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Week 3: Does Your League Have an Advisory Board or Committee?

In last week’s column, I suggested that forcing the teams of absentee owners to be selected by the auto-draft system available in most computerized leagues (instead of being selected by a human proxy for the owner) is not so much a punishment of the absent owners as it is a reward to the owners who show up. Teams selected by the auto-draft system generally aren’t all that bad, but the predictability of the choices that computers will make enables the owners who are present to know when they should reach for a player and/or when to leave someone desirable on the board for another round.

A reader named Mike wrote in to confirm that the auto-draft method can really work to the advantage of the no-show participants in the league. Even though the auto-drafting method his league used was not computerized, the point remains significant:

We had our first player miss the draft this year. We quickly decided that we would take one of the Top 200 lists and simply draft the best available player for him, and his only "punishment" would be that his starters had to be picked before his bench. That meant he would be taking a Defense and a kicker in rounds 8 and 9. We're an 8 team league.

The upshot? He ended up with a better team than he would have picked on his own, guaranteed. He was ECSTATIC when he saw his roster. Some punishment.

His first 9 rounds:

Williams, DeAngelo
Gore, Frank
Smith, Steve
White Roddy
Rivers, Phillip
Gonzalez, Tony
Bush, Reggie
NYG Defense
Gostkowski, Steven

Not too bad for someone who wasn't even there.

A reader who signed off as Michael (not Mike) would presumably have been irritated by the way things worked out in Mike’s league:

I believe STRONGLY that owners who miss their drafts should be penalized. To have someone else (or to have a computer) draft gives them too much of a chance at drafting a superior team without having to make the risky decisions involved. The question is how to do it so that their teams aren’t so bad that they have no chance to win.

My solution is simple. If you miss your draft, you forfeit your first round pick (until the last round). After that, you can go on auto-draft (if online), have a [proxy, or have the commissioner select your team based on a list generated before the draft.]

The 1 time we had to do this for someone, we decided to start them in the 2nd round, and use an ADP list to draft in the order of RB, RB, WR, WR, QB, RB, WR, TE, etc. This was agreed to beforehand. In the end, they ended up with a serviceable team that finished over .500—but still missed the playoffs. They ended up with 2 #2RBs rather than a stud, and 2 #2WRs rather than a stud, and so on.

I think that’s fair. It did put them behind, but didn’t cripple them.

Note that to Michael’s mind, the distinction between having a team picked by a computer and having one selected by a proxy is irrelevant. His point appears to be primarily to penalize the owner who is absent (presumably as a way to give everyone in the league an incentive to attend the draft—which is of course laudable).

Like Michael, Tom was less interested in my auto-draft/proxy distinction than in trying to preserve incentives and a sense of fairness for the entire league:

Years ago in a re-draft Yahoo league, one of our guys...let's call him Aaron...was having browser difficulties with the Yahoo draft scripts. Right before it came time for one of his first picks, his browser locked up, kicked him out, and he had to reboot his whole system. None of the rest of us knew, of course. He just didn't post anything in the chat, and didn't make a pick...until the clock ran out, and the computer autopicked *Antonio Freeman* for what was definitely one of Antonio's last and most lackluster years. He still gets made fun of for that to this day, particularly when he's taking a long time to make a pick.

I think the point there is that it's definitely a benefit to use a system that allows you some level of control. Yahoo drafts force your hand. The clock is absolute, and even if you're logged in, if you don't make your pick in time, the system will autodraft for you. The problem with that is seen with Aaron. The system has flaws, and no amount of planning can guarantee that Microsoft won't ruin your draft with the blue screen of death and an Antonio Freeman pick. A system that allows changes in mid-draft will also allow for what happens in our drafts occasionally. We get to the 12th of 15 rounds, and someone ends up needing to go take care of life. They ask someone else to take over for them at that point. They've drafted 12 rounds, and it's not catastrophic to their team to have someone else pick the 3 final rounds for them. Again, a system like Yahoo has nothing in place for this, aside from having someone sitting next to your computer who can step up to the keyboard, or possibly someone logging in as you from somewhere else.

I do like your idea of giving the advantage to the people who have made the effort to show up on draft day. I also think, though, that there should be a distinction made between people who can't show up because they weren't paying attention, or people who can't show up because the *best* day for the draft was a day they had a wedding. In other words, if you just cannot find a day when all the owners can make it, you are forced to pick the day when the most owners can make it. Do you then give the 11 people who can make it a benefit just because 1 guy who could have made it another day couldn't make it that particular day?

Maybe you set a deadline for assigning a live proxy for the draft, and anyone pulling out after that gets autodrafted (with exceptions made for emergencies).

Thoughtful answers such as Tom’s suggest to me that the best way for leagues to handle absentee owners is with precisely as much nuance and flexibility as comes naturally to them. But Mike Krueger reminded me that the best solution is for owners not to miss their drafts. I must move in less disciplined circles than Mr. Krueger. In the decade that I have been playing fantasy football, I have honestly lost count of the number of drafts during which at least one owner missed at least half of the draft. I know for a fact that Krueger participates in more leagues than I do, so I was stunned when I received this note from him:

I guess I've been lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough to never have drafted in a real league where somebody was on auto-draft.

There you have it, folks. If no one in any of Krueger’s “real league[s]” has ever missed a draft, then you all just need to ratchet up your level of dedication!

As for my proxy/auto-draft distinction, even the best answer I received that was on topic refused to acknowledge the validity of the distinction. According to Samson:

Owners who miss the draft are sufficiently penalized by missing the draft. I don’t think anyone in my league plays just to claim a pot of a few hundred dollars at the end of the season. The point of fantasy football is to have fun, and nothing about FF is more fun than the draft. If you pay your entry fee and then miss the draft, it doesn’t matter if your team gets picked by someone else or by a computer. All that matters is that you missed out on fun that you paid for. The owners who do show up for the draft don’t need to get a leg up on you because they got a leg up on the fun of the league just by showing up. End of discussion.

Samson makes an excellent point, and I am happy to end the discussion exactly there.

Questions for Week 3:

If your league uses an advisory board or committee to assist the commissioner, exactly what sorts of questions does the board address? What is the most successful ruling it has issued? Has the board gotten itself or the commissioner or the league as a whole into any trouble? What form does the board take?

For those in leagues that do not use advisory boards, have you ever encountered a problem that it seemed wrong to leave solely in the commissioner’s hands? And how did you resolve the problem without resorting to an advisory board? What was the specific quandary? Please be as detailed as possible in your responses.

These questions all stem from a note I received from Scott, who wrote:

I created what I call an advisory board and assign different duties to them that come up during the offseason, pre-draft, draft, post-draft, and season. My advisory board is made up of me (commish) and 3 other long time owners that have the league’s integrity in mind first and foremost. Any decision on rule changes, player disputes, or trades requires a majority vote to pass (3-1). I believe with 4 heads you can hash out more quickly and accurately what needs to be done in any situation [than by putting all questions up for a league-wide vote].

Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Reflection: Cincinnati over Green Bay, 31-24

This loss is what I get for picking a game featuring two teams I did not have a chance to study the week prior.

That said, there happen to be some extenuating circumstances for this pick. In the beginning of the second half, the Packers lost starting LT Chad Clifton, leaving a gaping hole at their most shallow offensive line position. The NFL depth chart doesn’t even list a backup! Antwan Odom (the DE that lines up opposite the LT) went on to sack Aaron Rodgers (a fairly mobile QB) four times in the second half. It seems clear that the sudden and unexpected loss of Clifton is the key factor here, particularly when we consider that Odom is a mediocre pass rusher who has topped 3 sacks in a SEASON only once, when he tallied 8 sacks in 2007 for the Titans.

It is not a coincidence that Green Bay scored 21 points in the first half and managed only a field goal in the second. It is also not a coincidence that Ryan Grant was a non-factor in the second half (3-7-0 in the second half versus 11-39-1 in the first half).

Moreover, after my predictions were submitted to FFToday, Green Bay lost run stopping strong safety Atari Bigby for Week 2 (and potentially more). Perhaps that, in addition to huge NT B.J. Raji’s absence sheds some light on Cedric Benson’s stellar afternoon (29-146-0).

Even with the nightmare that was the second half of that game, Green Bay still came within seconds of tying the game at the end of the 4th quarter. I’m going to give myself a pass on this one. If you picked GB last week, so should you.

Then again, Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion.

Quick Review of Last Week

As for the New York Jets defense punishing Brady & Co. – you heard it here first. In all seriousness, I watched all 60 minutes of this game, and the Jets defense is as impressive as advertised. Darelle Revis very well might be the best cover corner in the league; Rex Ryan certainly thinks he is.

To illustrate this point – look at the stats of the two WRs that Revis has covered this season:

  • Andre Johnson – Week 1 (Revis): 4-35-0; Week 2 (Nick Harper): 10-149-2.
  • Randy Moss - Week 1 (Terrence McGee): 12-141-0; Week 2 (Revis): 4-24-0.

Two of the consensus top four WRs in the country absolutely disappeared when they were covered by Revis—even though they had no difficulty torching other quality cornerbacks for some serious yardage.

In the end, it’s not just Revis. The Jets are the league’s leading defense, allowing a paltry 241 yards and 8 points per game. Oh, by the way, did I mention that they are also the first team to keep the Patriots out of the end zone in almost six years.

Let that sink in.

The first time in 90 games.


Other Games

  • Tennessee losing to Houston at home – Houston’s offense is always dangerous, and the Titan defense is not what it used to be without big Albert Haynesworth clogging up the middle. Additionally, this contest was a divisional game, which always presents a risk.

  • Miami losing to Indianapolis – I mention this game to give credit to former FFToday LMS guru Matthew Schiff (who appears on the leader board this week). He took Miami as his #1 pick this week. Although the Fins lost, he was dead on about how the game played out. The Miami offense dominated the Colts, keeping their defense on the field for more than 75% of the game. If the Dolphins could have slowed down Dallas Clark a little, Miami could have stunned the entire league. If nothing else, the Dolphins certainly played well enough to win. You have to respect Schiff’s gutsy (and accurate) pick even though it does not result in a W.

Reader’s Week 2 Picks

The second week of the season was tough, as only two emerge unscathed. Congratulations Mark and Scott—the top prognosticators after Week 2!

 Top Prognosticators - Week 2
Player Picks Overall Win % Point Differential
Mark Adel WAS, MIN, BUF 6/6 100 89
Scott Goldschmidt WAS, MIN, BUF 6/6 100 89
Supernewper SF, MIN, TEN 5/6 83 60
Keith Bielory GB, IND, MIN 5/6 83 57
Justin Leone TEN, BUF, ATL 5/6 83 54
Joshua Shields WAS, IND, GB 5/6 83 49
Marc Mondry GB, MIN, WAS 5/6 83 42
Dave Zucker GB, IND, WAS 5/6 83 42
Paul Moore GB, WAS, TEN 4/6 67 52
Matthew Schiff MIN, WAS, MIA 4/6 67 26

Remember to email your picks to me by noon on Sunday.

Trap Game: Detroit over Washington

“You have to respect the gutsy pick!” is what I said about Schiff taking Miami as his #1 last week. Well, here is another one. Yes, for the first time in 20 games, the Lions are going to win this week!

Admittedly, I have a pretty big head after nailing two huge upset picks in a row (Raiders over Chargers, Jets over Patriots), and this pick could look asinine on Sunday evening, but I have a good feeling about the Lions this week.

The Lions are not as bad as everyone might think. Detroit was beating the Vikes 10-0 during the second quarter and took a 3-point lead into halftime. (I can only imagine what choice words Brad Childress used in the locker room.) Minnesota flattened Detroit in the second half, but the Lions played an excellent half of football.

The Detroit defense may not be as bad as we initially thought. I am willing to give them a pass on the Week 1 debacle against the Saints because Brees & Co. did worse to the Philadelphia defense this week. That Eagles unit is no shabby defense, so if the Saints can put up 48 on them, they can score at will against nearly anyone.

That brings us to this week’s game against Minnesota. Detroit held AP under 100 yards rushing on the day and held the Viking offense to a total of 265 yards. That’s pretty good! Moreover, Minnesota only converted 3 out of 11 third downs. That’s pretty good defense too!

The offense is really what let Detroit down this week. The running game, surprisingly, was up to the challenge and did a serviceable job against a very strong Minnesota front 7. The problem was the 3 turnovers (two Matt Stafford interceptions, one Kevin Smith fumble), which allowed Minnesota to put points on the board fairly easily. The last two Minnesota TD drives started at the Detroit 27 and 16 yard lines, respectively. It’s not hard to put up points when your drive starts in the red zone.

Now a quick look at the Lions’ victim this week: the Washington Redskins. The Skins looked awful ast week at home against the lowly Rams—and probably should have lost the game. Their defense is serviceable, and much upgraded from last year with the addition of Albert Haynesworth, but the offense is pitiful. They have the league’s second worst offense (just in front of the Rams), averaging just 13 points per game. And remember, that’s after playing the Rams (who lost to Seattle 0-28) last week!

3. New York Giants over Tampa Bay

My Giants gave me quite the scare last week. That said, the way they won Sunday night bears mentioning. The Cowboys, to their credit, did a fantastic job shutting down the Giants’ powerful running game (97 total rushing yards on 26 carries). There are not many teams in the NFL that can have Plan A go so wrong and still beat a talented team like the Cowboys (in Dallas no less).

And if you really know the Giants, you know that they didn’t win using Plan B either—because if Plan A is to run the ball until the other team drops dead, Plan B is to run the ball some more. The Giants had to really leave their comfort zone and depend on a couple of inexperienced receivers (Steve Smith, 10-134-1, and Mario Manningham, 10-150-1). They were impressive, and a team that flexible is going to be difficult to beat.

This week, the Giants head down to balmy Tampa Bay, and while I generally do not love teams on the road, the Giants are an anomaly in that they often play better on the road than at home. Recall the 2007 season, when they set the NFL record with 10 straight road wins.

The fact is that Tampa Bay just isn’t ready for a team like the Giants. The Bucs got embarrassed by the Cowboys in Week 1 and then handily beaten by the Bills in Week 2. Their offense is in shambles with the departure of the OC just prior to Week 1, and the team’s defensive personnel seems to fit the old Cover-2 scheme, not the new scheme that coach Raheem Morris has installed. That unit has given up 67 points and 900 total yards in two games. Ouch.

2. Dallas over Carolina

I am not sure why this game isn’t on the LMS radar. Yes, Marion Barber is going to miss this game, but Felix Jones and Tashard Choice should have no trouble filling in.

The Cowboys match up very well against the Panthers. Carolina has to run the ball to be successful, and Dallas just last week shut down one of the strongest rushing offenses in the country. Carolina’s defense, though stout against the pass, is bottom 5 against the run, allowing an average of 168 rushing yards per game. The Panthers allowed the Eagles (not a dominant rushing team) to rumble for 185 yards on 32 carries (5.78 ypc). Those numbers are all the more telling because the Eagles did not have a carry longer than 25 yards to pad the stats, and almost half of those rushing numbers came when Kevin Kolb was under center. When you can put 8 in the box and can’t stop the run, you’re in trouble.

To make matters worse for Carolina, Dallas boasts the most prolific rushing attack in the league (185 ypg), and the Cowboys amassed a lot of those numbers against the Giants, who are perennially strong against the run.

Aside from all the numbers, the Cowboys are emotionally primed for this game. They lost their home opener and desperately want a win in their new gargantuan stadium. Dallas also must regret losing a tough game to a divisional rival. Expect the Boys to take their frustration out on the Panthers this week.

1. Baltimore over Cleveland

This one might be the best pick of the entire season. If you do not include Baltimore in your rankings this week, you are just silly.

The Ravens are playing absolutely fantastic football right now. The defense has been business as usual (tops in the NFL against the run), and the offense has been one of the bigger surprises of the young season. Joe Flacco was a trendy sleeper in this year’s drafts (I’ll admit I didn’t buy it) and seems to have taken a developmental step. It remains to be seen how he fares against truly strong defenses, but at a minimum he is at the point where he can reliably beat up on bad ones. Cleveland definitely belongs in the ‘bad ones’ category (allowing 205+ yards rushing per game).

The other surprise out of Baltimore has been Willis McGahee. Most analysts wrote him off in favor of Ray Rice, thinking at best McGahee would be a goal line TD vulture, but there he was last week looking a whole lot like a featured back – and performing quite well (15-79-2).

On the other side of the ball, do we expect the Browns to be able to generate any offense? I don’t. The running game is near hopeless. Jamal Lewis will be lucky to average 3 ypc against the stout Ravens D. And do we think Brady Quinn is capable of dissecting the Ravens’ complicated defensive scheme? He has already struggled mightily this season against the Broncos and Vikings. Worse yet, he has never faced the Ravens before (Derek Anderson started both games last year). Look out, Brady.

That’s all ladies and gents. As always, make sure to email me your picks to me by noon on Sunday, and I’m always happy to chat football if you have questions!

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