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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A:
Week 4

Last Week's Question: How Many Players from the Same NFL Team Is Too Many?

Last week’s column featured the quandary of a reader named Michael, who felt compelled by his value-based drafting approach to acquire a disproportionate number of Detroit Lions in 2011.

The note I received from Michael indicated that he went into all of his drafts this year expecting to pick up Nate Burleson in the late rounds, but in one draft he ended up with Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best on his roster well before it was time to pull the trigger on Burleson.

In the opinion of a reader named David (who says he has been playing fantasy football since 1995), Michael’s problem may have less to do with the number of Lions on his roster than his decision to target Burleson before the draft even started:

[Michael’s decision to target] Burleson is a potential example of why not to get fixated on any 1 specific player in any position or tier. I believe you should always have multiple players at each position and tier level that you like, so you can be flexible in case someone takes your guy, which happens more often than not. [Fixating on specific players often causes owners to draft their “pet players” too early (just to be sure they get them) or to react with panic and stupidity when the guy they expected to get in the 10th round gets snapped up by a rival in the 9th.] It's good to have options every step of the draft, and then you will always get at least a few of the players you wanted.

Apart from cautioning against the idea of fixating on any specific player, David has a number of insights to share concerning Michael’s larger question:

While drafting for value assumes you are always looking to take the next best available player based on historical stats, an experienced drafter knows that there are other factors to consider, which could keep you from drafting or drive you to draft multiple players from the same team.

When Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were both in AZ, they had 3 years that both WR's went for over 1,000 yards. I remember seeing some owners draft both WR's during that time, and in some ways this strategy can pay off because if one of them had a down game it usually meant the other would score enough to match the production of two #1 WR's. However, the key to keep in mind is that it took a great QB and a pass-oriented offensive scheme for these results to happen.

Now I would say most seasoned FF owners would not draft 2 players at the same position from the same team, even if they were the best available, unless it was a handcuff situation or a RBBC. That being said, it is actually not a bad idea to have a QB and WR or TE from the same team, but even this decision needs to be thought out. (It works best when the team is pass-oriented, has few other weapons, and the players in question already have chemistry, e.g. Andre Johnson & Schaub in ‘09).

It is usually counterproductive to draft a QB and RB from the same team. While not exactly a terrible idea, it means you will be rooting for opposing offensive philosophies all season. With a balanced team (like Indy in the days of Manning and Edge) or a team that relies on a RB a lot in the passing game (e.g. the Rams with Faulk), you can succeed, but how many teams each year actually have that right mix?

Along with the above info, you also have to realize that the value of players in FF is constantly changing, even during the draft, and that there are 3 different types of value. First, there is the value of the player before the draft begins (how ADP is created). Second is the value of the player to your team, which fluctuates based on who you have already drafted and what needs your team still has in order to be as strong as possible. Third is the value the player has to other owners drafting, which is especially important in leagues where trading is allowed.

If you keep the above in mind when you are drafting, there will be very few times you think about drafting 2 players at the same position from the same team because you will know that the perceived value of the 2nd player you are considering from the team in question is likely no longer at the same value he was at when the original ADP was established. I mean would you constantly take WR's for your first 4-5 picks if they just happened to be the best available player? (I hope not, unless you know you can parlay some of them into RB's within a week or two.)

Now getting back to the original question, and the situation mentioned about taking Megatron, Best and Burleson: If you believed that Megatron was likely to get injured and miss some games, and you intended to trade him to someone in your league that just loved him, leaving your own squad with Burleson as a possible WR3 with potential upside, then that is a strategy—and all strategies are subject to success if you know your league well enough, and your predictions have some history to back them up.

Otherwise I would not take both WR's from DET since that offense is still growing and Burleson's upside this year is also capped by having 2 quality TE's, and rookie WR Titus Young, which may lessen Burleson's overall value this year. While it is true that drafting him as a WR4/5 with upside is not a bad idea, I could name a dozen or more other WR's that I would gamble on instead, especially since I already have Megatron and Best.

David provides us with plenty of food for thought in his commentary, but I would direct the attention of all readers (particularly Michael) to the 4th paragraph from the end, which I have put in bold type because I consider it the most insightful of David’s comments. Our cheatsheets may paint an accurate picture of any player’s value relative to other players in the NFL, but they can’t and won’t account for the value of a specific player to a particular half-finished roster.

Most of the readers who responded to last week’s question shared the concerns of both David and Michael about having too many players from the same team. No one proposed a mathematical formula for determining how to avoid over-representation from a single NFL squad, but the general sense appeared to be that owners should proceed with caution whenever they ended up with more than 2 (non-handcuffed) players from the same team. Greg, however, spoke for the FFers who consider this cautiousness to be much ado about nothing:

I don’t think avoiding drafting multiple players from the same team is very important. Consider an extreme example where you have drafted all of the 2009 Colts or 2008 Pats (just assume all these players were the best value choice in the draft). You probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem since they had only one combined loss weeks 1-16. Now bring it down to only three or four good players drafted from a team that goes 12-4 and I think we’ll still get our money’s worth.

I agree with your “all things being equal” approach. It’s better to grab players from different teams when it’s convenient, but only to avoid a big hang up during bye weeks. I believe as long as you’re drafting the players who will get you the most points, it shouldn’t matter much which team they’re from.

This kind of reminds me of a similar situation where you are considering starting a highly ranked defense, but it is up against your starting QB. It really shouldn’t make any difference. Just start who you estimate will get the most points each week, not who you hope will. There is something to be said for the “Peyton Manning effect,” i.e., all of your players losing value by an injury to just one of them. Peyton is special, and the fact is it often won’t take more than one season-ending injury to one of your top draft picks to kill your season anyway (RIP Jamaal Charles owners).

My thanks to everyone who responded to Michael’s question. I share the curiosity of one reader (Shane) who points out that Michael never says whether he drafted Burleson after acquiring Johnson and Best. Michael, if you are still reading, please let us know at the end of the season how things worked out for the mini-Lions squad.

This Week's Question: How Seriously Do You Take Weekly Matchup Advice?

A reader named Ken is starting to feel persecuted by “Start ‘em/ Sit ‘em” advice:

I didn’t ask anyone if I should start Eli Manning in Week 3, but that didn’t keep people from telling me to bench him. It started with an email from [name of service withheld] explaining that of all the players in the NFL, the one guy that they wanted to single out for benching in Week 3 was Eli Manning. Then I started hearing it everywhere. On the radio they talked about how good Philly is at picking off passes from Eli. On TV they said the same thing. When I went to my fantasy website to enter my lineup, there it was again—a warning from [name of a different fantasy service withheld] that Eli was a poor fantasy choice in Week 3.

Now I am no great fan of Eli. I don’t give two [fecal units] about him or the Giants or the NFC East. He was the best QB on the board when I got around to picking my QB, and I figured he would be decent for me, which is exactly what he has been.

But the only reason he has been decent is because I started him in Week 3 despite the objections of these know-it-all dimwits who wanted me to bench him when he threw for 4 TDs and 256 yards with no picks and no fumbles. The game that I was specifically warned against using him turns out to be his best game so far this season.

But it doesn’t stop there. I got curious and checked his stats from last season. He scored more fantasy points in Week 3 of 2011 than in ANY game of 2010. That got me curious about how far back I would have to go to find a stronger fantasy performance.

I had to go all the way back to Week 14 of 2009.

But here’s the real headscratcher. Guess what team he was playing when he had his best performance of 2009.

The Eagles.

And then I took another look at the 2010 season. His best fantasy performance in all of 2010 came in Week 15 against . . .

The Eagles.

What are these guys who give the start ‘em/sit ‘em advice smoking? Eli’s best fantasy game in 2009 is against the Eagles. His best fantasy game in 2010 is against the Eagles. So when he plays the Eagles in 2011, they have to shout it from the rooftops that I should bench him. I mean seriously, what the [copulation]?

I couldn’t resist Ken’s question because it gave me a chance play cutesy editor with his profanity. But the fact is I wanted to ignore it because I have never had much luck with questions such as this one. I know in advance that I am going to hear from at least a dozen readers who will want to tell Ken that the most important strategy in fantasy football is to always start your studs regardless of what team they are playing against or what the experts and their predictions say.

The problem with this answer (as I have written in the past) is that it fails to define a stud. I know that Tom Brady is a stud QB. The same obviously goes for Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and arguably Matthew Stafford. But is Cam Newton still an indisputable stud after his Week 3 performance? What about Ryan Fitzpatrick? Even if he looks studly now, he probably struck owners as more of a “solid alternative” when drafts were taking place. What about those lucky owners who drafted Brees early and managed to pick up Fitzpatrick late. What good does it do such owners to hear that Brees and Fitzpatrick are both studs and that they should always start their studs?

Eli may be a solid quarterback, but there probably aren’t many FFers who would consider him a true stud. So if an owner has, for example, Eli Manning and Matt Schaub as his two options at QB, telling him to start his stud is pretty much the same thing as clearing your throat and mumbling something about the weather.

Surely there are times when it is worth thinking about matchups, but there are just as surely times when matchup analysts get things horribly horribly wrong.

So I am asking readers to walk me through matchup analysis of their own. Show me how you use matchups to decide between two roughly equal RBs or WRs or QBs. If you want to use a past game, fine. If you are willing to stick your neck out, then write back to me before Sunday about the hardest choice you have to make for the Week 4 games. Don’t pretend that it’s difficult to choose between Ray Rice and Joseph Addai. But if Rice is your #1 back, you might have difficulty choosing between Addai and Willis McGahee as your #2. How much do you focus on the opposing defense? How do you factor in injuries to fullbacks and other blockers? Is there a particular fantasy service that you rely on to make these judgment calls for you? I withheld the names of the services that Ken named because FFToday is not in the business of picking fights with industry peers, but if there is one website that you think does an outstanding job of weekly matchup analysis, I will be happy to give credit where it is due.

Last Man Standing - Week 3 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: Indianapolis at Tampa Bay:

Who would’ve thought that the Bills could rally against the Patriots and come back from down 21 points. And if you had chosen the Pats as your LMS team, you’d be out. While I don’t think that Tampa losing will be as big a shocker, the betting public seems to differ in their opinion. The Colts are not sure if Kerry Collins will be cleared for the game and they are 0-3 and thinking about going into the Andrew Luck draft lottery early with Peyton Manning most likely done for the season. But don’t be surprised if this team copies the format of beating Tampa and pulls off the double digit underdog win on the road.

#3: Buffalo over Cincinnati (2-1 PIT, SD, GB):

If this were 2010, the average American Football fan would have been asleep by the end of the first quarter. But this Bill team is becoming a legitimate threat in the AFC East. And the more they face adversity going forward, very few teams will be able to match up on defense against the spread offense of the Bills talent all over the field on each and every play. It is just too much to defend. Even though Cinci hasn’t’ given up a lot of points in the first three weeks, that will all change against Fitzpatrick and company.

#2: Green Bay over Denver (3-0 SD, ARI, DET):

The Packers are good. They are home. Ryan Grant seems to be returning to form and the Broncos defense is horrible at stopping the run (don’t let the Titans struggles fool you). The Broncos meanwhile are in the last quartile in almost every offensive category. And playing against last year’s number one ranked, Super Bowl Champion defenses, won’t be an easy task. Put this one on auto pilot if you are concerned Vick won’t play.

#1: Philadelphia over San Francisco (3-0 SD, PIT, TEN):

Michael Vick has declared himself 100% guaranteed to play on Sunday! But that may not be a good thing. The 49ers have only given up an average of over 17 points per game, sacked the quarterback 7 times in three games and allowed 306 yards per game (4th, 4th and 7th in their respective categories). But the Dream Team’s defense won’t be tested nearly as much as the 49ers defense unless their anemic offense that generates only 213 yards per game can continue to score more than their 23 points per game average. In Philly, after a major divisional loss, the Eagles just need a win more than the 49ers and will provide the hometown faithful with a win.

For responses to this month's fantasy question please email me.