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Week 14: Scoring the Robert Meachem Fumble Recovery

Last Week’s Question: What Can Keeper Leagues Do to Prevent Drastic Imbalances from Persisting for Years?

In last week’s column, I shared a question from Barry, who is reluctant to join a keeper league in which one owner will be able to hang on to Tom Brady for another five years.

The way that most leagues seem to prevent this sort of imbalance is by including rules such as the following from Mark’s league:

Here is our rule, which works quite well. We use the 12th round because in a snake draft that give the guy with the last pick in the 1st round the 1st pick in the 12th round. This year the 12th round picks included R. Mendenhall, J. Maclin, J. Stewart, L. McCoy, Felix Jones, and H. Nicks. Last year’s 12th-round picks included Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, and Aaron Rogers. |

1. Teams can retain 0-3 players from rounds 12-19 for the future year. The player will move up 2 spots in the draft order each year (i.e. a player drafted in round 14 this year can be retained and will be that person’s 12th-round pick the following year). A player can only be retained for 2 years (only on your roster for 3 years).

Mike’s league takes an interesting approach that prevents any player from being retained in consecutive seasons by any owner:

In our league we have a keeper system as follows. Teams are allowed to keep up to 2 players per year. The stipulation on keepers is that you cannot keep a player 2 years in a row. (This applies in trades too. Kept players are not eligible to be kept the next year even if traded during the season to a different team). Keepers must be a 4th-round pick or later. (This goes for players acquired midseason too; you cannot swap MJD and AP between two teams and claim them both as keepers, since they were both picked earlier than the 4th round), and you can only keep one player that you drafted. The second keeper has to be acquired through transactions (i.e. via a trade or from the waiver wire.)

To keep a player, you need to declare them as a keeper before the draft. For your 1st keeper, you give up your 4th round pick, and for your second keeper you give up your 5th round pick. While far from a dynasty format, this allows teams to keep a breakout player they discovered for up to one additional year and plays a role in trades throughout the season. It worked out well for me this year, as last year I drafted Chris Johnson in the 6th round and traded for DeAngelo Williams midseason. I was able to keep them both by giving up my 4th- and 5th-round picks. Next year both will be back in the general draft though and available to all teams.

The bolded section of Mike’s explanation struck me as a particularly interesting way of keeping the pot stirred in a keeper league, and I suspect that some leagues with persistent imbalances might want to take a close look at the model he has provided.

However, lopsidedness was only a part of Barry’s question. The really sticky problem seemed to be that he would only consider joining the keeper league that is recruiting him if the league changes its rules. Rule changes are always hard on leagues. Owners who secured advantageous positions for themselves by playing within the rules are usually not happy about seeing those rules changed, so the only leagues that are likely to change their rules are the ones that cannot find enough owners to fill the league. Todd gave some thought to Barry’s specific quandary, but any commissioners who worry about keeping their keeper leagues full may want to pay attention:

In our keeper league, owners can only keep their players for a maximum of 3 years, [which] provides new owners with incentive to join the league (since they know that those players aren’t off limits forever). This also motivates those owners with great players to keep active and look for better players each year.

As the commissioner of our league, I also have to consider when a new owner joins the league. This speaks to Barry’s quandary. I think it is up to the commissioner to make the league appeal to a new owner. We had 3 new owners join our league this year. I had each one look at their prospective team and draft position (set in our league based on previous year’s standings) before joining. I also gave them incentives (they get to re-choose their keepers from last year’s team) if they didn’t like the team. Barry’s question also makes me think about the possibility of giving the new owner a better draft pick, letting them select one keeper from another team (as in an expansion draft), or giving them an extra mid-round draft pick. These are just some ideas . . .

For whatever reason, I have always been a pushover for the sanctity of contracts. If the rules in my league give a ridiculous advantage to a competitor of mine, I tend to accept that imbalance as part of the game that I agreed to play. I am therefore reluctant to advise any commissioner to make any changes to league rules unless they are necessary to the survival of the league. However, if the rules of your league are so imbalanced that you can’t attract new owners to replace those lost through attrition, I recommend a three-step process.

First, create a list of ideas along the lines of what Todd has outlined. Second, rank the proposed rule changes from the one that is least obnoxious to current league members to the one that will only be resorted to in case of emergency. Third, set a timeline for having the new rules go into effect.

Imagine a 12-team keeper league that has lost 2 owners and is having difficulty replacing them. They can agree to give the new owners no special treatment if they join by June, to throw in better draft picks if they haven’t found new owners by the first of July, to let them select one keeper each from other teams in the league if they haven’t been replaced by the beginning of August, etc. The benefit of an approach such as this is that the owner who doesn’t want to give up his advantageous position can keep that position if he can find two new owners to fill the league in time. If he can’t find replacements without changing the rules, then that is probably a fair indicator that the rules need to be amended.

This Week’s Question: Is There a Right Way to Handle the Scoring for the Robert Meachem Fumble Recovery vs. Washington?

A reader named Paul has requested feedback from other readers of this column concerning an offensive player who may or may not have scored a defensive touchdown:

You should really do a Q&A about the Meachem play (which is reminiscent of [the celebrated] Keenan McCardell play back in 2003). I note that my league (, Yahoo!, CBSSportsline and ESPN all interpret the scoring on that play differently. We are dealing with it now in our league because it will determine whether one team gets in the playoffs.

For readers who missed the Saints-Redskins contest, the play in question involved an interception thrown by Drew Brees, who was trying to connect with TE Jeremy Shockey. The pass was picked off by Redskin safety Kareem Moore, but Robert Meachem stripped the ball from Moore and ran it in for a TD. Meachem may have lined up as a wide receiver before the ball was snapped, but he assumed the role of a defensive back when he took the ball from Moore. To complicate matters even further, the play started as a pass, but of course Meachem had no reception on the play (as he took the ball directly from Moore). Worse yet, commissioners in performance leagues have to decide whether the distance of the TD run should be measured from the original line of scrimmage or from the point on the field where Meachem took control of the ball. I can understand why the play is causing trouble in all sorts of scoring systems, and I look forward to hearing from any commissioners who are willing to explain how they handled the play in their leagues.

Wk 12 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

My need to prepare for exams prevents me from making this week’s analysis as extensive as I would like it to be. As you read this on Thursday, I will either be taking my first three-hour exam of the day or studying for my second exam (scheduled for the evening). Wish me luck; I will need it.

Trap Game: Atlanta over New Orleans

This pick might seem outlandish to you, but the deck is absolutely stacked against New Orleans. Think about it. New Orleans…

  • just clinched the division last week, making the last 4 games significantly less important, as they only fight now for home field advantage, and the only other team competing for that honor is Minnesota (two games behind at 10-2);

  • has all the pressure on them to stay undefeated;

  • must travel to Atlanta;

  • is playing a tough division rival that generally plays well within the division;

  • has been playing terrible football lately (compared to earlier in the season);

  • has demonstrated a penchant for let-down games (e.g. St. Louis, Washington);

  • and has remained undefeated only after multiple (improbable) 4th quarter comebacks.

The fact is that the Saints are spectacular on offense, but the team is far from invulnerable. Don’t be shocked if they lose this week to Atlanta, despite the huge 9.5 point line.

3. Tennessee over Saint Louis

This one is pretty simple. Saint Louis is terrible, and Tennessee has been playing great ball despite a tough loss to the Colts last week. Most importantly, the Titans are playing at home for their playoff lives. If they lose on Sunday, they’re done, and they know it. If you needed more reason to go with the Titans this week, the Rams just announced that S O. Atogwe, their run stopper and second leading tackler, has just been placed on IR. Chris Johnson for 300 yards from scrimmage this week, anyone?

2. Baltimore over Detroit

Let’s start with a basic premise: Detroit is just bad.

From there, we can discuss the other aspects of this game. The Lions have to travel to Baltimore to play in an unfamiliar (and fairly unfriendly) stadium out in Baltimore. They have to figure out how to move the ball against a stingy Baltimore defense that most assuredly will not allow Kevin Smith to beat them. Most importantly (and perhaps most challenging of all), Detroit needs to come up with a plan for at least containing Ray Rice, something much better defenses have struggled to do.

Good luck Detroit. You can even have the luck the readers wished me for my final exams. You need it more than I do.

1. Indianapolis over Denver

Denver isn’t exactly the ideal team for your #1 selection to be playing against. They are 8-4, likely bound for the playoffs, still have a shot at the division, and have every incentive to take their A-game to Indianapolis.

That said, there comes a time during the season that you’re going to have to put your neck out on the line and pick a game that isn’t what you consider to be a “sure thing.” It happens every season, as your options dwindle, the playoffs inch closer, and every franchise is fighting for its life.

When you get to this point (which for me happens to be this week), you probably want your money on the best team you can put it on, regardless of the opponent. I’d much rather go down with Indianapolis than trying to squeak out a San Francisco win over Arizona—or a Washington win over Oakland.

I know this selection flies directly in the face of much of what I explained in my upset pick of Atlanta over New Orleans. Admittedly, it does. Perhaps I just have more faith in Peyton Manning than I do in Drew Brees. More likely, I think the Colts have been playing better ball than the Saints lately; I would be floored if a team like Washington could take the Colts to OT.

For now, there’s nothing left to do but see how the cards fall. Good luck this week.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.