column has featured many debates about the veto power that some leagues empower commissioners to exercise in response to trades that appear to involve collusion, but some of the most egregious stories that readers have shared with me have involved collusion on the part of commissioners themselves.

Back in the ‘90s, I argued that even though most commissioners could be trusted to act in the best interest of their leagues, the most obvious solution to this problem was to appoint several league members to a commissioner oversight committee empowered to veto any dubious trades made by the commissioner.

I immediately heard back from several commissioners who pointed out that there was no need for a committee to approve their trades because they never engaged in trading because they did not even have a team in the leagues they commissioned. They saw themselves as being more like referees than owners, so there was no possibility of collusion.

As the decades rolled by, I heard from these disinterested commissioners less and less. I think the last time I heard from anyone serving as a commissioner in a league in which he didn’t participate was several years ago. (My apologies if anyone fitting the bill has written to me recently; I certainly don’t recall any correspondence to that effect.)

Does this practice still exist? If you are such a commissioner (or participate in a league with a commissioner who doesn’t compete for championships), can you please comment below (or email me) with details about how and why this approach remains viable in your league? If you used to have an outsider who served as commish in your league, please let me know when and why you abandoned the practice.

Survivor Pool Pick (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game Public Service Announcement: Stay away from Jacksonville
Last week, I warned you.... Jacksonville is not a safe favorite.

#3: San Francisco over Philadelphia; 2-1 (BAL, KC, az)

Nick Mullens is not the next coming of Tom Brady after his 4 TD performance against the lowly Giants, but Philadelphia is in disarray, and the NFC Champs have more than enough defensive firepower to win this game on their own. Add in Mullens’ performance, and they’re toast.

#2: Baltimore over Washington: 2-1 (ind, AZ, TB)

The Ravens are the second best team in football, as attested by their lackluster performance against the Chiefs (the only NFL team that seems to have their number) on Monday night. In a battle on the Washington Beltway, the Washington Football team just can’t measure up to Lamar Jackson and company. Take the Ravens in this mid-Atlantic battle.

#1: LA Rams over the NY Giants: 3-0 (KC, GB, IND)

The Rams lost a heartbreaker of a game last week when Josh Allen salvaged a win by the Bills in the last few minutes after Jared Goff fought back from a 28-3 deficit. The Giants are not the Bills. Daniel Jones will not be mistaken for Josh Allen, and as such, you don’t have to look any further. Goff and company steamroll.

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.