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Week 1

Part One – QB/QB

In last week’s column, I reviewed the difficulties that many of us associate with the prospect of selecting quarterbacks in the first two rounds of a traditional fantasy draft. I asked any readers who had used this strategy successfully to share their experience with me, and I will confess that I expected to receive exactly zero responses to that request.

I was therefore surprised to hear from a reader named Chad, who reports that the QB/QB strategy worked out nicely for him this year:

I have used this strategy over the years and have had very good results with it. I only do it if I do not have the first or second pick in the draft. (I just cannot see passing up LT or AP in a 12- or 14-team league and waiting forever for my next pick.) The reason that a manager can successfully use this strategy today is simple. The NFL has fallen in love with using a committee or [platoon approach] with their RBs, so each running back that is not top 5 or 6 [diminishes in value]. However, there are a few things that you have to know when you do use this strategy.

First, does the scoring system allow you to sacrifice that top tier RB for what seems to be a stud backup QB? Check to see if the league rewards players for kick return yardage. If it does, my targeted running backs immediately become those players that are in a RBBC offense AND are back deep for kickoffs and/or punts. Or is it a PPR League? Even if the time share is 80-20, you can still score with these players. Secondly, you do not have to wait until the season begins to trade one of your QBs. There are always teams that are unhappy with their QB situation after the draft, so begin trade talks immediately. This keeps you from burning one of those roster spots and losing ground in the standings [while working out a trade]. Also, I almost never trade one of these two QBs in a 1 for 1 deal. If I can get Selvin Young and Larry Fitzgerald for Tony Romo, I’m pulling the Trigger (which I did). Now I just roll with Brady, and I have two new players that are going to start for me every week. Let me lay out my first seven picks in a 10 Teamer using the QB/QB drafting scenario, along with the strategy for the remainder of the Draft.

1 Brady
2 Romo
3 Brandon Jacobs
4 Wes Welker
5 K Winslow
6 E Graham
7 L Evans

I went QB/QB but am still solid elsewhere. Then I laid off of all RBs for a while and drafted the Best WRs that were left. Once those were gone, I drafted yet another QB - Marc Bulger (who will essentially be my backup), then began getting those players that are in a time share situation and return kicks (Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Hall, Jerious Norwood, Leon Washington, Ray Rice). This particular draft was in early August (when Leinart was still the starter for Arizona), so I was able to Draft Kurt Warner as a 4th QB.

After I made the Romo for S.Young and Fitzgerald deal, my starters looked like this:

QB- T Brady (Rd 1)
RB- B Jacobs (Rd 3)
RB- E Graham (Rd 6)
WR- Wes Welker (Rd 4)
WR- Larry Fitzgerald (T Romo Trade)
WR- L Evans (Rd 7)
TE- K. Winslow (Rd 5)
WR/RB - Selvin Young (T Romo Trade)

It seems to me as if things worked out just fine for Chad. If I could go from Brady/Romo to Brady/Fitzgerald/Young, I would be delighted. He has obviously given some thought to the context in which this strategy is most likely to succeed, and perhaps there are other readers who will find themselves in a similar situation and can benefit from Chad’s strategy.

Part Two – Conditional Trade

Over the summer, I wrote about the uncertainty concerning Brett Favre’s career in conjunction with the idea of conditional draft picks. It really wasn’t so long ago that most of us believed Favre’s career was over. Then there was a brief period of uncertainty. And now we know that he has landed with the Jets. Keeper league participants with Favre on their rosters might have wanted to deal Favre during any of these periods, and a “fair trade” would obviously have been very different when he was retired (“Hmm, I’ll give you Barry Sanders for Brett Favre”), when he was undecided (“How about Ronnie Brown for Brett Favre”), and when he was reinstated (“Hey man, I love Favre. Would you trade him to me for Drew Brees?”).

Trading Favre for Brees would have looked like collusion in the spring, and trading Favre for Barry Sanders would stink to the heavens today. The players remain the same, but timing and information make all the difference in the world.

A conditional trade allows deals for players such as Favre to be made even when no one knows where he will end up (or even whether he will play). As I tried to point out over the summer, there is no easier way to ensure that traders will give up something roughly equal in value to what they will get than by using conditional trades.

Many FFers, however, are reluctant to engage in conditional trades because they are too complicated or because they take so long to resolve themselves (often spanning two seasons or more).

Many readers picked up on this last point by writing in to confirm that their leagues avoided conditional trades to avoid situations such as the one I outlined (in which an owner who owes another owner a 4th-round pick decides to leave the league before honoring the commitment).

However, Bruce wrote in to explain that this sort of problem need not arise:

Any owner wishing to trade or receive a future-year pick must pre-pay for the year in question. If they don’t return the team is paid for and the owner would be compensated with a free year of ownership for the lost pick. (They never leave when they’re prepaid…)
I think Bruce is exactly right here. In the first place, no one who has paid an entry fee a year in advance is likely to quit. But even if he did and the commissioner had to find a replacement, I doubt it would be difficult to find a fantasy buff who would be willing to take a chance on a team without a 4th-round pick—so long as the entry fee had already been taken care of!

Like many other readers, Bob wrote in to share the details of a conditional trade that went off without a hitch:

Pre-season 2006, Brees was slated to face Rivers for the starting job in SD. I traded Rivers (long term contract, decent price) for a conditional draft pick. I got a 7th rounder in 06 for sure (worthless in our league - 16 teams, mostly rookies), then

IF Rivers starts 1-3 games in ‘06, 5th-round pick in ‘07
IF 4-6, 4/07
IF 7-9, 3/07
IF 10-12, 2/07 and
IF 13+, 1/07

I got the 1st rounder and the other owner got a young starting QB.

The conditional trade Bob outlines here is very similar to the ones other readers reported, but I have selected Bob’s because he provided a link to his league’s website for anyone who wants to see the sort of league in which a trade like this can occur.

A reader named Jason pointed out that conditional trades needs not be terribly complex in order to work out. In fact, there is no reason to assume that the “condition” will need to be triggered at all:

I am the commissioner of my league and was part of a conditional trade last year that did not have to utilize the condition. I traded Larry Johnson for Andre Johnson and Michael Turner with the condition that Turner had to be picked up by another team before our 2008 draft or I would receive a second round pick. The trade passed league vote without issue. I put the condition in for my protection. The rest of the league did not require additional conditions.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in concerning conditional trades, and I hope that the generally satisfying experiences that readers had to report concerning these trades will encourage more leagues to explore this alternative.

Part Three: This Week’s Question

Do you believe there really is such a thing as a “sweet spot” in a traditional serpentine draft? I get this question at least once a year, and I have usually disregarded it because of my sense that a truly expert drafter can dominate a draft from the first, fourth, or fourteenth spot.

Nevertheless, since I usually participate in several drafts each year, I have begun to notice that my own teams are usually most successful when I draft from the x + 1 position (with x standing for the number of truly elite running backs in a given draft). In a year with 8 clearly outstanding RBs, I feel most comfortable if I draft from the ninth slot. This year I only see 3 or 4 genuinely elite runners, and I generally felt best about my performance in serpentine drafts in which I had the 4th or 5th pick.

Maybe I can explain why next week, or maybe one of the readers of this column will explain it better than I can.

If you think that there is no such thing as a sweet spot (as a good part of me does), then please explain why.

If you think that there is such a thing as a sweet spot, please explain whether you think it changes from year to year or stays pretty much the same—and explain why.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you by the morning of Wednesday, September 10th.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matthew and Paul)

I’m grateful to Matthew Schiff and Paul Moore for stepping back up to the plate for another season of LMS prognostications. Somewhere in the cybersphere, there is a never-ending round of applause for these guys.

Matthew’s Picks

Upset Special: Carolina over San Diego:

Jake Delhomme is back under center and happens to be a pretty good quarterback (something people are questioning because of his health). Combine that with a running back in DeAngelo Williams who finally feels the urgency to produce because of rookie Jonathan Stewart and this team could put up enough points to go into San Diego and surprise the Chargers who will be playing without Shawn Merriman (season ending surgery). Ironically everyone seems to forget that the Panthers have a pretty good defense and can lock down the opposing teams #1 wide receiver. Make no mistake, the Chargers are a good team, but with Delhomme back under center, the Panthers can and will put up some points in this game.

#3: New Orleans over Tampa (2007 12-5):

The Saints may have had to move to Indianapolis to avoid Gustav, but the Buccaneers will have a hard time avoiding a rout in this game. The Saints were one game away from the Super Bowl in 2006 and failed to make the post season because of a number of injuries. This year the defense is stronger and key players are healthy (McAllister and Colston). Add a Top tier (though flaky) tight end in Jeremy Shockey, and you have the makings of an extremely potent offense. Meanwhile Tampa Bay will be entering the season with a running-back-by-committee approach and a defense that will only give us glimpses of its prior glory. This is a divisional game, which means that anything can happen. But the Saints will come marching back into town with something to prove.

#2: New England over Kansas City (2007 9-8):

Anyone can pick this game. Right? They are a two and a half touchdown favorite to win the game. Right? So why do I pick this as my number two pick instead of my top pick? Well, it’s a sucker bet. I was once told an adage that said, “Never fight someone who has nothing to lose” and the Chiefs have nothing to lose. Tom Brady isn’t 100% with a chance of not playing. On top of that, the offense hasn’t really sparkled in the preseason and every team in the NFL will be looking to knock off the Patriots. Larry Johnson is finally healthy, and Herm Edwards believes that with a revamped offensive line and second year starter Brodie Croyle, the offense will be able to open up running lanes for one of the best running backs in the league. Last year the Chiefs may have lost their last eight games, but before injuries decimated the team, they were able to surprise both the Vikings and the Chargers (a game won by the Chiefs 30-16). This game may be closer than a touchdown and if that happens, the Chiefs might just shock the world.

#1: Indianapolis versus Chicago (2007 13-4):

Welcome to the rematch of Super Bowl XLI (snore). Last year at this time Peyton Manning was basking in the afterglow of that win, and everyone thought that the Bears might repeat as NFC Champs. This year, everyone is questioning whether Manning is healthy enough to even start the first game of the season because he hasn’t played a single down in pre-season and the Bears offense has been rebuilt completely. Gone are Cedric Benson and Bernard Berrian and welcome Kyle Orton, Matt Forte and Devin Hester to the offense. Combine these changes with a questionable line and this team is expected to have one of the worst offenses in the league. There will be immense pressure on the defense to keep games close while hoping for big plays, and this week’s matchup is anything but easy for a talented football team. Look for Manning and company to score early and often while the Colts defense feasts on offensive mistakes.

Paul’s Picks

A brand new year, a clean slate, and all 32 teams to choose from—although I doubt anyone will take the Chiefs or Dolphins this year. Looking at the first week, half the games are divisional matchups. I generally try to avoid these games if I can since these teams are very familiar with each other.

#1 (2007: 14-3)
NE over KC - Yeah, I know, this pick is too easy. I should save the Pats for later in the year but why? Are you going to hold onto them until you get bounced out of the pool? I use the survive-and-advance approach. The Pats should jump out to an early lead and coast.

#2 (2007: 14-3)
IND over CHI - This matchup looks a lot like the game above. A championship caliber team with a QB that hasn't taken a snap in the pre-season vs. a struggling team with an inferior QB.

#3 (2007: 15-2)
SD over CAR - I'm beginning to see a trend. Top AFC teams over NFC teams with weak Quarterbacks. With Steve Smith out, Carolina is also struggling to start 2 decent wideouts. Delhomme isn't going to have anyone to throw to, making the Panthers very one-dimensional. It’s also a good idea to take SD now in case Merriman stays injured and opponents figure out how to best exploit his absence.

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.