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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A - Week 16: Are Traders Winners?

Questions 5 & 6 from the questionnaire I posted in my Week 14 column concerned the waiver wire and trade activity of top-seeded fantasy teams.

Before I summarize the answers, take a few moments to think about what you expect to read. In general, do you think top-seeded fantasy teams are above the league average on waiver and trade activity, below the league average, or close to the league average?

Would you be surprised to learn that the three top-seeded teams in Jeffrey's league had the lowest number of waiver transactions on the season (11, 9, and 9)? These three teams may all have taken the same cautious approach to the waiver wire, but they handled trades in different ways: "One team with no trades. Another team with one trade that was completely insignificant (bench player for bench player). One team that overhauled the entire roster with two trades (one 3-player and one 4-player trade)."

I confess I was surprised by some of the answers I received to these questions, and the only generalization that I can safely make based on the data I received is that waiver wire activity does not appear to be tied in any predictable way to trade activity. We might imagine that owners who are constantly fiddling with their teams on the waiver wire are more likely than their peers to engage in trades, but that hypothesis is not supported by the responses I received.

Since I was unable to discern any kind of pattern connecting waiver and trade activity, I'll handle the two categories separately.

Concerning Waiver Wire Activity

The majority of responses that I received to question 5 indicated that top-seeded teams do tend to be more active than average on the waiver wire. Here's a representative handful of responses to Question 5 (How many waiver wire transactions were there for the top-seeded team during the regular season? Is this number higher, lower, or about the same as the number of waiver transactions for other playoff teams? How does it compare to non-playoff teams?):

David: 38 waiver/FA moves for the top-seeded team. It's by far the highest total in the league, next highest is at 16. League average is 11. Average for playoff teams is 15, average for non-playoff teams is 7. [However, that one team skews the playoff average. Without that team in the equation, playoff average] is 9, league average is 9 as well.

Cale: 37 waiver moves; high was 45 moves; average was about 25 moves.

Samuel: 38. Most in the league.

J.R.: 55 acquisitions, 2nd highest – 34 (8 seed in playoffs) Two non-playoff teams: 14 and 6 acquisitions.

Although I could keep going with similar examples, there isn't much point in doing so. Experienced FFers could reasonably object that the reason most playoff teams are above the league average (in terms of waiver activity) is that they are the teams that remain engaged in FF throughout the season. We've all either participated in or heard about leagues in which the owners who get off to a fast start spend the regular season tweaking their teams for the playoffs, while the owners who start poorly shrug, give up, and stop logging in to the league website. "Of course the non-playoff teams have lower-than-average waiver wire acquisitions," the critics might object. "They are the ones who quit caring a third of the way into the season."

I think those imaginary critics make a pretty good argument, as I was surprised at the number of responses I received concerning top-seeded teams that were either average or below average on waiver activity. (To be clear, these responses were in the minority by about a 70/30 split, but there were enough of them to make me rethink my assumptions.)

Ryan: Top team had 22 total moves, about the same as the average (21) for both other playoff teams and non-playoff teams.

Reuben: 25 transactions [for the top team; same as the average for the league]. The worst team in the league (hit hard by injuries) had 38 transactions and no FAAB left. One other bad team had more transactions. Of the playoff teams, 25 was right around the middle, excluding the one team that had a very good draft and only made 4 transactions.

Bryan (who is in 2 leagues with top-seeded owners that finished below the league average in waiver transactions): 14 (league avg=21; 19 (league avg=23)

Hmmm. This information got me thinking.

I will confess that I have been guilty, on occasion, of making waiver wire moves not because I felt they would necessarily improve my team, but because I got clobbered and felt that I could not simply take things lying down. I had to do something, and cutting one scrub on my roster for another scrub on the wire made me feel like I was taking charge of matters. After reviewing the responses concerning playoff teams that are either average or below-average on waiver activity, I have to consider the possibility that I tinker with my roster too much. David goes above and beyond what I expected in terms of an answer to question 5--and gives us some great information by doing so:

This is the number of bids made [by every owner in the league], not the number of actual transactions. [The top-seeded team] is the 3rd highest in the league:

109P, 106, 76P, 48P, 48, 42P, 28, 18, 16, 16, 13P, 11P

*P indicates teams that made the playoffs.

Of the two teams that made the highest number of bids, only one made the playoffs. But of the two that made the lowest number of bids, both reached the postseason. Thanks for sharing this, David. You've made me vow that for 2013, I will try not to over-manage my rosters.

Concerning Trades

The best thing about writing this column is that it puts me in touch with so many people in so many different kinds of leagues. Despite all the differences between leagues (performance, scoring only, head-to-head, points only, PPR, redrafter, keeper, salary cap, IDP, etc. and so forth), most fantasy leagues share predictable characteristics. Tell me any three facts about your league, and I will probably be able to guess two more facts.

But I won't be guessing about the way trades work (or the frequency with which they occur) in your league because that is one variable that I have no idea how to predict. That point was only driven home by the responses to question 6 : How many trades were made by the top-seeded team during the regular season? Is this number higher, lower, or about the same as the number of trades for other playoff teams? How does it compare to non-playoff teams?

Responses to that question suggest that trades seem to be occurring less and less frequently across all kinds of leagues than was the case when I started writing this column (over a decade ago).

Most of the answers I received to this question were similar to Ryan's response: "Top team had 1 of the 5 total league trades during the year - Gore for Welker following Week 5 probably had minimal impact. No team had more than 2 trades."

I learned about a lot of trades to which Ryan's phrase "probably had minimal impact" could have been applied. High-impact trades (such as Champ Bailey for Clinton Portis) are rare in the NFL. And they seem to be getting rarer in the world of FF as well.

David: "There have been no trades in our league."

Justin: "0 trades [for top-seeded team], but there were only two trades in this league all season.

Jeff: "Best team has 1 trade (league high is 3 - half of league has none). 2nd team has none."

But not all leagues are averse to trading, which seems to be alive and well in Cale's league:

[The top-seeded team] made 4 trades, high was 6 trades. Everyone made at least 1 trade. Average was 2 trades per team

Glen's league is similar:

[The top-seeded team is in the] middle of the pack [on trades]. Three teams had fewer trades; two teams had more trades (both in the playoffs).

Although the answers I received do not necessarily support the assertion that more waiver activity translates to greater success in fantasy football, I was surprised to see that in almost all cases the number of trades for the top-seeded team was either equal to or greater than the league average. (Admittedly, the majority of these cases involved top-seeded teams with 1 trade in leagues in which most teams executed zero trades.)

Once again, I can't help hearing the voice of an imaginary critic. "Did teams earn the top seed as a consequence of trading, or did they pull trades off because they were the top-seeded team?" In light of how few trades happen in many fantasy leagues, it is not difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which the top-seeded team simply receives more trade offers than other teams because that is the team the other owners would most like to see broken up. So even though top-seeded teams are statistically more likely to engage in trades than other teams, I realize now that my question was faulty. Since I did not ask when the trades occurred (an oversight pointed out to me by some of the readers of last week's column), I cannot say whether my data means that trading teams are more likely than others to earn the top seed or that top-seeded teams are more likely than others to trade. My thanks to the readers who brought that oversight to my attention.

For my Week 17 column, I'll be focusing on the answers to questions 7 and 8 (along with the additional questions from readers featured in last week's column). A special word of thanks to all of the readers who continue to follow Q&A even after being eliminated from the playoffs in their leagues.

Last Man Standing - Week 16 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Editor's note: Our own LMS expert Matthew Schiff is poised to participate in his league's fantasy Super Bowl in Week 16. On behalf of Mr. Schiff's readers and fans everywhere, congratulations!

Trap Game: Cleveland at Denver (7-8, Wash, CLE, TB, Den, ATL, SF, NYG, NO, MIA, DET, NE, DAL, IND, JAC, KC):
For those of you who are paying attention, I have used both of these teams before in the “trap game” category. But because it is the trap game section, these teams deserve a second listing during a season that has been anything but conventional. Most analysts believe the Broncos are on cruise control towards the number two seed in the AFC. Lord knows, the networks would love to see an AFC Championship game hosted in Denver between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But before that happens, this Broncos team has to remember to finish the season strong (or else find itself in the third or fourth seed having to go through Foxboro or Houston). The Browns may have lost last week’s game to Washington and may have gotten away from the running attack that was so successful early on, but they would like nothing more than to make the Dog Pound remember the days of Bernie Kosar against John Elway when it took last-second heroics by the current GM of the Broncos to win those games. Cleveland isn’t flashy, but the Browns have enough talent to surprise any team that isn’t focused when it takes the field against them. I still think that Denver will win, but I do not foresee the blowout that everyone expects.

#3: Indianapolis at Kansas City (14-1: PHI, TB, CHI, AZ, HOU, BAL, GB, SF, SD, NE, WASH, DEN, DAL, SEA, MIA):
My gut on this game screams “upset," but my heart tells me that this is a road test for a team that desperately believes itself to be worthy of the playoffs (especially in light of their coach's recovery from cancer). The Colts need some more seasoning before they are consistently going to be a top team, but against a Chiefs team that has dealt with the death of a teammate, a slew of injuries, and an offense that for the first twelve weeks of the season gave up more than 21 turnovers, this Colts squad should have just enough to slip by a competitive Kansas City team that unfortunately has given up 26.2 points per game (eighth worst in the NFL). The Chiefs normally play well at home, but look for them to come up short again as the Luck keeps flowing for this year’s surprising Colts.

#2: Carolina over Oakland (12-3: CHI, WASH, NO, HOU, SF, PIT, MIN, NE, ATL, BAL, DEN, IND, GB, CLE, SEA):
Ok, two bad prognostications in a row stings more than just a little bit. But if you are still in your Survivor Pool, then let this week be my chance at redemption. Cam Newton gets a sweetheart of a matchup against the 25th ranked defense (one that allows over 120 yards per game on the ground and almost 250 more through the air). You can bet that ole mister number one for the Panthers is salivating. Meanwhile, the Panther Defense will look to take advantage of the Raiders' minus-seven turnover ratio at home. Carson Palmer enjoyed a mid-season resurgence, but he has fallen back to earth over the last few weeks, and this has hurt both his fantasy owners and the actual Raider Nation. Look for the Panthers to win this one “running away.”

#1: Washington over Philadelphia (12-3: HOU, SF, IND, BAL, NYG, ATL, NE, CHI, GB, PIT, DAL, CIN, BUF, TB, DET):
The Panthers were going to be my number one choice this week, but since I have to choose teams that I have not used in a prior week in FOUR different categories, I was precluded from picking the Washington Redskins in the second or third slots this week. That said, the Redskins aren’t a bad play. They have plenty at stake, inclusive of an NFC East Division championship, against an Eagles team that is most likely coasting towards the finish line. Robert Griffin III is expected back under center this week, and Alfred Morris is coming off a 120-yard, two-TD performance against the Browns. Michael Vick will be riding the pine as the emergency (#3) quarterback for Philadelphia as Nick Foles continues to audition for next year’s starting job (despite Vick having recovered from his concussion). The Redskin defense gives up more than 285 yards a game passing, and Foles should be able to exploit that weakness. However, Bryce Brown’s ability to keep the Washington offense off the field will be even more important. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Foles and Brown manage to do enough to carry the Eagles to victory. My prediction is for the Philly faithful to close out their home season with a loss vs. the future NFC East champs of 2012: the Washington Redskins.

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